Good SEO is about more than getting your site to the top of Google results.  It should also ensure that your content stands out from other top ranking sites. This is one of the reasons why having video on your site puts you at a big SEO advantage.  Google displays video results with a representative thumbnail image, drawing eyes significantly more than a simple text link would.  According to ReelSEO, videos have a 41% higher click through rate than their plain text counterparts.  Distinguishing your content from the rest results in more visits to your site. Not only are video results more compelling, they’re also easier to dominate.  “There are far less video results in Google’s index when compared to other web assets,” ReelSEO’s founder and publisher Mark Robertson explains.  “As a result, there is far less competition for rankings and a promising opportunity now exists for websites publishers to rank well for terms they may have had more difficulty in ranking for with web results.”

 

Video does still present some unique challenges to search engines, Robertson points out. “Because video can be published in many different ways (embeds, javascript, iframe, HTML5, etc.) and is itself a medium that’s difficult to ingest & analyze, search engines have a more difficult task in crawling, indexing, and ranking video assets on the web.”   So then how exactly does one ensure that their video content is indexed, and with the appropriate thumbnail and description?   By submitting a sitemap.

A video sitemap is a text file packed with useful data about the content of your video.  By submitting a sitemap to Google, you are informing the search engine of your video’s title, subject matter, run time, who the intended audience is, and many more details that will influence how and when it gets indexed.  You can imagine how valuable it is to have Google know this information.  The better Google understands the content of your video, the more they can do to ensure that it reaches the appropriate audience.  If indexed properly, whenever potential clients perform a search relevant to your content, Google will display the information and thumbnail image from your video sitemap on their results page.

In order to setup a new sitemap, you’ll need to create a new word document, save it as an xml file, and upload it to your server.  When creating the sitemap document, there is a sitemap protocol that you must follow.  The basic requirements as outlined by Sitemaps.org are:

  • Begin with an opening <urlset> tag and end with a closing </urlset> tag.
  • Specify the namespace (protocol standard) within the <urlset> tag.
  • Include a <url> entry for each URL, as a parent XML tag.
  • Include a <loc> child entry for each <url> parent tag.

Once you’ve created a basic sitemap using the protocol, you’ll use tags to provide information about your video.  There are a number of  video-specific tags you may use, but at the very least, you are required to include the following:

<loc> The URL of the landing page(the page where you have embedded the video)

<video:video>  This tag lets Google know you’re working with video

<video:thumbnail_loc>  The URL of the representative thumbnail image from your video.  It must be a jpg, .png, or. gif at least 640×480 pixels, but no larger than 1920 x 1080 pixels.

<video:title> The title of your video (100 character max)

<video:description>  A short description of your video.  Descriptions past 2048 will be truncated.

EITHER <video:player_loc> URL to your video file

OR <video:content_loc> The URL of the flash player for a specific video.  This URL is often found in the src element of your video’s embed code.

There are a number of other optional tags you may include if relevant, such as tags for country restrictions, publication date, and family friendly content.  Google has a full video-specific tag list in their help pages : http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=80472#4


Once you’ve created your sitemap, save it as a .xml file and upload it to your site.  You may submit the sitemap through Google Webmaster.  Setup a Webmaster account for your site if you have not already, and submit the sitemap from the Site Configuration section of that account.  Google already knows that the sitemap is located on the domain you created your account under, so when submitting simply complete the sitemap URL in the field provided.  If your sitemap’s URL is http://www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml, for example, then you would enter in “sitemap.xml”.  If you maintain a mRSS feed for your site, you may also submit this in lieu of a sitemap.

Alternatively, you can add the following line of code (after swapping out the URL here with your own sitemap’s URL) anywhere in your robots.txt file:
sitemap: http://www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml,

If you’re not comfortable setting up your own sitemap, there are tools available that will automatically generate them for you.  Google maintains a list of such tools here: http://code.google.com/p/sitemap-generators/wiki/SitemapGenerators

2013 update: vzaar now creates video sitemaps for you. Find out more here

Whether you create your own sitemap, mRSS feed, or use a a third-party tool, the benefits are massive.  Increased visibility in search results can only increase site visits and improve conversion rates.  If you take the time to create compelling video content for your site, there is no reason not to take the steps to ensure search engines index it properly.