SEO Best Practices for Self-Hosted Videos

Posted in Search & Social


It's kind of ironic that I'm the one writing the post about video SEO. I wear hearing aids. So videos, they've always been a little hard for me to hear.

Well guess what? Search engines can't hear videos either! How can you make your videos easier to understand, for both search engines and users alike?

1. Choose your hosting solution
In the long run, you do have to make a decision on whether you want your own website to rank for videos and get search engine traffic, or your YouTube / 3rd-party channel.

SEOs can endlessly debate the merits of hosting on external websites such as YouTube versus hosting the video yourself. There are pros and cons to each, and I could honestly write an entire separate article about this subject. This article on SEOMoz has a good overview: An SEO's Guide to Video Hosting & Embedding

Personally, I prefer to see a website build links and authority versus YouTube, but it can really depend on what you're trying to personally accomplish with your videos. Debra Mastaler makes superb points about why you shouldn't use YouTube for building links, arguing that "YouTube results bump web pages down in the general search results and web pages make sales, videos don’t." Conversely, other experts will immediately recommend YouTube as a first step, offering ways to optimize your YouTube videos as well as your entire YouTube channel. At any rate: this is why I'm a big fan of the SEOMoz article above - it outlines different options based on your business goals.

Note: The remainder of this article focuses on tactics to optimize your own website (versus your YouTube channel).

2. Create a unique page for each video
A lot of websites contain video libraries that smush all of their videos onto a single page. While this seems to make sense in terms of time and convenience, it doesn't do much for search engine visibility. For starters, it makes posting a transcript of the video difficult - it's not like you can show a zillion transcripts on the page as well. It also means that you can't assign a unique Title Tag, Description Tag, or even a unique URL to your videos.

This doesn't mean you need to stop showing all videos on one page - just be sure to create an additional page for each video, to help it differentiate its own unique content online.

3. Filenames & URLs
These are both ranking factors! Be sure to give the video a descriptive filename that uses words and not a bunch of alphanumberic gibberish. Similarly, the URL that the video is featured on should also be given an intuitive name that helps both users and search engines glean the subject matter.

4. Post a transcript
Seriously. PLEASE. It's not just that I might have trouble hearing your video. It's also that I'm way too impatient to listen to the entire thing. It would be so much nicer to just quickly scan the transcript and glean the main idea.

Posting a transcript is also a no-brainer from a search engine standpoint. It's absurd to go to all the trouble to create a video but not post an online transcript - yet sadly, people do it all the time. Think of all of that beautiful, unique, content that you have the opportunity to put on your website. Don't miss out on this easy and simple method of increasing your search engine relevance. Post. A. Transcript!

5. Optimize Metadata
Assuming you have provided each video with its own URL, give the page a descriptive Title Tag and Meta Description Tag. Both of these allow you to control how your pages look in SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages). The Title Tag in particular has huge influence on positions - carefully inserting keywords into a well-written Title Tag can really help it increase relevance for your target terms.

6. Create a Video Sitemap
Don't take it for granted that just because you upload a video to your website, search engines will immediately know about it. Be sure to create a video XML sitemap that tells them all about the location of your videos.

Check out Google's helpful Webinar about creating video sitemaps: Sending Video Sitemaps Q&A Holiday Cheer

7. Utilize Video Rich Snippets / Markup
Google supports and recommends using the on-page markup for videos. There are a ton of must-read guidelines from Google on this about how you can markup your videos and also test them to ensure the coding is working properly. You can specify the following attributes about each video:

  • Name
  • Description
  • Thumbnail URL
  • Duration
  • Content URL
  • Embed URL
  • Upload Date
  • Expires

We hope these guidelines and resources help on your quest to gain website traffic and visibility through video!

Written by Sarah Mackenzie

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