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How to Optimize for Mobile and Video Search

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  MaryO's Photo
Posted Nov 02 2009 04:15 PM

With the advent of streaming video sites like YouTube and modern mobile devices like the iPhone, video and mobile search have become fast growing segments requiring their own unique attention. The following excerpt from The Art of SEO will get you started optimizing your site to take advantage of these exciting new technologies.

Mobile and video search are two areas experiencing rapid growth. Each has its own challenges and requires a unique approach.

Mobile Search

Mobile search optimization is a growing market. Outside the United States, where mobile device usage has a much higher level of penetration, this discipline is already very important. Within the United States, mobile device usage is growing rapidly, so it is in the process of becoming very important there as well. Figure 8.18 shows an example of a search result on an iPhone.

Figure 8.18. Search: different on mobile devices

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Improved mobile-web-user interfaces on mobile devices are a big factor in the growth of mobile search. iPhone users conduct an average of 50 times more searches on Google than on Google’s nearest competitor (http://blogs.compute...rch_google_5000). The disproportionate usage of Google from iPhones is in no small part due to the exceptional ease of use and easily accessible Google search, and with the Google Mobile app, you can even search with your voice.

Google Mobile employs a different spider than Googlebot does, with the user agent string "Googlebot-Mobile". Google Mobile’s ranking algorithms are separate as well. When Googlebot-Mobile crawls your site, it will let your web server know that it prefers to receive the mobile version of that page by sending an HTTP Accept request header. If your web server is properly configured for content negotiation and you have a mobile version of the requested content, Googlebot-Mobile and mobile users alike will receive your mobile content by default without having to be redirected to a mobile-specific URL.

As a result, you may wish to offer a mobile-specific URL for marketing and promotion purposes or to allow access to your mobile version regardless of the user agent making the request. Some of the more well-known examples of such URLs include http://m.flickr.com, http://m.facebook.com, http://mobile.yelp.com, http://mobile.weather.gov, http://www.hotels.com/iphone, and http://en.m.wikipedia.org. The benefit of serving up a distinct mobile version instead of serving your standard version with a mobile-friendly style sheet (CSS) is that you can trim the file size of the HTML sent to the mobile device.

Here are some important ranking factors that are specific to mobile SEO:

  • Small, lightweight, and fast-loading site (<20 KB per page)

  • XHTML Mobile 1.0 DOCTYPE

  • UTF-8 character encoding

  • JPEG/GIF images

  • On-site keyphrase optimization as usual (with a focus on short titles and small amounts of body copy); include the word mobile in the title or the heading tag (or both)

  • Use of Mobile Sitemaps

Other than these factors, it is important to follow the normal rules for SEO, bearing in mind that the page size is inherently smaller because of the size of the displays on the mobile devices. Although mobile-device experiences are likely to continue evolving so that the differences between a mobile browser and a standard web browser will become less significant, the issues with a smaller form factor are not likely to go away entirely.

Video Search Optimization

Video search optimization is in its infancy, but it is growing rapidly. The increasing penetration of high-bandwidth Internet connections is going to drive more and more demand for online video content. So, creating video content and optimizing it is something you should consider.

The problem is that video search engines have not yet been able to look inside the video to tell what the content is from a human “eye” perspective. For that reason, they rely on other on-page factors, the metadata within the video file itself, and inbound links and anchor text to determine what the video is about.


There are exceptions to the statement that video search engines cannot look inside the video. They can do some basic things such as flesh detection to identify adult content, face detection, on-screen text detection, and so on, but you cannot count on this to help you with your optimization efforts. There is evidence, however, that through the use of voice recognition technology, search engines are beginning to “hear” the content of videos, enabling them, in the future, to search through the audio content of a video to determine its subject matter and relevance to a particular search query.

There are three different scenarios for video optimization. It is worthwhile to do all three. Here are some factors relating to each scenario:

Video search engines that crawl your site

This is the scenario where you host the video on your own site. An example of a video search engine that will crawl your site to find videos is Truveo. Although this type of search engine represents a small percentage of your total market opportunity, it is still worth pursuing. It provides a variety of optimization opportunities, including the following:

  • This is normal HTML, so you can customize the content on the web page where the user can access or read about the video. Pay particular attention to the on-page text, as you can write a nice, keyword-rich, and compelling description of the video.

  • You can keep your video files in one directory. This makes it easier for the crawler to find them all.

  • If you embed a Flash video player into a web page, you can include a link to the raw video file (in AVI, WMV, QuickTime, etc.), to maximize exposure to all the different video search engines.

  • You can use a Video Sitemap, which will make it easier for the crawlers to find your videos.

Video sites that accept RSS or MRSS feeds

In this scenario, you submit an RSS or MRSS feed to a third-party site. Examples of sites that accept such feeds are Yahoo! Video and Blinkx. The basic approach to optimizing for this type of site is to enter a title, description, keywords, thumbnails, a category, and a full transcript. A full transcript is a good way to provide good fodder for a video search site to chew on. The transcript will provide more keywords that the search engine can find and choose to rank you for.

Video upload sites

These are video search engines that require or allow you to upload the video to them. Examples include:

You can also use a site such as TubeMogul, upload the data just once, and get some analytics data back as well. Also, make sure you keep your videos from getting too large. Videos smaller than 100 MB will work on most video sharing sites, and YouTube will accommodate videos of up to 1 GB and up to 10 minutes in length (as of early 2009). Flickr limits the length of the videos it will support to 90 seconds.

There are opportunities to optimize these videos as well. Use the following tactics:

  • For these sites, you will need to enter the metadata again when you get there. This will include a title, keywords, and a description. Also make sure to incorporate into your description a link back to related content and videos on your site, and YouTube will make the URL clickable provided it is a complete URL (including the http://). Make sure you are getting qualified traffic in return for providing video.

  • Many publishers wonder what the best approach is for them. For example, the downside of posting your video on YouTube (or any other video sharing site) is that anyone can embed it on his site, and most of the links related to the video go back to the video sharing site page rather than your own site. These seem like strong disadvantages, and this is particularly true if you already have a site with lots of traffic on it.

  • For many sites, though, the volume of traffic on YouTube in particular is compelling. In January 2009 YouTube became the second largest search engine on the Web (passing Yahoo!). This is further enhanced by the advent of Universal Search in which the videos on YouTube (and found elsewhere by Google in its crawl of the Web) can get embedded in Google web search.

  • For these sites, you should view a video strategy as an indirect link-building strategy. Use it to build some buzz about your site. YouTube is also a powerful social network. Getting YouTube viewers engaged with your videos can result in them spreading your videos around to other YouTube users in their network. YouTube offers many social features that will help a good video to spread virally, such as comments, video replies, favorites, ratings, and more.

  • Make sure you include links back to your site so that people know where the video came from. Better still, have some content that complements and enhances what the user experienced in the video so that you are more likely to drive some links to your site as a result.

Other video optimization tips

There are other things to consider in optimizing videos:

  • Create compelling content. If the content is not compelling, users will not benefit from it, and neither will your business. Note that even an instruction manual on how to use your left-handed bottle washer will be compelling to someone who needs the information, if you put it together correctly.

  • Develop videos that reinforce the message of your brand. It is great to have a video go viral or be a success, but will it actually help you if it does?

  • Make sure you include the word video on a regular basis throughout any metadata, as many user searches include the word and it will increase your chances of showing up in those queries. Of course, don’t go hog-wild with it. Note that YouTube has a title tag display limit of 62 characters, so don’t go beyond that.

  • Pick a preferred format, such as .mov, .avi, or .wmv. There is no real win in offering the file in multiple formats from a video SEO perspective, but it will be useful to users who want to pick a preferred format. So, make just one of the versions visible to the search engines, and offer them all to users.

  • Keep the length reasonable (five minutes or less). If the video is too long, you will run the risk of boring the user. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but if you exceed five minutes be very certain that most viewers will be able to remain engaged.

  • Give your video a keyword-rich but catchy title. The title is the biggest factor in convincing a user to view the video.

  • Make good use of thumbnails to help users decide which video to watch. Users like to watch a quick snapshot so that they can decide whether they want to invest their time in the full video. Unfortunately, the way you generate thumbnails differs from site to site. But it is an important enough factor in getting people to view your video that it is worth going through the process for each site you upload to.

  • Allow users to rate your video. Search engines will pay attention to this when ranking these videos. This is also a crucial part of going viral, as potential viewers are very attracted to highly ranked videos.

  • Commercial content should include a watermark to indicate origin. This will help if your video goes viral and is copied to multiple sites, because it will still carry your branding message and/or site information.

  • Use keywords in the filename and URL. Video search engines place a fair amount of weight on these in the world of video. Avoid using stop words, such as the and and, in the filename.

  • Use appropriate keywords in the link text for the file. Keyword-rich anchor text carries a lot of weight.

  • In preparation for voice-recognition-based indexing of video and audio content, develop video content “scripts” that are keyword-rich and relevant to your video’s topic. In this regard, digital media SEO will be a very new and dynamic area of optimizing content for search engines.

Publicizing your video

Here are some basic tips that will assist in the promotion of your video:

  • Put your video everywhere. Exposure is king. Upload the video to all the video upload sites previously identified. Be sure that you also reference your multimedia files within appropriate RSS or MRSS feeds.

  • Use social bookmarking tools that will help make the videos more visible. This works regardless of promotional medium. Social bookmarking sites can help your video go viral.

  • Offer the option to embed your video in other people’s sites. This really encourages people to spread your video around.

  • End the video with a “send to a friend” option. Give users some incentive to help you spread the word.

You can also find more video SEO resources at http://www.reelseo.com.

The Art of SEO

Learn more about this topic from The Art of SEO.

Four acknowledged experts in search engine optimization share guidelines and innovative techniques that will help you plan and execute a comprehensive SEO strategy. This second edition brings you up to date on recent changes in search engine behavior—such as new ranking methods involving user engagement and social media—with an array of effective tactics, from basic to advanced.

See what you'll learn

1 Reply

  Bright Choice's Photo
Posted Sep 15 2013 08:18 PM

Thanks for sharing. Mobiles are now the best friends whom we have in field of work. They are like the constant companion. They nowadays connect through the world through internet and so optimization on mobile is very necessary. This is really nice and tell and explains how the things work out.