Using Hosted Video SEO to Rank in Google [& INFOGRAPHIC]

By Max Thomas

You’ve created some fantastic video content, you’ve done some amazing video title keyword research, you’ve optimized your new video creation for YouTube and Vimeo, and now you’re ready to host your video on your website. This is a very exciting step and one that definitely deserves a full post. It’s called hosted video optimization because (1) we’re talking about actually hosting the video on your website (rather than posting it on Youtube or Vimeo) and (2) we’re going to optimize the video and the URL so that they get picked up by Google (and other search engines) for organic and video search results.

There’s some fantastic posts out there that talk about video hosting and optimization. However, the goal of this post is to show a complete overview of what and how to optimize a hosted video and its URL using a video platform (which in this case, is Wistia).

To bypass the exploration and get to the infographic, click the image above!

Step 1: Create Killer Video Title, Description and Tags

A keyword-rich title, description and tags are very important. For more helpful insights on video keyword research, check out this excellent post by Geoff on Distilled’s blog.

With keyword research ready, have the following prepared for the various players and schema tags that we’ll be using as part of the hosted process:

  • Video title
  • Video description
  • Meta tags

If you also post this video on YouTube, consider varying the title and description, so that the hosted video looks more unique to Google.

Disclaimer: I’m in the process of testing title variations; If anyone has shown this to help both posted and hosted videos get ranked, please comment, as I’d love to hear what you’ve learned.

Step 2: Decide Where to Place the Video on the Page

Strategically place the video on the page so that it’s surrounded with content that is about the video. It’s also a good idea to use this content to introduce other keywords if they support the video and help users viewing the page and video. Lastly, avoid hosting a long list of unrelated videos on the same URL; a recommended rule of thumb is to use one video per URL. Likewise, video is content in itself, so it makes sense to keep all the content on the page related.

Step 3: Decide on the Player

Now that you’ve created your title, description and tags and decided on the video’s placement on the page, it’s time to add the video to the URL. To do this, I highly recommend using one of the numerous players that are available. Brightcove, Kaltura and Wistia all have great hosted video players. There are also several free options too (check out JW Player which offers a free entry-level player). For this example we’re using Wistia.

Wistia has a bucket load of great features including transcript integration, sharing options, easy-to-use interface and code, video sitemap integration, and more. The Standard package supports unlimited videos at 200GB bandwidth per month for $79. Wistia also offers entry-level, agency and custom packages.

Step 4: Add Video to Player (Wistia)

Let’s say it’s your first time to upload a video to your Wistia account. Sign in and click “Actions”, then “New Project”.

Edit the project title, click “Project Actions”, and then “Upload Media”. That’s it!

Step 5: Update Video Title (Wistia)

Once uploaded, add your killer title from Step 1.

Step 6: Select the Thunbnail Image

This is important. The thumbnail matters because it shows up in Google search results, and has a strong impact on whether a viewer decides to click through to view your video.

You’ll want to upload a 120 x 90 jpeg of the thumbnail image to your web server so that you end up with a publicly hosted image url (such as We’ll use this as part of the video schema microdata (If you’re in a hurry, jump on down to the section on video schema).

Wistia makes it simple to select a thumbnail. I found it easiest to play the video and stop at the time stamp for the desired thumbnail. Then I clicked “Project Actions”, “Change Thumbnail”, and finally “Set Current Frame as Thumbnail”. Given time lapses, it might take a few tries to get that perfect thumbnail. Alternatively you can create a thumbnail separately and upload that via the “Browse” option. Either way, you’ll want to have a separate thumbnail jpeg prepared for the schema mark-up.

Step 7: Create a Transcript of the Video

Transcripts are integral to video optimization. They not only help the viewer (with closed caption options), but also provide a big SEO advantage because the transcript is typically chock full of juicy keywords AND it’s also original content (yay!).

Let’s look at some options for creating the transcript. While it’s always a good idea to have a human review process for any transcribed content, the following three solutions provided content that did not require any editing (at least for the 1-2 minute videos we submitted).

  • Speechpad: Speechpad is a great service, and they offer 24 hour turnaround for $2/video minute, and 3-5 day turnaround for $1/video minute. The back-end interface is very easy to use and helpful for managing content. See more on SpeechPad’s pricing and services.
  • Wistia: Wistia offers a built-in transcription service at $5 per minute with an under 24 hour turnaround (For a recent 1:11 video, it took only a few hours). The transcription is automatically added to Wistia’s transcription viewer, which is part of the Wistia embedded player. Wistia doesn’t currently offer the option to add in your own transcript :-( This means you have to go with Wistia’s transcription services if you use their transcript viewer UNLESS you go with 3Play Media’s transcription and player, which integrates with Wistia (see below). See more on Wistia’s pricing and services.
  • 3Play Media: Along with transcription services, 3Play Media also offers closed caption viewer and video clipping tools. Turns out Wistia outsources its transcription service to 3Play Media, and also licenses 3Play Media’s viewer. Even so, 3Play Media is not a hosting platform, so you would need to use one of the hosting platforms 3Play Media integrates with, like Wistia, Brightcove, FlowPlayer, Ooyala, Vimeo, Youtube and Kaltura. You can also configure their viewer/player for JW and HTML5. Pricing for 3Play Media ranges from $129 to $150 per hour of content, based on content volume. With clients from the I.R.S. to major universities (like M.I.T.) and brands (like Procter & Gamble), it’s clear they provide top-notch transcription services. See more on 3Play Media’s pricing and services.

Again, I had good success testing all three of these services. There’s also the option to hire transcribers directly via eLance and oDesk, and of course ads on Craigslist – but this all depends on if you have the bandwidth for people sourcing, management and quality control.

Step 8: Set Branding, Sharing and SEO options (Wistia)

This is where Wistia really shines. To illustrate, we’re going to walk through how to set these up using Wistia’s SuperEmbed Builder. To get there, click “Media Actions” and then “Embed”.

This takes you to Wistia’s new SuperEmbed Builder.

On the left side, there’s the options to customize the following:

  • Embed type: Along with inline vs. popover and video dimension options, here is where you can select whether the embed code will be iFrame, API or SEO. For SEO benefit, you’ll want to select the SEO option, as this enables the video transcript to be read by Google as searchable text (a benefit iFrames do not support). In order to select the SEO option, you need to have already set up the Video sitemap integration with Wistia (see below for more details).

  • Player customization: Here, you have the option to modify the player colors as well as set the video to autoplay and end behavior. All very slick.

  • Social sharing: This is one of the great features of Wistia’s player. Click “Enabled” and select which social media channels you’d like to add into the player.

  • Twitter Config: Wistia also gives the option to create a customized Tweet. Here, our custom Tweet references the video content and includes the client’s Twitter handle as well as a link to our website’s video URL (which technically doesn’t include the video yet, because we haven’t added it to the page).

  • Logo configuration: Wistia also enables the player to branded with the client’s video. You’ll need to upload an image and add a URL of a hosted logo. I highly recommended hosting the logo on the client’s website, as it creates a link back to the client’s website when someone embeds the video on their own site (more on that soon). Lastly, with this particular client logo we turned off “Auto-crop” so it might take a little tinkering to get the logo to look just right.

  • Call to action configuration: This is a great feature that allows you to customize the last screen at the end of the video. We already had created a bookend and call-to-action for this video, but I look forward to playing around with this feature for future videos.

  • Interactive transcript: This is where that great transcript comes in. Wistia adds the transcript directly into the player with a searchable interface that also moves along with the video as it plays. If the SEO option is selected as the embed type, then all of this content is viewable by Google on the page (nice!).

If you used Wistia for transcription, then the transcript pulls in automatically. If you used 3Play Media, then you’ll need to do a few steps to integrate with Wistia’s player.

Pro Tip: In Wistia, once you’ve built your embed parameters (as we’ve done here), grab the embed code because once you leave the SuperEmbed Builder, your custom parameters are removed. That means you’ll have to reset them if you want to generate the embed code again.

Step 9: Host Video (Wistia)

Now that you’ve customized the player and social share options, it’s easy to copy and paste Wistia’s embed code into your website.

Pro Tip: When pasting the Wistia embed code into your website, be sure to remove any paragraph breaks in the transcript. Even though the Wistia built-in transcription player adds in paragraph line breaks, they may need to be removed manually as the last paragraph(s) might show up as separate text on the page (we had this happen with a Drupal site).

Following is the finished product, complete with social media share buttons, client logo, video player, transcript viewer and embed code.

Again, if you want to use 3Play Media’s player and Wistia’s hosting platform, integration is pretty straightforward.

Step 10: Host the Transcript

Now, let’s dig a little deeper into the transcript hosting options. To leverage the SEO benefit, the transcript MUST be searchable by Google; that means no iFrames or programs Google can’t read.

Wistia’s player features a transcript reader that provides searchable content (which is awesome).

This also can be easily hand-coded in a re-sizeable text box that won’t eat up the page, and more importantly, also enables all the content to be searched by Google. You lose the groovy transcript viewer (with search options), but depending on your layout and goals, a manual text box might be more appropriate.

Here’s the basic textarea code to add a transcript to your site:

<center><h2>Video Transcript</h2></center>
<p style=”text-align:center”><textarea rows=”5″ cols=”50″ readonly=”yes” onclick=”javascript:select();”>{Enter transcript here…}</textarea></p>

Which looks like this:

Step 11: Customize Share Embed Code

Now that the video player is embedded successfully on the page, let’s look at what happens when folks use the embed code. Following is the result of using Wistia’s embed code to host the video on another site.

Looks and works great, but the Wistia embed code uses an iFrame, so there’s no link back to your site other than the link back to the custom url for the logo on your server. (Now, aren’t you glad you added that logo URL!)

Unfortunately, Wistia does not allow for customization of the site embed code. :-(

A workaround is to hand code a textarea box that includes a link to the video player (which is an iFrame). This enables us to add a custom link back to the client website (nice!). Here’s some sample textarea code:

<center><h2>Put This Video on Your Site</h2></center>
<p style=”text-align:center”><textarea rows=”5″ cols=”50″ readonly=”yes” onclick=”javascript:select();”><center><Enter player embed code here…><br />Video by <a href=””>Pat Moore Foundation</a></center></textarea></p>

Here is the result of our custom embed efforts. This includes the Wistia player and the custom anchor text link back to the client’s site. Here we opted for a branded keyword, but it could also be a head term or a non-branded keyword.

Step 12: Track Visitors from Video Embeds

Inspired (and guided) by Monique’s post on setting up custom UTM parameters, let’s take things yet another step further and add Google Analytics campaign parameters to see who visits the client’s website from our custom link on embedded videos. Following are the parameters and why:

  • utm_source = videohosters These are the folks who host our video.
  • utm_medium = embedlink This references traffic that clicks through to our website from the custom links.
  • utm_campaign = medicaldetoxvideo This will change based on the video since we have multiple videos as part of this campaign and would like to track which videos get the most embeds.

Using Google’s URL Builder, our final URL with tracking code is

To help simplify the embed tracking code, use to shorten the link mentioned above, and add the to the embed code.

Step 13: Increase Search Results with Schema Mark-Up for VideoObjects

Schema microdata has been around for several years now, but Google just recently announced schema for video on 2/21/2012. There are some helpful Webmaster Tools videos regarding schema microdata for videos, and also check out the official page for video and related objects.

You’ll see that there are lots of properties to choose from. Google explains that for indexing, they require at minimum the video name, description and thumbnail. While I don’t have insights yet on whether the addition of additional schema microdata drives more visibility, it seems logical that it can’t hurt to include other schema parameters, especially as Google is putting more emphasis on schema microdata, local results (via the Venice update) and the upcoming algorithm change that focuses on “semantic search” results. That being the case, I’ve set up the following as minimum recommended parameters for video. Please chime in with additional suggestions or recommendations.

  • Name
  • Description
  • Thumbnail
  • Location
  • Duration
  • EmbedURL

Following is a snippet of the video schema microdata used for this example. offers several good examples for microdata html.

<div itemprop=”video” itemscope itemtype=””>
<h2>Video: <span itemprop=”name”>We Do Medical Detox</span></h2>
<p><span itemprop=”description”>Interview with Katy Alexander, Intake Coordinator at Pat Moore Foundation, in which she talks about medical detox and the importance of doing drug detox in a supportive environment.</span><br />
<meta itemprop=”duration” content=”T1M11S” /><br />
<meta itemprop=”thumbnail” content=”” /><br />
<meta itemprop=”contentLocation” content=”Costa Mesa, CA” /><br />
<meta itemprop=”embedURL” content=”;videoHeight=270&amp;controlsVisibleOnLoad=true” /> <br /></p>
<object…embed player…>

Once you’ve added the video schema microdata to your page, be sure to test it using Google’s Rich Snippets Testing Tool to confirm that Google can indeed read the schema microdata correctly.

Step 13: Add the Video Sitemap to Your Website

Even with schema video microdata, Google recommends also submitting a video sitemap or URL sitemap so that Google can easily find and index the URLs with the hosted video.

Wistia makes adding and updating the video sitemap extremely easy via it’s Video SEO options. The video sitemap is hosted on Wistia’s server, rather than the site hosting the video. The downside to this is really the uncertainity of not seeing your videos in your Webmaster account. The workaround is that you still have control over your sitemap.xml in your Webmaster Tools account, so you can still confirm the URLs with the videos are indexed and crawled.

Shout-Out to Wistia and 3Play Media

Just want to give a “high-five” to Ben Rudelinger, who was super responsive to my numerous questions via email and Twitter. Also want to give a “special salute” to Josh Miller (3Play Media co-founder) who responded to ALL my emails. The quality and timeliness of their feedback and help speaks volumes for both of their companies. Kudos!!!

The Ultimate Guide To Hosted Video SEO [INFOGRAPHIC]

Now that you’ve mastered hosted video SEO, check out our infographic about the on-page elements, behind-the-scenes code and results for maximum hosted video success! If you love it as much as we do, please share the love on Twitter, Facebook and Google+!

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Max Thomas

By Max Thomas

Max is a nationally recognized digital marketing specialist who is an expert on search engine optimization and data-driven digital marketing who has spoken at SMX and SMX Advanced, LMA Southeast, LMA Tech in San Francisco, WordCamp and other industry recognized conferences. As the founder and CEO of ThunderActive, Max has lead his team (with offices in San Diego and New York City) to success for clients in legal, real estate, life sciences, consumer goods and new tech. A Columbia undergraduate with a Yale MBA, Max is an Impact Circle Member for The Trevor Project and is an advisor to start-up companies and angel investment networks, including Gaingels and Serval Ventures in New York.

Wanna connect? See you on Twitter or Foursquare.

  • Thanks for the incredibly thorough post Max. We get lots of people asking us about video seo and we have yet to find a single resource that covers the whole topic in an approachable way. We will definitely be sharing your infographic with these folks (assuming you don’t mind!). Would love to continue to collaborate as we investigate more and better ways to take advantage of video seo.

    • Ezra – thanks for the comment. Please do share the infographic :-) It’s great you all find it to be a decent overview of the process. It’s been very helpful talking with Ben about hosted video considerations, video sitemaps, schema and the Wistia player. You all really know your stuff! We’re definitely looking forward to continued collaboration.

  • Fantastic explanation of how to be exhaustive with your video SEO approach! One thing that comes out in this is that basic SEO practices are really what’s at play here – make your content easy to digest by search engines in every way, make it shareable, make sure it’s properly laid out in the html on the page, etc. Video just makes it all more complicated because it inherently can be indexed without extra effort. This breakdown covers it all!

    And of course, thanks for the shout out :) We’re glad we can help and agree with your pointers entirely.

    • Thanks Josh! Really great point about making a site’s content easy to digest and shareable. In addition to the pointers here, I’ve heard the recommendation to place the video at the top of the page to facilitate Google indexing the video — something to experiment with. Thanks again for all your help!

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