Why Written Content Still Matters in the Age of Video

Andrea Fryrear on Content Marketing

Influencer MarketingAll the cool content marketers are making videos these days, but does that mean we should be shifting time and resources away from the written word?

This is a debate that we’ve had internally without resolution, so it seemed high time to settle things with good, old-fashioned research.

The expert consensus is that while video content can indeed improve your chances of achieving SEO success, it cannot be your only content choice if you’re hoping to rank on page one.

Here are the latest insights into video content and SEO, as well as four tips to make it work for you right now.

How Video Helps Your Onpage SEO Efforts

There are a lot of moving parts that make up a successful on page optimizationeffort. For a quick refresher, here’s the Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors from Search Engine Land:

Video Indicates Quality and Depth of Content

You’ll see that video itself isn’t a ranking factor, but having video content on your page significantly impacts two key ranking factors: quality content (Cq) and vertical content (Cv).

In a separate post on Search Engine Land, Wesley Young argues that, “Video is evidence of quality content, and as part of a media mix on a site, it helps send signals to search engines that your page or site contains rich media relevant to search requests.”

The presence of video content also indicates a depth of content that search engines value.

Search engines figure that you’ve taken the time to create or curate at least two types of content on the same topic, so there’s a good chance that a visitor will find the information they’re looking for on your page.

Increase Time on Page With Awesome Videos

The second half of this SEO equation is that engaging, well-made videos will keep people on your page longer and make them less likely to bounce away.

These activity signals are becoming more and more relevant on-page ranking factors, so we need to take them seriously.

Brian Dean of Backlinko argues that in addition to this crucial benefit videos also give you a better chance of earning a spontaneous link to your content, something that we should all covet:

Multimedia helps you boost those user-interaction signals that Google has been paying more attention to. And it increases the perceived value of your content, which means that people are more likely to link to it.

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Video Can’t Replace Written Content

So yes, it’s clear that including video in your content marketing mix can do a lot to improve your organic rankings. But, back to our original question: does that mean I can reduce the amount of written content on each page?

The short answer is no, you’ve still got to keep up your writing schedule.

Brian Dean makes it his business to know what’s going on with Google’s ranking algorithm at all times, and his analysis of 1 million Google search results reveals the ongoing importance of long, quality content.

SERP (Search Engine Ranking Page) data from SEMRush showed that longer content still has a better chance of making it onto the first page of Google’s results.

In fact, the average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.

This data was last updated in April 2016, so we can trust that video has not yet passed content as the primary indicator of quality for search results.

Combining Video and Written Content for SEO Dominance

Just like you can’t throw together 1,800 mildly interesting words about an extremely general topic and expect a top rank in Google’s search results, you can’t get away with just shooting something on your phone, embedding it on your page, and forgetting about it.

Content marketers need to approach videos with the same systematic, mindful SEO tactics that we use for our beautiful prose.

These tips will help you combine written content with video for a powerful one-two punch.

Describe Your Video With Keywords

Just because search engines can’t watch your video doesn’t mean you can’t help them figure out what it’s about.

Include keywords in any text that’s associated with your videos, including:

  • Video title
  • Filename
  • Descriptions
  • Tags

Jodi Harris echoes this sentiment in her Content Marketing Institute post, 23 Things to Consider When Creating Video Content: “Add relevant tags, titles, and descriptions to the metadata of your video content. This will help get your videos associated with your target keywords and get them indexed to rank for relevant content searches.”

Transcribe Your Videos Whenever Possible

Yes, transcribing videos is boring. But it’s also a great way to convey video content to a search engine in the language it already understands.

When you take the time to write out all the things that are said in your video, you’re (hopefully) increasing your page’s relevance for your targeted terms.

You’re also making it easier for those who prefer not to watch your video in its entirety to consume its content.

If you don’t have the time (or patience) to create transcripts yourself, this can be a great use of your freelance budget.

Double Host Videos for Maximize Impact

This is a common debate among marketing teams: should we host our videos on YouTube or Vimeo, where we can’t control them, or keep them on our site with a platform like Wistia or Vidyard?

The best case scenario is really to do both.

Think of YouTube as another search engine (the second largest in the world, in fact), and if your videos aren’t in there you’re missing out on huge amounts of potential views.

Kyle Harper argues on Skyword’s ContentStandard that, “Hosting video content on both your website and a video hosting platform…allows you to take advantage of the social aspects of the video hosting platform while also reaping the universal search benefits of hosting it on your website.”

Concerned about losing out on conversions if people consume videos on YouTube?

You can use it as a discover-only option by posting only previews there. Then you can point viewers to the full video on a landing page of your own site.

Avoid Slow Loading Videos With Embedded Thumbnails

If video decreases your page’s load time, you risk losing all the potential SEO benefits you got from including it in the first place.

57% of mobile users will abandon a site after just three seconds of waiting, so you don’t have much room for error. Those bounces will have a negative effect on your SEO very quickly.

Mitigate that risk by only loading the video player when someone clicks it. Full instructions are available here.

Incorporate Video Content Into Your Larger Content Strategy

Finally, please don’t start using video content just for the sake of chasing this shiny marketing toy.

Make sure that your audience actually wants to consume video content, and that you’re equipped to release it regularly and at a relatively high level of quality.

Think about how you might be able to tell a more compelling story with video, and then make sure you have the resources to pull it off.

Just like you shouldn’t expand to a new content channel without investigation, you shouldn’t dive head first into video content marketing without having a strategy to guide you.