Eric Enge and Eric Papczun Talk about SEO

Podcast Date: April 15, 2008

The following is a written transcript of the April 15, 2008 podcast between Eric Papczun of Performics and Eric Enge:

Eric Enge: Letís start with a top-down of what are the fundamentals of Video Search Optimization. In fact, letís first talk a little bit about the opportunity, because there are some interesting aspects to the opportunity. In some degrees it seems looming and large, and at the same time you can turn around and pretty easily convince yourself that there are at least a lot of situations in which itís not nearly as large as you might have originally perceived.

Eric Papczun: Yeah, itís interesting, I think if you think long and hard about anything, you could talk yourself out of how big the trend is and the opportunity that exists in front of all of us. But, I think to me itís relatively clear, which is that video is becoming more and more important to consumers and more and more in demand. And I think content that is being conveyed via video, it just hits people a little harder and is digested a little easier.

Eric Enge: Right. By the way I am a fan of video also, but I am just trying to play devilís advocate for a minute. Now, if you have to watch a two-minute video versus respond to a hunk of text with a pretty little graphic that you can consume in seconds, if people are in man-on-the mission mode they are going to want the simpler experience, right?

Eric Papczun: Well, I have no question about it. I think it all always boils down to what your need is and as far as what kind of content is going to work best for you. And that surely you donít want to throw away your plans to add more and more text content where itís appropriate. But I think we are encouraging our clients to look for those opportunities to use video where it is most appropriate.

Eric Enge: Right. So, letís talk about what some of those scenarios are. For example, clearly if you are trying to show somebody how to do something, sort of related educational material when you have a buyer in research mode. If itís a kind of buyer who types in digital camera reviews for example, or a specific product name and then the review, those are kind of made for video, arenít they?

Eric Papczun: Oh without question, I think any time you can get the visual product in front of people along with a product expert thatís talking about it, it is just easier for people to digest because you are pointing things out as you are talking about them. But, it also just reinforces the brand and the product by actually having a visual representation of it. For instance, when you think about something like people looking for plasma televisions, which is large ticket item, people are doing a lot of research on that item. I think the ability to have someone, a product expert, look at three sets and walk you through the different inputs and the different functions, show you the remote control, show you the difference in the aesthetics of the piece all help to do a number of things. First of all, it kind of puts you more across as a product expert, gives your review a little bit more credibility, as well as it starts to cement people to those brands that you are talking about. It gets them more emotionally involved with the product as opposed to just more of this kind of analytical connection. There is more of an emotional connection that happens when you see the product and you see someone touching and feeling it.

Eric Enge: Right. And there are certainly enough products where even images donít communicate as well as a video where you see someone manipulating the controls or whatever it might be that they are doing with a given product. So, I think thatís particularly interesting. But also recently in an interview with John Marshall, one of the things that we were talking about was the intent of the person who comes to your website, because people are at different stages in the process. And the kinds of things we have talked about here is that, when you have someone who needs more information about a product, they want to see it, they want almost to be able to touch it. Thatís exactly the kind of visitor that you want to steer towards this type of content.

Eric Papczun: Oh absolutely. I think having that understanding that there are different people that are at different stages of the buying cycle and the research cycle, and being able to deliver content to each of those different types of needs is certainly important. I mean, I am not trying to allocate that video should replace any type of table that shows comparisons or spec data, any of that; itís all needed for people at various phases in the research and buying cycle. But what there tends to be not enough of right now is video content to support the other content thatís there.

Eric Enge: Right, yes indeed. So, let us sort of switch gears a little bit and start talking about what are good, solid optimization steps? And then, finally after that we can talk a little bit about strategies for promoting and getting the videos out there.

Eric Papczun: Yes, as you know we are very early on in the optimization techniques, mainly because the major engines havenít quite spent enough resources on advancing the engineís ability to do things like visual detections and speech recognition. We certainly know of smaller search players that are doing that, but the major engines like Google, and MSN, and Yahoo havenít quite adopted that yet.

Eric Enge: Right.

Eric Papczun: So we have to focus on them, by doing that. I think the first thing that folks have to kind of focus on is where the video asset lives on the page and how we put that together. One of the biggest mistakes we see s these video players that play the whole catalog of video assets all from one URL, all from one player and thatís probably the biggest no-no out there. Some folks have referred to that as kind of like a video ghetto.

Eric Enge: Right.

Eric Papczun: And I think thatís one of those things where it can be beautiful and have great looking feel and functionality, but it bails in its ability to allow each and every one of those assets to be found individually and indexed individually. So, that would be the first thing we would steer people to is to make sure that each video file if possible can live on its own unique URL. We would also love to see that video asset be an object as part of an HTML page and have the text that surrounds it and all the kind of signals that would send to the engine to kind of give them an understanding of what that file is all about.

Eric Enge: Right. And the reason ultimately for that is that since the search engine canít see inside the video content itself, they have to rely on conventional webpage optimization or webpage signals about the video, and you can only get those signals if you put each video on its own page?

Eric Papczun: Yeah, its kind of just understanding that the engines for the most part are blind, deaf, and dumb when it comes to the images and videos. And so yeah, I think the more you can surround that, the more you can kind of not so much focus on the video but optimizing the page around it continues to still one of the best strategies when you are just trying to get ranked into Google or Yahoo engine. But, there are also things just like you would do with an image in using the alt attribute to assign it there. Obviously, you want to encode the video with metadata, itís always helpful to give the file a keyword optimized filename if possible. And then, good captions around that content, that video file itself, as it sits on the page. All of those things can help kind of reinforce to the engines what that file has in it. If you canít there is obviously some interesting technologies out there that are doing some things beyond that, like doing voice recognition and allowing you to put a transcript behind the video. All of those things, I think, will help you in the future. But as of today I think ranking in Google, is more about those elements that are on the page surrounding the video than necessarily the video itself.

Eric Enge: Right. Now, you mentioned metadata, and I assume you are talking about data within the header of the video file itself.

Eric Papczun: Yeah, thatís correct.

Eric Enge: And, two questions about that, one is what kind of items do you typically find inside a header that you can play with and secondly doesnít it vary by video file format?

Eric Papczun: It does vary quite a bit and itís one of the things that I think is frustrating to lot of folks in production. Yeah, and we hope at some point there is going to be some standards that are formed around this. But, I think, again it is SEO one-on-one type of tactics here, you want that first thing about who your user is and what their intent is and what search phrases they will be using, and then try to really focus on those terms, and not try to overload or stuff keywords in that file. I think itís more about focus and kind of optimizing around just a handful of terms as opposed to a dozen.

Eric Enge: Now, do any of the file formats allow for a transcript inside?

Eric Papczun: I am not aware of any, I thinkÖ

Eric Enge: I wasnít either, butÖ

Eric Papczun: I donít think that there are, I think there are more services that you can click on, turnkey services that are out there that will embed transcripts in the platform, but I donít believe that they are actually encoding as part of the metadata.

Eric Enge: Right. And but of course, you can include a transcript on the HTML page.

Eric Papczun: They absolutely could, yeah. And, I think that probably for certain types of video thatís not the bad thing to do. I think transcripts are great in a way, because all of the content is there, but of course we speak more words than sometimes we write and there is a lot more noise in our language when we speak than when we type. And so, there is a downside of that as well, which is that you kind of start to muddy the message if you are not careful with the transcripts.

Eric Enge: Alright. I can tell you that when I do interviews a transcription service does the transcript and then they give it to me and I still spend another hour- hour and a half on it, because they do literal translation and human speech is awful when you read it.

Eric Papczun: I was just thinking about that as we were talking. I was wondering, Ďthis is really going to print out quite poorly.í And I think itís just natural for us to not be as structured and as organized in our speech, because we are responding immediately to a question, we are not sometimes giving ourselves enough time to think it through, give it an outline, and really structure in a way that just makes it easier for people to understand and makes your point. And so, I think because of that I do worry a little bit about over-relying on transcripts for optimization, because I think they do create an awful lot of noise.

Eric Enge: Right. Well, of course you can go through the process and clean them up.

Eric Papczun: You could.

Eric Enge: And then, there still would be the transcription of the essence of the video, so it would be a little cleaner. You know, you remove all the Ďsort ofí and Ďkind ofí and all the Ďum.í Add a basic cleanup, just to make it read a little better.

Eric Papczun: But, the reality probably is Eric, we work with some very large publishers, who has got time for that? I mean, I think more and more people are going to look for scalable services and using the manual kind of editing of a transcript is going to be very, very difficult for large publishers.

Eric Enge: Right.

Eric Papczun: So, for smaller folks, for smaller entrepreneurs that are looking to kind of milk every opportunity, I think thatís probably going to be something they will attack. Larger publishers that are dealing with larger volumes, they are not going to be too excited about a solution like that, their focus is going to be wholly on scale and usability.

Eric Enge: Right. So, if you had to name the top three on-page elements in addition to each video having its own page, what would they be in terms of getting your video to rank?

Eric Papczun: In a popular engine like Google?

Eric Enge: Yes.

Eric Papczun: Well, I donít think they are going to be any different than anything else. We are saying a title tag continues to be the number one element. Having the first text on the page hopefully in H1, kind of the heading of the page being aligned to the title tag, I would put as number two. And, I would think the third one is just a good summary of the videoís content on that page as part of the body would be three. I think there is more on page HTML factors affecting ranking right now in engines like Google than it is the video itself.

Eric Enge: Right. I mean in the video itself, the biggest thing is the filename really?

Eric Papczun: Yeah, I absolutely agree. And, I think the core metadata like the title and the description would be where also I would spend my time. But, I think there is a short-term strategy here Eric, and a long-term strategy. Short-term, you are going to use kind of the SEO one-on-one approaches to get those files found, it would be more about distribution on YouTube and some of these other services that are going to help you out. And, I think long term, you want to think about just getting videos that are more condensed and more focused around particular subject matter. As speech recognition and as some of these other technologies improve, I think they get adopted by Google, whether Google goes out and buys technology or they decided to develop themselves. At some point they are obviously going to address this need for consumers to be able to search and find videos in a way that is just more effective and more efficient for them. I think if that happens, you want to be positioned for it and that would be where I would put long term emphasis on metadata, more emphasis on structuring and organizing the video itself and the content. Think more about what you are actually shooting, what you are trying to get across, and what the audience says, and put more of just the thought into the videoís mission and objectives.

Eric Enge: Right.

Eric Papczun: I get a feeling sometimes that thatís done and sometimes that itís not. But, we all think about optimizing the actual production of the video, as much as weíll need too in the future.

Eric Enge: Right. Assuming that the companies are involved in our planning and building for the long term, and if they can get in the habit of doing this kind of advance planning as you talk about it and doing the kind of optimizations that will matter more once this search technology improves, they will have a leg up.

Eric Papczun: Yeah, I think so, and I think you can almost see a future a year or two or more from now where if you would ask me that same question. I would say the first thing you need to do Eric is make sure you summarize the topic matter at the beginning of the video. In the first thirty seconds tell me what you are going to tell me, then donít spend anymore than three minutes making your point because you have to worry about the viewership and the abandonment, as well as staying focused on your topic matter. And then, spend the last thirty seconds summarizing what you talked about, and having optimization of the video itself so that engines are going to in the very first fifteen seconds. Eric Enge: Right.

Eric Papczun: Or they might start to pick up on trends like the fact that there are kind of introductions to videos and that they are cues in here to what the video is about. So, there are a lot of things that we donít know yet, but you can kind of just start to put on your search engine hat and say if you had the technology to break this video down, what content would be most important in telling you what itís all about?

Eric Enge: Right, absolutely. So, if you start thinking about the last piece, the distribution piece, what are your thoughts on distribution strategies?

Eric Papczun: Well, YouTube is just killing right now, isnít it?

Eric Enge: Yes.

Eric Papczun: I mean, itís amazing. Itís just on a market share tier as far as we can see. The number one distribution strategy probably is to get your video up on YouTube and optimize it for YouTube by making sure that itís appropriately labeled. And you do everything you can to get metadata in there. I think thatís your first distribution strategy, I think experimentation is probably the thing that we would encourage more than anything else. Find other channels where your videos are a good niche and a good fit and go ahead and attack those and go where the traffic is, go where you are starting to get hits. But I mean obviously, YouTube is paramount, you have to be there right now.

Eric Enge: So, you providing the video and hosting it on YouTube, and you are also hosting it on your own site?

Eric Papczun: I think if itís appropriate for you and your brand, yes. But, thatís not always appropriate. There are a lot of folks out there, our clients included, who want to absolutely control their own content and they donít want to release it into the wild., I think you have to think about the potential impacts to your business, both positive and negative. But, I do think if itís all about distribution and all about gaining more eyeballs and more viewership, then I would say try to blow it out there a bit more and experiment a bit more. For those folks who are doing that, you obviously always want to try to bring them back to your site and/or bring them to have some kind of call to action in there for them so that you get something out of the video itself as far as some business or enticing the behavior that you want. So, I think as long as you keep those kinds of things in mind, I would say go ahead and experiment with the distribution and try to get your asset out there to the broadest audience as soon as possible.

Eric Enge: Right. I mean you could create or upload the video to YouTube and just use it to embed a YouTube player on your own site, right?

Eric Papczun: Yeah, oh absolutely.

Eric Enge: And, you could still create a page on YouTube even in that structure?

Eric Papczun: You absolutely could, and thatís a great strategy for someone who is more protective of the content. I would say your NBC example is a good example of someone who is centering a lot of content out there. They werenít comfortable with that being on YouTube, they have since pulled back, but there is where you could kind of find the middle ground.

Eric Enge: Right. Well, another new thing I think thatís going on these days is that there are so many people offering various forms of free hosting services; Amazon, Google, and many, many others that you could set these things up, where even though you might not want to release them into the wild on YouTube and you may not want the man putting it on their own site, there are still options for you.

Eric Papczun: Yeah. And, I think again it just depends on what your goals are as an organization, if you are smaller and you are not as concerned with having absolute control over the asset and the user experience, then you are going to go out there and take advantage of some of these opportunities. But, there are going to be other folks, like large publishers, that are not going to want to give that control up and are going to want to have absolute control over the user experience in the serving of those videos. So, I think it all depends on the kind of conversation that I hope all publishers are having right now as far as their strategy on video.

Eric Enge: Right, yeah absolutely. So, you can end up with your video now hosted in multiple places, and I guess there is an interesting dynamic here, because search engines in general try to serve only one version of a piece of content. They are very studious about avoiding situations with duplicate content. But in the world of video, it appears to me that they are not nearly as efficient. So, you can actually rank for your video many times.

Eric Papczun: Yeah. And, I think thatís frustrating to the searchers, to users; they have got a figure that one out. I mean it can be difficult to find what you are looking for in Google. The thing about Google also is that they tend to give more value to older videos. So, Google.com, the example that I used in my session in New York as I talked about Barack Obamaís speech that he gave on race relations, which a lot of people considered to be the most important speech he has given to date. And that speech, I believe was shown on CNN at like 11 oí clock eastern time on a Wednesday or Thursday, everybody was at work, very few people saw it. But, by the end of the day, and the next day when newspapers like USA Today had it on their front page, there was a considerable amount of buzz about that particular video and yet no one had seen it. And people wanted to consume the whole speech, it was only 30 minutes long. They obviously get some sound bytes on nightly news, but I think people really wanted to see the whole speech. And so, YouTube had a huge spike, I think they served like two million viewers???? over a course of week on that video. But, if you look for it on Google.com, which probably a lot of people started with, then you put in ĎObamaís speechí or ĎBarackís speech,í which most people did, \ because they didnít think about his whole body of work, they thought about just that one speechÖ

Eric Enge: Yeah.

Eric Papczun: And they found a speech from back in Iowa. I think even today, I mean I have to check this, but if you search Google today for ĎBarackís speech,í you are going to find some speech thatís like a year old now, and, itís not relevant at all to anything going on today. I think thatís a huge disconnect.

Eric Enge: Yeah, thatís speaks to whole another problem of management of freshness as a weighting factor.

Eric Papczun: Well. And, thatís something Google News figured out, the algorithm there is very much geared to the freshness of the content. And, actually there is an edge for publishers who are constantly refreshing their news stories , not just putting it out and letting it sit, but coming in and making edits to it throughout the day. There seems to be a significant edge for those folks, and thus it creates news results that I think are much more relevant and timely, because of that algorithmic factor. We havenít seen that yet in video in Google.com in the universal search results, but we are seeing it in YouTube. But I think your point is a good one, that even YouTube has got a way to go as far as kind of really figuring out what people want, as far as the query goes. Timeliness there is more important, people kind of believe that you are now able to rate the video, all those kind of things are building into overall factors. Obviously as the number of views and viewership goes up, the video gets higher up in the rankings. So, YouTubeís done a lot better job of that. We would like to see more of that being transferred over to Google.com and that being factored into those videos.

Eric Enge: Right. No, that makes a lot of sense. So, if you had to name a couple of the other most important video search properties for people to consider, what would they be?

Eric Papczun: That for search engines or just asÖ?

Eric Enge: Video search in this case.

Eric Papczun: Yeah. I am really impressed with EveryZing and their technology. I donít know if that is so much a destination as a technology and a platform. But, I do think that they have got it right on, I think that the folks here are using, and I think The Boston Globe uses their technology now. If you look at those pages, they are very optimized for natural search engines and video search engines. And so, there are a lot of things that they are doing right there. As far as video search, I kind of see it as YouTube and everybody else and there is no one that stands out to me or that I would go up there and make strong recommendations to my clients to be on, unless there was a particularly fit for them. There are some folks that do entertainment a little better, some people that do news a little better, but I think overall it comes down to the fact that you have got YouTube now just dominating in market shares. It is almost like, would I recommend people to optimize other sites or try to get distribution, when they spend a lot of time on getting visibility on MSN? The answer is probably not. I am going to focus where the majority of the traffic is coming from and make sure we nail that down. So unfortunately, I donít have a list for you that I feel is strong enough to even spend much time on. I actually try to get people to think more about the reality of the fact that the people arenít using these search engines in any kind of mass. And thus, we have to really focus on Google.com and Yahoo.com and YouTube.

Eric Enge: Well great, thank you Eric.

Eric Papczun: Yeah, I appreciate it!

About the Author

Eric Enge is the Founder and President of Stone Temple Consulting (STC). STC offers Internet marketing optimization services, including SEO, Social Media and PPC optimization, and its web site can be found at: http://www.stonetemple.com.

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