Video optimisation: 10 steps to optimise your video content for search engines

Is video optimisation part of your distribution and promotion strategy?

Great video content is useless if your target audience can’t find it. The following ten tips will give your promotional videos the best possible chance to get in front of the right eyeballs online.

Video Optimisation Step 1. Choose the right hosting option

YouTube may be the default platform for video, but it is not always in your interests to use it. If your video contains educational content that’s intended to address a search query, then host it on your own website. Otherwise the search engines will credit YouTube, not your domain, for your video on ‘how to choose the best course during clearing’.

Create this type of content with prospective students’ FAQs in mind, to help them flow through the decision-making process.

If your video is a promotional advert which you want as many people as possible to see, then host it on YouTube. This will help it reach the widest possible audience. Content of this type is often most effective when it doesn’t immediately appear to be an advert. The more engaging, the more shareable it is likely to be.

Video Optimisation Step 2. Make your metadata matter

Metadata refers to the text fields that accompany a video file, such as the title and description.

Video content can’t yet be fully understood by search engines. That’s why metadata is necessary – to help search bots make sense of video.

You can optimise this text, as well as any written content on the landing page of your video.

Use the keywords that relate to your institution and your video content, but write with  prospective students in mind rather than search bots.

Keep the keyword density reasonable (no more than 2%). Place keywords early on in titles and descriptions short. Longer titles and descriptions may be truncated when displayed, although the full text will still searchable by search engine bots.

Video Optimisation Step 3. Apply copywriting skills to your video’s title

Your title not only needs to reflect the nature of your video content, but also needs to appeal to your target audience.

Make it sound compelling, and avoid marketing-speak like “our new promo video”. The title and descriptions will help viewers make a snap decision about whether they want to view your video or not, so they need to explain the content concisely and accurately as well as including your keywords.

Video Optimisation Step 4. Research what terms to target

Aim for educational videos to feature as a rich media snippet on Google. These video thumbnails are displayed in the search results and can bring a huge amount of traffic to your content.

Try some searches to see what keywords are currently bringing up rich media snippets. Search queries that include ‘guide’, ‘review’ and ‘how to’ tend to have the most videos appear in the results listings. Queries with a high number of pay per click adverts are less likely to feature rich media snippets.

Use your research to decide which phrases to target. Include the relevant keywords in your metadata and any supporting content.

Video Optimisation Step 5. Take the time to transcribe your video

Transcribing your video will make your content accessible to prospective students who have hearing impairments. As an added bonus, it will help your optimisation process as well, by giving search engines more information about the content of your video.

Add the transcription to the HTML on the page your video is hosted or embedded on. Alternatively, upload a caption file on YouTube or Vimeo.

Video Optimisation Step 6. Pick a powerful thumbnail

The thumbnail you choose can dramatically increase your video’s appeal. It needs to reflect the nature of your college’s brand but also effectively convey what viewers can expect to see in the video. Any text used on a thumbnail needs to be sufficiently clear and readable even if the image is scaled down (e.g. when viewed on a smartphone).

Note that busier images are harder to interpret at a glance. If you’re using YouTube or Vimeo then you can use frames from your video as the thumbnail (or ‘cover’) of your video. Alternatively, you can upload your own image.

Video Optimisation Step 7. Diversify your landing pages

Though it’s a good idea to have only one video per landing page, the more versatile the rest of your content the better.

Videos are a great way of showcasing your institution, but people consume information in different ways. Use text and images to help reinforce your message – making sure you optimise everything – and your page will be more appealing to both your prospective students and the search engine algorithms.

Video Optimisation Step 8. Consider an embedding embargo

Letting other websites embed your video content can help you spread your message. This makes it more likely to reach a wider and more diverse audience, who might then click through to your site.

However, if you are hoping to increase your chances of getting rich snippets featured in search engine results pages (see 4.), then it might be best not to allow embedding. Your chances of being featured are higher if your domain is the only one carrying that piece of content.

Video Optimisation Step 9. Map out your video content

Providing information about videos hosted on your website to Google will help make them more searchable. You can do this by using the Google Video extension for the sitemap protocol.

Although a lot of the information you can provide is optional, completing more will yield better results. You can find out about video sitemaps here:

Video Optimisation Step 10. Set up your schema markup

Schema markup is additional code that you can include in the HTML of your website, explaining what your data means rather than simply what it says. If you are hoping to get some rich snippets included in your search engine results (see 4.), then you need to implement schema markup. Doing this makes sure the content can be returned on the search engine results pages in the way you want it to be.

You can find out more about schema markup at It’s a project jointly created by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex – so applies equally across all search providers.


Optimising your promotional video content using these ten steps will only help if you’ve followed the number one rule of video creation: don’t be boring! Don’t make videos that nobody wants to watch; always tailor them to your audience for the best chance of success.

Click here to read our ten practical video production tips to make sure your video content packs a punch.

And while we’ve got you thinking about how best to use video… why not have a chat with the experts over the phone or face-to-face? Clearhead will show you what other institutions are doing and discuss how you can use video to meet your student recruitment targets. or call us on 02074941589.