How the Google video carousel caused a drop in organic traffic

Michel Bonvanie
Jul 16, 2018 · 5 min read
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Last week i’ve written a blogpost (in dutch) on our website at Webiteers for a clients case. But I thought this might as well be interesting for the english speaking SEO / Marketing people. Because the results were quite severe.

What we saw was a decrease from 3,200 to 1,600 visitors per week for one page because embedded video got indexed within the search results.

In all honesty I understand why more and more companies produce video content. Because within these video’s you can explain so much more then with just text. And if you read all the statistics about video marketing with the increased consumption and influence of the purchasing process then we might be idiots if we don’t create video.

But what if video has a negative impact on your SEO results? It may sound unbelievable, but that actually happened to a client of ours.

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Around 22nd of may we saw a decrease of organic traffic.

Recently I had a case in which we abruptly noticed a decrease in organic visitors for specific pages. The cause of the decline was not immediately clear. So we started to dig deeper in to what might have caused it. I’ll outline what we saw, what we did and how that impacted the organic traffic.

50% less organic traffic due to changing snippets

It was pretty clear that specific pages of the website generated 50% less organic traffic. But there were no changes made to the SEO in the last 3 months that could lead to this effect. We actually did not immediately identify the problem. Because many keywords were still on the first page of the search results within Google.

In the end, the ranking itself did not appear to be the problem, but what the search result looked like was. In the period before the decline, this was an organically enriched result, or a rich snippet. Just before the decline, the result was changed to an organic video rich snippet. (PS. these screenshots intentionally don’t contain the client)

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Organic snippet with a video thumbnail

While at the time of the decline the snippet was changed again. But this time the carousel was shown.

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Example of the video carousel

RankRanger saw that within the search results of Google the average amount of video thumbnails increased. Google did not remove the organic video thumbnails as a whole but actually replaced them with a carousel. Leading to an average of 8.5 video thumbnails in the SERP.

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Increase of video thumbnails in the SERP

In my specific case; a YouTube video was embedded a long time ago on the landing page. It was there to give visitors some extra experience. We did not use any structured data. The keywords for which the pages ranked for are has a high search volume.

Testing by removing video

Although the landing page — with the rich card — acquired a more prominent rank in the search results, the visitors seemed plummet. The video carousel had a bad influence on the click-through rate (CTR). We removed the video on one landing page, after which we immediately noticed an increase in organic traffic after new indexation from Google.

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Organic traffic went up after the video was removed from the page and got indexed.

The results were so good that we decided to remove the videos — for now — on other pages that were “affected”. The intention is to add it again in the future, but in a way that does not have the negative impact on SEO.

For another page it had similar effect. We first saw an increase of organic traffic and after that we saw it decline. After we removed the video the organic traffic went up again. And the organic traffic is actually 12.5% higher then before the decline.

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Example 2: weekly organic traffic went up

My take aways

Consider carefully whether, and when, video is of added value to the visitor. And consider whether it makes sense that the video may or may not be indexed in the search engine.

Added value for visitors
Make sure the video offers added value to visitors. In other words, the video has to fit in with the content and the needs of the searcher. For a how-to, video content is more applicable than, for example, a checklist. In our case the keywords were short-tail so it might have had not much added value.

Check your search results
If there are videos on your website, briefly research whether a video snippet is shown on search terms in Google’s search results. Depending on the search terms, it is in some cases more advisable not to display the video. But testing can never hurt to remove the video.

Check your rankings and visibility
Assess your position in the search engines based on different search options. For example, check the differences between organic or universal search results. We use AWR to gain insights between the differences. But there are more tools out there that give you these insights.

In our case, the decline of visibility started around 18th of May within the search engine that only checked for “organic” rankings.

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Decline of organic visibility in Google.

Better CTR for organic snippets
And last but not least, it seems that the website actually has a higher CTR for the keywords within the organic results than before this update. So this update might be more in favor for websites that don’t embed video.

Have you been impacted in a way with this change? Please do share your findings.

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