3 Myths About Video SEO You Need to Know

Hint: Putting all your videos on YouTube is not good video SEO.

Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash

For years my standard protocol for maximizing video SEO (search engine optimization) had been, put your video everywhere (i.e. YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) then embed the most appropriate player (usually Vimeo or YouTube) on your site.

However, lately, my eyes have been opened and I’ve come to the realization that just blindly putting your (or your clients’) videos everywhere then embedding Vimeo (or YouTube) may not be the best way to maximize SEO. In fact, you are most likely hurting it.

So, to that end, here are three myths to debunk about video SEO.

Myth #1: Good Video SEO Means Getting as Many Views as Possible

Most of us content creators want our videos seen as many times as possible. The higher the stats on our YouTube or Vimeo channels, the better. And I see a lot of video creators writing blog posts and telling clients that video SEO is about “making a video and putting it on YouTube.” But that isn’t SEO.

Remember, SEO is about optimizing the number of people who find you and your business. Depending on the video, lots of views may be a good ego boost, and it definitely can help with brand recognition, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into good SEO for your website. Are those views leading people to your site? Are they converting into business? This is not to minimize the positive effect of lots of views. Just don’t confuse it with SEO.

Myth #2: Putting Your Videos on YouTube Increases Your Search Rankings

Just because Google owns YouTube, YouTube videos in and of themselves do not make your videos have better search engine results. Neither does embedding a YouTube video increase the chances of your page getting ranked higher. The rankings of your page on Google are based on a whole host of factors (e.g. relevance of content, keywords, link backs from other sites, etc.) Whereas, having a relevant video help boost search engine results overall since rich content like video is a plus for search engine optimization, all things being equal, a YouTube video won’t rank your page any higher than any other video.

In fact, unless you are a YouTuber and you plan to make a living (or your primary source of revenue) from YouTube ads, putting your or clients’ videos on YouTube could be hurting you. Why? Because if your YouTube video ranks high in a Google search, you will be sending traffic to YouTube. This is great if you are a YouTuber; not necessarily great if you are trying to get people to visit your main website.

Myth #3: YouTube is Good SEO Because It’s the Second Largest Search Engine

You often hear people proclaim that because YouTube is the second largest search engine (second only to Google itself), that is reason alone to put all your videos on YouTube. The problem with that thinking is that when people are seeking out a product or service, they usually don’t start on YouTube. They start on Google. That means, if your promo video that is uploaded on YouTube does come up in a search engine result, the link to that video will go to YouTube. Once there, your video will be competing with loads of distractions from other related content (not to mention ads). The goal of a good video SEO strategy is to get the search engine result to link to your page, not YouTube.

Below is an example of what happens when someone clicks a link to a YouTube video found in a SERP (search engine results page). I’m using J.J. Abrams famous “Mystery Box” TED talk as my subject.

Image of a Youtube video, with the other videos available highlighted.
Image of a Youtube video, with the other videos available highlighted.
What viewers are faced with after clicking on and watching a YouTube video they found after a Google search.

Here’s what a viewer will find if they were to click a link to the actual TED.com page where the video is hosted.

Image of a Youtube video with other available videos highted, showing for same organization.
Image of a Youtube video with other available videos highted, showing for same organization.
Every link on this page is another TED video. The main screen even has a CTA for more TED content.

It’s also worth noting that the TED video has over four million views while the YouTube video has less than one million.

What is Good Video SEO?

The primary objective of an effective video SEO strategy is to maximize the traffic to your website via the effective production and distribution of video. You accomplish this three ways:

  1. Host your video on a self-hosted, professional platform
  2. Create a video sitemap that tells Google your site is the official home of your video
  3. Know when and what kind of videos to use on YouTube and Vimeo to capture the audience that is there

When video SEO is working properly and effectively, your web pages with video come up in SERPs, and they will have what’s called a rich snippet. Those are those video thumbnails you see when a search engine result links to a page with a video. Links on SERPs with rich snippets typically get clicked before regular text links because your eye is drawn to the images. When you’re doing video SEO right, that link will lead to your website.

Below are the search engine results for the JJ Abrams TED video I mentioned. The video is located on both TED (via TED’s video player) and of course on YouTube. When you do a Google search for the video, they both come up. As you’ll see, one result links to the TED site, and one to YouTube.

Image of a Google result page, that shows the difference between a Youtube and TED page.
Image of a Google result page, that shows the difference between a Youtube and TED page.
Screenshot from Google results page.

Your goal is to get this kind of result, but with the higher ranking link being to your site. As you see here, the TED version of the video page ranks higher than the YouTube version. The key to all of this involves 1) self-hosting your video and 2) creating a video sitemap.


Chances are most of you reading this use either YouTube or Vimeo to host your videos. Those are great services and they have their place. If you are a YouTuber, it absolutely makes sense to drive traffic to your YouTube channel. But if you are using video to help maximize your SEO and drive traffic to your main site, then you need to be smart about how you use social sharing sites like YouTube.

When you host a video yourself or use a professional hosting site like Wistia, Brightcove, or Vimeo Pro, the video is hidden from search engines and the web (full disclosure: Wistia is a client of mine.) Unless you have a link directly to that video, it won’t appear. Why? Because they are designed so that the web page where you host that video is the “owner” of the video (i.e. the “canonical” page). The link to that page will be the link that Google will serve up in the SERP.

How to Best Utilize YouTube in Your Video SEO Strategy

Let me be clear about something: I am not saying you shouldn’t use YouTube. Far from it. In fact, YouTube absolutely should be part of your overall video strategy. As I mentioned earlier, if you are a YouTuber looking to grow your channel and earn revenue from it, the more people you drive to your channel, the better.

However, if you have another main website you run, or if you are creating videos for a client, you’ll want to use the strategy I described. But you’ll want to do it in conjunction with a smart YouTube strategy. What I recommend is embedding a self-hosted video on your main site first for a week or so to get it registered by Google as the “main” home for your video. Then upload the video to YouTube, using good tags, titles, and descriptions to drive traffic already on YouTube to your channel.

People who are already on YouTube are searching for either education or entertainment. There are hundreds of millions of users on the platform. As much as possible, you want to drive that traffic to your channel, then from that channel to your websites.

Below is a tutorial sound design by the music licensing site Artlist (another client). As of this writing, there are almost a quarter of a million views.

Source: Artlist on Youtube

Look at the description for this video:

Image for post
Image for post
Youtube video description.

There are all kinds of links leading you back to websites owned by Artlist. The best thing to do is create a template for your description that has all of this info pre-populated. Then add new text and adjust as needed.

What’s next?

I’ve established what the myths are to video SEO and given you some tips on how to use it more effectively. In my next installment, I want to address another topic that is a key part of having a strong video SEO strategy: creating a video sitemap.

Written by

Content marketer @ bladeronner.media. Satirical author @ DnDBook.com. Opinions my own & (mostly) correct. Get free insights & inspiration @ bit.ly/substack-ron

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