CJ Moore originally wrote this post as a column in Mini Storage Messenger, where Red Nova Labs (parent company of StorageAhead) regularly contributes marketing advice.
The first page of Google is sacred land, a funnel for self storage renters that lands their stuff in your facility. Of course, landing on that first page is not easy. But there is one strategy that is not utilized by most: video.
Many people don’t realize this, but YouTube has recently become the second-largest search engine behind Google, which coincidentally owns YouTube. This has given rise to a duality in video search. Since engines also include videos in search engine results pages (SERPs), chances are quite good a video uploaded to YouTube will also show up in Google search results, as part of a “blended search.” Blended search is the practice in which search engines display videos, images, news stories, maps, and other types of results alongside their standard search results, and it has become increasingly common on major search engines.
Every local business should be claiming their maps across all search engines, but the competition is fierce. It’s even more competitive for text-based results. Video, on the other hand, is far less competitive. According to Forrester Research, video provides 50 times better chance of landing on the first page of search results than any given text page. Suddenly, you’re competing with six local competitors instead of 300.
In addition, extra SEO benefits come from the ability to add descriptions, keyword-friendly titles and file names, and links that take users back to your site and embed video across thousands of different websites. Video is also more engaging than other content varieties, and Google’s latest moves suggest it values sites that contain engaging content.
“The biggest element of video is, as you pointed out, is that it’s high-engagement,” SEO expert Bruce Clay told ReelSEO in June at the Social Marketing Expo in Seattle. “And as an engagement element, that’s kind of an object or something that Google’s going to look for both within the Google search results page and on the web pages that it’s indexing.”
The benefits are not just for SEO. Customer follow-through is likely to multiply with a strong video. Put a block of text in front of a website visitor that highlights facility features and amenities, and that message is most likely lost. Show a short video that highlights the same information, and that visitor may actually be engaged.
Studies have shown that information retention almost doubles with video (or audio with images) as opposed to text only. A virtual tour is the next best thing to guaranteeing a customer tours your facility in person. Providing that virtual tour will give self storage operators a leg up on their competition, but just like with any SEO plan, the best chance of landing on the first page requires attention-to-detail and follow-through.
The hesitation for most local businesses to utilize video is most likely cost. How am I going to afford a third-party video production team or how am I going to afford video equipment to shoot video myself?
Answer: It’s not as expensive or difficult as you think.
An expensive video camera isn’t necessary. Most point-and-shoot cameras shoot high-quality video. For example, the Canon Powershot series shoots 1080p HD video and can be purchased for less than $200.
A tripod is a must unless you want to make a “Blair Witch Project” remake. And easy-to-use editing software, such as iMovie, Microsoft Movie maker or Video Pad, allows users to produce videos that look professionally done.
At Red Nova Labs, we have a Media Producer whose primary role is to produce video about our products and for our customers. We have shot and produced several videos for clients using our Rebel T2I camera and Adobe Premiere editing software.
Another option is to produce a video that resembles a power point presentation or a collection of images with audio. Unlike text, search engines are unable to crawl the actual contents of a video, so all of the SEO benefits are the same.
Once you have the equipment, figuring out the content and message of your video is next. Video gives you a chance to speak directly to your customers, so you want to consider how you want them to perceive you. Our advice: Make the videos fun, informative and short. Only 44.66 percent of viewers watch up to the one-minute mark of a video, so the beginning is important and the image you select as a thumbnail also needs to be well thought out, something that will entice a view.
One company that has embraced the power of YouTube is Toyota and its advertisement of its Sienna Minivan. Just like self storage, Toyota had the challenge of making something that doesn’t exactly excite the senses (a minivan) into something hip and cool. Toyota made a collection of short YouTube videos – most two minutes or less – with the Sienna Parents, a couple that must have been pulled straight out of a “Modern Family” episode.
The most popular video is a rap video, titled “Swagger Wagon,” which has more than 11 million views. Before a coworker sent me the video, I would have told you that I would rather put my manhood on the line in a Mini Cooper than be a Soccer Dad in a minivan. But now I want to own a Sienna someday just so I can call it the “Swagger Wagon,” and give the head nod to fellow fathers rolling by in their Swagmobiles.
Not surprisingly, “Swagger Wagon” is the first result in a “minivan” search on YouTube, and the Toyota Sienna is also the first result on a Google search for “minivan.” If you don’t think the video has something to do with that, you might as well put your advertorial budget towards the Yellow Pages – I hear it’s the next big thing.
Once the video production is finished, the next step is deciding whether to host the video on your own site or use a third party video-sharing platform like YouTube or Vimeo. In order to host your own video, you need to have enough bandwidth on your website to support video. We have the technology support and bandwidth to host our own videos, but with every video, we talk strategy before we decide to host or use a third-party sharing site.
The best advantage of hosting your own video is the video is only on your site, and thus you do not have to share link juice if another site shares or embeds your video. For most, using a third-party video sharing website is a more practical option or the better strategic move. Sites like YouTube are easy to use and upload video and also have built-in traffic. Plus, the SEO benefits are not always lost. But in order to be seen, it’s not enough to just put a video out into the Interwebs and cross your fingers that people stumble upon it.
So you have the finished product, a video that is fun, not too long and communicates everything you want your customers to know about your company. Next step is catering to the Search Engine gods.
Start with the file name of your video and the title. Both should include keywords and the file name should not include unnecessary characters that most computer programs like to suggest for a file name.
To go along with a keyword-friendly file name and title, you need a strong description also filled with keywords; however, do not write a message that is a collection of keywords that makes no sense, describe the video and tell your customers what you want them to know – such as where to go next if they want to rent a unit.
Since search engines have no idea whether you have posted the same video in two different places, use different file names, titles and descriptions so that it does not show up as duplicate content.
Surround videos on your website with good content, because if someone lands on your page, the end goal should always be for that lead to turn into a rental.
Strong, clear audio is also important. Youtube now has closed captions, which is still in the beta phase, but eventually as search engines advance and work more with video, it’s likely they will be able to crawl the caption text.
Just like website creators need to make a site that is crawlable, video creators have a way to make sure Google knows your video exists through a Video XML sitemap. In order for your video thumbnail to appear in a Google search, you need to make a sitemap. Include the duration of the video, title and a keyword-rich description. Instructions can be found at Google Video Sitemap help.
Once your video is shot, edited, placed and Googlable, you’re more likely than ever to land on the first page.