The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

YouTube Insight, How to Optimize and Enhance Your Online Videos Using Analytics


YouTube Insight, Optimizing Your Video Clips Using AnalyticsToday I get to write about two of my favorite things, Web Analytics and Online Video. Lucky me! Given that YouTube just surpassed Yahoo as the #2 search engine, I think it’s safe to say that many of you probably visit YouTube regularly to watch videos online. In addition, I know some of you are taking the next step and producing your own videos to share with the world. That covers watching, producing, and sharing, but there’s another concept I wanted to introduce today, and that’s optimization. Did you know that YouTube gives you access to a video analytics package free of charge, right in your YouTube account? It’s called YouTube Insight and it gives you the ability to constantly glean insights from your video clips and viewers. Video producers that use Insight already know its power, but I still think many people don’t know what to do with it, or more importantly, how to optimize their videos using the data provided by Insight. If you’ve read my blog before, then you know how I feel about the importance of web analytics. Well, this is simply an extension of web analytics, but specifically for your own YouTube video clips. Let’s dig in.

What is YouTube Insight?
YouTube Insight is a video analytics tool that provides you with valuable information about your video clips (and your viewers). Insight gives you several reports, including views, popularity, discovery (how people find your videos), and a new piece of functionality called hotspots. Insight Hotspots enable you see which parts of your video are hot (higher engagement) and which parts are cold (less interest and engagement). I will explain more about hotspots below.

Improving Your YouTube Videos with Insight
Let’s face it, producing videos is darn time consuming. I began shooting and editing video in 1995 and one thing I learned very quickly was that producing a video is not easy and takes a lot of time. So, if you are going to spend the time to brainstorm, script, shoot, edit, and publish videos for YouTube, then you are probably going to want to know what works and what doesn’t. For example, which videos are more engaging, which garner most of your views, how popular were they compared to other videos, which parts of the video were more engaging, etc. You want to know this information so you don’t waste valuable time in the future.

Accessing YouTube Insight
You can access Insight in a few different ways once you have logged in. First, you can access your Insight Dashboard by clicking the Account link in the top right of your screen. Then you can click YouTube Insight from the Performance and Data Tools section located near the bottom of the page (left side).

First Click Your Account Link, Then Click YouTube Insight on Your Account Page:
YouTube Account Link

YouTube Insight Link

The second way to access Insight is by entering the My Videos Page (Uploaded Videos) and clicking the Insight button (for each video). The button for Insight is below the video information and is next to Audio Swap.

YouTube Insight Button Located on My Videos Page:
YouTube Insight Button

Insight Dashboard (a snapshot of all videos)
Your Insight Dashboard functions just like a dashboard in any web analytics package and gives you an aggregate view of your videos (your channel). For example, your dashboard will show you which videos are most popular, how many views your channel is getting, which geographic regions hold the most viewers, popularity of videos in your channel, demographics of your viewers, etc. It’s a great way to get an overall view of how your channel is performing. That said, you really should drill into each video to gain the most valuable information… Aggregate data at the channel level doesn’t really give you actionable information.

Tip: When you are ready to analyze a specific video, you can either click its name in the Views tab of your Insight Dashboard or you can go to your My Videos Page and click the Insight button under each video clip. If you always want to begin by analyzing specific videos, then you might start your visit by accessing the My Videos Page instead of the dashboard.

Visits
You can click the Visits tab to see the number of visits each video received in all countries, or in specific regions. You can change the timeframe on the graph and you can choose a specific country from the dropdown on the right. Then, let’s say you choose the United States, you can click on specific states to see your visits per state. To change the date range, you can click the Zoom links in the top of the graph for 1 day, 5 days, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, or Max. Or, you can use the slider below the graph to quickly change the date range of your report.


YouTube Insight Views:
YouTube Insights Views

Popularity
Insight also gives you the option of seeing how popular your videos are compared to other videos in the selected region during that timeframe. Just like with visits, you can click a country on the map to target that region, or you can drill into a region to get more granular. For example, you can click a state in the US to see the popularity within that state. You can also click specific countries within a region like Turkey within the Middle East or China within Asia.

YouTube Insight Popularity:
YouTube Insights Popularity

Discovery (or Traffic Sources)
OK, who else is addicted to checking traffic sources for their website in their web analytics package? It’s hard not be, right? The Discovery tab provides the traffic sources for your video clips. I love it. In a nutshell, it's how people found your video. There are five links within this section and they include:

YouTube Search, or which keywords people are entering to find your videos on YouTube.
Related Videos, or other videos on YouTube where your video thumbnail showed up as a related video and people clicked that thumbnail to get to your video.
Embedded Player, or which sites have embedded your video clip (using the embed code in YouTube).
External Links, or websites that link to your video clip (AKA referring sites).
Google Search, or keywords people are entering in Google to find your video clips.
Google Video, or keywords that people are entering on Google Video to find your video clips.
Other, or links to your video where there is no referring URL (AKA Direct Traffic). This might be a person emailing the link to someone else, IM’ing the link, etc.
YouTube Other, or other pages on YouTube that are linking to your video clips (not related videos).

YouTube Insight Discovery:
YouTube Insights Dicovery

Demographics
Insight provides some basic data regarding the demographics of your viewers. For example, you can see the age range and gender for viewers. In addition, you can click on a specific gender to see the age range within that gender. So, you can click Female and see the age range of your female viewers. {Marketers, can you say Test Group?} More on this later.

YouTube Insight Demographics:
YouTube Insight Demographics

New Addition: Insight Hotspots (and Coldspots)
YouTube just recently made this feature available. Using Insight Hotspots, you can see which parts of your video are more engaging (or less engaging) as compared to other videos of similar length. As the video plays in Insight, there is a graph on the left side of the screen that displays whether that segment of video was hot or cold. If it’s hot, fewer people are leaving your video at that point, or even rewinding the video to see that part again. If it’s cold, more people are skipping that segment or leaving the video at that point. I’ll explain more below about how to use this feature to enhance your videos, but needless to say, it’s an outstanding addition.

YouTube Insight Hotspots:
YouTube Insights Hotspots

This All Sounds Great Glenn, But How Do I Use Insight To Optimize My Videos?
Just like web analytics, having the data available is one thing, but using the data to enhance your efforts is another. Don’t fear! I’ll explain some basic things you can do in order to glean insights from your reporting to optimize your future videos.

1. Your Ad Hoc Focus Group
Companies spend a lot of money testing their creative to understand what will engage targeted viewers. Well, you can use Insight Hotspots to see what is working in your videos and what isn’t, and for free! You can see which parts of your video people like (rewind and watch again) versus don’t like (they skip through or exit the video). For example, you might find that physical stunts are extremely hot where dialogue is cold. Or you might test a few different versions of a video to see which angles yield the highest engagement. Does humor work, action, or a combination of both? Using Insight Hotspots, you can begin to take guesswork out of the equation and make decisions based on data (which is always a smart move!)

2. Using Insight For Keyword Research
I spend a lot of time talking about the importance of Keyword Research for SEO. It’s an incredibly important process to go through in order to optimize your website based on what people ACTUALLY search for (versus what you think they search for). With Insight, you have access to YouTube searches that lead to your videos, Google searches that lead to your videos, and Google Video searches that lead to your videos (and all for free). By analyzing these keywords, you can start to understand the ways in which people search for different types of content and then you can use that information to optimize future videos (and the text content you provide for those videos like your descriptions, tagging, titles, etc.) For example, are people searching for a category, a specific product, do they enter questions or is it by major keyword?

3. See Which Videos Spike Quickly Versus Providing Sustained Visitors
You might find that an entertaining video has a spike in visitors and then fizzles out, where an educational video builds traffic over time and constantly drives viewers your way. Since you can view visits trended over time, then you can start to get a feel for the lifecycle of specific videos. The more you know about the different types of content you produce, the more you can tailor future content to meet your specific needs (or the needs of your clients).

4. Understand Related Videos That Drive Viewers To Your Video Clips
You can start to learn which types of videos are considered “related” and which videos drive the most viewers. The more you understand the videos that drive people to your own clips, the more you can target future content to that target audience. For example, maybe you had a lot of visitors from How-To videos. You might use this angle in the future to make sure you show up there again, or to capture that traffic from the start...

5. Learn Which Websites Link To Your Video (Referring Sites)
Checking your external links, you can see which websites are linking to your video clips on YouTube. From an SEO standpoint, this provides a great opportunity for link-building. For example, if a site in your industry is linking to your YouTube clips, then maybe they would want to link to your website as well. Links are the lifeblood of SEO and finding topical and relevant link opportunities is extremely important. Note, you can’t see specific URL’s in Insight…you only get domain information, which is a little frustrating. That said, you can probably track down the specific webpage by doing a site command in Google. :)

6. Find Out Which Video Clips Go Viral
If you see a lot of viewers from “Other” in your discovery report (direct traffic), then that’s probably from email, IM, etc. Basically, someone sent around the link for your video to their friends, coworkers, etc. If you had a high percentage of viewers from Direct Traffic, then you might have found something that gets people talking. You can follow this path and test out future videos using similar types of content.

7. See Which Geographic Regions Watch Your Videos (Countries And States)
Are your videos more popular within certain countries or regions? Why were they more popular? For example, did you get a lot of traffic from New York when you shot a video in Times Square? Did you get a lot of traffic from Massachusetts when you showcased Boston Baked Beans in your video about the Best Ideas for Sunday Dinner? On the flip side, did you get a lot of viewers from Hawaii to a video about Surfing the Web on Your Blackberry? Were they interested in surfing or a Blackberry??

Produce, Upload, Analyze, and Refine
Let’s face it, videos are not easy to create (good videos). They cost money, take a lot of time to produce, and a huge amount of effort to pull off. If an average blog post takes a few hours to brainstorm, write, edit, and publish, then a good video takes 4-5X that at least to brainstorm, script, shoot, edit, publish and share. Given the time commitment involved, I highly recommend using YouTube Insight as your video analytics package to glean insights from your viewers in order to optimize and enhance your future clips. If you don’t, then you’re just flying blind. As you can probably guess, I’m against flying blind and you should be too, especially when someone hands you a free analytics package like YouTube Insight!

GG

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

6 Questions You Should Ask During a Website Redesign That Can Save Your Search Engine Rankings


Questions to ask during your next website redesign or update.If you are currently involved in or are planning a website redesign, then I’m sure the title of my post caught your attention. I’m not one to strike fear into people about SEO, but in my experience, website redesigns (or even website updates) have a knack for hurting Natural Search rankings. It actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it. During website redesigns, many companies try to make noticeable and impactful changes. You might add more interactivity and rich media, you might use the latest coding techniques to enhance the user experience, you might remove older webpages that you don’t believe need to be on the site anymore, you might change your URL structure, so on and so forth. But, and this a significant but, if you don’t look at your redesign through the lens of SEO, then you have a distinct possibility of hurting your search rankings. Actually, you can crush your rankings if you aren’t careful.

So, I decided to write this post to help you stand out as the person that saves the day. The person that flies in with SEO on your chest, swoops down and identifies SEO issues with your redesign and then corrects a potential disaster in the making.
--BTW, these are actual SEO scenarios I have come across. Also, there are many more issues that can pop up, but I decided to focus on these 6 for the post. And don’t laugh when you read each item, this might be happening as part of your next redesign. :-)

Without further ado, here are 6 questions you can ask during your website redesign that can save your search engine rankings:

1. Are we using Flash in the right ways and only when we need its unique power?
If you know me at all, then you know I’m a big advocate of Flash (having developed with it for over 10 years). But, replacing HTML content with full Flash pages or a significant amount of Flash can really cause problems SEO-wise. Run a cache command on a full flash webpage and you’ll see the problem quickly. That is unless you want to rank for “big blank white space”! ;-) If you do add more flash content to your site, then definitely utilize SWFObject 2.0 to provide search engine friendly alternative HTML content. I’ve written an in depth post about how to use SWFObject 2.0 here. And for those of you that are saying, “We’ll be ok since the engines are now crawling flash...”, please read my other post about Google crawling flash. There are several variables that can impact how Google and Yahoo crawl your swfs (the two engines working with Adobe now). My tests and recommendations were backed up this week at SMX during the Flash and SEO session with Adobe, Google, Yahoo, and Live Search. What’s my rule of thumb with Flash? Use it where you need the unique power of Flash. Do not, I repeat, do not use Flash for your entire site or for entire pages of content. Use it for webpage elements only.

2. Did we analyze the Search Equity of webpages marked for removal?
If you will be removing content from your site, make sure you determine the Search Equity of your pages. Your current rankings are heavily based on the quality and relevance of your inbound links. You’ve worked hard to build those links, so why would you throw them away?? This happens all too often when you don’t take into account which pages are important from a Natural Search standpoint.

Campaign landing pages are a great example of this. Let’s say you launch a new product and use a wide range of marketing channels to promote the new product and landing page. When the campaign ends, you decide the page isn’t needed anymore, so you just delete it. But hold on… if you had taken a look at the Search Equity of the page, you would have realized it built more than 5000 links for you, mostly from industry-relevant blogs and websites! It earned a Pagerank 5 and you just threw away all of those links by deleting the page! I hate when I see this happen. Do your homework before deleting pages.

So what should you do? You should either keep the page as-is or 301 redirect the page to a corresponding page on your site. That might be the product category page or a similar product page. 301 redirects are the proper way to pass link power from one URL to another. It’s a permanent redirect and tells the engines that Page A has moved permanently to a new location (Page B). Tip: Do not use 302 redirects when you remove a page. 302's are temporary redirects and are not search engine friendly. I can write an entire post about redirects, but just remember that 301’s are good and 302’s are bad.

3. Are we changing our URL structure during the redesign? If we are, did we make sure the engines know where the old pages will reside on the new website?
Similar to the bullet above, be careful if you decide to change your URL structure. If you change a URL from abcd.asp to efgh.asp, the engines will look at the page as NEW, even though the same content has been around for a long time (and has built up links and search power). Basically, the new page won’t automatically inherit the search power of the original page. Now imagine the impact if you change thousands of URL’s, tens of thousands of URL’s or even more?

For example, let’s say you decide to include target keywords in your URL’s, such as a product name and category. The old URL’s that have built up a nice amount of Search Equity will all be changed to your new taxonomy during the redesign. That’s great, but again, all of that search power will unfortunately be lost unless you tell the engines where the new URL’s are. Based on what I mentioned above, you can probably guess that it’s Mr. 301 redirect to the rescue again. You can redirect your old URL’s to your new ones and safely pass their link power. I’ve seen this overlooked plenty of times, and again, the results can be devastating.

4. Are we using Vanity URL’s or custom domains for our campaign microsites?
Note, this doesn't fall under something that will crush your current rankings, but it sure can impact how your site builds more power based on your hard work.

Let's say you have a new marketing campaign going live soon and someone on your team wants to register a bunch of new domain names for the microsite. You know, something like www.TheBestDarnBagelOnThePlanet.com or something catchy like that… Here’s the problem. It will be a brand new domain that needs to build its own search power versus inheriting the trust from your core domain, which is why I’m a bigger fan of using subdirectories, such as yourdomain.com/campaigntitle. Then your campaign will leverage your trusted domain, rank faster, and help build links for your trusted domain. It’s a win-win.

5. Are we replacing keyword-rich text content with images or Flash in order to achieve an aesthetic advantage? AKA, we want things to look pretty…
Your design team went nuts with the redesign, the new site looks incredible, and it uses all sorts of images and flash content in place of text content. You know, because the standard browser fonts aren’t sexy enough. I get that, I really do... but the SEO impact can be serious. For example, taking keyword rich text content on each page and throwing it into images to get a desired look. Taking your text navigation and placing it in Flash or in images. Again, this happens all too often. Text links are still the best way to get the bots to all of your content. And, using descriptive anchor text, you can tell the engines what they will find at the other end of the link. For example, using a text link with the anchor text Adidas Running Sneakers is much more powerful than using an image that holds the text Adidas Running Sneakers. Even if you use alt text with that image, it’s a much better idea to use descriptive text links. And, if you use Flash, then you’ll run into even more problems, which is why you should use SWFObject to provide an HTML version of your navigation. And for those of you who are saying, “I’ll just provide an xml sitemap to the engines and I’ll be fine”, keep in mind that the optimal way to get the engines to your pages is via a traditional crawl (as noted by a Google engineer at SMX this week). :) XML Sitemaps are a great supplement and help with more than just content discovery, but they don’t replace text links and navigation as the best way to get the bots to your website pages.

6. Did we do such as a good job at coding that we essentially removed key pages from our website? i.e. Where one page now handles the equivalent of 10 pages. The URL doesn’t change, but the content does big time!
Your developers did a great job of streamlining your code. They did such as good job, that 10 pages of content can now be handled dynamically by just one page. That one page posts back to itself and dynamically provides the content of 10 pages from your old site. Code-wise this might be outstanding, SEO-wise, it’s a nightmare. Beyond removing 10 pages from your site that might have built up Search Equity, you cannot optimize a page for each of the 10 items that will be presented on the fly. You are going to have a heck of a time getting those products to rank if they cannot be crawled! In addition, you cannot optimize the typical HTML elements like you normally would. For example, the title tag, h1, h2, body copy, inline links, etc. since the information will be loaded dynamically. Coming from a development background, I totally understand why you would want to code this way. However, from an SEO-standpoint, it can cause all sorts of issues. I would make sure you can present each of the 10 pieces of content in an optimized webpage with a distinct URL. You can still use code to streamline the process and delivery, but try not to handle everything at one URL.

A quick example would be a category page that dynamically presents each product within that category. This might happen when you click each product image (and this all happens at at one URL). The engines would only see one URL and crawl the initial content. Not good.

So there you have it, 6 ways you can save the day during your next website redesign or website update. Keep in mind that you will probably have a challenging time when you first introduce these questions. There will be pushback and requests to back up your recommendations. But once you do, and everyone involved starts to understand SEO best practices, the problems I mentioned will be less likely to occur. If they are less likely to occur, then you have a better chance of keeping your organic search power. If you keep your organic search power then you can keep driving natural search traffic to your site. If you keep driving natural search traffic to your site, then you can reap the benefits of that traffic, which can be increased exposure, customers, and revenue.

So don't be afraid to speak up!

GG

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Using Keyword Discovery for Keyword Research, Some Commonly Overlooked Features and Functionality


Commonly Overlooked Features in Keyword Discovery.If you’ve read any of my posts about SEO or SEM, then you probably know how strongly I feel about keyword research. I believe performing extensive keyword research is critical to understanding what people are actually searching for versus what you think they are searching for. Opinions are nice, but you should always try and back your decisions with real data (at least as much as possible). In case you are interested in learning more about Keyword Research, you can read my blog post about using Keyword Discovery and WordTracker. I’m a fan of both tools, but I must admit that I’m a bigger fan of Keyword Discovery (KD). Actually, I couldn’t imagine focusing on Search and not having KD by my side. But something hit me about a month ago…I was overlooking some of the outstanding functionality included in Keyword Discovery. Actually, based on my conversations with other marketers, I believe many aren’t using all of the power of Keyword Discovery… So I’m going to help you (and them) by identifying some of the functionality that might be easily overlooked. Let’s get started.

Global Premium Database, Historical View (Past 24 Months)
Keyword Discovery enables you to choose various databases to tap into while performing keyword research. Their Global Premium database holds a few billion searches, looking back 12 months. But, did you know you could actually look back 24 months? Yes, you can and it’s simple to do. Just click the checkbox for “Historical” while searching for keywords.

Historical Keyword Research (24 months) in Keyword Discovery

Why would you want to search historical data?
Depending on the keywords you are researching, there are times you would definitely want to see back past a year. There might have been specific things happening in the past 12 months that would skew your data (think about a presidential election) or a new movie that comes out.

X-Ref (Cross Reference Tool)
I love this tool. Let’s say you are researching a prospective client’s website and want to check a competitor’s site for the keyword set you just searched for. Easy, just click the x-ref tab and Keyword Discovery will prompt you for a URL. Enter a competitor’s URL (the exact page you want to check) and KD will display how many times those keywords show up in the title tag, meta keywords, meta description, and in the page copy on your competitor’s webpage. Keep in mind, the cross reference tool will check at the page level and not at the domain level. This is important…you wouldn’t want to run back to your client and show them one page’s data thinking it was for the entire site. However, it’s a great way to check other pages that rank highly for the terms you are targeting.

For example, let’s enter the keyword “Halloween” and cross reference BuyCostumes.com (my favorite online Halloween shop). Keyword Discovery returns the following results for the homepage:

Click the image below to see a larger version:
Using x-ref to cross reference another webpage in Keyword Discovery.

Permutations
There are times where you want to see the volume for several keywords working together, but ordered in a different sequence. This tool will enable you to target your selected terms (only those terms) and show you all the permutations in the database. This can help you decide which permutations to target (based on the volume of searches you find). To use the tool, simply enter the keywords you want to target, separated by commas.i.e. keyword1,keyword2,keyword3

For example, let’s enter apple,nano,video:
Viewing all permutations for a set of keywords in Keyword Discovery.

Language Translation:
There are times you will be targeting languages other than English. Well, if you are setting up projects in Keyword Discovery to organize your work, then you can also translate your projects into other languages. Yes, this is a very cool piece of functionality that KD provides (although it’s somewhat hidden). Simply create a project, research keywords, and populate that project with those keywords. Then open your project and scroll down to view the icons at the bottom of the results. You will see the Babel Fish icon (a yellow fish icon). When you hover your mouse over the icon, it will say “Translate Keywords”. When you click the icon, you will be prompted to translate your project from English to either Spanish, French, German, or Italian (or vice versa). Select which translation you want to perform and click submit. Voila, your keywords have been translated. Note, you probably wouldn’t want to just take these translations at face level. It’s a good starting point, but I would try and work with someone fluent in that language before implementing a campaign. ;-)

Using language translation in Keyword Discovery.

Trending Graphs
This feature isn’t overlooked as much as the others, but it’s worth mentioning here. Whenever you perform research in Keyword Discovery, there is an option to view trended data for each keyword (as shown below). This enables you to view keyword data over the past 12 months graphically and is extremely important if you are targeting terms that are seasonal. Think about “roses” and Valentine’s day. You can view charts based on historical data, monthly, trended, and you can see market share by engine. This data can help you and your clients map out strategies for targeting groups of keywords throughout the year.

Viewing trending graphs in Keyword Discovery.

Now Don’t Overlook These Great (But Commonly Overlooked) Features!
If you are currently using Keyword Discovery and don't use these features yet, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. If you aren’t using Keyword Discovery, you should be. I don’t view it as a nice-to-have, it’s a required tool in my arsenal. Once you are comfortable researching keywords, working in the interface, and understanding what the data means, then definitely test out the features I listed in this post.

GG

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