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SearchMetrics recently released a study into the changes in Google’s Universal Search results over the last year.

Universal Search is the way Google “blends” image, video, news, maps and shopping search results into the normal search results. 

In this post, I'll outline the ever increasing case for optimising video.   

As the stats show, over the year, shopping went away almost completely, while more and more images were being shown. But the constant “winner” is video, even though its visibility decreased slightly through the year: 

Video SEO 

YouTube versus the rest of the world

The study mentions that a whopping 80% of those video integrations are YouTube videos. This leads Marketingland to conclude that you should be using YouTube, driven in part by SearchMetrics' slightly partisan info-graphic wanting to highlight how Google promotes its own properties in search.  

This baffled me, as my experience with my own customers for my Video SEO plugin for WordPress was completely different, actually having a lot of success with other video platforms. I’m not saying Google is a saint, but I am going to show you why this 80% is a logical number. 

It’s rather simple: 80% of the videos are from YouTube, because YouTube is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Over 2012, Vimeo, one of YouTube biggest competitors, proudly reported its 50 millionth video being uploaded to the service in that year.

In contrast, YouTube reported 72 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute. In years before, the average length of a video was 4 minutes 12 seconds, but let’s assume it’s 5 minutes now, so 12 videos per hour.

This means YouTube users upload 72 * 12 videos per minute, at a minimum. This would mean approximately 450m videos were uploaded to YouTube in 2012 alone.

So that’s 50m videos for Vimeo, versus probably billions of videos on YouTube. YouTube dwarves all the other video hosts and thus it’s absolutely logical for YouTube to take 80% of video rankings. But…

There’s another reason why other video hosts and sites aren’t getting as much love. It’s not because Google favours its own platform that much, it’s simpler than that. Most of the videos outside of YouTube are very poorly optimised.

Video optimisation

While slowly more and more companies are picking up on video, not in the least because it’s proven to be a solid driver for conversions, publishers and ecommerce sites alike are doing a very bad job in optimising their videos for search rankings.

In their 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark, MarketingSherpa found that only 41% had worked on optimising their digital assets. Only a fraction of the companies that have worked on optimising their digital assets will have actually optimised their videos

So don’t do YouTube?

Now I want to be very clear: you should absolutely be putting your videos on YouTube. Because it’s the second search engine in the world, it’s a great way of driving traffic to your website. But you shouldn’t optimise your videos just there.

You should be optimising your videos on YouTube to be found on YouTube and the videos on your website (self-hosted or hosted on another platform, but embedded on your site) should be optimised to be found in (Universal) search results.

The reason you want to optimise them on your own site is that you want to have complete control over everything around the video. If you want to convert a viewer to sales, or more page views, you’d better already have them on your website.

Getting them to click from YouTube to your site is a hurdle that’ll lead to losing most of the clicks.

Not optimising your videos means that you’re not properly using your assets. And if you don’t have any videos yet, read up on the above linked research about what videos do for conversions and then you’ll know that you should be creating them.

If you do, optimising them is a logical next step and rather simple once you have a process in place. Phil Nottingham’s excellent post on building a video SEO strategy should get you started with that.

Now go, grab that chance!

Joost de Valk

Published 8 April, 2013 by Joost de Valk

Joost de Valk is CEO at Yoast BV and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter.

1 more post from this author

Comments (4)

Chris Gorell Barnes

Chris Gorell Barnes, CEO at Adjust Your Set

Great post Joost - we couldn't agree more about optimising video. Its important for brands to remember that while video can enhance your search ranking (Forrester has said that video increases the likelihood of an organic page rank on Google by 50 times ) the video alone isn't always enough. Optimising the content within the video so it is more discoverable and more relevant to customer search journeys, makes all the difference in driving even larger transactions from that video.

Working with our brand clients we've seen an increase in traffic and conversions from implementing well edited HTML subtitles. Video stills, related video linkage and of course clickable product feeds within the player exposed on the page, are all essential as well.

Brands certainly need to think about video SEO as an integral part of their content strategy, but in order to gain relevant audience at scale, you must commit not just to indexing videos in search, but to the optimisation of all the assets themselves that make up that video.

This is something that Adjust Your Set strives to do. We hope others follow suit!

over 3 years ago


Kyle Clouse

Joost this is some great data. We see video picking up momentum but as you talk about it comes down to the optimization.

over 3 years ago



I concur with Kyle and Chris, this is absolutely brilliantly summarised data.
The fact tht video is now being implemented into many a SEO strategy seems like the most natural and needed step that all businesses should be exploiting. I know that at times, I cannot afford the time to digest written copy or data event if its an engaging topic, so when I do see that a website has it in video form I'm even more likely to return, share and use that site even more!

over 3 years ago


Ezra Fishman

Great post Joost - you hit the nail on the head with the comment about the misleading part of this data. The volume of videos on YouTube clearly drives the share of search results making the conclusion that a video will only show up in universal search if it's on YouTube absurd.

Also -- does it really count as SEO if it doesn't point to your site? Lots of folks talk about the SEO power of YouTube, but the fact that the search results point to someone else's website rather than my own totally changes the result.

over 3 years ago

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