In our last post in this "Ultimate Video SEO Playbook Series" we took a closer look at The On-Site Use of Videos and gaining accreditation for your YouTube video in the SERP's. Now it's time to take a closer look at Making Onsite Video Search Engine Friendly with the use of Transcripts, Semantic Markup, and XML Video Site-maps.

 Making Onsite Video Search Engine Friendly

Strategy Overview

Why It Works

How To Do It


Strategy Details

As we have seen in previous posts in this series, video is a fantastic rich media element to add to your website, but search engines can’t fully understand its content unless we are very specific about what the video is about. To assist search engines, there are several things we need to add to our videos onsite, regardless of whether or not they are embedded with YouTube. These include video transcriptions, video semantic markup, video XML sitemaps (referenced in the Robots.txt and submitted to Webmaster Tools). Here are the details on each:

Video Transcriptions

YouTube will automatically add a version of closed captions. These are created with a software similar to Adobe’s Speech Analysis Tool that is a tool you can use to generate Video transcriptions yourself. However, these are more often than not only partially accurate. The value of transcriptions is that you are telling search engines word for word what the video content is. We all know content is king, so if you plan to embed a video, adding a transcription can easily add several hundred words of unique content to your website, assist search engines to understand the content of the video and be displayed in SERP’s.

Here are a few best practices for transcriptions:

  1. Add them in plain html format below the embed video.
  2. Be sure to accredit the author with a link to the author page (if one exists on the site).
  3. Keep the transcription word-for-word, resist the urge to edit the content.
  4. Make sure the transcriptions are closely related to the video title, and YouTube description of the video.
  5. You can always use the Closed Captioning file you created earlier for the CC inclusion in YouTube. Make sure your transcriptions and closed captioning match.

Video Semantic Markup

Search engines are increasingly using structured data to help identify, categorize and index content and any attributes of that content. When it comes to semantics, we recommend carefully choosing the correct elements when building out article templates. The comprehensiveness of the structured data will also be a determining factor on whether the Search Engines deem your page suitable for display. Essentially the purpose of semantic SEO is to code the website in a way that allows Google to fully scrape your data and make content associations within their index. Typically, a page consists of a title, one or more headings, and content. This content can contain paragraphs of text, lists, quotes, images and tables. All these types of information have their own designated tag(s). The difficulty comes with the fact that many webmasters are able to implement semantic tagging and the only way to differentiate your articles is to “Go the extra mile”.

With the recent updates to Google Algorithm (known as “Hummingbird”) semantic markup now has a very important role in SEO. This article by SEOSkeptic explains the importance of structured data as it relates to the new algorithm.

Although structured data does not affect ranking to a great extent, it does affect SERP exposure which is of high importance. Structured data falls into two main categories:

For the purposes of this analysis we will focus on as it is the most inclusive of the two formats, having been created out of a collaboration between the largest search engines and is open to submissions from the public to assist in growing the index of content and attributes.

Adding structured data to anything and everything that can contain schema markup, is fast becoming a web development and SEO best practice.

Adding semantic markup to your videos will improve their visibility in the search results.


Note the thumbnail allowing this video to stand out in the search results.

Semantic Video Properties

Videos can have a number of different properties. Below is a list of all properties that can be used to create rich snippets for Videos. The required properties are flagged and plural properties can contain multiple instances for each property.

Property Required? Description
name Required The title of the video
description Required The description of the video
thumbnailUrl Required A URL pointing to the video thumbnail image file. Images must be at least 160 x 90 pixels and at most 1920x1080 pixels. We recommend images in .jpg, .png, or. gif formats.
duration Recommended The duration of the video in ISO 8601 format.
contentURL Recommended A URL pointing to the actual video media file. This file should be in .mpg, .mpeg, .mp4, .m4v, .mov, .wmv, .asf, .avi, .ra, .ram, .rm, .flv, or other video file format. All files must be accessible via HTTP. Metafiles that require a download of the source via streaming protocols, such as RTMP, are not supported.Providing this file allows Google to generate video thumbnails and video previews and can help Google verify your video.Best practice: Ensure that only Googlebot accesses your content by using a reverse DNS lookup.
embedURL Recommended A URL pointing to a player for the specific video. Usually this is the information in the src element of an <embed> tag. Example:Dailymotion: practice: Ensure that only Googlebot accesses your content by using a reverse DNS lookup.
uploadDate Recommended The date the video was first published, in ISO 8601 format.
expires Recommended if applicable The date after which the video will no longer be available, in ISO 8601 format. Don't supply this information if your video does not expire.

Video Semantic Markup Actual Code

The following code can be adapted to create a rich snippet for videos.

<div itemprop="video" itemscope itemtype="">
<h2>Video: <span itemprop="name">[title]</span></h2>
<meta itemprop="duration" content="[duration]" />
<meta itemprop="thumbnailUrl" content="[thumbnail url]" />
<meta itemprop="contentURL" content="" />
<meta itemprop="embedURL" content="" />
<meta itemprop="uploadDate" content="[upload date]" />
<meta itemprop="expires" content="[expiry time]" />
<object ...>
<param ...>
<embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" ...>
<span itemprop="description">[description]</span>

Test Your Semantic Markup

Once you have implemented your semantic markup code, you can test it using Google`s Structured Data Testing Tool.


XML Video Site-maps

The third step in describing video content to search engines and gaining accreditation for videos in SERP’s is to add these videos to an XML sitemap, but not just any site-map, a video site-map with its own XML specific markup. Here is an example of the XML markup for a single video entry:

XML Site-map entry for a video page

<urlset xmlns=""
<video:title>Insert Video Title Here</video:title>
<video:description>Insert Video Description Here</video:description>
<video:player_loc allow_embed="yes" autoplay="ap=1"></video:player_loc>
<video:restriction relationship="allow">IE GB US CA</video:restriction>
<video:gallery_loc title="BEIS Videos"></video:gallery_loc>

If you have multiple language videos, create site-maps for each language category of videos.

Reference Site-maps In Robots.txt File

Be sure your video site-maps can be found by adding the following code to the end of your Robots.txt file:


Be sure that this is the actual location and filename of your video site-map before adding it to Robots.txt, and make adjustments if necessary. If you have multiple language video site-maps, add them individually (one per line) in your Robots.txt file.

Remember to submit and update your video site-maps to Webmaster Tools after adding each video to your site, and to your video XML site-map.

In our next post we'll take a closer look at Leveraging the Value of Videos and tips to building a Community on YouTube.

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