You often read that most people prefer to watch a video than read text.
How true is that statement, really? You’ve been hearing about video for years now. Big brands are spending tens of thousands on videos that fall flat, while a lucky few are going viral.
But even they struggle to repeat their original success. And what do views have to do with actual money in the bank?
The state of video in 2020
According to the Cisco Annual Internet Report, online videos will account for 82% of all internet traffic by 2022.
Here are some more stats from Wyzowl’s survey that show just how much video is still growing:
- An impressive 96% of people have watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service.
- People watch an average of 16 hours of online video per week, which is a 52% increase in the last two years.
- In 2020, 86% of people would like to see more video from brands.
- People are twice as likely to share video content with their friends compared to any other type of content.
But do promotional videos increase conversions? According to the same Wyzowl survey, 83% of video marketers say video has helped them generate leads. An added bonus is that video can drive more search traffic to your site, as tested by Wistia.
When asked about why video works, Michael Litt of Vidyard had this to say…
Tyler Kapper, photographer and videographer, added that many companies have seen big returns from video…
But the results don’t come without difficulty. Studies have also highlighted how difficult video can be to perfect. In fact, 59% of marketers ranked it the most difficult type of content to create.
How to use video
As always, there are no absolutes in conversion rate optimization. Video doesn’t work 100% of the time… Even if it works a lot of the time. You always have to consider…
- Context (for example, a video on the “about me” page of a lifestyle blog vs. just an image);
- Visitor intent / interest level;
- Visitor familiarity;
- Visitor motivation;
- Visitor demographic (for example, seniors might not have a new computer / fast connection).
The moral? Always test video. Like anything, it’s not a guarantee.
First, you’ll want to find a video marketing tool to help you. Here are some suggestions to get you started…
Then, you need to decide where to use video. There are five core ways to use it:
- On your homepage;
- On your product pages;
- For testimonials;
- On a dedicated landing page;
Videos can be used on the homepage to introduce or explain a product and its benefits. This is especially true for highly technical, complex or new / innovative products. For service companies and agencies, they can be used to introduce the team as well.
Revue is a tool designed to help create email digest newsletters. Here’s their homepage…
Their value proposition is quite strong—Revue is an editorial newsletter tool for writers and publishers. When you click “Watch video,” the message continues: you shouldn’t be using a marketing tool to send editorial newsletters. When clicked, the homepage disappears as the full-page video fades in…
Below the fold, Revue also features a GIF-style video that shows you the inside of the tool.
2. Product pages
Before people purchase from an ecommerce site, they want to see exactly what they’re purchasing. Sometimes, a picture is enough, but sometimes a video is helpful as well. A picture shows you what it is. A video shows you what it is, how it can be used, how it compares to similar products, etc. It’s much easier to communicate value through video than a picture.
VAT19 sells a product called “Spicy Gummy Peppers” for $10.99. Here’s the product page…
As you can see, you can hit the “play video” button or simply click the play button on the main product image.
When you click the video call to action, this player appears…
Notice they chose to use YouTube as well.
If you read CXL regularly, you’ve read about social proof and how it’s still very effective. However, it’s changing from picture, name, title, quote to more attention-grabbing, authentic forms. Video testimonials are among those forms.
Xero has a “Why Xero” page with various industries and fields (e.g., retail, ecommerce, nonprofit). When you select one industry, you see this in the lower part of the page:
The play icon with the “Watch the story” message makes it obvious that this is a video. When you click on the videos, the player pops over the page…
When using pop-up videos like this, you’ll usually have to select some display options, such as play/pause buttons, the progress bar, and the option to close the video. Test the options available to you before committing to one.
4. Dedicated landing page
In some cases, you might have an entire marketing campaign to go along with your video. In that case, you’ll want to set up a separate landing page and embed the video there. Following the video, there will likely be a call to try the product, social media buzz about the campaign, and so on.
Vidyard created a campaign called “A Tale of Two Marketers.” One marketer was named Post and Pray Pete and the other was named Strategic Sue. The campaign was focused on getting marketers to identify as one or the other, and then become Strategic Sue with Vidyard.
Here’s the page…
Note that the video thumbnail is completely above the fold, along with the lead capture form. There is additional content below. The video isn’t a “nice to have,” it’s the basis of the campaign.
Here’s what happens when you click the video thumbnail…
In an older version of this campaign, there was a full lead capture form at the end of the video—now, it’s next to the video thumbnail.
Another option is to use a site like YouTube or Vimeo to promote your videos. In this scenario, the video is not actually on your site, it’s hosted off-site by a third-party. Think of this the way you think of blogging. YouTube is a powerful search engine that works hand-in-hand with Google.
If you can create and optimize high quality videos, you can rank for competitive keywords. Before you get started, keep the following factors that impact YouTube ranking in mind:
- Watch time (how long people engage with your video);
- Keyword relevance (title, description, tags, transcripts, etc.);
- Number of subscribers;
- Comments, likes, dislikes;
- Video length.
Example: Whiteboard Friday
Moz‘s Whiteboard Friday is a great example…
Although this dedicated playlist on Moz’s YouTube channel doesn’t feature all Whiteboard Friday videos, there are more than 300 added at this point. As a result, playlist is a great way to feature them because you can set up continuous play. This means that after they’re done watching the latest video, they’re automatically shown the previous video in the playlist.
Check it out…
Note the naming conventions here. Each video is named the way a blog post might be.
How to optimize video
Before you publish your first video, there are five things you need to consider. Of course, after the video is live, optimization doesn’t end. There are many different things you can test post-publication, but if you don’t get a lot of traffic, you’ll want to start out as strong as possible.
1. File size matters
No matter what you’ve been told, size does matter. Jeff Livorsi of Mightybytes agrees in his article, Sustainable Web Design: Optimizing Video for the Web…
Matching your file type to the optimal platform reduces playback issues, therefore using less energy.
- .mp4 is a good quality video with a small file size and is the recommended format for YouTube and Vimeo.
- .mov is a high quality video with a large file size. This file type doesn’t play on windows without the help of VLC.
- .wmv is a good quality video with a large file size. It is also hard to play this format on Mac machines unless you have cross-platform multimedia player like VLC.
- .flv is a small file size, but need extra steps to bring up the quality. This format doesn’t play natively on most Mac and Windows machines. Also, it only works on browsers that support Flash.
If you self-host a video, you’re bound to slow down the load time as servers work harder. It’s the least sustainable option, especially if you plan to use video regularly (like for product pages).
You can also run video files through tools like Handbrake. Within “Source,” you can change the “Constant Quality” to 25 and check the “Web Optimized” box.
Of course, keeping your videos short and to the point helps with file size and load speed as well. That’s not to say videos over two minutes in length won’t load quickly, however.
2. Choose one desired action
As always, choose one desired action to call your viewers to. Don’t divide their attention with different asks… save it for another video. One call to action per video.
There are two main types of calls to action for videos.
- First, you can use annotations to get viewers to click through to another site while they’re watching.
- Second, you can capture information (name, email, etc.) via a form. The form can gate the second half of the video, it can appear at the end of the video, and it can slide out from the player mid-video.
What might you call your viewers to do? Well, here are some ideas…
- Download your latest eBook or PDF;
- Watch another, related video;
- Visit another page or blog post;
- Share the video with friends;
- Submit their email for more information, a discount, a free trial, etc.
Here’s an example of a call to action that slides out from the player mid-video…
Just be sure you’re not jumping the gun. Watching a video is a small commitment, especially if it’s watched on sites like YouTube or Vimeo. Don’t rush the viewer to make a big purchase. Develop a funnel and move them through it gradually.
3. Optimize videos for search engines
Above, you learned a bit about what YouTube looks for to determine video ranking. Rand offers some additional advice, urging you to put yourself in a searcher’s mindset when naming your videos…
You can use a tool like Keywordtool.io, which scrapes searches, to identify high-value keywords. Then, use those keywords in your title, in your description, in your tags, etc.
According to Rand, having a transcript can make a difference as well…
Finally, you can and should take advantage of Google’s rich snippets if you embed video on your site…
One final piece of advice from Rand? Embed the video on your site and upload it to YouTube later to target different keywords. Promote them separately, as if they’re two different videos. This enables you to get reach on both, but prevents SEO cannibalization.
4. Optimize videos for mobile
It shouldn’t be surprising that videos are different on mobile than they are on desktop. Here are a few things you can do to optimize your videos for mobile…
- If the video is embedded on your site, make sure you have a dedicated mobile site or a responsive design.
- If you are self-hosting the video, make sure it adjusts properly when viewers rotate their mobile devices.
- If your video is under four minutes long, use an MP4 file.
- If your video is over four minutes long, use Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming.
- Make sure buttons are larger and easy to click.
- Make sure your calls to action work well on all mobile devices.
These quick tips are not a replacement for quality assurance. The only way to be absolutely sure your video is optimized for mobile is to see how it displayed on every mobile device, regardless of how new or old it might be.
5. Optimize position and size
Wistia found that as viewers scroll, play rate decreases. So, the further down your page a video is, the less likely it will be played. Just below the fold, play rate is 46%. Just one additional scroll down means a play rate of only 27%.
Note that this could very well be due to the fact that video often serves as a summary for those who don’t want to read all the way down a page.
They also explored whether video size has an impact on play rate. As it turns out, it does…
It turns out that there is a sweet spot for video width—between 401 pixels and 600 pixels. Videos of that size have the highest average play rate.
A video with a width between 401 pixels and 600 pixels doesn’t overwhelm a page, but it’s still large enough to entice users to engage. The slight bump you see on larger videos (greater than 1200 pixels wide) is from fullscreen videos, which leave the visitor with little choice but to press play.
There is no 10x here, however. This is one study from one company. If you have a video with a larger or smaller width, you’re not wrong. It’s simply worth testing if you have the traffic. If not, go with these basic optimization recommendations for now.
How to measure video
Wistia shows which metrics can be used to help you measure various factors (e.g., reach, quality, relevance)…
However, that raises a lot of questions. How do you measure conversations? Trust? Engagement? Which site metrics matter and connect to user experience?
This chart from Tubular Insights is perhaps a better tool for measuring success…
But, at the end of the day, three things matter…
- Play rate and watch rate: These are your engagement metrics. How many people started watching the video and how far into the video did they watch?
- Conversion rate: Do people who watch the video convert more often? How many people click the call to action within your video?
- Revenue: Measure close to the money. If you use HubSpot / Salesforce, you can see how much revenue was generated.
You can use native analytics in your video tool, Google Analytics, or Google Tag Manager to measure your success. Bounteous wrote a fantastic article on YouTube tracking in Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager. I suggest taking the time to read that article before continuing.
What to test
Start by split testing a video vs. no video. Remember, video isn’t a silver bullet that works well for everyone.
Once you’ve confirmed video is meaningful for your audience, begin A/B testing. While your testing options are endless and should be informed by extensive research, here are some general ideas…
- Messaging / story;
- Desired action;
- Type of call to action;
- Sharing options.
So, what do video views have to do with actual money in the bank? Not a lot. [Tweet it!]
It’s not enough to get one million views if none of those viewers actually buy your product. How many of you actually own a Squatty Potty? Or buy your razors from Dollar Shave Club?
Here’s what you can do right now to optimize your videos for real conversions…
Don’t assume video will convert for you just because your competitors use video. Test it.
Conduct qualitative and quantitative research to identify where a video would work best. Choose places of uncertainty and indecision.
Size matters. Choose the right file type, don’t self-host your videos, make sure video files are web optimized, and keep them short.
Choose one desired action per video. Don’t rush the viewer to make a big purchase.
Optimize your videos for Google and YouTube, two very powerful search engines. Use a transcript, take advantage of rich snippets, etc.
Optimize videos for mobile by choosing the right file type, using HTTP Live Streaming, etc. Quality assurance is important.
Choose the right position and size for your video. Experiment with call to action placement.
Measure as close to the money as possible. Play / watch rate, conversion rate, and revenue are your pillars.