02 May 2012

The Recipe on the Box – Video Content Strategies for Online Retailers

By Ninja Dan
One of the things I enjoy most about being a Ninja is getting to work with clients who embrace video as part of their overall content strategy. The opportunities afforded clients (especially online retailers) who invest in video content are often well worth the time and resources they require.

It was just a little over a month ago that Ikea announced the launch of a series of “How-to-Build” videos as a custom playlist on their YouTube channel. Around that same time, my wife and I were attempting to convert our den into a nursery for an arriving baby Ninja.

So what did we do when we were struggling to apply fabric as wallpaper? You guessed it – we searched online until we found an instructional video that walked us through the process. Needless to say, one successful home improvement store earned themselves a grateful customer that day!

Those events got me thinking about different ways online retailers can utilize video as a viable content strategy. Here are a few critical steps necessary for a successful video strategy.


Embrace It

One of the most important steps in a successful video strategy is also the earliest: the buy-in. Yes, video can be an intimidating form of content and it certainly requires more than a minimal level of commitment to invest in it, but it can be well worth it.

It’s no mystery why Google parted with over $1.5 billion in stock to acquire YouTube in 2006. With over 4 billion videos watched and a decade’s worth of video uploaded every day, YouTube has been the 2nd largest search engine in the world for quite some time. And just last week, Google announced they would be rolling out AdWords for YouTube, which is sure to grow as an additional revenue stream for them and a lot of retailers.

Google wouldn’t have invested in an entire new model for search advertising if their data didn’t already suggest there was plenty of money to be made from it. And with the price of video cameras dropping as their quality only improves, the cost of video content is becoming less and less of a prohibitive factor. The value is there – so what’s stopping you?


Plan For It

Video content for online retailers doesn’t have to be fancy – not every online video has to go viral – but it does help to fill a specific need. Ideally, it would give potential customers information they need while exposing them to the benefits of a product at the same time.

Struggling to think of how to do that? Then just think of a recipe on the box – something familiar to us all that readily meets both of those goals. In fact, there have been recipes on food packaging for so long that they might just be the oldest form of “content marketing.” It’s the original “How-to” video.

Almost all online retailers can do what Ikea did and come up with their own version of the recipe on the box. All they have to do is identify ways to show their customers how and why they should buy and use their products and then record them to video.

How-to-videos and other DIY material lend themselves well to video, but so do:

  • Buying guides
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Expert interviews
  • Pros and cons
  • Roundtable discussions
  • Customer reviews

Anything that meets an informational need and exposes potential customers to your products is going to help build positive awareness and impressions of your brand, so take some time to brainstorm some ideas for videos.


Implement It

Once you have some good ideas for video content, it’s time to actually bring them to life.
If you view this part of the process as a chore, it will show. So enjoy the process and reward yourself and/or members of your team with a little fun! When done well, videos can make even the driest product line a little more interesting.

Of course, if you simply don’t have the time or resources to create your own videos, a creative solution is to have your own customers create them. Use your site or social media channels to promote a user-submitted video contest. Ask your most loyal customers to film themselves using your products in return for a coupon or discount code off their next purchase. Give away some free merchandise or a gift card to the best overall video submission(s). Watch as some truly amazing content rolls in!

There are quite a few video hosting options and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Earlier this month on SEOmoz , Phil Nottingham provided an excellent overview of the pros and cons, strategies and approaches for different types of video hosting and embedding solutions. It’s an excellent resource for anyone considering using video as part of their content strategy, but isn’t sure how to implement it.


Maximize It

Finally, once you have spent all that time and effort implementing a video content strategy, you should take steps to maximize the returns on your investment.

If you are embedding video directly on your site, be aware that Google Supports Video XML Sitemaps, which makes it easier to provide metadata and for Google to index your videos. Just be sure to add the Sitemap location to your robots.txt file and, if possible, submit it as a feed via your Google Webmaster Tools account.

Schema.org has a variety of tags appropriate for video-related markup. As microdata continues to influence SERPs and verticals, the importance of proper markup will only grow.

If you’ve created a YouTube channel, take advantage of their free Advertiser Playbook, which is full of best practices for video marketing. Above all, make sure that the titles of the videos are clear and relevant to your site and business model. Nothing undermines great videos like mov1.mpeg as a title.

I also recommend you consider creating transcripts for the videos on your YouTube channel. Since search engines can’t truly “read” videos in the same way they do normal pages, text-based transcripts let you provide them a sense of what your videos are about. They’ll naturally be full of relevant keywords valuable to your site and can sometimes help you sneak into the video verticals for keywords that you’d never otherwise dream of getting on page 1 for via traditional, organic SERPs.

If you’re worried about the cost of video transcription, not to worry. There are tons of video transcription solutions out there, for as low as a $1 per minute of video/audio. That means you can get a full text transcript for a 10-minute video for less than the cost of a takeout meal. Just think of how many keywords – natural, non-spammy sounding keywords – are in the transcript of a well-planned and well-executed video. The cost of the transcript will be more than worth it.

If you come in with realistic expectations, a positive attitude and the necessary planning, any online retailer can integrate video as part of a successful content strategy. So get out there and start planning and start filming. What’s your recipe-on-the-box?

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