[Ed. note: The following is a guest article written for Local U by Paul Sherland of IX Brand SEO Services Company.]
OK, so you've read part 1 of this article in the Local U blog about how video can be the foundation for a local content strategy. The hard part is the first step — doing the first couple of videos. Like most things in life, creating videos for your local business gets easier as you go along.
"'Better' is the enemy of 'good enough'" is a saying I remember from my days as a naval officer, and it was supposed to have been displayed on the wall of Soviet Admiral Sergey Gorshkov's office. In the context of your budding video content strategy, this means don't wait for perfect — get started now! Your first videos will likely be "good enough" to benefit your digital marketing program. The next batch will be even better!
At MozCon 2014, Phil Nottingham of Distilled gave us a fantastic presentation on video and, in part, he recommended using home and hero videos in your marketing. The hero videos are TV-ad quality, scripted and might take several hours of video recording to create several minutes of video. The home videos are done in one or two takes so a five minute video might take 10 minutes to record. They're not usually scripted. For obvious reasons, the hero videos are more expensive to create and budget-limited local businesses might do a few hero videos and more home videos. I work to persuade my clients to create lots of home videos, but as Tim Tevlin said in a comment to Part 1, there is great value in telling the business story with professionalism. That said, the rest of this article will be directed at starting with home-quality videos.
Get Started with Easy Topics
The first step is deciding what you'll be talking about. In other words, what kinds of videos should you create? There are lots of great topics including descriptions of your products and services and video reviews from your customers. However, I recommend that you start by answering your customers' frequently asked questions or FAQs. You know that they'll contain the keywords your customers use in searching for your business, and they'll be focused on great long-tail keyword phrases that should rank quickly even in competitive markets.
List 20 or 30 questions that your customers ask when they call about your products or services.
You may be asking why we should start with FAQ videos. It's because we know your customers will be searching for these topics, and it should be easy for you to answer these questions on video because you've probably been answering the same questions for your customers for years. Why not start to build that local video content strategy on the keyword phrases you know your customers will use?
Of course if you have the chance to get a video review from a client with your phone, go do it! If you feel motivated to talk about your products or services, then perhaps you should start there. The most important thing to remember is start somewhere!
Don't Make Equipment a Barrier to Starting
Smart Phone as Your Camera. Your smart phone can work for many of your video needs if your subject is close enough to the phone to provide good sound quality and if the lighting is good. If you decide to start with your phone, I recommend that you buy a cell phone tripod adapter, which is about $7 on Amazon. You don't have to remove the case, my adapter even fits over the case of my iPhone 6 Plus, and it attaches to any tripod.
Video Camera. If you have a little extra cash, I recommend that you buy a video camera. I've been using Canon video cameras for six years and they're reliable, easy to use, and provide great picture and sound quality. I like the video camera over the iPhone because the picture quality is better and it allows me to take a wider variety of shots. In low light situations, Canon video quality is very good. Sometimes I have to zoom while recording and that's a lot easier to do with a video camera than with your phone. The Canon also lets me snap photos of my subject while recording video. I use a variety of external microphones and the Canon camera (about $270 on Amazon) allows me to plug in these microphones. There's also a headset jack so I can check sound quality at the camera when I'm getting ready to record a video.
Tripod. I recommend that you use a tripod whether you're using your IPhone or a video camera. There are a variety of cheap tripods available for less than $25 that will get you started.
Microphones. I tried various external microphones with my iPhone and none of them seemed to work better than the built-in mic.
For the video camera, I recommend that you consider buying several different microphones for different situations. If you have to record video outdoors in even a slight breeze, you should get a handheld microphone with a foam ball windscreen. With the handheld microphone and foam ball windscreen, I've recorded in a 15 mph wind next to a highway, and the recording of the speaker's voice was very high quality with no wind noise and very little highway noise.
Indoors, I usually use a wireless lavaliere microphone to pick up the speaker's voice. Sometimes you'll pick up interference from room lighting or electronics so you should check your sound at the camera before you start recording. If you get interference with this mic, you can usually eliminate it by switching the frequency.
Sometimes indoors, I'll use a shotgun microphone to capture several speakers or a speaker at an event. I've had good luck with it indoors, but lots of wind noise with it outdoors.
With the video camera, I always check the sound at the camera by using the headset jack next to the microphone input. Someone can turn on an electronic device in the next room while you're recording that could cause interference with the wireless system or the subject might inadvertently turn off the handheld microphone and cut off all sound. You don't want to find out about this while you're editing.
A Few Editing Tips
I'm a Mac user, so I can't recommend a video editor for Windows, and I'd appreciate recommendations from Windows users. For the Mac, there's no reason why you can't start video editing with iMovie, which is available for mobile devices as well as desktop and laptop computers.
Plan on using external storage if you're building video content. You'll find that it's very easy to fill your hard drive with video and your video projects. I now use a 4TB external drive to store my video files.
The step by step process for editing your videos is beyond the scope of this article; however, I recommend that you try to plan and edit your videos to be shorter than five minutes and hopefully less than three minutes long. Generally, a longer video will cause some people to not start watching and will cause others to drop off before the video ends.
Because many people will quit your videos in the first two or three minutes, be sure you include your contact information and a call to action in the first portion of the video and then repeat that information at the end.
Where Should You Host Your Videos
You should certainly host your videos on YouTube. The videos you host on YouTube can appear in YouTube and Google search results and it's free. You can select a thumbnail image you want to use with the video and you can also upload a time-coded transcription file that will provide accurate close captioning for your video.
The downside of YouTube is customer support. Last year, one of my YouTube channels was taken down by a false flagging attack. At about 5:00 AM one Friday, Google sent me an email telling me that a video had received a complaint for violation of community guidelines. In less than a minute, the entire channel with over 100 videos had been taken down for three complaints. No human reviewer could have checked the validity of these complaints in the 50 seconds or so between the first complaint and the time the channel was taken down. The YouTube email warned me not to create another channel — essentially banning me from YouTube.
This channel contained four years of community service videos on subjects like high school football highlights, high school band performances, chamber ribbon cuttings and so on. There was nothing even remotely objectionable in any of these videos and a human reviewer would have quickly dismissed the complaints.
Mike Blumenthal referred me to someone who guided me through the appeal process. After I submitted the appeal, the channel was restored in about 24 hours, With access to the channel again, I was able to appeal the complaints against the video and the video was restored in another 24 hours. What was the subject of the banned video? It was the local high school band playing the National Anthem at a band concert. What's a more wholesome topic than that! It's proof to me that no human reviewed the complaints before the entire channel was taken down.
Any video and any channel you have with YouTube can be taken down in an instant. So don't rely only on YouTube to host the videos you use on your website!
Since the YouTube incident, I've purchased a subscription to Vimeo Pro and I've hosted every video I've used on a Vimeo. I can also load time-stamped transcription files to provide closed captioning on Vimeo, and Vimeo provides more features than YouTube. Vimeo videos seem to do as well in search results as YouTube videos. The cost for the Vimeo Pro subscription is modest at less than $200 per year and the storage is generous increasing at 20 GB per week. And I don't have to worry about a false flagging attack taking down my Vimeo Pro account.
Many businesses like Wistia, so that's another video host you should check out. Wistia is a little more expensive for my business, but it may not be for yours.
Get Your Videos Transcribed
Both YouTube and Vimeo allow you to create your own time-stamped transcription, but I've never used that feature because it's easier to use Speechpad.com for transcriptions. When you order from Speechpad, I recommend you get Standard Captions rather than just a transcription. The Standard Captions include time-stamped SRT files for YouTube and Facebook and WebVTT files for Vimeo as well as RTF and Word text files for use in creating web pages and blog posts. The Standard Captions are $1.50 a minute for a one week turnaround. The quality of the transcriptions is usually outstanding.
I'm sure there are other great transcription services out there, but I've had great luck with Speechpad. If you have a transcription recommendation, please tell us in the comments.
Now Use Your Video Generated Content
This is how I use video as the foundation of a content strategy for my clients, but you should adapt these suggestions to your own business and your market. Please tell us how you use your videos in the comments!
SEO Your Videos on YouTube and Vimeo. After a video has been edited, loaded to YouTube and Vimeo, and transcribed, I'll load the time-coded transcription files (SRT for YouTube and WebVTT for Vimeo) to the videos to provide accurate close captioning and to give Google lots of information about the videos. I'll choose good thumbnails for the videos to promote clicks — in other words, I'll pick expressive thumbnail images where the subject's eyes aren't closed and he or she looks good. In the video description, I'll add a paragraph or two about the subject of the video and the business making the video, and include the phone number of the business and the URL. Make sure you use the full http:// URL to create a clickable link. Also include the full NAP-W; i.e., the name of the business, the address, the phone number and the URL again, making sure that the NAP-W used with the videos is consistent with the contact information used in online business listings, social media and the business website.
Add Your Videos to Your Website. I'll use the video and its text to create new web pages and blog posts. The transcribed text is the starting point for the page or post content, but you should edit the text to improve grammar, keyword usage, and structure. I label the improved transcription section as a summary of the video. Always place the video "above the fold" so that it will display and invite a click when the page or post loads.
Upload Your Videos to Facebook. You can post a link to your new website page or post on Facebook, a link to your YouTube or Vimeo hosted video, or you can load your videos directly to Facebook. I recommend Choice #3 because in my experience the videos hosted on Facebook are displayed more frequently to fans. Use the SRT files from your transcription to add close captioning to Facebook. The Facebook-loaded videos are displayed as posts in a click-inviting, silent motion mode, and they're also displayed on the left side of the Facebook page, inviting more clicks.
Add Your Videos to Pinterest. Pinterest and Facebook are the growing social media channels. Take advantage of Pinterest by pinning your videos as well as your images to your Pinterest for Business boards.
Add Your Videos to Linkedin. I have video recommendations from clients on my Linkedin profile.
Add the Video to Google+. I upload videos to client Google+ pages although with the switch to the Snack Pack display a few weeks ago, the Google+ pages aren't getting the visibility they used to get.
Use Your Audio for Podcasting. In a comment to Part 1, Mark shared his experience in using videos for podcasting by stripping off the audio tracks. Mike Blumenthal shared that Speechlab has the ability to download the soundtrack after transcription. Speechpad also provides that functionality. So my podcasting experience is almost zero, but I'm going to be looking for opportunities to start with video-derived audio tracks.
Please Share Your Experiences and Questions in the Comments
This has been a long article and a tip of the hat to those of you who've slogged through to the end. If you have questions or comments about your experience with video in local digital marketing, please post them in the comments.
About Paul Sherland
Paul Sherland is President of IX Brand SEO Services Company, a small digital marketing agency outside Houston serving local businesses. Paul's background is unique in the digital marketing world; he's served as a US Navy pilot and squadron commanding officer, he's led teams working in data analysis and computer simulation, and he's a lawyer, too.