There's a reason video killed the radio star: Once your story comes alive onscreen, words alone just don't cut it.
Right now, there's a similar upheaval happening online. More than ever, companies are using on-site video to get out their messages, dominate search results, and pull in more leads.
According to Forrester Research, video is roughly 50 times more likely to show up on the first page of a Google search than a text page from the same index. That's in part because there's less video content than text to compete against, but it's also because most people do a lousy job of optimizing their content for search engines.
So how can you harness the power of video to boost your organic rankings and build your business? We've got nine tips to take your content all the way to the top.
Get in the game
If you're not doing video already, it's time. In a study of approximately 12,000 individual advertisers, WebVisible found that almost 30 percent of small businesses had used video on their landing pages in the third quarter of 2010, more than double the previous year.
As competitors ramp up their multimedia offerings, make sure you're ready. Make video a key component of your marketing strategy -- and be prepared to invest in it.
Here's the kicker: You can shoot hours of video, but unless the content helps people in some way, no one will care. While "helping people" could mean just entertaining them -- there's a reason giggling babies and sneezing pandas go viral -- the "how-to" route is often your best bet when it comes to attracting customers.
According to a study from Pew Internet, nearly 60 percent of web users seek out advice and do-it-yourself information online. That includes everything from "how to plan a dream wedding" to "how to winterize my car."
Focus on your company's specialties. If you're a children's dentist, for example, you might feature a tutorial showing parents how to teach their kids to properly brush their teeth. If you're a contractor, you could showcase how to make sure a home's windows are ready for extreme temperatures. Whatever your subject, sharing know-how is a clever way to showcase your services -- and get people to think about the advantages of hiring a professional -- without being pushy.
Keep it professional
While it's fine to play film director on your family vacation, your company's video content is no time for DIY experimentation. Today's consumers have a discerning eye and won't stand for low-budget, poorly produced content.
Consider hiring a professional or bartering your services in exchange for expert assistance. Remember, posting video might help you rise to the top of a Google search, but a sub-par segment won't take long to sink your efforts.
Keep it short
Ever felt that heart-sinking feeling when you click on a video, only to discover it is 47 minutes long? Unless it's absolutely riveting -- and few videos are -- you're probably going to click off early.
That means you need to get your story out quickly. Think five minutes tops, preferably less. Draw in viewers with compelling content, hit them with your message, and then release them.
Ask people to do something
Always end your videos with a clear call to action. That could be a limited time trial offer, a refer-a-friend discount, or some other promotion. Ask viewers to follow you on Twitter, connect on Facebook, or email the video to a friend. Leave them with lots of ways to contact you -- website, phone number, social media sites, and any other place you live online.
For every video that spreads like wildfire, there are hundreds languishing in the cyberspace graveyard. Use specific keywords in your title, subtitle, and tags to accurately represent your content and help search engines find you more easily.
For the home improvement tutorial, for example, you could title your video, "How to weatherproof your windows to conserve energy" and use tags like weather-proofing tips, window maintenance, energy conservation, lower energy bill, and so on.
Consider creating a transcript of your video with a link to the full text. That will give search engines even more material to work with and increase the chance that your content ends up on Google's first page.
Nail the thumbnail
No one likes a video that's misrepresented. Keep viewers happy -- and boost search results -- with a thumbnail image that shows off your actual content. Don't have a random close-up of a contractor's face for your window tutorial, for example. Instead, pick out an appealing home shot that catches the eye and use that image to lure in visitors.
Get the word out
Drive traffic to your videos by cross promoting on all available media -- Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and any other social networking sites where you have a presence.
Keep content fresh and timely
Search engines want to find new content, so create new videos periodically and tie them to timely events, if possible. Think of seasonal or holiday themes, or create a series that would easily lend itself to several mini episodes to keep people coming back.
Ultimately, if you've created relevant material that people care about, they will pass it along and bring you more leads at the same time your search ratings increase. It's a powerful double-punch that proves, at least for now, that video rules.