Let’s talk about why federal agencies (.govs) need a YouTube optimization plan
Hello, and thanks for listening to SEO tips today.
Let’s start with some background.
The US government began engaging with YouTube and launching channels on YouTube in 2009 when it signed Special Service Agreements (SSA) with some of the big social networks to ensure compliance with federal terms and conditions. YouTube is a free platform for hosting and managing videos, and in many cases, it can replace in-house video embedding platforms. Still, not all agencies are using YouTube as their primary video management tool.
Let’s talk through why federal agencies might want to only use YouTube to manage your videos.
YouTube is a crucial video discovery engine
American citizens primarily discover videos in two ways:
- As a result of a Google search (where 95% of the videos ranking are YouTube videos)
- Or going directly to YouTube.com (which is the world’s 2nd largest search engine and the 3rd most visited site globally).
YouTube videos dominate Google search results.
In 2020, 95% of the videos presented in Google’s default search are YouTube videos (82% overall across all tabs: All, Images, Video, News, Shopping, and More). I have seen high authority sites rank well with videos in search and they were *not* using YouTube, but this should be evaluated on a per-agency basis. And if you are using an alternative to YouTube, due to the site’s popularity as a discovery engine, I recommend that federal agencies ALSO have a vibrant YouTube channel.
It’s important to keep in mind that the intent behind users looking for videos on Google differs from searchers on YouTube. Grossly generalized, Google searchers are looking for an answer to their question (facts, how to, etc.), where YouTube users are looking for entertainment (e.g. seeing the National Zoo’s newest panda cub).
There are a variety of factors involved with ranking well on YouTube, but the biggest components are having a channel with a high number of subscribers and authority, having video with high views and (how many people clicking on the video), high engagement, and lengthy % of watch time and time spent on YouTube after watching your video.
Using YouTube as a platform for embedding videos increases your video popularity and visibility. For instance, if a user watches a video embedded on a webpage, that view time will add to the overall watch time metric. Or, users can embed a playlist of several videos on a .gov website, which increases the overall session time where that user is engaging with YouTube content and could ultimately help improve ranking. It’s also important to know that paid promotion on YouTube counts toward that overall watch time number.
YouTube accounts with a high amount of subscribers have more visible videos
Agencies that want to increase their video visibility need a strategy for growing channel subscribers. Putting all efforts into YouTube marketing supports that strategy. YouTube channels don’t really “breakthrough” and perform until they reach over 10K subscribers (where additional features open up like super chat and YouTube stories), so if an agency is going to put effort into YouTube, it makes more sense to coordinate all efforts to encourage subscribing to their YouTube channel to drive up that subscriber number and because new subscribers are notified of new videos from channels that they follow.
Government Agencies using YouTube for video functions
Since 2009, multiple agencies have used YouTube as their primary video hosting channel, including:
Special treatment of government videos
There are a few special treatments that government channels are afforded due to the SSA with YouTube. One example is a white-labeled embedded video player that does not have the YouTube logo. In addition to these conditions, channels can opt out of advertisements played on their videos, and can also opt out of the “Up Next” Youtube feature which automatically plays another video.
Finally, all government videos need to be accessible and can be using standard YouTube features. Many of these requirements will also help with optimizing them for search discovery. Digital.gov has a list of accessibility requirements.
Effective Promotion of YouTube videos
YouTube videos are not effectively found without creating a strategy for promotion that includes paid advertising. Additionally, when channels use TrueView ads (a video that plays prior to other videos), they see views of previously uploaded videos on their channel increase by up to 500% after posting new videos.
Government agencies that have created paid YouTube promotion campaigns have seen great results. Here’s HHS OCR paid YouTube campaign results (after 6 months):
- Received more than 3.4 million video views
- Videos drove more than 148,000 clicks to the OCR website
- Achieved an extremely efficient CPV of $0.10
- Video views increased 109x in the first month
- Search and display campaigns generated over 4 million impressions combined
- 7% CTR for search campaign
TrueView ads also drive YouTube subscribers and watch more videos from that channel.
In a study of 89 US TrueView videos, viewers who watched TrueView ads for 30+ seconds were 23x more likely to visit or subscribe to the channel, watch more videos by the brand, or share the video.
OK Let’s wrap up.
YouTube has evolved their feature set so that federal agencies can use the platform for video hosting, embedding and promotion, and still conform to government regulations regarding accessibility, user tracking, and advertising. For some agencies who already have video embed software in place (and URLs from their site ranking) a combined approach that includes YouTube is recommended.
Agencies that want citizen discovery of their videos need to invest in a YouTube optimization and paid promotion strategy because online video consumption is increasing (by 2021 80% of the world’s internet traffic will be video) and YouTube is an essential piece of ensuring your videos are discovered.
Thanks for listening. Come back tomorrow for another SEO tip.
Listen to the previous episode: Is Apple building a search engine?
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