Look at the most recent stats. YouTube/Google served up 42% of all videos viewed in July, while no other site cracked 4%, according to Comscore. YouTube is the undisputed leader in online video – by more than 10x. Sure, people watch video on a wide variety of sites, but in July more than three quarters of them did it at YouTube. That’s true reach. And since the typical viewer watched more than eight hours of online video in July, that translates into audiences bigger than the Superbowl, every month, on the internet.
Just as Willie Sutton robbed banks “because that’s where the money is”, if you want viewership, go to where the viewers are: YouTube.
Sure, it’s mostly a conglomeration of personal, tasteless and tacky videos. But YouTube also streams a wide variety of professionally produced shows and clips, from the biggest media companies all the way down to tiny producers with outsized dreams.
Sure, there’s a lot of competition. Heck, nine billion videos were viewed on YouTube in July, and <check amount> millions of new videos are uploaded every month.
That’s not to say you can’t find success on other sites. Here at Revision3 we work successfully with a number of them. TiVo, for example, provides us with a tremendous number of engaged couch potatoes. Metacafe offers a strong audience for some of our shorter-form videos. And Yahoo! – especially when something gets Buzzed – can deliver a boatload of attention. Blip and Viddler are great partners for us, and even zany Ebaumsworld delivers strong views for our more irreverent shows, including JV’s World. But we’ve been working closely with these outlets for a long time, and know what plays well on each of our popular partner sites – and how to successfully work together.
Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Hulu. If any site can match YouTube for scale and share of mind, it’s Hulu. But the two sites are vastly different. If you’re looking for professionally produced shows that originated on broadcast or cable, Hulu is a great site. It’s the top site. If you make those types of shows, then by all means develop a kissing relationship with them. But get ready for rocky times ahead. If you believe that Hulu views are cannibalistic – and I do – then every Hulu view translates into lost revenue for its corporate parents – and NBC, Fox, and Disney can hardly afford that. But that’s a topic for another column – until then, you can read about how one analyst recently called Hulu a “demon seed” for its corporate parents – Report: TV Networks Should Be Afraid — Very Afraid — of Hulu.
But YouTube is also a search engine – and in fact it’s the second largest search engine out there – aside from corporate parent Google. And that’s why, with some simple optimization, you can dominate YouTube search far more easily than Google – and thus ensure that at least a meaningful fraction of those billions of views accrue to your video.
Don’t think that it’ll be just like optimizing for Google, though. The algorithms are very different. YouTube can’t (yet) parse your video to find out what it’s all about, and that’s radically different from Google – which spiders and reads your web pages and categorizes based on words and links.
YouTube, instead, relies much more heavily on how you describe the video. That means you can find key terms, optimize for them, and deliver meaningful views.
But that’s not all you need to do. YouTube relies on a wide variety of other attributes to push videos to the top of the search queue, including ratings, favoriting, attention and more. From YouTube’s own blog:
"After determining the content of the video using our spidering technology, YouTube combines sophisticated text-matching techniques to find videos that are both important and relevant to your search. Our technology examines dozens of aspects of the video’s content (including number of hits and rating) to determine if it’s a good match for your query."
What that means, basically, is that you now have to get good at YouTube optimization, in addition to traditional Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It’s so different, that I’ve even given it a new name – YTO, or YouTube Optimization.
How do you become good at YTO? Luckily there are some great resources online, and in the bookstore. On the web, I recommend the insightful REEL SEO blog, along with viral-video expert Kevin Nalts’ insight from the trenches. YouTube’s own business blog is also a must-read.
If you’d rather peruse the printed page, video SEO expert Greg Jarboe has just released the great new book “YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day” It’s a fine introduction, with case studies, into how to get the most out of YouTube.
Sure you can be a big fish in a small pond – and that’s absolutely one path to viewership. But if you want to really reach the mass video audience there’s only one place to be. YouTube. Master its quirks, and you’ll be well on the way to success in this brand new medium.