On this edition of “Friends Friday,” I interviewed Sam Oh of Ahrefs. He’s doing incredible work over there on video SEO.
We talk about beginner mistakes for video SEO, and then look at some things more advanced video creators struggle with. Plus, I asked Sam how he thinks about setting up his process so he can produce really high-quality video content. If you care about video marketing, about YouTube, and about video SEO—which I think is the future of SEO—then this post is for you.
An edited version of our conversation appears below.
Setting Video and YouTube SEO Priorities
The first thing that it comes down to is business values. So we have a suite of SEO tools and, generally speaking, we’re not going to release any content where our tools can’t be demonstrated. Those are the rare ones—I’d say it’s a 9:1 ratio where you won’t see anything related to our tools in there. For example, next week we’re releasing something on how to edit videos for YouTube. I think Keywords Explorer shows the search volume of like 45,000, which we can’t even get in SEO or anything like that. Those aren’t the ones that are necessarily prioritized, but those are ones that we do as a part of a broader strategy.
Beginner Video SEO Mistakes
A lot of bloggers, especially, are inspired by people like Casey Neistat, and they try to imitate his style. That’s one of the first mistakes I think of. I’m not saying that he makes mistakes—Casey is great—but he also has millions and millions of followers.
If he titles a video “We Finally Did It,” then hundreds of thousands of people are going to click on that because they know who he is and they’re inspired by him. Whereas, if I were to do that and put it on the Ahrefs channel, which has about 45,000 subscribers, maybe 500 people will get excited. But at the end of the day, the other 40,000 people don’t care because they’re there to get free content or how-to content.
Beginners are trying to become these people who have already built these audiences—who I’m sure started with keyword targeted videos that were getting them rankings. Their videos were earning them subscribers and engagement, and people wanted to actually watch more of their videos. Once we get to a place where we’re at a million subscribers, I can write one of those titles like “We Finally Did It” and more people will care what we did because they’ve been following us. But we’ve built that through SEO.
Advanced Video SEO Mistakes
The two things come to mind. Number one is for YouTubers who create videos that are excessively keyword targeting. For example, they’ll create a video on “SEO Tactics,” then another one on “SEO Techniques,” and another one on “SEO Strategies.” But it’ll be the exact same content, just worded differently. Sure, you might rank, but I feel like that creates subscriber burnout because you stop trusting the creator. You may build more of an audience in terms of quantity, but the quality of the audience would go down.
Another thing that I see is that people often repurpose content on YouTube. For example, someone will do a webinar that’s 1.5 hours long that has a 45-minute sales pitch at the end. They’ll throw that on YouTube, and it doesn’t do very well because the intent of the platform is very different. It needs to be repurposed in a way that actually caters to the audience. I find that that is a very common mistake. It does take more effort, but the benefits are crazy. We’re seeing more people saying that they signed up because they found us on YouTube.
Video Search Intent
YouTube is a little bit different than Google, I find. On Google, you’ll oftentimes find a very, a clear search intent. You might find 10 list posts on the first page, and you can see what people are looking for based on that. You’ll usually see it in the first three results on YouTube. So I usually don’t look past the first five results when I’m looking for search intent.
So for people who’ve never actually tried this, you would just search for a keyword inside YouTube. You’d see the results and see what kind of content they’re producing. I usually look at titles, length, and I’ll read through the descriptions of each video to see what they’re doing. I might skim through some of the videos. When I find that the video is bad and can’t sustain my attention, I think about how I can outdo that. There’s leverage for you there. I’ll look at the broad scope of what people are talking about.
I don’t try and reinvent the wheel, but I’ll take that angle and then I’ll put in what I think would be a better fit there in YouTube analytics. If you look at the keyword rankings in Studio beta, they actually show you the average watch time per keyword. For me, that’s an indication of whether you have served search intent for that specific keyword.