Video Metadata Practices to Boost SEO

Sep 26, 2012


Update: The content of this post is now outdated. JW7 is now available. Check it out here.

Metadata is best described as data about your data. In the context of the internet, it is a quick reference (or key word) used to help describe the larger concept of your web page content. It comes in the form of descriptive titles, text, keywords, and dates.

Web page metadata has been used by web developers and designers for quite some time now. More recently, the importance of metadata in the context of online video has been recognized. So what should this mean for your videos? Read on and find out…

Video Metadata

Video metadata is already indexed by search engines organically, but human-authored video metadata can optimize your content indexing. Metadata is also preserved when a user downloads your video file. As discussed in this support forum thread, if Google can understand the content on your web pages (including images & video), they are better able to create “rich snippets” – or detailed information – that better distribute your content among search results.

In the context of video, metadata covers the title, the subject matter (in the form of a description), relevant categorical tags, the desired publication date, the video length, dimensions, thumbnail, and the video author. Word on the street is that after Google’s latest search algorithm update, “Penguin” (released in April 2012), page and video metadata are even more pivotal in giving proper credit to the quality content on your site. Sharp and clear metadata helps Google recognize that your site is valid, and follows general SEO best practices. This means that your video metadata should accurately describe the content within each video. If the description doesn’t match the content, you may be penalized.

As we pointed out in our previous post on Building a Video Sitemap, consistent metadata can improve your content indexing in search engines, such as Google. This means ensuring that the metadata in the headers of your page jive with the title, description and tags of the video embedded on the page. Conflicting page & video metadata can actually confuse search engines about the content of your page.

Video sitemaps give you flexibility to tell Google which content you wish to be indexed, giving you more control than with an organic search algorithm. They also allow you to choose how your videos are listed, and define what metadata is most relevant to your video, optimizing search results. Read more about this in one of our recommended resources for video sitemaps.

As pointed out by the team at ReelSEO, if you use public video hosting sites such as YouTube, your video files & existing metadata will be transcoded by YouTube’s server and your video metadata stripped. Thus, it is recommended you host your own videos, or use a third-party video content management tool, such as LongTail Video’s Bits on the Run, which offers a free tier for its users.

New Improvements in Video Metadata

The HTML5 track element

Recently, the HTML5 track element, has appeared as a potential game-changer for video metadata. In addition to adding support for captions and subtitles in HTML5 video, the track element allows publishers to attach a rich array of textual metadata to their videos.

This can improve page interaction around video playback – where developers can synchronize metadata descriptions of the content within a video with other dynamic content on the webpage. Search engines can also utilize the contextual information to return search results corresponding to particular points within the video itself. In addition, search engines can leverage the subtitles and foreign-language translations created using the track element to better index foreign content – opening up search results & making our internet world even flatter.

As discussed in our previous blog post, the track element is still in a rudimentary phase, but something to look out for in the near future. is a site/tool that defines a standard of markup syntax for webmasters to optimize their site’s metadata for better recognition by search engines, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. For video, defines a large list of properties for precisely describing the media file in your video player. They range from the obvious (description, title) to more eccentric metadata (videoFrameSize, requiresSubscription).

Some of the many descriptive properties are:

  • Audience – intended audience for the video (video viewers)
  • Award – An award won by this person or for this creative work
  • isFamilyFriendly – Indicates whether this content is family friendly
  • bitrate – the bitrate of the media object
  • uploadDate – the date the video was first published

The properties listed at help define video content at a greater granularity than with more traditional metadata. As part of the group that helped to define the descriptive vocabulary, Google’s developer documentation recommends using “> on-page markup for video (they also list some great visual examples of what the markup looks like on your webpage html). By leveraging markup to describe a video on your webpage you will improve the indexing of your video content, and hopefully increase their relevance in search results.

Bits on the Run & Video Metadata

Our own video content management system, Bits on the Run, allows you to add video metadata upon video upload (both from our desktop dashboard & our mobile applications).

Metadata stored and managed within Bits on the Run includes: title, description, tags, thumbnails, author, date, webpage url, and any custom metadata you feel is relevant. While the standard Bits on the Run video embeds are set up for Google to properly pull the metadata from your videos if set, it is also possible to push new videos to Google, improving the speed and accuracy of search results. We have a built-in tool that allows you to submit your video urls directly to Google. This is done by setting the “link” property in your video metadata to the website’s page that the video sits on. Read more on how to implement this feature from your Bits on the Run Account.

So how can you leverage Bits on the Run’s built-in video metadata features?

  • Add a clear and accurate title upon video upload.
  • Add a succinct description upon video upload.
  • Add relevant tags to categorize your video upon upload.
  • After metadata is clear, and final, use our built-in tool to submit your videos directly to Google’s search engine.
  • Add advanced metadata such as video author, date, and any custom data you feel relevant.
  • Make sure you have an accurate & captivating video thumbnail, as this is often what will appear to viewers in search results. It’s like the cover of a book.

Stay tuned for more exciting tools from LongTail Video, especially as we built out our tools to leverage the new HTML5 track element. Feel free to send us any suggestions, questions, feature requests in the comments section below.