The role of audio and video content in the future of SEO, with Geoff Kerbis

April 13, 2022


Audio and video content will have a major impact on search engine optimization. Geoff and John discuss how companies can take advantage of these content formats to grow organic visibility online. In this episode, we cover:

  • how to structure videos for search
  • on-page optimizations for platforms like YouTube
  • why companies may want to invest in podcasts
  • Google’s ability to index the spoken word

Connect with Geoff on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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John Tyreman:  Hi, gang. Welcome to Episode 47, of the Digital Marketing Troop, where we talk with marketing leaders and practitioners to help you learn more about digital marketing. I’m your host, John Tyreman. And I’m here with a recurring guest, Mr. Geoff Kerbis, Associate Director of Client Services and SEO at Silverback Strategies. And we are here to talk about the role of audio and video content in the future of search marketing. And Geoff, before we dive into that topic, I just want to follow up with you. So the last time you were on the show was episode 34. And it was a great episode because we looked at a case study of a client that you’re working with. And we did some core web vitals updates for. Is that client still seeing organic traffic growth?

Geoff Kerbis:  Yeah, it’s a really interesting situation, John, and thank you for having me back on. They definitely are seeing good page experience still. But what I will say is they are also a classic case study of making sure that you actively work on your SEO, specifically within the core web vital space. Core web vitals is not a set it and forget it space. It is something that actively needs to be monitored and worked on. As you add new products to your site, new pages, new services, new pieces of content, you have to make sure that you are monitoring how it affects your site experience as a whole. And to speak frankly, Google is changing what a good page experience is, in many senses of the word. What is considered a good CLS, or a good first input delay? It all is requiring an active ear and an active eye. So to answer your question shortly, yes, they’re definitely still seeing good page experience. It’s definitely something that’s still bringing the clients – a smile to their face. But they also are facing the harsh reality that just because you see good page experienced one month doesn’t mean it will last till the next.

John Tyreman:  Well, it sounds like you’re on it, Geoff. So that business is in good hands. Glad to hear that. Well, let’s shift gears and get into our topic at hand today. In 2019, Google announced their ability to index audio, not just transcripts, right? So that means they can reference audio and video content to serve in the results for various search queries. So what I want to do on this podcast episode is talk about each – talk about video first, and then we’ll get into audio. So let’s start with that video component, Geoff, knowing that Google can index the spoken word, how can companies optimize videos for search?

Geoff Kerbis:  Video, I will start off by saying is not right for everyone. Just like having a YouTube page is not right for everyone. I feel like – now I’m going to age myself – back when I started working on digital marketing as an intern, it felt like around 2011, everyone said, I need a YouTube page and I need a Twitter, I need a Facebook, I need – back in 2012, I need an Instagram. If there is a new platform, I need to be a part of it. And I’m hearing a lot of conversations around video that are very similar. But what I will say as far as it comes to video and utilizing it properly is it needs to be just like any other piece of content. It needs to have expertise, authority and trust. It has to have a unique perspective and be a forum or an angle to that question that allows for a clear answer to hopefully answer a specific search. The example that I normally like to give, right, is if you are you know, John, we just talked about how I am in the process of purchasing a home, there’s going to be a lot of home repair that is going to have to happen, right? But one of the big things that I have to keep in mind is there is this wonderful place called YouTube that seems to have all of the answers. And if I was to look up how to fix a leaky sink, my guess is there’s probably at least 100,000 200,000 300,000 videos, all of them having some shape of the same answer, the same result in mind – how to fix that leaky sink. Now the key differentiating factor of how to make sure we’re optimizing around those is a few different things:  using specific keywords, making sure we’re optimizing the page so that Google is not just relying upon the idea of, “well, what do they say in the video?” You might not be the most audio person. You might not like talking while you’re fixing a sink. Then hey, make sure on the page you’re describing the steps, it is like any other form of content in the idea that you need to make sure that your version of said answer is the best one out there. Whether it is having the expertise of… maybe you’re in the home services space, having the expertise of someone who works in plumbing, going through, saying how many years they have, as experienced in plumbing, having an author page associated with said person so Google understands the authority associated with that person. Making sure that there is a clear narration of the video. I’m gonna say that again so I can be extra clear. There needs to be a clear narration of the video. Because although this technology is super exciting, it’s like any other piece of technology – you have to make sure that you are almost spoon feeding Google what is happening on this audio/visual medium. With that – John, it looks like you want to say something?

John Tyreman:  No, please. Well, I was just gonna say, Geoff, it sounds like what you were just saying about core web vitals, about how a web page needs to have good user experience. Right? And you’re kind of alluding to it a little bit with the video, right? So like, let’s take the plumbing video, for example. Good lighting, good narration, these are all factors of good user experience. When you’re watching a video, you want to be able to retain the information and see clearly what the fix is.

Geoff Kerbis:  Yeah, you know, I think that all of us and I say all of us as also including those of you who are listening to this podcast, have watched good videos and have watched bad videos. We know how to tell the difference between. One of the things that I always like to talk about, right, is I am always fascinated with YouTube in its growth over the years of going from a place where people were capturing home videos and having a place to publish them to it being truly a content medium and a space where people spend their time. Video has changed how we consume content. Just look at the success of TikTok as opposed to Instagram, and the changes that Instagram is making to be able to compete in that space. With all that being said, right, I want to make sure that I’m being extra clear. One of the greatest examples of the difference in quality of video, we can look back to the year of 2016 through 2017. And there’s a very specific phenomenon that came. And that was the phenomenon of Casey Neistat. And how that changed how we take in video vlogs. And, John, you’re probably thinking, how did this change anything? Right? It was just a video vlog. Right? What it changed is there are things that were done by Casey Neistat, and how he was blogging, focusing on lighting, microphone, focusing on specific camera angles, that is still being used to this day. One of the shots that I will always remember was on a very early vlog that he did. He did an amazing shot where he stuck his camera in the fridge –  and you think about it now and you’re like, okay, so he set up, he put a running camera, in a fridge or in a microwave, opened the door and started the vlog, which seems insane. But I’ll tell you if you watch a vlog now or then you’re going to see that shot repeated and think wow, oh, we’ve grown used to that. Now why use this as an example? Because we have grown used to a certain standard. And Google is now going to need a certain standard of video, of audio, in order to be able to maximize the content that you are bringing. So things that I was already saying, right? We’re talking about EAT, I’m going to talk about that anytime I talk about content. Because we live in a world and an Internet that is filled with a lot of bad takes just sort of like ESPN First Take, right? You’re hearing a lot of terrible takes that have no background, no science behind them, and no expertise behind them. Video is not going to be any different than the content that we are trying to build as digital marketers. It has to have the expertise, the authority and trust, it has to be something that is clearly understood whether that is via narration, having steps that are put in that you notice that YouTube is now doing where you can actually follow a video by steps, or by making sure that it is clearly understood by the keywords you’re associating or speaking right now. Right? If we’re looking, I know that we’ll talk a little bit about audio, but as we’re thinking about how do we make sure that video is being captured in search engine result pages, which we’re seeing more and more of, we have to make sure that if we are scripting video, which this is not a great example of, we’re using the keywords that are identified or that are valuable to us. So maybe when you’re making this podcast and putting it on Spotify or the various channels that you can be listening to it on, you might be including things like video and SEO. And, hey, will possibly show up in that search engine result page. It’s going to be no different than if you’re working with your content writer and saying, “Hey, we would really like for you to be including this term because there’s a high degree of search value associated with it. And it’s not that competitive of a term. So we think we can win it”. Or it’s a competitive term, but the person who’s speaking about it is an expert within the field. So this is an opinion that is valuable to the people associated with it. One really good example of this, that I’ve seen and that Google did, and this was a while ago… there was, in 2018, Google decided that they wanted to start giving video answers from experts within the states. And they started within the celebrity space, specifically, right? Will Ferrell was a big one, Kevin Hart was another one. And they were answering most commonly searched questions about celebrities. And this was a very much – as a platform, a curated answer, question answer series. Does that make it any less worthy as an example? No, because Google started to see that, you want to hear from the source, you want to hear from the person who’s the expert on the situation, you want to hear from Will Ferrell. But you can tell me if I’m wrong on this, I believe Will Ferrell is six foot three, you want to hear him say it himself. Right? Now Hollywood adds an inch or two, but it’s still a valuable piece of information. With all that being said, and making sure that we’re going back to the original question, How can companies optimize video for search? Treat it like every other piece of content. Make sure that you’re investing resources into said piece of content. Video cannot just be, we have a Sony, my you know, my nephew has a Sony camera, I’m going to pull it out, we’re going to record a video, we’re not going to wear lav mics, we’re not going to worry about the quality, we’re not going to edit it, we’re not going to provide a transcript or narrate it, we’re just going to make it. If you have the sentiment of we’re just going to make it because it’s valuable, then you have the wrong sentiment. You have to make content that is valuable, as the reason why you want to make it.

John Tyreman:  These are some great tips. Geoff, there’s a few that I wanted to call out because I thought that they were really good examples of how you can optimize your videos for search. So I think the YouTube capturing steps, I think that’s a really good example because what it does is it – like if you’re unfamiliar with this feature on YouTube, if you go to YouTube, and you search for how to do something is probably a typical keyword modifier for that search, it’ll bring you to step by step instructions for how to do things. And then the narrator will say step 1, x, y and z. And then when you’re watching the video, you can actually see where those steps begin in the play bar at the bottom, and it’ll highlight the little piece of it. So I think that’s a really good example of how Google is able to read either the transcript or I believe it’s the audio and video itself, and being able to isolate those clips. For better user experience.

Geoff Kerbis:  Yeah, it’s absolutely – so it’s a mix. In certain instances, it is Google self-identifying. But for a lot of instances, it is actually whoever is editing and uploading the video to Google to make sure that you are separating. So this is where it’s not just as simple as uploading a video and saying, “Hey, I’m done”. Right? It’s making sure that you’re taking the time to spend that time within the YouTube video itself of marking separate sections. A really good example of that is one of the podcasts that I listen to/watch  is the fantasy footballers. And they do a fantastic job of separating the different sections of their show and marking them so maybe you only care about who are the hot, free agents to pick up that week for your fantasy football team. Guess what it’s going to be marked in that list. Maybe you only care about who were the ballers of the week, great, it’s going to be marked. But they have an editor who’s spending the time on doing so. So, if you are truly caring about giving the steps or making sure that you are highlighting specific things, highlighting specific keywords, these steps act very much and very similarly to headings within a piece of content, right? Your H1 is your title of the video your H2s are all the separate sections of that video if that piece of content makes sense. We’re translating SEO concepts that we’ve gotten so used to for the written word into audio and visual natures.

John Tyreman:  I like that way of thinking about it, of structuring your videos like you would a page on a website, a blog post, or a services page, something like that. This is really good stuff, Geoff. And I think another piece of it is your speaking skills as well. So if you’re doing a video where you’re narrating something, or trying to explain something, step by step, having that script or having just a polished speaking skill, and being able to talk about your area of expertise clearly and concisely.

Geoff Kerbis:  In this instance, narration and having a script is critical. We talked a little bit earlier about the idea of looking for specific keywords, having them in the title, having them as your headers, you’re making sure they’re included in the video. If you are choosing the format of your video, maybe it might be right for you to not be speaking live, but have an editing in a narration of all the steps you’re doing, or the subject matter you’re talking about. A great example that I like to point to is if you are an agency in award season, you are very familiar with advertising or creating those videos that advertise the work that you’ve done for a certain showcase. Nine times out of 10 there’s a very specifically and finely tuned crafted narration for what happened, making sure you’re talking about the specific points, how much were you able to increase the impressions or the views of said campaign? How many sales were done? Treating every video in that sense, may have value based off of what you were trying to do. Now is there value in having a regular interview, just like we’re doing right now? 100%, but depends on the type of content. If you’re trying to have the expertise content, the interview content, maybe even titling interview with SEO expert on video. Great. It’s not right to have a narration in that sense. But if you’re trying to speak to a new phenomenon, maybe a trend that you’re seeing, something that your organization has done, having the step of separately narrating that video and having an animation instead of a live feed of said person talking has value. There is no right or wrong in what is the visual that you’re seeing. Unless you have the specific intent of showing someone how to do something, or you want to have that interaction where you feel they are a part of the conversation and watching how that conversation went. That’s the beautiful thing about video, right? And I spoke a little bit about the idea that you can look up a leaky sink and find hundreds of thousands of videos, right? There’s a very specific type of video that you would like. But if you were looking into interviews of basketball players, right? And someone just showed you the game, and then had video over that rather than the mic in front of their face, you might be a little bit turned off by that. It might feel a little bit impersonal. And that is where it is up to you to have the unique perspective and think what type of voice, what type of narration is possible. Now, I do want to speak to natural language really quickly, because that’s an important thing that is especially a part of this video conversation. If you’re having the debate of should I have a written script or not, there is a lot of natural language that we use day to day that there is search volume associated with, but we don’t think about. And that is when we’re talking to experts, that’s when we’re talking with customers and consumers. Those are the times where it might be valuable to make sure that you are having someone truly just speak about their experience with the product. Maybe you decided, “Hey, we’d like to have first person reviews from customers about their experience with these mattresses or this specific product”. Just interview them. Allow them to speak to it. Have the video of that real person, have them talk about the product that they have. Make sure that you are scripting the questions so that it allows them to use phrases like “Ooh, it was comfortable”. “Oh, I found that I had the best sleep of my life”. That’s when maybe a script isn’t right. Maybe it’s just allowing someone to speak so you can capture some of that valuable conversation from them.

John Tyreman:  I like that idea of using video as social proof. And that kind of ties back… I was interviewing Katelyn Bourgoin a couple weeks ago about the power of customer interviews. And that was one of the things that she spoke to, was the candid language that customers will provide in those settings is great for swiping for copy. It’s using testimonials. I love the idea of taking that, recording it and use it as recorded content, video or audio, even. Those are really great points, Geoff. Well, Geoff, I wanted to shift gears a little bit. And we talked about video, I want to get into audio a little bit. I’ve launched two podcasts and by the time this episode comes out, there should be a blog post I wrote about the benefits of a podcast for business. If you’re listening to this, go check that out. There are over 2 million podcasts on the air including this one. For comparison, there are over 500 million blogs. So if you think about that, there’s 250 times more blogs than podcasts, it seems like there’s a huge opportunity for companies to invest here. How do you think podcasts will impact the future of search?

Geoff Kerbis:  Well, they’ve already been a part of search, right? Google has been slowly making sure that podcasts in some shape or form are a part of search engine result pages. You know, I’m gonna steal your statistic here, John, it’s been since 2017. It’s been something that’s been on my mind as well. Google does a very good job of making sure that if there are certain topics, that there’s a leader within the space, that they want you to be able to hear that. Now, will they point you to their own platform of Google Play? Yes, 100% of the time. But there are other big dogs out there, like Spotify, like Apple Music, even YouTube music is starting to shift from the visual component of podcasts, to more audio, because they realize that not everyone cares about watching people talk to each other through a screen. With that being said, I think that podcasts are, as we talked about natural language, a great place for natural language, and hearing candid thoughts. Making sure that from a structure perspective, that you are able to have those clear delineations in different parts of a podcast for different parts of an interview. As we’re looking into the updates that Spotify is making, they’re allowing for more keywords to be associated with your podcast itself, allowing for descriptions of specific podcasts. Now, there’s a few things that I will say about podcasts versus blogs, and why we’re seeing the dynamic slowly shift within the space. We think about blogs – blogs have always been available to Google as something that can be read, right? A spider can read through a blog, understand everything that has been happening. For a podcast, it’s a little bit more difficult, right? Because there is the inability, or there had previously been the inability to be truly understanding everything that was being said on the podcast and having the context. Not until more recently, with updates like BERT, an AI that Google has, have we been able to do so. The other issue with podcasts is they are an audio platform. And in a world where not everyone has the capability to use audio, or understand audio, that’s a problem. And that is something that needs to be given context. Now. I’m slowly –  and I say this very much so – slowly starting to see more podcasts and more platforms start to create captioned spaces for podcasts to allow for accessibility to those who might not be able to hear them or might not have the best of hearing in general. And that’s great news. But podcasts do have a way to go. And one of the other things about podcasts. And I will say this for those who are within the business space. And one of the reasons why we’re seeing more of them pop up is podcasts are one of the really great ways to measure how people are interacting with your content. And if you are putting advertising on your podcasts, having been part of those conversations at previous organizations, there’s a lot of money associated with podcast listening, even if you only have an active base of, let’s say 10,000 per podcast, right? There are lots and lots of dollars associated with that. And that’s why we’re seeing more organizations do sponsored podcasts or have advertising in a podcast that you would think should not have advertising on it. One of my favorite examples is, I was listening to a business podcast the other day, and this was a company’s podcast and they had a sponsorship from Cisco in the podcast. And I was like, “Oh, they’re advertising another company, in their podcasts, for this company”. And it sort of was one of those… I don’t know if you know, the Spider Man meme where you see the Spider Men pointing at themselves. And I was just like, oh my gosh, like, this is a podcast that self promoting but also promoting someone else. And that company is promoting them. It’s a whole big cycle. Now, although I’m getting slightly off track, what I will say is, how do I think podcasts will impact the future of search, as Google is able to become better aware, better understand, and better able to associate authority, expertise and trust, I just said, EAT in a different order, it’s going to be more of a medium because people are more willing and able to do so. I was listening to another podcast the other day, and it was an interesting conversation about how we’re seeing a lot of bloggers actually turning into podcasters. And why? And I really identified to the answer that this former blogger, podcaster gave, and it was when you are doing the written word, there’s a lot of focus and concentration that has to be put – an effort that has to be put – there’s got to be a lot of dedication to sitting down and writing a blog. Now, when it comes to podcasting, you can set up a mic and you can just talk. Maybe you have someone else there to ask questions, so that you can progress the conversation. Amazing. But it requires a lot less focus, and a lot less dedication to be able to sit down and just talk about your thoughts through a podcast rather than thinking about the exact word that you’re looking for. So we’re going to see a lot more podcasts pop up for sure. Now, the thing that’s going to differentiate you versus the other podcasts is going to be making sure that your opinion is truly unique, that your opinion is backed by facts, or backed by some form of expertise that allows it to be more valuable. And it – also one final thing. You said that big number, right?  There’s 2 million podcasts on the air. You have to make sure your podcast is findable. And that is where we dive into the SEO portion of it, of linking out to your podcast, making sure it’s available on multiple platforms, making sure… just like if you’re in the Ecommerce space, you’re pushing people to be reviewing your podcast, sharing your podcasts, doing some form of promotion to get people to watch and listen to your podcasts in any shape or form.

John Tyreman:  And this is a great place to plug that. If you’re listening to this give the show a rating and review on Apple podcasts. Well, you know what I find… So the beauty of podcasts is really in their simplicity of how they’re consumed, right? So it’s on demand radio and it has an advantage over other formats like text and video, you don’t need to use your eyes. You can listen to podcasts while you drive, while you exercise, mow the lawn, do other tasks that require your hands – maybe you’re fixing that kitchen sink and listening to a podcast at the same time. And it means you can reach your audience – from a business perspective, you can reach your audience at times you couldn’t previously with digital media. So this is… I think that this is just like the new frontier. Now, this all depends on the consumption habits of your audience. Does your audience listen to podcasts? And the answer may not be yes, a resounding yes. So I think first of all, you need to understand your audience, how they consume media. But yeah,  this is some really great stuff, Geoff. What I’d like to do is share with the listeners, just an example: so this show, The Digital Marketing Troop – I’ve been monitoring Spotify to see where we rank in the search results for the term digital marketing. And last month, we were the 21st result. This month, we’re in the 16th result. So we’re making some progress there. But I’ve also noticed that there are some certain search terms where there’s a featured listing of a podcast result. So if you were to go to Spotify and type in Google Analytics 4, one of our podcasts would come up and I’ve seen spikes and downloads for that particular episode. So I know that we’re getting found on Spotify for these various search features. So I think it’s like outside of Google, there are other platforms where you could be found and I think that just opens up a new industry or like a subset of SEO.

Geoff Kerbis:  And that brings up a really good point, John, is you’re going to see people migrate to the platforms where they’re able to measure. There’s a very big reason why most podcasts have a YouTube channel because people want to be able to measure the demographics associated with their podcasts, seeing where people are dropping off their podcasts. There are certain and distinct – it’s just like why with SEO, we’re not depending on one platform to give us the information that we need. We’re depending on five to six to seven, in certain instances. Some might do a little bit of a better measure of how many downloads we’re getting. Some might show us our engagement factors. Some might show us our demographics. And that’s where we need to be thinking about this as well. Just because we published a podcast and it ranks number one doesn’t mean your work is done. It means that you have more work to do, of figuring out why people are listening to your podcast, and how you can replicate that multiple times. Just like this. John, you’re going to publish this, we might see some great engagement from it. And you’re going to see “Oh, geez, when Geoff started talking about Casey Neistat, everyone logged off”, right? Everyone was like I’m done with the podcast today. So next time when we have the podcasts, you’re gonna tell me, Geoff, we can’t talk about Casey Neistat, no matter how interesting you think it is. But that is my shout to the people listening. Make sure you don’t just set it and forget it. Just like your core web vitals, it has to be an actively engaged thing of checking, monitoring, see the ratings associated, see the reviews that people are giving, and making sure that you’re curating, looking at the key terms that has High search volume going onto Google Trends, making sure you’re looking at the competitive space and seeing if one person is dominating, or if no one’s having a conversation about it. It is just as active as any other piece of content, if not more, because there is a lot of valuable data that we can get from this space.

John Tyreman:  Yeah, that was a great summation. Geoff, thank you so much. I think you make a really good point about paying attention to the keywords that you select for the topics you select to talk about for your podcasts, because that search behavior can translate across platforms. It’s not just Google that people are going to search. Well, I think that’s a great way to end this show. Geoff, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show today. If folks want to connect with you and learn more, where can they find you?

Geoff Kerbis:  Yeah, you can absolutely find me on LinkedIn. It is Geoff with a G so make sure you’re using that and then you can find me on Twitter @RunGeoffRun for some SEO takes, some terrible sports takes and you know, a few funny quips and musings along the way. 

John Tyreman:  Well there you go connect with Geoff on LinkedIn and Twitter.