söndag 25 maj 2008

Generating traffic through YouTube and other video sharing websites

One interesting opportunity that has been around for a few years now is using video sharing websites like YouTube to drive highly targeted traffic to your own website. If done right, this technique can consistently drive massive amounts of traffic to your website over a long period of time.

Contrary to what you may think, the videos that you upload to such video sharing websites don't have to be very advanced in order to generate traffic: as long as you have a compelling enough message and use titles, tags and video descriptions well, people interested in the topic will find your video.

Let's go through some of the basics of how you can generate extra, free traffic to your website starting today.

Why upload videos?

Here are some of the reasons why you would want to try generating traffic through video sharing websites:

1. Huge potential. Video sharing websites have lots of visitors and even if you are able to reach only a small fraction of them it can have a significant impact on the amount of traffic you get to your website.

2. Highly targeted traffic. The visitors that arrive to your website after having watched one of your niche videos is likely to be highly interested in the topic that your video (and website) is about. Therefore they are exactly the kind of valuable visitor that you should be trying to attract to your website.

3. Another way of letting people know about your website. Videos is another way to expose potential visitors to your website. The more ways you create for people to find your website, the better.

4. An asset that generates more traffic over time. Videos uploaded to video sharing websites with heavy traffic become more valuable traffic generators over time as their "view counts" go up and become more visible to this large crowd.

Brainstorm video ideas

Since you know best what your website's particular niche is, start there and try to come up with some aspect of your niche that you can show viewers in the form of video. This can be anything from an entertaining video to how-to video guides to commentary about the news or some other topic that you're passionate about. Practically anything that is interesting to some group of people out there can be turned into video contents and generate traffic to your website.

A personal favorite of mine is instructional how-to guides, where you share your knowledge in a practical step-by-step manner. This is actually a huge niche, with opportunities for the owners of many different kinds of websites. How-to video guides also have the added benefit of being easily turned into multi part video series, where you show each step in a separate video. It is easy to forget that what you know about some topics is often not common knowledge among the general public, and I have personally often been amazed by the positive response I've been getting when I've shared whatever insight I might have come across in my chosen niches.

You may even be able to recycle some of the material that you have already produced for your website and simply convert it into video. This can be a great idea as some of the visitors to your website may prefer to watch a video presentation instead of just reading a text.

If you're having problems coming up with ideas, try visiting a major video sharing website such as YouTube and search for videos relating to your own niche. You may not be the first to use video in your niche, but that simply means that there are other video creators out there that you can learn from.

Record the raw video

When you have some basic ideas of what you want to include in your first video, it's time to start recording some raw unedited video. In case your idea for the finished video only includes text, you can skip ahead to the section about editing.

This first step is simply to use some video camera or software program (such as Fraps) to record raw video footage of what you intend to include in your video. One good rule of thumb is that you will typically record much more raw video than what will actually end up in the finished video, so it's a good thing to keep recording for a bit longer than what is absolutely necessary, whenever possible.

When you've recorded some amount of raw video, transfer that video to your computer so that you can edit it. Exactly how this transfer is done varies depending on your particular video recording equipment.

Edit the video

Once you have some raw video footage, it's time for editing it to produce the actual video that you're going to upload.

There are many video editing programs out there, with varying features and targeted at users with differing amounts of experience in video editing. A good choice for beginners is Windows Movie Maker, a very basic video editing program that typically is included when Microsoft Windows is installed. When you feel comfortable with the features of that program you may want to move on to other editing programs that give you more freedom to edit your video material exactly the way you want it.

One thing to keep in mind when editing your videos is that video sharing websites such as YouTube have limits to the length of videos that they allow you to upload. Keeping each video to less than 10 minutes is usually a good rule of thumb, so this will meet most length limits. Another benefit to keeping your videos short is that viewers of the video will have less loading time, which can be an issue especially in areas of the world where Internet connections are not very fast.

If your video editing program allows you to do this, you may want to include your website URL as overlaying text throughout the duration of the video. By placing such a text at the top or bottom of the video you make it less likely that some thief will come along and reupload your video as their own - and even if they do, they'll be showing your website URL to every viewer.

You may also want to begin and end the video by showing your website URL for a few seconds (or longer at the end). This can be a good reminder to the viewer about where they should go for more information or some other benefit that you can think of.

Another thing to keep in mind is to be careful not to infringe on anyone else's intellectual property rights by using copyrighted audio or things like that. While there are many videos on video sharing websites that are clearly violating copyrights, it has become more common lately that the video sharing websites actually remove videos that do not abide by the rules. I recommend caution in this matter, as your entire account at such video sharing websites can be closed because of this, and all your accumulated views wiped out.

I will not go into any greater detail about how any particular editing program works, because there are plenty of resources on the Internet about any particular program.

Export the video

When you are done editing your video using your video editing program of choice, it's time to export the video. This basically means that the program takes the video that you've editing together and makes it into some particular file format, depending on the export settings in your video editing program.

As you will learn later on, video sharing websites typically have limits to the size and file formats that you are allowed to upload. Some file formats also work better than other, as you will no doubt become aware of if you experiment a little. One file format that I've been pretty satisfied with is the WMV format, so that can be a good start for you as well.

Upload the video

The next step is to upload the exported video to one or more video sharing websites. The dominant website of that kind is YouTube, as it has a huge following of users and people who upload videos to that website.

When uploading a video you will get to decide on a title and description for the video as well as so called "tags" that you want your video to be associated with.

The title is this most important information about your video as it is what potential viewers will look at first. If they find the title appealing, they will give your video a chance by starting to view it. Try to make the title both descriptive (what the video is about) and appealing (how watching the video will benefit the viewer). Many people don't use very good titles for their videos and that leads to the videos remaining in obscurity even if the contents is good, so take a few moments to phrase the title.

Next, you may provide a description of the video. While many viewers will not pay much attention to this description, it can be used by the video sharing website to determine what your video is all about and whether it should be shown in the search results when a potential viewer is searching for videos. Try to include relevant keywords and phrases in the description as this will help your video to rank well.

"Tags" are words that you want your video to be associated with. For example a video titled "Mac or PC: Which is better?" could have the following tags:

mac pc apple comparison better osx windows vista xp

If you are unsure about which tags may be appropriate for your video, try finding some other video online that is similar to your video and look at the tags used to categorize that video.

Include a link to your own website

Finally, and most importantly, is to add a link to your website in the video description and on your personal page on the video sharing website.

If you use YouTube to host your videos, adding a link to your website in the description is done by writing http://onlinerevenueblog.blogspot.com, replacing onlinerevenueblog.blogspot.com with your website's domain name. That makes the link clickable, which is better than letting the viewer copy and paste a URL into the web browser.

A good way to convert video viewers to website visitors is to promise (and deliver!) some kind of benefit for them to actually take the next step and go from viewing your video to visit your website. Maybe your video contains some offering and the viewer is then asked to visit your website for more information. Maybe your video is a guide or how-to about some topic, and you tell the viewer to go to your website for more
detailed information, a list of practical suggestions, or anything else that is appealing to the kind of person who is likely to view your video.

Embedding your video on your website

Once you have uploaded your video to one or more video sharing websites, you may want to embed that video on your website. In practise this means that you allow the visitors to your website to watch the video without leaving your website. This is often a better solution than to simply post a link to the video, as I have seen done on many websites - if you post a link rather than embed your video, your visitors are less likely to remain on your website.

Embedding a video can easily be done using YouTube by copying a short snippet of code under the heading "Embed", as seen under the video description and tags of any particular video.

I hope that you found this guide useful. If there is anything that you would like to ask or comment on relating to this article, please leave a comment below.