“We’ve moved from an era of implicit search to explicit search,” says Wes Miller, director of product management at video e-commerce platform Invodo. Previously, you could count on search engines to go out and find new content. Now, they need a little assistance.
To help them out, Google and the other search engines ask content providers to give them more information on their sites’ content. Site owners can do so with a type of document called a sitemap. Years ago, sitemaps were expanded to cover video.
Sitemaps are written in XML, and take a specific form agreed upon by Google and the other major search engines. Finished files are stored in the robots.txt file found in each site’s root directory.
Creating a sitemap for a few videos is easy, says Miller, but doing one for a large site is a challenge that can take months. Invodo automates the process for its customers. It automatically generates updated sitemaps every few months, then tells customers how to add that data to their robots.txt file. Miller hopes to have a more automated solution in place by the third quarter of this year.
A video sitemap contains five key pieces of information for each video on the site. You need to include the video’s title, description, page URL, thumbnail image URL, and raw video file location.
Creating a sitemap isn’t difficult. You just need to know how to create well-structured XML and do it repeatedly. You don’t need a background in XML, says Miller, as it’s not hard to pick up. Unfortunately, there are no software solutions that make it easy.
To learn the exact format required for a video sitemap, Miller recommends looking at Google’s documentation, specifically this section and this section of Google’s video sitemap guide. Also, read this guide from Yahoo.
Keep in mind that sitemaps are for videos you host yourself or with an online video provider. If you’re using YouTube to host your videos, you don’t include them on a sitemap.
The format is still evolving. Videos with two different landing pages or pages with multiple videos can be a challenge for sitemaps. The industry is still waiting for guidance from Google on how to code for that.
“It’s so much the wild west right now and we’re learning as we go,” says Miller.
If you have a library of videos on your site, it’s worth your time creating a video sitemap. That might mean bringing in an outside expert for a few months to help with the project. While you won’t see a change in Google hits the day after posting it, Miller cautions, you’ll see a steady increase in viewers over the following months.
People are waking up to the importance of search for video, says Miller. If you’ve got a lot of video content on your site, you owe it to yourself to create a video sitemap.