Are you making plans to add video content to your website? If so, your timing could not be better. More and more business communicators are leveraging the power of video to engage, inform and entertain their audiences in a variety of settings including content marketing, corporate, human resources/internal communications, training, and more.
As our clients plan for video production and distribution, we're noticing a common set of questions that come up. We’d like to share our thoughts on these topics, and hope you find them useful as you consider your own first steps into offering video on your website.
(Note: There are myriad variables when working with video, for which there exist volumes of technical information. This article focuses on providing just a quick overview to get you started with your planning.)
Question: In what format is web video?
Answer: The word “format” when referring to video can mean different things to different people. When people say “format” they may be referring to video standards like NTSC or PAL, standard definition or high definition, 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio, .MOV or .MP4 file format, or something else. There are typically a collection of specifications to keep in mind for web video, where format is just one of those specs. The following specs have produced good results for projects in which we’ve been involved.
Format (there’s that word):
Here are four common web video formats: Standard definition (SD), 4:3 aspect ratio
Standard definition (SD), 16:9 aspect ratio 720p high definition (HD), 16:9 aspect ratio 1080p high definition (HD), 16:9 aspect ratio
There are several common frame rates, but for web video 30 frames per second (fps) is one of the more widely used. 24 fps and 25 fps are slower frame rates usually associated with a more film-like or cinematic look, which of course is found on the web as well.
One of the main ingredients in determing video compression, "codec" refers to the software algorithm with which the finished web video is encoded for playback. H.264 for the video data along with AAC for the audio data provides a favorable balance of quality and file size. And speaking of audio (oh yes, sound!), it’s common to target a sample rate of 48 kHz.
Sometimes referred to as Data Rate, which influences the finished web video's visual quality and file size. We've had good luck starting with Vimeo's suggested bit rate ranges (below), and then tweak from there.
2,000 – 5,000 kbps
2,000 – 5,000 kbps
5,000 – 10,000 kbps
10,000 – 20,000 kbps
(** In kilobits per second)
One can certainly go lower than these suggested ranges in order to achieve smaller file sizes, but visual quality will degrade as the bit rate goes down.
The file type that contains both video and audio data. We’ve found .MP4 to deliver the greatest compatibility, both when reviewing video edits with our clients and for final distribution/playback.
Question: What format, resolution and frame rate should we target when making our web video?
Answer: It depends on a number of factors, but the specs of existing assets that are to be used within the video – especially existing video footage – are often an important factor. Older footage is typically in standard definition, with a 4:3 aspect ratio. If your video is to be made largely out of older footage, you may end up going the SD 4:3 route. However, there are many creative ways to incorporate older assets into a more modern-looking 16:9 presentation – potentially even in high definition. Generally speaking, because we live in an increasingly hi-def world, we look for ways to target HD specs when planning web video projects. HD projects can always be re-exported for SD.
Question: How long should the web video run?
Answer: That depends on the intent of the content and the makeup of your audience. But generally speaking, shorter is better. Even if the video is meant to be a longer piece (say for educational purposes), don’t make it any longer than it needs to be. If the video is running longer than you think is appropriate for your audience, splitting the video into shorter segments or chapters is always an option.
Question: Should I stream my videos from my own web server, or should I upload them to a web video service like YouTube?
Answer: Let’s look at this topic with respect to two potential scenarios: self-hosted streaming and video-sharing streaming.
In this scenario, your videos are uploaded to your own web server and played back from pages on your website. Although the level of technical detail that this topic can cover is beyond the scope of this article and the services we offer, we can give you two important things to consider: user load and compatibility.
User Load: how many people will view your video via your website? And more importantly, how many people will view the video at the same time? If you have just a few videos on your website that receive infrequent traffic, then streaming from your current web server may work (always check with your web hosting company first). However, under certain conditions, your requirements may point to the need for specialized video hosting. Also know, like with most things, the more robust your hosting requirements, the higher the cost for the service.
Compatibility: Is your audience mainly tied to their desktop/laptop computers? Or will they view your videos from a mobile device? We can probably all agree that mobile computing is playing an increasingly important role when building one’s web presence. If capturing an audience on the go is important to your business, then it’s important to keep mobile compatibility in your plans. Without going into all the technical details behind video compatibility on the mobile web (intrepid readers can Google “Flash vs HTML5”), self-hosted video will require video playback objects programmed into your pages that are compatible with both standard web browsers and mobile web browsers.
Yes, self-hosting can be complicated. But, if complete control over user experience and your website’s hosting environment are objectives when planning for video, then self-hosting may be the way to go.
This scenario has plenty of service options. Two common ones of course are YouTube and Vimeo. As most are probably familiar, this involves uploading your video to your chosen sharing service, copying the embed code generated by the service, and then pasting the embed code into the appropriate web page(s) on your site. Another approach is to simply link from one’s website to the video (i.e., instead of embedding the video), which will take the viewer over to the video-sharing website.
Just like the self-hosted option, there are numerous advantages to going the video-sharing route. Two commonly noted advantages are:
Offloading the management of video hosting and requisite technology to an established third-party service provider.
In the case of YouTube especially, realizing the benefits of social interaction with your content. Social interaction is certainly possible with self-hosted video, but YouTube exists specifically for this type of engagement.
That's a Wrap
We hope this helps you better understand some of the common topics around the production and distribution of web video. We encourage your feedback – what things do you commonly run into when working on web video projects? Are there other questions you have about web video? Feel free to comment below.
It’s raining, it’s pouring in Rochester today. So what to do on a soggy day such as this? Why not tackle some web housekeeping? Whether your downtime results from a change in climate or otherwise, here are some “rainy day” ideas for tuning up your web presence.
1. Review your ongoing web content development plan
Your ongoing web content development plan should be focused on answering web visitor questions and facilitating the completion of their online tasks. How are you doing on keeping your web content fresh and relevant to their needs? Is an expert voice developing in your body of blog entries? Does your content aid in your visitors’ decision-making process, and do so in a timely manner? Is it time to consider your first web video or podcast episode? Or perhaps an eBook?
2. Start planning for mobile
If your website isn’t already optimized for mobile browsing, it’s never too late to begin the process of getting there. Start by putting yourself in your web visitors’ shoes and think about typical usage scenarios. For example, what are they typically doing when turning to their mobile devices for the products, services or information that you offer? Where are they typically doing those things? Is all of your content relevant to the mobile experience, or only some of it? Which pages or functional bits should be adapted or re-spun for mobile?
3. SEO housekeeping
Search engine optimization is an ongoing process that’s driven by your overall content strategy (same with your social media plan, ongoing content development effort, etc.). But any time is a good time to do some basic SEO checkups, especially for those sites that have more than one content author. Does your site’s content reflect the web searches your visitors are conducting? Are your page titles accurate and relevant to associated page content? Do they follow a set convention? Is your tagging clean and consistent?
4. Explore a new metric
We all know how deep we can go with Google Analytics and other website analytics programs. But what do all these numbers mean? Take some time to learn about one previously un-explored measurement in your web analytics program. But just like the metrics you're currently tracking, make sure any additional ones are relevant to your overall objectives. Does the new metric shed light on progress or shortcomings with regard to those objectives? Will it enhance your understanding of where you’re achieving your goals? Will it help you understand how to improve results?
5. Be neighborly
What’s your social media neighborhood up to today? Are there local events coming up that are of interest to you and your followers? Help promote them with a few re-tweets or shares. Is your inbox on LinkedIn filling up with requests for recommendations? Start writing. It never hurts to take some time to simply be helpful in your social sphere.
For today's episode of Marcom Talk, Mike Gastin and Mike Nelson outline the steps of a video project. With video becoming a bigger part of content strategy, we hope you find this talk helpful in planning your next video project.
What’s been on your marketing mind lately? What burning questions from your corner of the marcom universe are in need of answers? Let us know! We’d love to help by offering some of our thoughts in future episodes of Marcom Talk. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment below.
Happy New Year! I just finished reading a recent Inc.com article entitled "Redesigning Your Website in 2012? Ask These 3 Questions First". Author Amy Buckner Chowdhry did a nice job of covering the key big-picture topics to be covered when considering a website redesign. I encourage you to read all three topics, but one that resonated loudly for me is the second one: "What do your website visitors look for?" (sic)
This topic reinforces the importance of understanding the tasks visitors want to accomplish when they visit a website. To go a level deeper, these tasks are informed by the questions visitors ask when considering a purchase. Further, each stage of a visitor's purchasing decision process will involve a unique set of questions. So, websites should keep the entire buying decision process in mind, and assign content that is tailored to answer questions at each stage. As a website owner, being aware of visitors' stage-specific questions opens up an opportunity to create and publish content that provides relevant answers.
When your website redesign is focused on the questions your visitors are asking, then it's focused on task completion, and therefore, what your visitors are looking for. With this level of focus, you are one step closer to a successful website redesign.
The following link is a great little article with a five minute audio piece on Google's preference for original content when ranking sites. It tells the story of an online retalier that got killed when Google recently changed its ranking criteria and what he's doing about it.
Here's a clip from the article on what happened:
Immediately, Lieberman pulled up his traffic numbers. He found that two-thirds of his customers had disappeared.
"As days went by, and I saw that dip in the graph was holding — and it was a cliff — it was really a shocking drop," he says. "My first reaction was not to panic, try to find articles related to this Panda update. What is it about?"
Content strategy calls for regular content on your web site and that's great, but only if it's useful and relevant to your prospects
Maybe you’ve noticed a lot of talk lately about content strategy. If you’re a savvy marketer, the idea of driving traffic to your site by providing awesome content makes perfect sense. Ideally, you’re already developing a strategy to provide your target market with useful content.
I want to address one aspect of developing a great content strategy that often gets overlooked: relevance.
The potential to connect with our prospects via our web sites is exciting. We know that prospects are continually searching the internet for information. We also know that traditional media is delivering less and less of the return on our investment than it used to.
So, we create as much content as we can and publish it to our site.
But, for our content to truly be effective—meaning for it to draw in prospects—it has to be relevant and useful. Just putting content up on a regular basis is not going to drive sales unless that content is somehow worth something to your audience. It’s like a magazine for dog lovers. If the magazine is chock-full of articles about cats, well, there’s a good chance that its readership will drop off significantly.
I know that’s a bit extreme, but it’s not far from what a lot of companies are doing because they are publishing content, but its worth to their target market is dubious.
I’ve been following a publicly traded high-tech company with close to a billion dollar market cap as they foray into content strategy. They have a blog, video, news releases and regularly revised sales info. Not bad, right? I mean, they’re doing it by the book. But, almost all of their content is a sales pitch. Their blog posts can be distilled down to, “Hey! Look at our cool new thing we’re offering!” Their videos are product demonstrations. Their news is about what trade show they’re attending. Who cares, other than the company itself?
What they should be doing is first drop the sales pitch and start to provide information that impacts their prospects' lives. What problems can they help solve? What information can they share that will make their prospects' jobs easier or make them more successful? How can they make their company more accessible in ways that are useful to their prospects?
We, as marketers, want to publish information that we are excited about. “Look! A new product!” But, our prospects are trying to solve problems and their problems are not the same as our problems. Our prospects aren't worried about our lead-gen campaign or our sales quotas.
Start giving your prospects content that helps them with their problems and you won't have to worry about quotas. Instead you’ll have to figure out how to deal with your new sales volume, and who doesn’t love problems like that?
Google's Jon Orwant reveals his company's approach to parsing content by corpora. Learn how you can take advantage for a stronger content strategy and better search results
I attended a talk recently by Jon Orwant. Jon works for Google and is in charge of Google Books. He made a comment that caught my attention and might help you with your content strategy and Google search results.
Jon said Google separates all content into 'corpora': video, books, blogs, etc. When it receives a search query it first tries to figure-out which corpora is most relevant and then pulls results mainly from that corpora.
He gave the example of someone searching for "Michael Jackson Thriller". He said the books corpora would not raise its hand very high whereas the video (youtube) one would raise its hand really high. Google would then search through the video content and weight the results from that corpora.
Sounds simple enough, right? But, this has significant ramifications for businesses using content marketing strategies. If you have a content strategy that is focused on getting a high page rank on Google’s search results, you need to consider Google’s corpora approach. Are you publishing your content in the best formats?
Marketers typically ask if they’re publishing the right content. Is this white paper relevant? Is this blog post useful? (I say typically, but amazingly, a lot of marketers don’t even ask these questions!) But, marketers rarely ask if the content is in the right format.
Should your case study be published as a video rather than a pdf? What about your white paper? Would that be better off as a podcast or as an eBook? Or should you release it in multiple formats?
Just publishing in a number of different formats is not enough. You can have tons of videos out there, but if the content does not make sense for video, then Google is not going to serve it up as a relevant search result. And that means no one is going to watch it.
Questions to ask:
1. Is my content relevant?
2. Do I have enough content formats?
3. What formats make the most sense for my content?
A smart content strategy will focus on the needs of the target market and will take into consideration the ways search engines parse and serve results. Google’s corpora approach is simple and is consistent with a smart content strategy: offer useful content in formats that make sense for both the content and the target.
It's time for the Marketing Tip of the Week, a feature dedicated to helping marketers get that extra edge.
This week's tip: Realize You're A Publisher.
What business are you in? High tech manufacturing? Health care? IT? Marketing? It doesn't matter what industry we find ourselves in any more because we're all in publishing.
With the advent of web sites and their use to promote companies, we all became publishers without even knowing it. Every business that matters in America has a web site. Even my dry cleaner has one! If you're in business you have to be online. It's just that simple. And, if you have a web site then you are publishing content.
So, the question isn't if you're a publisher or not. We're all publishing. The question becomes are you a good publisher or a lousy publisher? Are you putting out great content that your customers and prospects want to consume? Or, are you careless about content?
Some marketers get this. They see their web site as a digital printing press and they use it to regularly put out great content that they know their audience will love to consume. They're building loyalty, credibility and sales by being great publishers.
But, some folks just don't get it at all. They throw a site up and leave it there to moulder. The content is poorly written and it's not relevant to the needs of the users.
There was a time in England when owning a printing press was illegal. The monarchy knew that a press was a powerful tool that could be used for subversion and so only very trusted people were approved to own a press. The king knew that the ability to mass communicate was power. Today, we marketers have that same power sitting right in front of us. Are we using it?
Buy an offset printing press today and you can easily spend a quarter of a million dollars just to get started. But, a printing press is only valuable when it's in use. You wouldn't spend $250,000 for a press and then just let it sit in your warehouse. But, that's what businesses are doing today when their web site just sits there, unused.
Realize you're a publisher and use the power of your web site to make your business more profitable, stable and healthy.
Web site projects can be large and complex, making it easy for a project to get sidetracked or to fall short of expectations. The following five tips will help you deliver an awesome site that’s an asset to your organization and maybe even make you a hero in the process.
Here are five tips for web site development success.
1. Let your company’s goals and objectives drive the project
The best place to start with any web project is at 30,000 feet: your company’s goals and objectives. These goals and objectives should be your yardstick when deciding what your site should and should not do.
Everyone has an opinion on what your new site should look like or how it should function and it’s easy to get caught in the trap of trying to keep them all happy. But you’re going to spend a lot of company resources to deliver a new web site. A project of that scope should align with company goals and objectives.
Be a zealot about building a site that helps the company accomplish its goals. If a feature, design or function can't align, it shouldn’t be done. This will help you stay focused and it will give you a sound argument when dealing with all those 'helpful' opinions.
2. Refuse to choose between functionality and design
In the early days of web development you had to choose between functionality and design. Either you got a web site that had a lot of technical functionality and allowed you to manage your own content or you got a site that was visually stunning and delivered your brand proposition beautifully. But you could not have both.
Those days are gone! Open source content management systems (CMS) make it easy to build sites that are customizable and functional. That means you can have a functional and flexible site that is custom designed to deliver your message and give your visitors a great user experience.
So, don’t buy it when a stakeholder or vendor wants to focus on just one or the other. You can have it both ways and you should. Help your stakeholders accept the need for both high functionality and great design. Insist your vendors are able to deliver on both. If they can’t or won’t, find new vendors.
3. Content may be king but are you ready to swear fealty?
Everyone agrees that web sites need new content on a regular basis. A static site doesn’t cut it anymore, especially if you want your site to be found on Google and support your marketing efforts. But, here’s the problem: who’s going to create all that new content on a regular basis? Creating content every day, every week or even every month is a big undertaking and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and give up.
How many sites have you visited where the last post in the news section was from six months ago? What did you think? I bet it wasn't good. You don’t want to be that company.
You can beat this trap by developing a content strategy. Before you launch your new site you should have a strategy in place for content. A good content strategy includes the following:
It should also include a one-year editorial calendar. This calendar could include articles, videos, interviews, podcasts and any other item that you want to publish over the next year. It should identify who’s responsible for what and it should include due dates!
4. Talk to imaginary friends
One way to ensure your content meets the requirements of your content strategy is to create customer personas. A customer persona is a little like an imaginary friend. A persona is an imaginary, but accurate representation of an ideal customer.
So, rather than being general and saying, we’re writing for the owners of sheep dogs in America, you would create an imaginary person to represent your market. We’re writing for Sue Jones, a 53-year-old attorney from Boston who took an early retirement to move to Vermont and raise sheep as a second career. She is married and loves animals. Since she worked in the corporate world she is technologically savvy, but loves being back to the land. Sue enjoys training her sheepdog to help with the sheep.
You can have a number of personas depending on your customer mix.
Personas make it really easy to identify great content because you can get in the mind of your audience and understand what they need and want and what you have to offer that can help.
5. Measure for success
Finally, design your site with measurement in mind. Remember the first point? Develop your site to deliver on your company’s objectives. If you’re trying to deliver on your company’s objectives, then your site should be measured as to how well it’s accomplishing that.
Measuring is important because it does two things. First, it helps you to refine the site over time, as you can interpret the data and make changes until it’s doing exactly what you want it to. Second, it allows you to promote the success of your efforts within your organization. Some of your coworkers may be skeptical or ignorant of what you do. Or, maybe your manager was not keen to spend money on a new site. With real data that shows how the site delivers on company objectives you can win them over and gain more support for what you do.
So, launch the site and celebrate—you got it done. And then, after you’ve put down your beer, start measuring!
There’s a lot of work involved in developing and launching a new web site and that means all kinds of things can go wrong. Follow the five tips I’ve just shared and you and your organization will be pleased with the results of your hard work.