Embedded YouTube Video Indexing

During March, Google quietly introduced a change to how embedded YouTube video content is being indexed and displayed in particular search results. Searches restricted to specific domains, filtered by Video are attributing YouTube videos to that domain and clicking through to the domain page where the YouTube video is embedded. Previously, the listed domain was YouTube.com and the destination was the YouTube URL.

Example of a Search filtered by Site and by Video Content Type

Embedded YouTube video indexing Tanco Autowrap example screenshot

For online video and video SEO, this development is significant:

  1. Google now indexes YouTube video content embedded on your site. It was invisible before.
  2. Google displays it as belonging to your site. It was attributed to YouTube before.
  3. Clicking on a video brings you directly to the page on your site where the video is embedded. It would click through to YouTube before.

Previously the only way to get embedded video correctly indexed was to pay a reputable company to host your video, optimise the video for search and submit a video sitemap to search engines. To maximise the impact of your online video, you will still need to follow this process. The increased visibility, visits, views and revenue make it more than worthwhile.

Nonetheless, this change introduced by Google is a step in the right direction. Video content owners who can’t or don’t want to pay for video hosting should still have embedded video content on their site correctly indexed.

For the moment, videos hosted on other free video hosting services like Vimeo, MetaCafe and Dailymotion do not seem to be indexed yet. Experiments we conducted here at Simplified indicate that the original YouTube video pages continue to vastly outrank the equivalent website page with the embedded video. Therefore, it is unlikely that many user searches will encounter the embedded video. That means users will continue to be directed away from your site to YouTube.

As a background, Google’s position used to be that embedded YouTube video could not easily be attributed to its rightful owner. Therefore, displaying a website URL, instead of a YouTube URL was favoring whoever embedded it and potentially depriving the content owner of search visibility, site visits, video views and revenue.

Search engine optimization experts like myself have been skeptical about this. First, all digital content can be copied and embedded anywhere else. That doesn’t stop Google from assigning authority and ranking text content. Furthermore, Google and YouTube know a lot about the video uploader, the content on the YouTube channel and the content on the website. They have enough signals to provide a reasonably authoritative ranking. Surely, they should at least place the embedded video page listing alongside the YouTube video, when enough signals exist?

Cynics would say that if you are the biggest site on the web, Google, driving video traffic to the third biggest site on the web, YouTube, which you also own, why would you forgo advertising revenue and send users directly to the embedded location? This seems fair enough, given that YouTube hosting is free. However, that status quo does not provide the best search experience nor the most relevant results.

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