Steffan Aquarone

Steff is a film producer and technology entrepreneur who speaks internationally on innovation, entrepreneurship and digital marketing

Talking about Webinar


I realised recently talking to Dan Creigh that some of the household words we use to describe web conferences are in fact proprietary brand names!  Luckily Webinar isn’t one, so here’s a non-contentious clip of me and Darika Ahrens talking about how all the difficult rules of good web content still apply for London’s Bombora.tv:

Filed under: digital marketing, online video strategies

Why haven’t you got your Video Sitemap in order?


Video sitemaps are probably the most powerful free tool in online video – possibly in search engine marketing, given how much easier it is to get to page 1 of Google with a video compared to a web page.

Yet the majority of businesses who use video as part of their digital marketing aren’t bothering to index their videos on search engines.  It’s slightly fiddly, but shouldn’t take more than a few minutes of your time.  Here’s a video I made with Econsultancy that tells you how to do it, step by step:

Filed under: online video strategies

Getting it right: how to approach a successful online video strategy


Before you can set about deploying online video to improve any aspect of your organisation, take a step back and think about your audience. In 2012, online video viewers have billions of other things they could be watching instead and for you to produce successful content you need to think about how it’s going to help your customers.

This means turning the rhetoric of traditional TV advertising and corporate film on its head and building your strategy around what your audiences will find genuinely useful, entertaining or interesting. You can’t got out and just “produce a viral video”: the opportunities presented by social video, the ‘viral’ spread effect and content sharing all depend upon having content people are willing to share. You can still spend money on video advertising online, but it will cost more and achieve less than producing content people actually want to watch.

Online video offers marketers an exciting and powerful way of reaching audiences that can be very measurable. Straightened times offer opportunities to try new things, and a well-executed online video strategy can deliver fantastic results. Like most things, getting it right will probably cost more than you think. But your focus has to switch from saying things you or the brand want to say, to saying things your customers will want to watch and hear.

Filed under: online video strategies

Finally, proper Brand Entertainment has arrived in online video


In 2008 Guy Browning and I started a business called Immense Productions. Our vision was to combine the best creative people from big brands with comedy writers from film & TV. With some careful help on the ideas-building front they would produce new and original comedy for the brand to share with its customers.

We had this idea just when someone turned the whole world and its piggy bank upside-down, which was unfortunate. But very fortunately Immense Productions went on to make a charming funny feature film called Tortoise in Love, which is out this summer.

Since then it’s been interesting to see brands explore their use of online video and enjoy the benefits of producing stuff people actually want to watch. This started way back with popular TV ads but in the past few years it’s extended into useful how-to videos, ‘viral’ successes (some of them accidental) and huge amounts of content being produced specifically for online audiences.

A lot of this work still feels very sales-y, or like it was written by the PR department. The final step towards true Brand Entertainment will come when brands put down the product and start to focus on what people actually find useful, interesting or entertaining. Fosters started to do this in their sponsorship of “Original Comedy on Four”. Now they’re one of a few brands taking it all the way online with fosters.co.uk, hosting new and/or previously unseen episodes of comedies like Alan Partridge and the Fast Show.

Making millions of people happy is a great way to boost brand loyalty. And brands are starting to realise they can do this themselves, just as successfully as TV broadcasters.

Filed under: online video strategies, , , ,

YouTube: where does it fit into online video strategy?


As I was cited by Econsultancy recently as saying, YouTube is owned by Google whose commercial interest is driving PPC revenue. Although YouTube is a great way of getting your video found online, it’s much more beneficial for companies to get people to watch video content on their own sites since this gives them greater control over the user experience. And yet YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world and is the number one most popular search engine for certain demographics.

They key to getting the ‘best of both worlds’ is a combined approach: making sure your site-hosted content is findable through video sitemaps (see recent blog post on how to do video sitemaps) to drive traffic direct to the videos on your site, but also making sure your content is hosted on YouTube so you’re findable there too.

As with SEO itself, there are several factors you can optimise that will determine where in the SERP your video will appear. These principles will determine the order of search engine results on YouTube:

  • Metadata – video title and description tags
  • Number of comments and shares
  • Backlinks
  • Date added
  • View count (and channel view count, number of subscribers and playlist adds for YouTube)
  • Rating and flagging (where applicable)
  • Incoming links (exposure on other sites, other embeds, RSS links

Because it’s so much harder to get viewers to take a related action on YouTube than it is on your own site, my advice would be to upload limited-length or ‘trailer’ style content to YouTube. If your content is interesting, useful or entertaining, a message during the YouTube video that says “visit ourcompany.com/tv to watch the full video” will likely be an acceptable ask. Of course, it’s important to test these theories in practice for your content and your customers.

Just remember: YouTube exists to drive clicks for Google’s Adwords customers, taking valuable viewers away from your content and off to someone else’s website – potentially your competitors. Driving customers to watch videos on your website, where you can control the experience including what happens after the video, will always lead to better results whatever your objectives.

Filed under: online video strategies, , , ,

Video SEO: it’s simple, here’s how


Google search engine results pages now contain a combination of types of media. Web page results still dominate but for a given search phrase, video, news, location and image results are mixed in together on top of pay-per-click links in a blended search engine results page.

Video is a key ingredient of blended search. Because there are far fewer videos competing for the top spots than there are web pages competing for top of text search, investing time in video SEO will deliver greater results. According to Forrester Research, optimizing video content to take advantage of blended search is by far the easiest way to get a first page organic ranking on Google.

Videos appear in the search engine results pages of the likes of Google and Yahoo via things called Video Sitemaps. Search engines aren’t smart enough to be able to see what’s in online videos in the way they can read text on web pages, so to add your videos to their video indexes you need to tell the search engines exactly where your videos are. Video sitemaps do this – they’re small files that contain information about where videos outside YouTube (which populates Google automatically) are located. Typically, these files include a title, description, URL of the page where the video can be watched, the location of a thumbnail image of the poster frame, and the location of the video file itself. You can upload your own sitemaps to Google, Yahoo and others or you can use an online video platform to do it for you. I don’t usually link to commercial products but I really like Buto’s simple video sitemaps feature – which will do all the above for you.

The best thing about video sitemaps is that when a user clicks on one of your videos in a search engine results page they‘re directed straight to the page where the content is hosted, as opposed to being directed to YouTube where it‘s considerably harder to get them to take a related action. So a small amount of time invested in putting together your video sitemap or listing automated video sitemaps as a priority feature could pay dividends. Because video sitemaps contain relatively little information, optimising your video for search is limited to the title, description and keyword fields.

Filed under: online video strategies, , , ,

How to Make Irresistible Content (key to online video success, part 2)


The environment in which people now browse the web is fundamentally more competitive than any other media space in the history of advertising. Display ad designers have long had to cope with their work being one of multiple things in an environment competing for peoples’ attention, and TV advert producers know their audiences will channel hop if they don’t like what they see. But online video suffers from all these challenges and more.

Your online video is going to be competing with every single other piece of content on the web. Audiences who don’t like what they see will simply go and do something else – and that includes employees and business audiences too. Not only is your content competing for audiences, but the multiple devices that consumers use to access parts of the web simultaneously provide further opportunities for distraction and drop-out.

The best way to ensure your content gets seen and shared is to focus on producing content people actually want to watch. This is an incredibly difficult thing for many brands to do – even though they think they’re focusing on the customer, more often than not they’re thinking about themselves more. Ask a marketer why a customer really needs the content they’re planning and they’ll probably still say something like “because they need to understand the features and benefits of the product”. This is not what the customer needs, it’s what the brand wants, and it won’t work if it’s made the focus for your content.

Put your customer at the centre of your world and produce something that’s compellingly interesting, indispensably useful or unmissably entertaining. That way people might genuinely enjoy your content, and you‘ll find that it might even get shared around.

Filed under: online video strategies, , , , , ,

How to have a strategy (key to online video success, part 1)


In June YouTube announced that it had hit the 3 billion views per day milestone and was receiving 48 hours of new video per minute. Garner listed online video as one of the top ten strategic technologies for 2011. Yet according to Mark Robertson, founder of Reelseo.com, most brands are not using video enough throughout the customer lifecycle.

Your ability to achieving serious objectives through online video relies upon your organisation looking beyond product films, ‘corporate’ videos, or putting TV ads online, and taking a more strategic approach to online video.

The biggest difference between online video today and corporate video of the 1990s is that of audiences. Online audiences today are used to consuming far more information per unit of time than twenty years ago. Just think about the pace of TV comedy, or soap operas, and how it’s simply got faster over the years.

More significant is the difference in environment for today’s audiences. No longer are viewers confined to limited channels in their living rooms, or pre-feature cinema advertising. Today’s online video content is competing with every other available entertainment option on the web: audiences can, and will, click elsewhere if what they’re watching isn’t delivering the goods.

Finally, device convergence now means video can be watched on TV, on laptops, tablet PCs, mobiles, video games consoles and more. Not only does this pose a technical obstacle in that brands must ensure their content works across all devices; it means that audiences could be distracted by any number of interruptions from any device. The living room viewer of today might have three devices operating at once, with all their content competing for attention.

Whilst this might sound like hell to anyone who’s ever wondered when technological innovation is going to be brought to a halt by the limits of human tolerance, it’s an unavoidable fact of modern digital communications. For content producers the take-away message is simple: we must now work harder than ever to ensure our content is relevant to our audiences. We must now undertake a multitude of technical, distribution-related as well as creative considerations in any online video project and this calls for robust strategy.

Setting a strategy is simple: it’s simply about defining what you want to achieve with your online video, and planning every aspect of your campaign around that main objective. Here are some top tips for creating a robust video strategy:

  • Have a clear objective
  • Identify your audience
  • Understand what makes them tick
  • Work out how you’re going to reach them
  • Understand the technologies you need to make it work
  • Define how you’re going to measure success
  • Calculate the value of the opportunity (or the cost of the problem) to guide your budget
  • Build in a mechanism for continuous reporting, thinking and improving your strategy

The most difficult of these is having a clear objective for your strategy. Online video can achieve many different things such as: increasing sales uplift, improving site dwell-times, increasing site return-rate, or improving click-through on a particular part of the funnel. But setting one of these as your main strategic objective will help focus your campaign and your content.

Filed under: online video strategies, , , , ,

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