Everyone’s talking up online videos and website videos. Bloggers and SEO experts everywhere are telling you that you MUST have video content on your website. That it’s the new big thing. That without videos on your website, you’re missing out on visitors, engagement, sales and SEO rankings.
And many of them go on to tell you that producing website videos is as easy as setting up your smartphone or a video camera and videoing yourself talking at it.
This advice has led to the internet being populated with millions of hours of web videos where uncomfortable business owners or media savvy, but eerily cheerful, presenters say things that could have been cut and pasted from any of the millions of blogs around the internet.
The problem is, too many website videos are being used to deliver messages which would be better presented as text.
The reality is, many internet users don’t like being preached at. They like their information served in text form. So they can scan whole paragraphs at a glance. Re-read sentences. Jump ahead and jump back. Click away to double check facts and figures. They like statistics, charts and tables which they can examine at their leisure.
Text gives readers the ability to quickly scan all the information, then dive in where they like. Video doesn’t.
Visors to your website are using information for a purpose: to make an informed decision whether to interact with or buy from you or not. And video, being a linear, one-way stream, destroys their ability to interact with your information in a way that leads to informed decisions.
And, one more point: We can read faster than someone can speak. So videos can often waste minutes delivering information which could have been read and analysed in seconds.
VIDEO CAN DUMB YOUR MESSAGE DOWN
Anyone who’s written video scripts professionally knows how time consuming and challenging it is to take a complex message and translate it to video so that the information doesn’t overwhelm the viewer, but doesn’t lose it’s necessary nuance and meaning either.
There’s a fine line between simplifying the message and dumbing it down. Video tends to push you across that line.
So what chance do business owners have, driven to put video on their website by SEO experts?
They have a choice: Simplify the message to the point where it’s meaningless so it can be delivered in a three minute linear video stream. Or baffle the consumer with incomprehensible complexities that could have and should have been more eloquently and clearly expressed in writing.
Most people choose the first option. And produce content which, because it’s dumbed down, makes the same few broad statements.
So visitors to their websites get three minutes of generic platitudes delivered more or less badly in videos which are interchangeable across thousands of industry category websites.
And don’t you find it ironic (and oh so frustrating) when you have to search a page filled with rich media, to find nuggets of rich content?
TEXT IS OFTEN MORE TRUSTWORTHY
You know what to say to a dodgy salesperson? You say “Put it in writing and I’ll think about it.” Do you know why dodgy salespeople hate committing themselves to writing?
1. They’ll have to think about it.
2. You’ll be able to think about it.
3. You’ll be able to hold them to it.
It’s the same with information delivered on your website. A statement made in writing is a promise. A statement made in video is negotiable.
If you want your visors to take meaningful, confident action in response to your message, at least put the important parts in writing.
BUT YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE VIDEO CONTENT FOR SEO!
This is the part I, frankly, don’t understand. We are told that search engines rank pages with video content higher than pages without.
But, the ranking of videos is based solely on information in titles, keywords and meta tags. Because search engines can’t access or evaluate the content of videos.
So theoretically, a website with ten carelessly-produced videos with garbage content, nicely titled and tagged, will do better in search engine rankings than a website with one well researched, well scripted and well produced video full of acutely meaningful content.
That sucks for businesses and it sucks for search engine users.
I haven’t yet found a single satisfactory explanation. But if it is as true as the SEO experts keep saying, it demonstrates a massive disconnect between search engines and the real world.
And perhaps those SEO experts would be more meaningfully engaged discussing the elephant in the room: Search engine monopoly and market manipulation.
WEB VIDEOS SHOULD DEMONSTRATE PRODUCTS OR DELIVER TESTIMONIALS. SIMPLE.
Online video should be used to do what video does best: to show and demonstrate things.
Example 1: A mining client said to me “I can’t fly my shareholders and investors over my leases and take them underground. But you can.” And so we did, producing a corporate video which, when shown to the investment community, bumped his share price up by 20%.
So there is a valid place for video. As long as it opens windows to products, services and facilities that potential customers otherwise wouldn’t be able to see, and which are helpful to the sales process.
Example 2: Recently we produced a web video for a young lawyer. We filmed her giving a general meet & greet to her website and her new law business. Given my statements above, why would we contradict ourselves by making a generic presenter video?
Here’s why: When you engage a lawyer, the product is the lawyer and the lawyer is the product.
Most people prefer an intelligent, articulate lawyer, which she is, and which video can demonstrate.
But some people don’t like dealing with lawyers who are younger than they are. So by putting a video of herself on her website, our lawyer is introducing herself as intelligent and articulate, while effectively culling out a number of first consultations with people who, despite her intelligence and presentability, would refuse to engage her because of her youth.
In this case, the presenter video was actually a product demonstration video. As such, it serves a useful purpose.
Example 3: Another valid reason to have video on your website is to deliver testimonials.
Anyone can knock up a few kind words and attribute them to mythical customers. But to actually video a number of customers delivering genuine testimonials is persuasive and convincing.
Think about Jim, who is a great, natural presenter but a lousy plumber, and Bob, who is a great plumber but awkward and retiring on camera.
With videos of themselves on their websites, you’d probably hire Jim. But with testimonial videos from their customers on their websites instead, you’d probably, and rightfully, hire Bob. The search engines don’t get that. But people do.
And with testimonial videos, production values aren’t that important. You can shoot video testimonials with your phone, because they look less rehearsed and more spontaneous. Which gives the testimonials credibility.
CAMERAS ARE GETTING BETTER BUT PEOPLE STILL SHOOT CRAP
So, you’re going to go ahead with a video for your website. Preferably, you’re not going to bore or frustrate your customers by delivering material that they could more quickly and easily read. Hopefully, you’re going to demonstrate something, or show them (not tell them) something interesting.
You’ve invested time or money in your logo design, website design, and hopefully in good writing for your website. Because right or wrong, people judge your company by the cleanliness and professionalism of your premises, online and off. And they judge the quality of your offer by the way in which you present it.
There are a few things you can do to eliminate distracting faults in your videos, which will make you look sloppy and careless:
1. Whether you’re shooting on a video camera or phone, get rid of the wobbles. Use a tripod. Or hold the camera against a fixed surface – a desk or a wall. Tape or Blu-Tack is your friend.
2. Unfortunately, too many people are happy to put videos online with untidy backgrounds or boomy sound. What does the viewer think?
“They couldn’t be bothered straightening that curtain? Moving that waste paper bin out of shot? Clearing their desk? Sweeping the floor? Adjusting the audio level? Getting a separate microphone?
So I guess they won’t be bothered about taking care of my order then.”
3. If your smartphone or video camera hunts for focus half way through a shot, don’t leave it in the video, edit it out. Re-shoot the scene.
This is basic quality control. And if you don’t apply it to what you deliver on your website or YouTube, what does it say about the quality control you apply to your products or services?
A mistake in a video is multiplied by the number of people who see it. 1,000 viewers = 1,000 individually delivered mistakes.
IT’S ONLY FOR YOUTUBE
Another very common mistake is thinking “It’s not important, it’s only for YouTube.”
The truth is, it’s never for YouTube. It’s for viewers. And viewers are real people who are evaluating whether to become your customers or not.
So treat ’em nice. Put on a good show.