A new report into the use of online video has found that sites could more than double their Google traffic by including a video thumbnail in search rankings.

The two case studies included in Visibility IQ’s Social Video Report add weight to the argument that brands need to optimise their rich snippets for search, as it gives them a valuable advantage in attracting clicks.

We’ve already blogged 10 ways of optimising videos for search and looked at how video marketing powers SEO.

Here is a summary of the two case studies as well as details taken from our Online Video Best Practice Guide on how to optimise video content for search…


The first case study tested results from the search term ‘Clinique turnaround instant facial’ among female respondents aged 35+.

50% of the sample was shown a screenshot with a video thumbnail displayed at the fourth position within the search results, while the other 50% saw the page without a thumbnail.

Both pages included Google Adwords and were identical in all other aspects. Respondents were asked which of the search results they would select first and second.

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In the test without the video thumbnail 11% of users clicked on the fourth link, but when the thumbnail was included the CTR increased to 28%.

Interestingly, in both cases the CTR for most of the links was consistent or dropped by a few per cent, with a majority of the extra traffic shifting from the second PPC ad (it dropped from 46% to 35%).

It also needs to be pointed out that other than the Google Shopping links; none of the organic results included an image or thumbnail of any kind.

If other links included thumbnails it’s likely that the increase in CTR wouldn’t be as noticeable between the two tests as the image wouldn’t stand out as much.

Adventure holiday

In this test male respondents aged 20-64 were shown Google search results for the term ‘adventure holiday’.

As with the Clinique test, half the sample saw SERPs with a thumbnail included at position five, while the other half saw a results page without a thumbnail. Other than that the pages were identical.

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In this case when the link was shown without the thumbnail it achieved a CTR of 28%, but when the image was added the CTR increased to 46%.

Again, it should be noted that none of the other search results include thumbnails, so the test is heavily biased in favour of the test link.

Optimising videos for search

‘Blended search’, the practice in which search engines display videos, images, news stories, maps, and other types of results alongside their standard search results, has become increasingly common on major search engines.

And optimising video content to take advantage of blended search is by far the easiest way to get a first page organic ranking on Google.

In order to make sure Google recognises your video content, you will need to create a site map. Our Video Content Best Practice Guide includes detailed instruction of the entire process, but here are the essential details.

Your video sitemap is what lets the Google video index know where your videos are, what they’re called, how long they are, and what your description and keywords are. 

Plus, most excitingly, the page that someone will be taken to if they click the video thumbnail. 

The way you optimise the title, keywords and description follows the same rules as SEO: for example, the first word in the title is the most important.

Online video platforms such as Buto generate video sitemaps for you automatically that you can download, but you may still want to edit the contents. If you’re starting from scratch then check out the Google instructions here

Once you’ve got your sitemap sorted, there are two more things you need to do: upload it to your website so the Google bot can find it, and then tell the Google bot it’s there.

The video sitemap should be put in the web directory so it can be found at something like www.yourcompany.co.uk/video_sitemap.xml

Then use Google Webmaster tools to notify Google that it’s there. If your company has never used Google Webmaster tools before, then you might need to install it for the first time.

Once you’ve got access to Google Webmaster tools, submitting your video sitemap is very easy.