Econsultancy has just published an updated version of its Online Video Best Practice Guide. The latest report reflects the evolution of online video from simply a ‘nice-to-have’ to a strategic marketing tool. 

We caught up with the report’s author, Steffan Aquarone, to find out more about how the world of online video has changed since the last version of the guide, and what the future holds for this rapidly moving space. 

What has changed in the world of online video since the report Econsultancy published last year?

Of course, the numbers have gone up. I’ve trained over 100 marketing professionals in online video strategy through Econsultancy this year and more brands than ever are using online video.

But the biggest qualitative shift is the strategic approach people are taking. They’ve recognised that video can be used as a well-honed communications tool – not just a ‘nice to have’.

How are those changes reflected in the Online Video Best Practice Guide?

This year’s Online Video Best Practice Guide is structured around two big strategic approaches: off-site engagement and on-site optimisation.

All the individual moving parts of online video are still explained in detail, in particular video SEO, and there are new interviews and case studies from some of the big movers and shakers whose reputation is being built on results, not just celebrated content production.

Why should companies invest in online video in 2012?

It’s rich and it’s fun. And like a lot of other digital marketing activities you can learn as you go which means it’s easy to start small and develop gradually.

There’s also a high chance your biggest competitors haven’t pushed the boat out on their video strategy yet. Or if they have, perhaps it’s time to give them a run for their money!

What can companies do to ensure that their videos are easy to find on the net?

Video SEO is all about how to make your videos findable on search engines. It involves making video sitemaps and there are four steps to this, which are described in detail in the guide.

The biggest benefit is that using video sitemaps means you can drive traffic straight from search engines directly into the pages on your website where your video is embedded. Of course YouTube is also a search engine so you’ll need to think about which content you want on YouTube, and how to be findable there too.

How can they encourage people to share online video content?

The web is competitive and brands have to think like publishers. The biggest problem most content creators face is they forget to ask the most important question: “Why would I share this?” Unless you’re producing stuff that’s genuinely useful, interesting or entertaining, people won’t watch it – let alone share it.

You’ve also got to think about how you’re going to reach your first few viewers. This is called seeding and various aspects of this are covered in depth in the report.

What are some of the metrics used to measure online video success?

People have gotten a little carried away by metrics without answering the important question of what insight they’re trying to gain. X number of views is a target, not an insight. The guide gives some practical tips on how to approach video metrics so that you can set off and use the wealth of data available about your video to gain genuine insight and make improvements as you go.

What are some of the common elements that make an online viral video particularly successful?

‘Viral’ is an effect, not an inherent property of a video. In truth, videos that are shared prolifically and spread like a virus usually contain something grizzly, shocking or hilarious. This might not be right for your brand if you’re in, say, funeral planning.

What are the ‘quick wins’ to companies who are perhaps only just beginning to experiment with online video?

1. Video SEO is the single biggest thing that will improve your results from online video if you’re focusing on off-site.

2. If you use video metrics from the start and do things like A/B testing, you’ll be able to lead yourself towards success.

3. A strategically managed approach (however modest) will always deliver better results an insight than a one-off, whimsical or nice-to-have one. The starting point of your strategy is thinking about who you want to address, what you want the key change in thinking or behaviour to be, and then what will they find useful, interesting or entertaining.

Where should companies host their videos? On their own site or is YouTube now the de-facto website for online video?

There’s no such thing as a free lunch and YouTube’s primary role is as Google’s video advertising platform. For example, it’s incredibly difficult to get people to take a related action on your site if they’re viewing all your content on YouTube.

Hosting videos on your own site using an online video platform, driving natural video search results direct to those videos using video sitemaps and choosing a player that can travel around the social web and drive viewers direct to your website will always achieve more.

But YouTube is a powerful channel and the second most popular search engine in the world. The guide contains a brand new section that unpicks this problem and offers practical ways of getting the best of both worlds, including how to de-brand and de-advertise the YouTube player.

Finally, what do you think the future holds for online video?

By 2014, people could be watching more video on mobile devices than desktop PCs. Your video strategy needs to take this into account and it’s more important than ever to ensure you have the right tools for the job. I think a lot more brands will wake up to the power of online video – perhaps in some surprising sectors.

At the moment many companies still block YouTube which is a bit like disconnecting people’s telephones in case they make personal calls. I also anticipate that more brands will realise the power of brand entertainment and we could see the next great British sitcom coming from a brand rather than a traditional broadcaster.

For more best practice tips on online video best practice, check out Econsultancy’s Video Strategy for the Web course, taking place  on 12 July 2012. The course, run by Steffan Aquarone, will show you how to develop the right strategy, the right content and the right techniques for increasing traffic, views and, ultimately, conversions.