Modular Video Optimization

This article was written by Daniel Sevitt of EyeViewDigital, and appeared in the March 2010 edition of Website Magazine.

Websites today are finely tuned conversion machines driving users toward clear conversion goals. There is no room for luxuries, "nice-tohaves" or Internet fads ... except when it comes to online video.

While sites fall over themselves scrambling to put video on their home pages and landing pages, very few are placing the same demands on video that they do on pictures, forms and text. Why should video be treated like any less of a conversion tactic than other elements of a Web page?

The problem is that most sites have no tools for measuring the effectiveness of video and that leads to one of two possible video solutions: The no-budget solution or the write-off solution.

The No-budget Solution
Throw a dart at the Internet and you'll hit a blog post advising how to post a video on your site for next to nothing. There are tips and tricks about lighting your office and getting your in-house staff (or immediate family) to appear on camera talking about your products. Make sure you have a good microphone. Invest in a cheap tripod. Take a few minutes first to work out what you're going to say and then whack it up on YouTube. It doesn't matter if your video sits in a player designed to draw traffic away from your site. It doesn't matter if you look pasty and unrehearsed. All that matters is that you have a video.

The no-budget solution shows that you have no idea how to monetize your video. It makes it clear that this is a grey area, at best, and that the only way to justify this lack of analysis is to ensure that it didn't cost more than a few pennies.

The Write-off Solution
The write-off solution tackles the lack of fiscal transparency in online video from the opposite angle. If you don't know the value of video then there's no point worrying about it. You want video, so you pay for video - $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000 - whatever it costs, as long as it looks good when it plays on the page.

With the write-off solution, video becomes simply another amorphous marketing line item. If there is no way to measure a return, then there can be no expectation of a return. You write off the investment and bask in the glory of a great video.

As marvelous as both these solutions may seem, there is an alternative. But it requires you to abandon the assumption that so many site owners make - that there is no way to measure the effectiveness of video. Video can and must be accountable as a key element in the sales funnel.

The Third Way - Accountable Video
If you are going to add video to your site, you must determine if it is effective at driving visitors to your conversion goal. The most efficient way to do this is A/B testing - just as you would for a new picture or call-toaction. You must find a video solution that allows you to run the video against a control group and measure whether or not there has been an upturn in the conversion rate of the page.

Before considering the content or duration of the video, we need to consider a number of other parameters. The location of the video on the page brings with it a set of expectations. If the video occupies the top left of the page then it mimics the positioning of video players on most video sharing sites such as YouTube, Metacafe and Veoh. This position brings with it an expectation of entertainment or information. Placed elsewhere, the video might appear to be more of an ad unit - which may impact the expectations of the viewer. But, you won't know for sure unless you test it.

In deciding on the optimum content of your video, it's impossible not to consider its length. For all your good intentions about clear messaging, viewing statistics suggest that most of your audience will not stick around for more than one minute of video. In order to maximize this tantalizingly brief opportunity, build your video's content in a modular fashion. This means scripting and creating a number of sections and then piecing together those sections and testing different versions and durations of the video to determine the most effective one.

Once you have an inviting intro and a convincing outro, you can populate the middle part of your video with a number of different elements. Should you talk about your secure transactions, or should you explain your first-user promotion? Should you point out the benefits of loyalty or the unparalleled originality of your offering? The answer, of course, is that you should prepare as many of these elements as you can and then test them with real traffic and measure their comparative impact on your page's conversion rate.

Between the no-budgets and the write-offs there has been a conspicuous lack of optimization analysis around video. If your in-house or outsourced video provider is unable to establish the link between video and increased conversion and revenue then it's time to look elsewhere.

When you want to add video to your site, you need measurable ROI which can only come from increased and optimized conversion. Video can and must pay its own way on your site.

About the Author: Daniel Sevitt is a veteran of the online video industry having spent several years at Metacafe heading the content division and working with online video creators from independent producers to established Hollywood heavyweights. Daniel joined EyeView in May 2009 to prove that online video could pay its own way in the world without depending on support from advertising. Daniel regularly blogs about the best ways to get value out of online video at the EyeView Digital Blog.