Date: September 26, 2012 Author: Meagan Palatino

Video Metadata Practices to Boost SEO

Update: The content of this post is now outdated. JW7 is now available. Check it out here.

Metadata is best described as data about your data. In the context of the internet, it is a quick reference (or key word) used to help describe the larger concept of your web page content. It comes in the form of descriptive titles, text, keywords, and dates.

Web page metadata has been used by web developers and designers for quite some time now. More recently, the importance of metadata in the context of online video has been recognized. So what should this mean for your videos? Read on and find out…

Video Metadata

Video metadata is already indexed by search engines organically, but human-authored video metadata can optimize your content indexing. Metadata is also preserved when a user downloads your video file. As discussed in this support forum thread, if Google can understand the content on your web pages (including images & video), they are better able to create “rich snippets” – or detailed information – that better distribute your content among search results.

In the context of video, metadata covers the title, the subject matter (in the form of a description), relevant categorical tags, the desired publication date, the video length, dimensions, thumbnail, and the video author. Word on the street is that after Google’s latest search algorithm update, “Penguin” (released in April 2012), page and video metadata are even more pivotal in giving proper credit to the quality content on your site. Sharp and clear metadata helps Google recognize that your site is valid, and follows general SEO best practices. This means that your video metadata should accurately describe the content within each video. If the description doesn’t match the content, you may be penalized.

As we pointed out in our previous post on Building a Video Sitemap, consistent metadata can improve your content indexing in search engines, such as Google. This means ensuring that the metadata in the headers of your page jive with the title, description and tags of the video embedded on the page. Conflicting page & video metadata can actually confuse search engines about the content of your page.

Video sitemaps give you flexibility to tell Google which content you wish to be indexed, giving you more control than with an organic search algorithm. They also allow you to choose how your videos are listed, and define what metadata is most relevant to your video, optimizing search results. Read more about this in one of our recommended resources for video sitemaps.

As pointed out by the team at ReelSEO, if you use public video hosting sites such as YouTube, your video files & existing metadata will be transcoded by YouTube’s server and your video metadata stripped. Thus, it is recommended you host your own videos, or use a third-party video content management tool, such as LongTail Video’s Bits on the Run, which offers a free tier for its users.

New Improvements in Video Metadata

The HTML5 track element

Recently, the HTML5 track element, has appeared as a potential game-changer for video metadata. In addition to adding support for captions and subtitles in HTML5 video, the track element allows publishers to attach a rich array of textual metadata to their videos.

This can improve page interaction around video playback – where developers can synchronize metadata descriptions of the content within a video with other dynamic content on the webpage. Search engines can also utilize the contextual information to return search results corresponding to particular points within the video itself. In addition, search engines can leverage the subtitles and foreign-language translations created using the track element to better index foreign content – opening up search results & making our internet world even flatter.

As discussed in our previous blog post, the track element is still in a rudimentary phase, but something to look out for in the near future. is a site/tool that defines a standard of markup syntax for webmasters to optimize their site’s metadata for better recognition by search engines, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. For video, defines a large list of properties for precisely describing the media file in your video player. They range from the obvious (description, title) to more eccentric metadata (videoFrameSize, requiresSubscription).

Some of the many descriptive properties are:

  • Audience – intended audience for the video (video viewers)
  • Award – An award won by this person or for this creative work
  • isFamilyFriendly – Indicates whether this content is family friendly
  • bitrate – the bitrate of the media object
  • uploadDate – the date the video was first published

The properties listed at help define video content at a greater granularity than with more traditional metadata. As part of the group that helped to define the descriptive vocabulary, Google’s developer documentation recommends using “> on-page markup for video (they also list some great visual examples of what the markup looks like on your webpage html). By leveraging markup to describe a video on your webpage you will improve the indexing of your video content, and hopefully increase their relevance in search results.

Bits on the Run & Video Metadata

Our own video content management system, Bits on the Run, allows you to add video metadata upon video upload (both from our desktop dashboard & our mobile applications).

Metadata stored and managed within Bits on the Run includes: title, description, tags, thumbnails, author, date, webpage url, and any custom metadata you feel is relevant. While the standard Bits on the Run video embeds are set up for Google to properly pull the metadata from your videos if set, it is also possible to push new videos to Google, improving the speed and accuracy of search results. We have a built-in tool that allows you to submit your video urls directly to Google. This is done by setting the “link” property in your video metadata to the website’s page that the video sits on. Read more on how to implement this feature from your Bits on the Run Account.

So how can you leverage Bits on the Run’s built-in video metadata features?

  • Add a clear and accurate title upon video upload.
  • Add a succinct description upon video upload.
  • Add relevant tags to categorize your video upon upload.
  • After metadata is clear, and final, use our built-in tool to submit your videos directly to Google’s search engine.
  • Add advanced metadata such as video author, date, and any custom data you feel relevant.
  • Make sure you have an accurate & captivating video thumbnail, as this is often what will appear to viewers in search results. It’s like the cover of a book.

Stay tuned for more exciting tools from LongTail Video, especially as we built out our tools to leverage the new HTML5 track element. Feel free to send us any suggestions, questions, feature requests in the comments section below.


    • Jelle Brouwer

      December 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm


      Thank you for this informative post. Just working with your BOTR WordPress plugin. I am new to video seo. I have a couple of questions:

      – When you are taking about video meta data, this is different from the page meta data?
      – I am using the Yoast seo plugin to handle the seo stuff for my site. It pings google, generates a xml sitemap, sets meta data, etc. How does this interact with BOTR? For example, with the possibility to push a video to google when entering an url in the BOTR dashboard? When Google gets data from different ‘sources’ does it know it is the same webpage? Hence, will it combine all this information?
      – Yoast just released a video add on Is this add on doing the same as BOTR when you enter video meta data?
      – When I use I do not see a video. However, when I use Google site search the video do appear. What is going on?
      – I am using GD Star rating plugin to rate posts. The rarings appear in the rich snippet testing tool. Is it possible to get a snippet with a rating and a video preview?

      Hopefullly you can give me some guidance of what is best to do.

    • remco

      December 10, 2012 at 7:00 am

      Hi Jelle,

      Video metadata is the metadata like title and description that are set for the video in the Bits on the Run system. You can set only title and description using the plugin, in the Bits on the Run dashboard you can set additional metadata like URL, author and edit the date to something other than the upload date.

      There is no interoperability between the Yoast plugin and the Bits on the Run module I’m afraid. We push sitemaps to google automatically and Google knows our video player URL scheme. That means that if Google stumbles upon a Bits on the Run player (even when the link is not set) it should be able to match the metadata in the sitemap (title, desc etc) with the web page and show a result for your page when it discovers a Bits embed code. Please note that Google will only index videos that have a title and description set.

      The Yoast plugin does a couple of things that our plugin doesn’t do at the moment (setting and open graph tags). This is something we plan to look into at some point in the future.

      If a video shows up outside of the webmaster tools in normal video search, this is likely because it picked up our sitemap.

      I don’t know at all if it is possible to match ratings with video previews, we have never looked into this that deeply I’m afraid, it might be possible with custom work, but I estimate this is unlikely to work out of the box.

    • Michael Williams

      January 23, 2013 at 6:17 am

      I’m depressed. Just found this site after spending days working on a program to write metedata to video. Now I find out that Youtube will strip it when I upload. Is there any way an optimized video hosted elsewhere will outrank a Youtube video?

    • remco

      January 24, 2013 at 10:03 am

      Given that Google rankings are largely black magic, it is hard to tell in advance what will actually outrank what. On most queries a youtube video ends up on top, rather than a video that is hosted elsewhere, but this might very well also be because.

      1. All videos on YouTube will produce indexing-friendly metadata for Google.
      2. YouTube’s video library is so incredibly large that there will always be a result somewhere that might be somewhat relevant to any query.

      That being said, a video with good metadata, that is hosted on a page that has a good ranking on Google on its own too, will likely rank pretty high.

    • Rob

      March 18, 2013 at 12:34 pm

      I’m using “bits on the run” and google is taking the title and description from the page the video is on rather than the one I added when i uploaded the video to bits on the run – is this to be expected?

      Should I add a custom property for title and description to see if google accepts that?

    • remco

      March 18, 2013 at 8:14 pm

      I’m not sure how Google processes this; it might very well be possible that Google has decided that data on the page is simply more reliable. I doubt that setting custom properties will make much of a change.

      You might want to look at putting some tags around the video embed code to make this a bit less ambivalent for Google, that would probably be the most efficient way to signal what section of the page does what to them.

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