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Tom Wilde is the CEO of EveryZing and is a widely recognized leader in the field of Internet search and online advertising. Prior to becoming EveryZing’s CEO, he held numerous leadership roles in the field, including senior vice president and general manager of the consumer division at domain portfolio company NameMedia; senior vice president and general manager of MIVA Inc.’s North American division, responsible for both MIVA’s U.S. online advertising network, as well as the company’s consumer business; and senior operating roles managing Terra Lycos’ global search and publishing divisions. Wilde has also served on the IAB Search Engine Committee and holds an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Eric Enge: Can you give us a market picture for Video SEO?
Tom Wilde: The big challenge is that you have two forces that are occurring on the web that aren’t necessarily compatible. On one hand, you have an explosion in user interest in online multimedia, whether it’s audio or video; but on the other hand you have a web dominated by search as the primary means of content discovery and navigation.
Audio and video content don’t show up on the web with a lot of text natively. Therefore it is difficult to discover, search and consume on the web.
The typical approach to this has been to make sure you have good titles and tags for your information because that’s how it will get discovered on the web. But actually, the problem goes beyond that, in that most sites that deliver video have done so through pop-up, Flash-based media players, which are mostly invisible to the big web crawlers.
So you really have this challenge of wanting to meet the user needs and desires to consume multimedia, but having a discovery problem at the same time.
Eric Enge: Right. So let us just focus a little bit more on how big this can be for somebody who is successful. Do you have an example or two of somebody who has really hit it with big video, and can you and talk a little bit about how much of a difference it made to their business?
Tom Wilde: Yes, Audio is an overlooked piece of the market so I will start with that. So, we’ve deployed WEEI on intercom radio, which is the sports superstation in Boston. Over the course of 18 months, we have seen the user base on their audio vault grow by almost twenty-fold.
We are not talking about a 10% lift in consumption here, we are talking about orders of magnitude increase in the amount of content consumed because it’s more discoverable and has a very lean, web-like experience to it. In the case of video, Boston.com would be a good example of a site that produces no video of their own. They have gone out and licensed content for their site, and are now using our technology to be able to add upwards of fifty thousand new pages to the Google index and enjoy a 300% lift in multimedia consumption. So, there are really dramatic opportunities from deploying this kind of approach to audio and video search engine optimization.
Eric Enge: Right, there are a lot of reasons to want to pursue it. Let us just talk about some of the challenges are that people face. I know you have already talked about that there is no visible text, but there are other challenges too, right?
Tom Wilde: Right. The challenge to solve is creating richer metadata for audio and video that allows you to essentially put all that content into the search economy. The way that we approach this is that we have a proprietary speech to text capability that was developed on about fifty million dollars of government R&D money, primarily for national security type purposes.
We were sprung out of our parent company, BBN Technologies, with this capability and then we have taken that core technology and built this video searching SEO product around that. What it does is, by ingesting audio and video and creating high-quality text output and time stamping every word that gets output, we are actually able to take audio and video files and turn them into text articles, and then make some discoverable and index-able by Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft.
Also, we can deliver a jump-to capability where a user can actually click on any word that is in the transcript and jump to that moment in the audio or video file, and that’s really delivering that final missing piece of online multimedia, that ability to see only the part of it that you want.
Eric Enge: Right. So for anybody who is trained to do this, one of the things that they really should be thinking about is having a transcript.
Tom Wilde: Yes.
Eric Enge: Having a transcript is a very powerful thing to have in promoting your video, do you mind just going into a little bit about why and how it works?
Tom Wilde: Yes, that is right, generically speaking. Having a transcript is a big advantage to multimedia search engine optimization. One of the big challenges with long text articles on the web, from an SEO standpoint as well as long videos, is that it’s difficult to get a long document ranked because there are so many concepts in the documents that the crawlers have a difficult time figuring out what it’s about.
So what we do, which you could do if you have a transcript, published video on there as well, is index that transcript and then extract only the relevant passages from those transcripts as they relate to a topic and publish topic directories that allow users to or provide users pointers to those files.
This allows the crawlers to really understand the topical nature of the content and give the user a short path to finding that content for consumption.
Eric Enge: Right, so there might be part of the transcript that you ignore any part that you excerpt basically in order to provide more focused data for both the user and the crawler to see?
Tom Wilde: You got it. And the more content that gets added to the site the fresher and more unique that page appears because Google or Yahoo hasn’t seen that content previously. As a result, you put together the makings of a successful SEO approach for this content.
Eric Enge: Right. Now presumably we are also talking about each video having its own page, right?
Tom Wilde: Yes. The other disadvantage around video SEO is that the pop-up, Flash-based players are just not a successful approach and I think you have seen many sites moving away from that now and looking at an embedded video on a webpage as the right approach. In fact, giving each episode its own webpage is the best practice at this point because it’s most digestible by the crawlers.
Eric Enge: Right. .It also allows you to use other elements that are powerful, like the title tag for the page, for example.
Tom Wilde: That’s exactly right.
Eric Enge: And, that’s the incredibly important thing. So what about a transcript you can publish in the HTML, or the video file itself, of your page, are there opportunities there?
Tom Wilde: Yes, so the ability to timestamp every word is really important because that allows the reader to provide the user with the jump-to experience where you can click on the word. One of the other big challenges is most video tagging to date has been a manual, editorial process.
It’s very difficult to scale that process and so what you find is files are not adequately tagged. With the transcript and our core natural language processing, we are able to automatically tag videos and thus further broaden their discoverability.
Eric Enge: Right, I understand. What about other kinds of things. You have certain metadata that you can put at the beginning in the header of the file too, right?
Tom Wilde: Yes. I think the more metadata you can populate, especially if you are using MRSS standards and things like that, the better. So, putting the title of the video into the title of the webpage and using the metadata as a title are some of the best practices in the world of text documents. They can also be bridged into the world of audio and video.
Eric Enge: Right. And I think the kinds of things you can do in those headers varies from format to format?
Tom Wilde: It does, they each have unique structures.
Eric Enge: Indeed. So that just makes life a little more complicated for people. Are you working specifically with one format or do you work with them all?
Tom Wilde: Well, we can ingest any format. We support over a hundred different file formats to ingest and process the content. And our customers will either use our player, which is a Flash-based player or will integrate with their existing player, which still tends to be Flash-based. So I would say Flash is still the predominant format that we see.
Eric Enge: Right, but people do come to you with other formats?
Tom Wilde: Oh yeah, we have processed Windows and Real and all sorts of other esoteric formats, including MP3s I think another key here is we trying to be scalable, but deliver a great user experience. That has been one of the big challenges. The web is all about scale and so many approaches fail to be scalable, even though they may be very robust.
I think the next wave of challenges for publishers is to solve how to do these things on scale.
Eric Enge: Right. So say you put up a video, it becomes the next superstar at YouTube and your server can’t handle the load of everybody trying to download your video at once. How do you deal with those kinds of challenges?
Tom Wilde: Well, I think that if we are going to do multimedia at any kind of volume, you really have to seriously look at using a content delivery network (CDN) in front of your media because they can soak up tremendous demands that will be very difficult for an individual publisher to be able to handle. You need a CDN relationship to help you address that.
Eric Enge: Right. What about using services like Amazon’s hosting services?
Tom Wilde: Amazon doesn’t really help with the delivery piece as much. It’s great for storage, it’s good for front-end processing, but for the media streaming itself its not quite as well-optimized for this problem. I think it is not as quite as optimized as a constant delivery streaming solution.
Eric Enge: Right, they are optimized around storage rather than bandwidth.
Tom Wilde: That’s right. And what’s interesting is YouTube continues to creep into the publisher landscape. You could conceivably put your videos on YouTube, and then use YouTube as your source of streaming capability, but you still have the challenge of search engine optimization because YouTube doesn’t help as much with that in terms of metadata management.
Eric Enge: Okay. Now, do you advise that people put their video on as many places as possible? How should they handle distribution and promotion?
Tom Wilde: It depends on their business goals. If your goal is to monetize your video streams then you have to be very thoughtful about where you are placing the video because most places will not allow you to run your own ads. They will monetize it on your behalf, and you have to decide if it is a good thing or bad thing for your particular business model.
If you have created a video about your product and your goal is promotion, then yes, you have an inverse goal, which is getting everywhere possible and that’s the strategy. So, it really depends on your business goals.
Eric Enge: Right, so let’s stick to one at a time. If your business goals are to keep the money directly yourself then what are the kinds of things you can do to get the word out and promote it?
Tom Wilde: In that case, you want to be more focused on driving organic traffic directly back to your site where you control the consumption experience, and that’s where search engine optimization plays the biggest role. That’s all about making sure your content is discoverable and well-indexed and contextually placed where the user would expect to find it.
Then, you can run your ad tags in front of it and manage the whole value proposition. If your goal is promotion, then you want to do both search engine optimization and looking at uploading the videos on YouTube and elsewhere.
Eric Enge: Well, you are essentially doing the SEO work many times, because you have to optimize the page wherever you put it, right?
Tom Wilde: That’s right.
Eric Enge: Yes, indeed. It can be quite an effective technique. Now, you talked about Boston.com earlier. Their goal I’m sure was to control the experience, is that right?
Tom Wilde: That’s right. They want consumption to happen on their site. So, they are much more concerned with driving traffic back to their site.
Eric Enge: Do you have some other examples?
Tom Wilde: Oh sure. I mean, if you are looking at a company like Cisco, which is trying to get product videos out there then they will be much more inclined to place those videos in as many places as possible. Another example would be Ritz, who just did a whole series of mini-episodes for the Ritz-Carlton property, and they were interested in getting those videos as widely distributed as possible.
It’s marketing your marketing in a strange way, whereas promoting your marketing has become a new requirement on the internet. It’s not enough to just produce the marketing. You now have to market when it comes to the internet because the internet has such a vast landscape of content.
Eric Enge: Right. So for someone like a Ritz-Carlton or Cisco, it’s great to produce a product video, but if you plan to do anything with it, it is not a dry tutorial, right?
Tom Wilde: That’s right. I mean the reality is that it’s not enough anymore just to put up a slick video and hope it gets discovered. You actually have to put work into it like you promote any kind of content.
Eric Enge: Right. I mean you really have to think about the audience. If you are putting something on YouTube, you’ve got to design your approach to it so that there is a chance of it becoming very popular.
Tom Wilde: That’s right.
Eric Enge: So, that’s a little bit of thinking about viral marketing. And that doesn’t necessarily mean viral explosion, but even a small viral pop would be good.
Tom Wilde: Right, and I think that video sharing and embedding is a whole other piece of the equation here in terms of getting your video discovered separately from SEO.
Eric Enge: Right. So just say that you want to distribute too, so you do want to put that on YouTube and the various other places. Do you have some tips that you can give people as to how to think about that?
Tom Wilde: Well, I think the reality is all the video sharing sites also bring with them a similar discovery challenge, which is, it’s important that you have a significant amount of metadata around each of your video or audio files.
Even if you are loading them to YouTube, YouTube will still index as much metadata as you will give it and you are more likely to show up as relevant inside of YouTube if you have more metadata, so the metadata really drives the discovery opportunity.
Eric Enge: Right. And of course, YouTube provides its own set of capabilities, which is different from what you can do on your page and different from what you can do on another video sharing site.
Tom Wilde: Yeah, it presents interesting opportunities that are unique to YouTube and it’s important to pay attention to those as well.
Eric Enge: Right, absolutely. So are you primarily focused on helping and getting the transcribing, tagging, and packaging of the video done or do you get involved in other parts of this as well?
Tom Wilde: We’ve really built an end-to-end, turnkey hosted solution for this, so we are able to ingest any format of audio or video content, create a text output, create auto tags from that text output, index it all for search and for publishing, and then push it through our wide labeled publishing platform so that every single audio or video file that you produce can live on its page and its own URL inside our customers’ website.
For example, Boston.com uses us on the domain http://multimedia.boston.com, if you go there you see that’s the everything solution. Or, if you go to http://Audio.WEEI.com or http://Multimedia.Foxsports.com, you can find the complete hosted solution that we provide for helping mix their audio and video, discoverable and searchable.
Eric Enge: Right. And what about the New England Patriots?
Tom Wilde: The Patriots can be found on search http://searchmedia.patriots.com, but what is also unique about the Patriots is we provide their universal search solution. When you search from the search box on the home page of the Patriots, we are actually delivering a complete universal search result, including audio, video, text, and images for the user. So all that content gets discovered and consumed contextually relevant to the keyword they enter.
Eric Enge: Thanks a lot Tom!
Tom Wilde: Yes, thank you Eric!