One of the oldest truisms of Internet search is the familiar axiom, “content is king.” But while that’s great in concept, the premise only goes so far in reality. If your site is rich in text-based content, which is easily crawled and indexed by search engine bots, that content can stand on the merits of its relevance and value in earning you appropriate page ranking. But this is 2010; text is not the only game in town. What if you have a site filled with video content? That content, while possibly of great value to searchers, is not easily handled by bots. They can’t see or read it like you and I can. So if bots have trouble accessing it (often such content is referenced within scripts, which further complicates matters), how is it going to get into the index? And if it’s not in the index, how will searchers find it?
So if you have a kingdom of video content on your website, how do you lay claim to your throne? Well, if you have your video content embedded in your pages, you should look at implementing graceful degradation strategies for down-level users (which includes search bots). This plan includes associating the embedded video content with descriptive, keyword-rich, metadata that the bots can process. We addressed those concepts and more in our recent blog post, Illuminating the path to SEO for Silverlight.
But let’s say instead your site is primarily a large collection of videos. What then? That requires a different approach. First of all, crawling all of that video content automatically, in addition to being difficult for the bot, will take time. It’s likely that much of it will never make it into the index if the bot is left to its own devices for this work. And even with a good graceful degradation strategy in place, the keywords and other metadata needed to help Bing accurately associate your videos to user search queries will never be fully optimized using this method.
Of course, Bing is very interested in getting this sort of content into its index. So how can a video content collection site work with Bing to get its content indexed? Allow me to recommend the use of media RSS (aka mRSS).
Fundamentally, mRSS is a data feed not unlike normal RSS feeds. However, mRSS offers custom tags associated specifically with media content metadata, and that extra information about each item of content can make a big difference in the way content is ranked in the Bing index. Getting more specific information about video content enables Bing to have greater confidence in associating its relevance to the keywords you use in your descriptions, and thus it can improve your content’s rank in queries using those keywords. And by using mRSS to submit your video content to Bing, you get a higher assurance that your content collection may be added to the Bing index more thoroughly and more quickly. Note, however, that video content does not get preferential ranking because it came from an mRSS feed. It’s the keyword relevance derived from the metadata you supply in the mRSS feed that makes the difference.
Limited Bing support for alternative media feeds
Some video content collection sites already provide data feeds to other search engines. For example, Yahoo has published a detailed mRSS specification for its users, and Google supports video metadata extensions in Sitemap files. If you already use these means to feed your content to other search engines, Bing can often make use of them on a very basic level as well. However, to truly optimize your video content’s rank in the Bing index, we strongly urge you to also create a Bing mRSS feed. We include Bing-specific mRSS tags that plug directly into our search index. Your use of a Bing mRSS feed will more fully populate the all-critical metadata fields in the Bing index, which ultimately affects keyword relevance association and thus the resulting rank of that content in the Bing search engine results pages (SERPs).
Bing mRSS specifications
The structure of an mRSS file is XML-based. You first have namespace declaration statements, followed by a set of tags for each item of video content. The tags in the mRSS tag structure not only define the title and description of the video, you can define many other useful metadata, such as video categories, copyright, ratings, season and episode numbers, artists, and much more. You can even specify such details as which countries are allowed to access the content, enabling smart previews, and payment information.
Most of the mRSS tags are optional – only a few are required. However, the more information you provide about a content item, the better off it is for helping Bing determine search relevance, so I encourage you to bite the bullet and do the optimization work needed to make your video content discoverable in searches. Of course, if there is no data to add for a particular field, leave those tags out of that item. No empty tags, please!
Once you’ve created your initial full video feed, if your site is constantly adding to its video content collection, you should also create and publish a second, smaller, incremental update feed on an interval that meets your publishing requirements. Note that while there are no limits on your full feed based on file size or quantity of items listed, the incremental update feed is generally limited to 1 MB (the equivalent of approximately 1,000 video content items).
Let us know about it!
There’s one very important caveat all video content webmasters need to know about Bing’s use of mRSS. We do not automatically pickup your mRSS feeds. You need to contact the Bing mRSS support team at firstname.lastname@example.org to request consideration of your content feed. If the Bing media index team chooses to accept a feed to your content, we will work with you to set up a feed relationship so that the Bing crawler knows to look for your mRSS feed files. This caveat applies to both existing mRSS feeds developed for Yahoo and Google video Sitemap extensions, as well as for brand new Bing mRSS feeds. If we don’t know to look for the feed files on your site, we won’t find them.
Instead of making this an insanely long post (I’d never do that! 😉 by including the entire Bing mRSS tag specifications inline, I decided instead to link to downloadable documents detailing this information. So from here, you can download documents covering the video mRSS specification and a helpful video content mRSS FAQ. To see a detailed sample of the Bing mRSS feed code, open the video mRSS specification and go to the end of the document.
So if you have a royal collection of video content that you want properly indexed in Bing, take a look at mRSS. If you want your site to be crowned king of all video content we survey (or at least if you want that content indexed in Bing so other search users can find it), create your mRSS feed and then contact us to enable our crawler to find it. Who knows? Before long, you might need to start planning your digital coronation!
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to post them in our SEM forum. Up next: I’ll be back soon with more of the popular site review series of blog posts, so stay tuned!
— Rick DeJarnette, Bing Webmaster Center