Video Backgrounds and SEO
Over the last few years, using video instead of a large static image as a website background is an increasingly popular design element. So what exactly is the impact of video backgrounds and SEO? Here are a few considerations when using video for your website’s background image.
The Importance of Design and User Experience
When done well, background video can differentiate a site, make it feel more dynamic and add a dimension of motion that a static image simply cannot. However, if implemented poorly, video or motion backgrounds can detract from the user experience.
As an example, Richard Cardona, who owns Hypno Design, Inc., a Philadelphia area web design firm, feels background videos are most effective when subtle and of course, relevant to the site. For example a sleeping dog which shows slight movement or perhaps a slowly moving sky. The subtlety enhances the look and feel of the site without creating a lot of distraction.
An example of video being less effective would be a site that is heavy on content and requires concentration. Visitors to a news site, for example, might find a video background more of a distraction than an enhancement.
Wait a minute, you say, I thought this article was about SEO – why all the design talk? Well, in my opinion, search engines like Google consider user metrics a factor in organic rankings. Strong user metrics can positively influence rankings – not to mention, it’s enhancing the user experience! So changes that improve time on site, reduce bounce rates, encourages clicks deeper into the site should be leveraged.
Background Video and SEO – Page Load Speed
First, let’s make the assumption that, in search results, Google demotes websites that are very slow to load. Although recently, Barry Schwartz from Search Engine Roundtable posted an article where John Mueller suggested Google is less concerned about page load speed.
For the purpose of this article, let’s presume faster sites are better for search engines and users.
I’ll start by saying there are many factors that can affect how a video or image file loads, but all things being equal, it’s fair to say a video file takes longer to load than a static image. Therefore, running a background video on your site will, to some degree, increase the load time of the page. Keep in mind 40% of visitors abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
If you a convinced you want a video background, despite its impact on load speed, consider running your finished site through a tool like Pingdom to identify ways to improve your page load speed.
Technical Challenge #2 Impacting SEO – Responsive Design and Mobile Devices
Video on mobile devices presents its own set of challenges…
Load speed is even more important on a mobile device as mobile users typically expect a fast response. Since video is typically a larger file size, it will load more slowly.
iOS (the iPhone and iPad operating system) and some other operating systems do not support video auto play, so consider that if your background video plays automatically.
And then there is the issue of responsive design. To do this correctly, you will need someone who can write the correct scripts so the aspect ratio of the video responds to the device’s screen size.
For these reasons, I do not think video backgrounds generally make a good fit for mobile devices. Again, if you are set on a video background, consider serving a static image to mobile devices, like a screen capture of the video. Adding a static image also allows you to add an alt tag which is beneficial for SEO. Save your video motion background for desktops and tablets.
There is no doubt that video backgrounds are becoming popular design elements in modern websites. And while there is no right or wrong answer to how they should be used, it’s important to be aware of what a video background will do and the potential impact on SEO.
You can expect your video background to:
- Increase load time versus a static image
- Complicate developing responsive design
- Prevent auto play on iOS and some other platforms
- Impact user experience
How you execute #4 is perhaps the most important piece because the impact could be positive or negative. If the use of a video background really enhances the user experience (UX), and by “really” I mean you can quantify the improvement through data in analytics, then it might make sense. If the video background if a distraction, increases load time and creates mobile compatibility issues, you are better off with a static image.
So if you choose to run a video background, make it great from a user perspective and consider serving a static image to your mobile users.
What are your thoughts on video backgrounds?
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