Virtual reality (VR) has been the talk of the town for a little while now and its marketing potential is getting difficult to ignore.
Whether using it to look around a potential new home without leaving your sofa, or to explore a popular scuba diving spot without touching a drop of water, the possibilities are endless and exciting.
There is a proliferation of content on the web, and virtual reality offers a new and exciting way of presenting this content. Now more than ever, there is a need to distinguish yourself from the competition, to provide content that excites, inspires and influences. This is a chance to get creative and be different.
With VR content, storytelling is immersive and messages more impactful. An experiment carried out last year demonstrated that VR drives engagement and empathy significantly more than traditional video. These factors make virtual reality a powerful weapon in a marketer’s arsenal.
However, despite the clear benefits of VR, businesses are still hesitant about diving in. In addition to questions of cost and accessibility, there is a more fundamental question of discoverability: can VR content be found using search engines? Is it even possible to optimize virtual reality content for search?
The good news is, the idea of search-optimizing VR is not as alien or impossible as you might think.Increasing accessibility of VR
Although many consider the technology to still be in its infancy, virtual reality has already evolved a great deal over the past couple of years. This has been spurred along by a few handy innovations by Google to increase accessibility and ease of use. Notably in 2016, Google introduced VR view to allow users the ability to embed 360 degree VR content into websites on desktop and mobile, as well as native apps.
One of the primary reasons that companies fail to embrace the technology is a misconception over its accessibility. No, you don’t need to own an Oculus Rift to be able to experience VR content. In fact, you don’t need anything. With the ability to embed VR content into websites with the simple addition of an iframe, anyone can access the benefits that it has to offer.
Now on mobile, you need only discover a 360 VR video in your Facebook news feed, wave your phone around in the air and hey presto, you’ve engaged with the world of virtual reality. For a more immersive experience, a simple Google Cardboard headset will suffice, or go a step further with Daydream, a more robust version but without the hefty price tag of an Oculus Rift.
A Google Cardboard headset, one of the most affordable VR headsets availableOptimizing VR for search
All this fancy new technology is all very well, but if it can’t be found in the search engines, then the potential reach of your content is diminished. If you’re having doubts about the visibility of VR content in search, then just remember one important fact. Google itself is heavily invested in VR technology. It therefore follows that the Big G would not only make it as accessible as possible, but also reward those who embrace it.
VR content often takes the same file format as standard video content. Therefore, optimizing VR for search is much like optimizing traditional video. Below we share our tips:Embed using Google VR View
Google created this tool for a reason and it would be remiss not to take advantage of it. VR View takes care of all the tricky technicalities to ensure maximum compatibility and it also means that there is no need to embed a video via YouTube or other video platform. This is important in terms of SEO and content marketing, as you want to avoid the potential for users to leave your website.Write relevant metadata
Make it as easy as possible for the search engines to find and index your content by adding the appropriate metadata. Write a short, snappy title and use the description to add more detail. Include any necessary keywords to help indicate what the content is about.
Don’t forget to adjust the file name as a bonus way of providing extra detail to the search engines – avoid a generic media file name like “vrmedia123.mp4”.
Go a step further than the metadata and add schema markup, as it will help the search engines to better understand the content and therefore improve its appearance in the SERPs. It is also worth submitting a video sitemap, which will make your content more discoverable by Google.Optimize the page itself
Optimizing the VR content itself is crucial but don’t forget to apply standard SEO best practices to the webpage itself. Even if your video does not display in the SERPs, you may be able to get the page ranking.SEO 101: valuable, shareable content
It’s obvious but we had to include it. As with any other form of content, the overarching aim should always be to provide value. Create content that is engaging, informative and entertaining. Make it highly shareable and repackage for use across all marketing channels for effective cross-promotion. Provide value for your users and the rest will come naturally.
Ultimately, optimizing VR for search is not wholly different from optimizing any other type of content for search. Aside from a couple of minor technicalities when it comes to the method of embedding, applying your usual high quality SEO techniques will suffice.
With VR content becoming increasingly common and accessible, Google has made it easier than ever before to get such content seen in search. Google VR View cemented this accessibility and we only expect the technology to continue evolving. Best start jumping on the VR bandwagon now!
If you enjoyed this article, check out our guide to getting started with creating VR content: How to get started with 360-degree content for virtual reality.
Jessie Moore is Marketing Manager at Yellowball, a London-based digital marketing agency.
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