Videos have revolutionized how content is consumed in this era; as of 2023, an internet user spent an average of 17 hours a week watching videos online. It’s clear that strategically optimizing your video content to increase its discoverability has become essential.

The critical skill you need today as a web developer, content creator, marketer, or brand manager – is knowing how to properly optimize your videos and their metadata, enabling search engines like Google to index them effectively, and presenting your content to the right viewers at the right time.

But first, let’s understand video indexing and how search engines like Google see and analyze your video content.

What is Video Indexing?

Video indexing is the process of analyzing video content and creating an index – a systematic catalog – of the parsed information so that it can be more easily searched (and discovered) with a query.

Search engines like Google index videos by using automated programs to discover and analyze web pages with video content. These “crawlers” extract relevant information like title and description (among others), fetch the video file, and analyze it with sophisticated algorithms to understand the video's content and context.

This information is stored in the search engine’s central database – creating an index – enabling their algorithms to match videos from this pool with a user query and retrieve and display the most relevant and helpful videos for a given keyword or topic.

Why should I care about Video Indexing?

While Google handles the technical aspect of video indexing, you – whether a content creator or web developer – are responsible for optimizing your videos for better discoverability.

By knowing how indexing works, you can make informed decisions on optimizing any video content you use for your website properly. Doing this right can significantly improve your videos' visibility and discoverability in one fell swoop.

How to know if you’re doing video indexing right?

The Google Video Indexing Report, found within the Google Search Console, provides valuable information to webmasters and site owners about the status of video indexing on their websites.

It displays the number of pages with videos and how many of those videos could be indexed. The report includes data on video performance, indexing errors, and recommendations for enhancing video visibility.

With effective optimization, you improve the chances of your videos appearing (and ranking high!) in search results, thus attracting a larger audience and increasing engagement. This also enables search engines to list you in personalized video recommendations based on viewer interests/history.

Behind the scenes: How does Google index videos?

To understand how to optimize your video content for easier indexing by search engines, let’s first study Google’s process to discover, analyze, annotate, and rank your videos based on metadata.

How does Google index videos? - ImageKit blog
How does Google index videos?
  1. Video Crawling
    The first step in video indexing is crawling. The search engine‘s bots, also known as crawlers, scan your web pages to discover, ingest, and index video content. These bots follow links and URLs (or a Video Sitemap, if you have one) to identify website videos.
  2. Video Analysis
    The second step is analyzing the video content found during the crawling process. Title and description are extracted, but this process goes even deeper to extract metadata and, most importantly, context.

    Various techniques are employed to extract this information from video – Optical Character Recognition (OCR) can extract text-in-video, and scene and object recognition algorithms can identify the scene, segment it into parts for easier indexing, and then tag objects/people/scenes within the video.
  3. Metadata Annotation
    Once the video is analyzed, relevant annotations are generated for it. This contextual information about the video enables Google to understand and index it. Key annotations generated here include text descriptions, keywords, tags, and timestamps linked to specific events or objects within the video – anything that helps Google categorize and organize video content effectively.
  4. Keyword Extraction: Relevant keywords are extracted from the video's audio transcripts, subtitles, and the larger metadata. These keywords are essential for search engines to match user queries with relevant video content.
  5. Indexing and Storage: After the video has been analyzed, annotated, and its keywords extracted, all of this information is stored in a database, and an index is created. Think of this as a large dictionary, mapping video content to its associated annotations, thus forming a searchable database.
  6. Retrieval and Ranking: When a user query comes in, the retrieval process matches it with the video's entry in the index created in the previous step. The results thus obtained are then ranked based on various factors – relevance, video quality, user engagement metrics (e.g., watch time, likes, and shares), and the authority of the hosting website or platform.

    Most importantly, though, videos that align well with user search intent and have high-quality metadata tend to perform better.
  7. Presentation and Display: Finally, Google presents the results to the user, with different results – prioritizing different metadata – depending on whether the query was a video search, web search, Google Images, or personalized content in the Discover feed.

The last point is critical if you have a specific search surface, you want to target, so let’s look at how Google consumes video metadata differently to display video results on different search surfaces.

How does Google use video metadata to display videos?

After indexing, Google uses video metadata to display videos on various search surfaces to ensure relevant and engaging content is presented to users. However, each type of metadata is weighted differently depending on which search surface the query is for:

1. Web Search Results

When it comes to regular web search results, Google's algorithm places primary importance on the video title/description, tags, and whether the transcript contains phrases or words relevant to the user's query to determine if a video should be included in the search results. Best match videos appear as video snippets or carousels in the search results, while the rest are regular results.

2. Video Search Results

For Google's Video Search results, Video title/description and tags are still important, but now, timestamps (to understand different sections/topics covered in the video), video duration (depending on search; queries for explainer videos favors shorter videos), and video upload date (recent videos do better) are weighted higher.

3. The Discover Feed

The Discover feed (present on mobile devices) takes a different approach to normal web searches. It displays content mainly based on Google’s automated projection of what is believed to be relevant content for the user. You cannot precisely optimize your videos for the Discover feed specifically, but engagement metrics like watch time, likes, comments, and shares, and (once again, for recency) metadata like video upload date positively impact visibility in the Discover feed.

4. Google Images Results

Google Images also incorporates video content into its search results. When users perform image searches, relevant videos may be displayed alongside the image results. The most crucial metadata to get your video indexed for Google Image Search results are, unsurprisingly both image related – video thumbnail and alt text.

The thumbnail (a frame from your video) is self-explanatory, but the key takeaway here is that Google prioritizes Alt text for Google Images results, as it uses it to understand the content of the image and also because accessibility goes a long way towards making your content useful for a broader audience.

Challenges Faced in Video Indexing

Videos might not get indexed by search engines like Google for various reasons. It is crucial to stay vigilant of these pitfalls to ensure effective video visibility and search engine rankings:

  1. Unoptimized Metadata
    Structured metadata is crucial for search engines to comprehend the content and context of videos accurately. However, many video creators struggle to provide proper schema markup or video sitemaps, leading to lower rankings and visibility.

    To address this, video creators should use structured data markups like the VideoObject schema, which includes vital video information, enabling better indexing and improved search result display.
  2. Robots.txt Blocking and Noindex Meta Tags
    If your website's robots.txt file disallows search engine crawlers from accessing video content, Google won't be able to index the videos. Periodically review your Robots.txt file and use the "Robots.txt Tester" tool in the Google Search Console to verify that your video URLs are accessible to Googlebot (Google's web crawler).

    Also, if your video pages are marked with a "noindex" or “nofollow” meta tag, search engines won't index them. Make sure they read “index” and “follow” instead.
  3. Relevant keywords not present: Video descriptions are vital for video indexing and SEO, so descriptions with relevant keywords and phrases help search engines understand the video's topic, relevance, and target audience. Properly utilizing keywords and tags aligned with the video content enhances discoverability and improves search ranking.
  4. Unplayable Content: If your videos cannot be played due to unsupported formats, or broken links, they won't be indexed. Audit your content regularly to stay on top of broken links, and provide fallback options for your videos to ensure there’s at least one format that can be played.
  5. Slow Page Load Times: If the pages containing the videos load too slowly, search engine crawlers won’t access them, leading to non-indexing. Make sure you’re using Google PageSpeed Insights to periodically review your webpages against industry best practices and for further optimization recommendations.

Writing optimized metadata remains crucial for improving the video's discoverability and understanding by Google's algorithms. But which metadata do you include? What is 'good' metadata? Let's talk about it.

How do I add Video Metadata?

Video metadata refers to a video file's descriptive information and tags. It provides details about the video's content, structure, and characteristics – and thus plays a crucial role in optimizing indexing and discovery by helping search engines understand the content and context of the video accurately.

Some key elements of video metadata are:

  • Title: The title of the video. It should be descriptive, engaging, and include relevant keywords.
  • Description: A clear and concise summary of the video's content, providing context and relevant information.
  • Tags/Categories: Additional descriptive words or phrases further define the video's content.
  • Transcripts/closed captions: this is a text version of the video's spoken content.
  • Video Duration: The length of the video in minutes and seconds.
  • Thumbnail: An eye-catching image representing the video.
  • Publish Date: The date that the video was first made available to the public
  • Copyright information: it is used to know if the video is under Creative Commons, whether it is freely usable by others, or if certain rights are reserved, etc.
  • Your webpage URL: especially important if this video is embedded on one of your web pages.
  • Language and region: Your video will be given priority if the user searching has geolocation turned on on their device and matches your video’s location/region.

Hosting platforms like Youtube or ImageKit allow you to provide this metadata through their platform's interface during the video upload process. They offer specific fields for entering the video title, description, and tags, among other relevant details.

YouTube’s Data API and ImageKit’s Metadata API also allow you to either update or delete metadata from already published videos whenever you want.

Best Practices to Ensure Video Indexing

To ensure that your videos are properly indexed and improve their visibility in the search engine, here are some best metadata practices to follow:

  1. Use Structured Data
    Structured data is a way of providing additional information to help search engines understand and index your video accurately. This information can include the video's title, description, tags, duration, and categories.

    Structured data can be added to a video using a variety of methods, including the markup language.
  2. Write Detailed Descriptions
    Craft a detailed and informative video description that incorporates relevant keywords and phrases related to the video's content. A well-written description provides valuable context for search engines and enhances the chances of ranking for relevant search queries.
  3. Upload Transcripts
    Transcripts are vital for video accessibility, particularly for users with hearing impairments. Upload accurate and complete transcripts alongside video content, as they provide a text-based representation of the dialogue, aiding search engines in accurate crawling and indexing. Moreover, transcripts improve search ranking by offering additional keywords for search engines to consider.
  4. Add Chapters
    Divide longer videos into logical segments with clear chapter markers and corresponding timestamps. This allows search engines to index specific sections of the video, which helps users find the information that they are looking for more quickly.
  5. Provide a high-quality video thumbnail
    To increase your video's chances of appearing on various search surfaces, you will need to create a high-quality video thumbnail for the video. The thumbnail serves as a preview for the video, and its quality can significantly impact user engagement and click-through rates. To ensure that your videos are indexed properly, use this Google guideline for thumbnails.
  6. Optimizing the video file size, format, resolution, and quality
    Optimize the video file size, format, resolution, and quality to ensure fast loading and smooth playback across various devices and network conditions. A well-optimized video provides a better user experience and may positively impact search rankings.

The following best practices can help you enhance your video indexing, improve search engine visibility, and increase the likelihood of reaching a broader audience with your video content.

How Can ImageKit Help You With Video Indexing?

ImageKit is a cloud-based digital asset management, optimization, and transformation service that can help you simplify the process of uploading, storing, and managing your videos (and images, too).

When it comes to video indexing, ImageKit provides several relevant features that help you optimize your video for metadata, and help your videos get indexed properly by search engines like Google. Some of these features include:

  1. Automatic Format Conversion: ImageKit’s automatic video format conversion requires no code, just a dashboard setting toggle. It's a set-and-forget option that ensures you always serve the best video version to your viewers, no matter what device they’re on, without having to create, store, and list alternate versions of your videos as fallback options.

    A single video is all that is ultimately served to the webpage, meaning Google's crawlers can process it and its associated metadata quicker, leading to quicker indexing.
  2. Automatic Quality Optimization: ImageKit also provides automatic quality optimization. With the latest in video transcoding and compression capabilities, ImageKit reduces video file size without compromising on quality. This is useful for making your videos load and playback more quickly, which in turn leads to improved user engagement and enhanced search engine performance.
  3. Video Watermarking and Overlays: ImageKit allows for video watermarking and text overlays, enabling you to add branding, custom text, or logos to your videos. Watermarking and Overlay can actually add relevant metadata as they contain information that is unique to your brand and also provides additional information about the content of your videos.

    Google can pick up this information using Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which is used to pick up text-in-video during the indexing (video analysis stage) process.
  4. Video Trimming and Clipping: Video indexing often benefits from shorter, more focused clips as they are easily consumable, shareable, and can be used as answer snippets on the search result page. ImageKit's video trimming and clipping features make it easy to create highlight reels or snippets from longer videos in real-time using its URL-based API. These snippets can be effectively indexed and shared on various platforms, increasing discoverability.
  5. Video Resizing, Cropping, Rotation, and Flipping: Correct video orientation and direction are crucial for a positive user experience. This can affect your engagement metrics, and Google’s video indexing algorithm considers this when ranking search results. If users frequently abandon or don't engage with your videos due to incorrect orientation, that brings your rankings down in the eyes of Google.

    ImageKit gives you the power to resize, crop, rotate, and flip videos to adjust their orientation or direction in real-time, through its developer-friendly URL-based API, ensuring that videos display correctly and fit on different screen sizes and aspect ratios.

By leveraging ImageKit’s features, you can streamline your video management processes while optimizing videos for better indexing and discoverability. Enhancing the overall video experience through ImageKit’s transformation features makes it easier for search engines to understand, categorize, and rank your video content accurately.


In conclusion, video indexing is a crucial process that categorizes and organizes your video content, making it discoverable and accessible to users through search engines. It is pivotal in improving SEO, enhancing user engagement, and facilitating content discovery.

ImageKit proves to be an invaluable tool for optimizing and transforming videos for effective indexing. With its video resizing, transcoding, compression, watermarking, and other real-time transformations, ImageKit simplifies the video management process, resulting in faster loading times, improved user experiences, and better search engine rankings, ensuring you maximize the impact of your video content, ensure seamless indexing, and reach a broader audience.

Want to fix your video indexing issues? Want to put an end to video optimization and transformation challenges?

Sign up for ImageKit's forever-free account and get 20GB of free media storage and video processing units to take your video indexing efforts to the next level and make your video content seen by a wider audience.