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Warning: Robotic Inventory Videos Devalue Your YouTube Channel's SEO [Part 2]

My first post on this topic proved to be unexpectedly popular.  So I have decided to build on it with the addition of some empirical data to help demonstrate the fallacy that if you litter YouTube with poor quality inventory videos it will nonetheless give you an SEO boost.

The test case is a good one.  It is based on a dealer client of ours who has maintained two YouTube channels for roughly the same time period.

When “Good Enough” Is Not Good Enough

Recently, a dealer suggested to me that his robotic videos on YouTube were “good enough.”  “Good enough for who?”  I responded.  “Good enough to engage viewers?”  “Good enough to boost your local long-tail inventory listing SEO?”  Exactly what are robotic inventory videos good for?  Well let’s take a bit of a deeper look at what these videos mean in terms of engagement, SEO and even dealer image when compared to the higher quality - but still cost-effective - inventory videos on YouTube. 

An Inventory Video by Any Other Name?

First let’s look at some simple metrics to gauge the effectiveness of an inventory video:  Views and CTA (Call-to-Action).  For the purposes of my comparisons I will be using two videos of the same car, same dealer, different YouTube Channels: one robotic, the other a CarClip (live intro, custom graphics, custom audio mix and voice-over).

 Video # 1 – The Robotic Version

Note the number of views in the nearly two months since the video was published.  Note that the description field is not optimized for CTA.


Video #2 –A CarClip

Note that the CarClip video has received 4X the # of views in less than half the time on YouTube.  A more direct comparison, e.g., same amount of “air time,” should yield 6-8X the number of views vs. the robotic alternative.

I know what you’re thinking (or at least what I would be thinking):  One video does not a real comparison make!

Fair enough.  Let’s compare two YouTube channels:  One made up entirely of robotic videos, the other populated entirely with CarClips (Same dealer, same inventory, roughly the same measurement period).


Whose Channel Is This Anyway?

Channel # 1:  Robot Land (AKA the YouTube automotive video graveyard)

Channel #2: Optimized and Populated with CarClips

Stop Making Cents 

It’s time to generate some real earned media from your automotive video marketing efforts (yes, you or a professional will need to make an effort). 

“But, aren’t my robotic videos good enough?”  Well,  here is an example of what they’re worth from a local SEO perspective.

Hopefully, you are now better equipped to answer to the question: “Aren’t they (robotic videos) good enough?”  If not, please allow me to humbly offer an answer:

It depends on whether or not you want to be at the top, or at the bottom of the SEO pond.  I can tell you without fear of contradiction that it’s much better to be on top.

Are cost-effective premium inventory videos for you?  Perhaps.  Will they solve all of your SEO and social media engagement challenges?  Certainly not.  When used in conjunction with a comprehensive automotive video marketing strategy that also includes channel optimization, content syndication, and audience profiling, then the answer is a resounding yes!

Please feel free share your thoughts and experiences about automotive video marketing.  We’re here to help!

Views: 720

Tags: SEO, automotive video marketing, car dealer marketing, robotic-videos, warning,


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Comment by Alexander Lau on February 11, 2013 at 5:45am

Joe, I'll get in touch with you.

*In a Count von Count voice: "Verrrrrrrrrrrrrry, Interrrrrrrrrresting..."

Comment by Joe Schwartz on February 8, 2013 at 9:50pm

Alex, we know Tubemogul.  You are right that they represent a class of service provider that can syndicate video content.  There are other companies in that market as well.  We have developed a similar capability with some interesting optimizations.  If you would like to learn more you can DM me. 

Comment by Joe Schwartz on February 7, 2013 at 11:09pm


I just took another look and could not find the video you referenced in your comment.  Would you mind please providing the URL? I am really not sure what you are looking at.


Comment by Joe Schwartz on February 7, 2013 at 11:00pm


First of all, anyone paying $200 for an inventory video is spending 5-10X too much.  

Where did you get your pricing data??

And you are right about the fact that the videos in our test were not linked to the dealer site.  That was the entire point of the test - sorry if that was not clear in the original post but it was clarified in my rather lengthy response to Greg below.  

If you would be kind enough to read that same response to Greg's comment, you will see that a video marketing program is the solution we recommend as a best practice.  Inventory videos should be a component of a program only, and for a variety of reasons stated in my commentary.

Also, you need to look at the performance of the entire dealer channel as we did.  Over a period of several months.

I am not sure I understand what you are actually suggesting.  That a single robotic video can outperform a produced video if you drive traffic to it on your site?  And that putting backllinks from the video back to the sight is a consistently good SEO strategy?  Please clarify if that is your point because if it is, then their is problem their, which we can discuss.

Of course there are always exceptions.  But the larger point is that with recent changes to YouTube, Google now places heavy weighting on channel performance across engagement metrics.  See an earlier post of mine on ADM:  A Deeper Look Into the YouTube Redesign, Annotations and InVideo Pr....  And my more recent post: Top 10 Ways to Optimize Your Business YouTube Channel [Infographic] for more on that topic.  

So as partially produced inventory videos, produced with today's technology offer better quality, higher engagement, and consistently better performance at scale, robotic videos will likely recede into the past.

As for the discrepancy of the view count on the video we used for the comparison vs. your count. If you look closely at the title of your video, it is a different video (fishy until you look closely - than not fishy).

Here is a search from YouTube that I just ran.

Note the pick up in views on the actual robotic video featured in my post from 3 to 9 views in the last couple of days since this article. This article in fact has driven more traffic to the robotic video in 2 days then it has received on YouTube over a two month period!

The devil is in the details my friend.  This is a good conversation, but I urge those who wish to join the debate to please read all of the comments before jumping in.  Also, with all due respect, let's please refrain from dropping erroneous data into the thread because it devalues the content for our dealer audience.  Let's keep the conversation going!

Comment by Alexander Lau on February 7, 2013 at 11:53am

Joe, an interesting model:

Comment by Alexander Lau on February 7, 2013 at 6:04am

"Robotic videos are negative marketing, and have a hidden cost of hurting your SEO, which makes their real cost the cost of the videos plus that value of lost SEO and engagement!" - Couldn't agree more.

Comment by Joe Schwartz on February 6, 2013 at 4:22pm

Hey Greg,

Great, thought provoking comment—and one I am anxious to respond to for the benefit of our dealer audience.  But before I do, let me offer you a bet in return for your offer of a bet to me.  I’d be willing to bet that most people (males in this case), would not walk into a white collar job interview they cared about wearing a suit without any shoes or (in my day) a tie. Certainly not shoeless.

So what? You might ask.  Selling anything can be compared in many ways to succeeding at a job interview.  And debating the merits of produced vs. robotic inventory videos without some broader marketing context is like debating about what kind of suit is best for an interview but forgetting to include the shoes and the tie.

Otherwise, why even bother with the suit?

You touch on some really important issues, the most important of all being 1) the economic value proposition of produced video for dealers.  You also point out correctly that 2) videos hosted on YouTube and embedded on the dealer's Website will garner views that are inorganic to YouTube. Your point 3) about produced videos always being more effective than their auto-generated counterparts may appear to be a given, however even that statement begs IMO to be put in context.  (expensive suit, lousy shoes). So please allow me to respond to your three main points.

1)     The economics of produced video.  For us, economics translate to business context and budget allocation.  In other words, if I am committed to investing in video marketing (business context), I hope we can agree that this translates to ‘leveraging video content in the context of a marketing effort’ (which in turn requires budget allocation decisions to be made about where and how much to invest).

It follows logically that in formulating my video marketing strategy, I need to take into account a variety of factors such as my audience profiles, content strategy, channel optimization, distribution strategy, etc.

Again, to try to keep things simple, let's say my overall video marketing strategy is to a) achieve increased awareness in my market among intended car buyers at the top of the funnel; b) to reach those same buyers during research and comparison (middle of the funnel); and c) to capture leads (conversion) as close to ZMOT as possible – and of course boosting my SEO at all levels, particularly local, long-tail search.

With that set of overarching goals my content strategy now falls into place:

  1. I need engaging high value content for awareness – produced video is the way to go here.  If done properly, the video will convey my value messages, differentiation, brand promise and have a long shelf life, attracting lots of views, social activity, etc.
  2. I need content for research and compare – this is a data gathering exercise, great images and inventory videos tied to VDPs fit the bill here
  3. Conversion – these are where testimonials, how-to(s), customer stories, all have high impact and are again produced – in low quantity.

So what about the economics? Where to allocate precious dollars?  Ever hear the story about the lad who goes to his first job interview in an inexpensive off-the-rack suit, with a killer tie and expensive pair of shoes (and gets hired over the dude with the expensive suit, beat up shoes and lousy tie)?  Think of a) and c)  above as the shoes and tie, respectively.  The suit is important, but the shoes and tie really pop.  Analogies aside, if a dealer invests at the top and bottom of the funnel, where quality, not quantity prevail, he or she has a chance to win the hearts and minds of their audience.

In the middle of the funnel, or even close to purchase, when included in an overall strategy, the economics of inventory videos look different then if ALL YOU ARE DOING are inventory videos.  Let me put it another way.  Most candy lovers when confronted by Mars M&Ms vs. the generic off-brand kind will pay a small premium for the real thing.  That’s brand marketing!

Robotic videos are negative marketing, and have a hidden cost of hurting your SEO, which makes their real cost the cost of the videos plus that value of lost SEO and engagement!

2)     Videos hosted on YouTube but embedded on the dealer's Website will garner views that are inorganic.  I’ll let you in on not such a small secret: it is the robotic videos in our test case that are hosted on the dealer site and Autotrader VDPs.  The CarClips in our test case do not appear anywhere on the dealer’s site. On the other hand, all videos should be marketed to increase viewership. Otherwise why create them at all?

3)     Are fully produced videos always better? NO.  The sweet spot for inventory videos is between fully produced and robotic.  The tipping point is emotional connection and engagement.  And if you have solved the problem, as we have, of rapid, large scale production and management of ‘partially’ produced inventory videos AND if you deploy them for the dealer as part of a video marketing program, the cost is marginal when compared to the TRUE cost of robotic videos!

Thanks again for your thought provoking and inspiring commentary!


Comment by Greg Gifford on February 6, 2013 at 1:16pm

Joe -

I think we can all agree that video is hugely important. We can also agree that 100% of the time, a well-produced video is better than an automatically created video.

But, there are a few things I'd like to point out, in case some dealers who might read this fall into the more novice end of the spectrum.

In your example, you had the automated videos and the "produced" videos, both for the same dealer. I'd bet that the videos shared on their website were the produced vids, not the automated vids. Since those videos also received views on the dealer's site, that's going to increase the overall view count for those videos.  If you're going to showcase those videos on the site, they'll perform better than the ones you're not showcasing, REGARDLESS of whether they're produced or automated. Yes, produced is better, and you're going to get more engagement... but looking just at the view count wasn't really an apples-to-apples comparison.

I'd also like to point out that your assertion that "robot videos don't appear" is incorrect. The reason your produced videos are appearing in this example is because those videos had more engagement than the automated videos (because those were promoted and embedded). The search results will favor the videos with more engagement and relevancy signals.  We've seen with increasing frequency that videos rank well in local search, and if a dealer is ONLY doing automated videos, those videos can and will show up in the SERPs.

Also - Time is money. Which means videos that are produced cost more than automated videos. Dealers who use a service that creates produced videos is paying in either vendor cost or in time. Yes, we know that they're better - but many dealers simply can't afford to pay for produced videos and have to rely on automated videos.  Sure, they're not as good as produced videos, but that's a better solution than not having videos at all.

So yes - produced videos are better 100% of the time. But dealers can't always afford produced videos. If automated videos are their only other option, that's what they have to do.

Comment by Joe Schwartz on February 6, 2013 at 6:32am

Well put, Alexander.

Comment by Alexander Lau on February 6, 2013 at 6:06am

Joe, this could be said of anything that is automated (for the most part), regurgitated content from another groups RSS Feed, Robotic Videos (as you've suggested), etc. If the content isn't original and informative, a viewer's senses start to tingle and they are instantly turned off by the piece. A video marketing strategy has to take this into consideration among a ton of other variables.

As for your SERP indexing (SEO) example, yes, generally speaking only popular videos are going to be able to claim equity. All part of Google's grand plan, IMO. How popular (views), share numbers (it isn't going to be shared very often unless it's original and informative), etc. Frankly, this is why Google owns YouTube, they can control the overall mechanisms as they deem fit.

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