Welcome to the fourth installment Demystifying Optimization With Teddy Lyngaas. You can check out the last installment called YouTube SEO Tricks And Reply Girl Treats here. This installment deals with pumping up video view numbers and why the higher the number doesn’t necessarily mean the higher the value.
JM: So now let’s talk numbers – inflating numbers, especially.
TL: Sure. The internet is a crazy place, dude. People are going to always be thinking of new methods to manipulate numbers, and even when one technique is stopped, they are going to come up with another one. They can find deceptive ways to inflate video view numbers, but those views aren’t actually worth much, if anything.
JM: Right, yeah yeah. So, at AboutFace, you’ve told me before that when you’re doing optimization, you’re not doing that sort of thing where you’re trying to pump up the numbers up to get bad views. Why do you think that it’s actually a disservice to your client if you are doing that?
TL: We’re not just trying to pump up numbers – that’s true. The numbers can be gamed, sure, but, at the end of the day, the reason people are marketing at all is to show a product or service to a particular audience. So, if I’m Henderson Global Funds and I have a video series, the desirable ROI isn’t likely tied a huge number on YouTube.
The real ROI is an action by one of those very targeted people you want to see your video. An investment advisor. A financial professional looking at funds. Someone watching that video and then either going to their website to learn more or calling their office to look at their funds or invest money. That’s what makes Henderson, or any investment firm, money. Not if a million people who have no interest in funds or investing or don’t have the money to do so watch their video. That audience is irrelevant to a financial firm.
The conversion or the action of what happens after these un-targeted, or “fake” even, numbers go through is probably zero, whereas we want the videos to be seen by the proper target audience. So imagine if you were Kmart and you’re marketing women’s apparel. Does it help you if 50 million John Murphys and Teddy Lyngaases watch your videos? Are we going to buy women’s apparel? Nope. You want women, obviously. And you want women within certain age ranges and certain geographic areas and certain income levels and interests – like fashion, for example.
We’re here to actually get the videos seen by the target audience. So, yes, we play by the rules. We pay more for our views but it’s the right thing to do because we hit our target audiences instead of dudes who don’t buy women’s clothes.
The classic song "Teenage Suicide" in Heathers says "Don't Do It!" We'd add, "Number-Pumping - Also Don't Do That!"
JM: Paying more for each video view?
TL: Yeah. So take Trutanich – I don’t have the article right in front of me but – he or someone on his team paid one of these services to get him something like 150,000 views. And the service wrote some code or they hired some kids to hit the “play video” button over and over in the browser and the numbers grew and grew… but they just couldn’t turn it off in time. It ended up getting so big that people noticed it. Once it gets to some crazy level of views, it raises some eyebrows. Like, really? Really, there are 400,000 people or whatever – what does the article say? 400,000 people that are watching this video on a seemingly low profile city attorney race or district attorney race. And there’s not that many interested people in LA county.
TL: It just raised eyebrows and they couldn’t turn it off. That’s one of the downsides of these techniques – (laughing) they’re doing shady things that can’t always be stopped.
TL: Out of all those people that watch the video or all those computer programs that algorithmically refresh your browser over and over again, are they really eligible LA County voters? My guess would be not. And so if we were going to take on Trutanich as our client, our view would be to show videos to people that are of voting age, first, and create a subsection of people in the district that are eligible to vote and only run the videos to those people.
It didn’t do Trutanich any good to be advertising in Wisconsin. If Kmart doesn’t have any stores in Canada, why would I run videos in Canada? They’re not my potential customers.
In reality, those kinds of number-pumping services don’t deliver the right results. They don’t get to the customer base that the client is looking for.
I’d be willing to bet that Trutanich didn’t know anything about this. I bet his people set it up, and at the end of the day he’s the guy that looks bad. The same way that a brand hires some agency, and if the brand doesn’t really know how those videos are being served up or how the agency is going about getting views, there is no transparency – and they can be the ones to look bad.
Optimization can be farmed out. A brand might hire an agency and that agency then hires a service that specializes in getting lots of indiscriminate views. This could easily be what happened with JC Penny looking terrible for their blog back link debacle.
It all becomes very technical and so it has a high potential for misuse if you don’t completely understand how it works.
Did JC Penny or Trutanich know that some service they never heard of is the one handling their video optimization or the their SEO? And that they’re building programs to click Play or else employing sweatshop-like labor in developing countries to just keep clicking? Doubt it.
So that’s kind of our deal – we try to help our clients along the way and then we tell them exactly how their video or ad is going to be displayed. And how we’re going to target and get the right views. Full disclosure. We’re not hiding anything. We’re not farming out our optimization to 11 year olds in India… I’m looking at you, Trutanich.
Teddy Lyngaas is our Optimization expert here at AboutFace. Demystifying Optimization With Teddy Lyngaas is where I ask Teddy about stuff I don’t understand and he explains it and then hopefully I understand it (and if not, I will definitely pretend I do so that no one thinks I’m stupid). If you ever have any topics in Optimization you’d like us (read: Teddy) to tackle, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see what we can do.