A Deep Dive into Current & Future VR Experiences

Shattering Expectations – A Deep Dive into Current & Future VR Software

I’ve had a couple of weeks to play around with the GearVR virtual reality headset, and it’s been a blast. The hardware has finally matured enough for virtual reality to be quite convincing, and at an affordable price.

Since VR is such a new technology, there is currently a massive call for developers to get software into the hands of consumers. With the ongoing prioritization of app development there is already a surprising amount of software available even though the consumer Gear VR has been out for only one month.

I’ve set out to see what is possible with virtual reality software, by experimenting with many different apps and looking for trends. During my testing I’ve noticed there are several different types of experiences available in virtual reality. VR can provide new experiences in previously unreachable environments in addition to novel consumption of existing media. Let’s dive into the various types of applications starting with my favorite.

I have found social experiences to be the most compelling application of VR. These apps use virtual reality as a tool to bring together various people into the same room. Each person is given an Avatar that moves with their head. This adds an element of realism, and interactions closely simulate the real world. For example, I commonly found that players would make eye contact or facial expressions at each other even though this was completely unnecessary. It just felt right to follow standard social etiquette. In fact, several users on Reddit mentioned that they even felt social anxiety in these applications because they were so realistic.

The first such social experience application for the platform is Oculus Social Alpha. This application gathers up to five people in various virtual environments, including things such as a millionaire’s home theater or even the moon. You can watch Twitch or Vimeo videos, but just like hanging out in real life most didn’t pay much attention to the screen and instead spent most of their time conversing with each other. It’s surprising just how realistic this experience feels – it allows us to connect as humans on a social level that I have never experienced with any other type of technology.

Within the past week there have been two newcomers into this space: CONVRGE and vTime, each adding their own unique spin on the genre. In addition to allowing you to view YouTube videos (a much larger selection than Vimeo and Twitch), CONVRGE allows Gear VR users and Oculus users to hang out in the same rooms together. This expands and diversifies the pool of users you can connect with in their application, bridging the gap across platforms. vTime has it’s own twist: it does away with the video aspect and instead places users in various scenic locations like a river, famous mountain, or a fireplace inside a cave. These two applications are great examples of the innovations that can arise out of bringing third party developers into the mix. I’ll be keeping an eye on these applications to see how else they can continue innovating the experience of social communication in virtual reality.

“ The gaming demographic will likely drive plenty of VR’s mainstream adoption ”

The largest, and most expensive, category of applications is games. This is for good reason as well – Of all of the demos I’ve shown to friends and colleagues, nothing lights them up quite like a game of Smash Hit in virtual reality. Something just “clicks” when you start flying around inside the environment. It’s all quite natural.

The key is that instead of using a mouse, trackpad, or joystick to aim, you can simply look directly at your target and fire. There is something so satisfying about this method of aiming and everyone “gets it” almost instantly.

Another advantage of gaming in VR besides more natural interfaces is the immersion you can achieve. Gamers spend lots of money and effort making sure their gaming is as immersive as possible. Nothing is more immersive than virtually being inside of the environment. The enemies are much more real when you look over and see them in stereoscopic 3D. Because of this, the gaming demographic will drive a lot of adoption into the consumerization of VR. The high price that developers can charge for their apps (commonly $9.99 – $14.99) also makes this an appealing category for developers to invest in.

Watch out for the monsters in the dark and narrow corridors in the horror game Dreadhalls

One popular game that does a good job of demonstrating the level of immersion is Dreadhalls. This application is eerily similar to horror games in recent years such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent. You are trapped inside of a large dungeon without anything but a lantern and must find a way to escape. Along the way you run into frightening creatures that are very dangerous. There are people that have tried this game that can’t make it more than 10 minutes before quitting out of fear. It’s that immersive.

For those looking for a less intense experience there are more relaxing games out there. Esper 2 is a great puzzle solving game that is reminiscent of Portal. It’s got sassy voice acting, humorous moments, and puzzles to solve that leverage interesting and novel mechanics. Similar to Smash Hit, Esper takes advantage of the ability to aim and control objects by simply looking at them and tapping. It’s a pleasurable experience and very entertaining, especially for the more casual gamer.

The ability to handcraft these experiences allows creators to make far more immersive content than ever before

The non-gamers out there can still enjoy virtual reality with various virtual experiences available. There are several apps that allow you to virtually visit places either in 360 degrees or in full stereoscopic 3D. These apps allow you to experience things you might not be able to experience normally. For example, the Ocean Rift app allows you to experience various underwater habitats and swim with animals such as dolphins, turtles, and whales. The experience is pretty convincing with the light effects and distortion tricking you into thinking you are actually underwater.

Check out how realistic this theater looks; and you can experience it from the comfort of your own couch!

When demoing the GearVR to my friends, another interesting experience I like to show them is the Oculus Video or the Netflix applications. Netflix places you inside of a wood cabin with a gigantic 110 inch TV you can use to view any Netflix content. Oculus Video allows you to consume traditional content in an extremely novel fashion. You are placed into a virtual cinema where you can watch a selection of movies (including any on your device) on the big screen. It’s a perfect recreation of a cinema, even the way the light bounces of the ceiling tiles is convincing. The only thing missing is the popcorn, but that’s what real life is for.

My favorite application in the “experiences” category is called Vrse. There are many different experiences in the Vrse app, but my go-to is called Catatonic. It’s an experience that utilizes the “captive audience” concept that is frequently used for horror experiences in VR. The viewer is strapped to a wheelchair and wheeled around an insane asylum. There are lights flickering, hooded men pushing you, and insane people crawling on the floor all around you. The sense of helplessness the content creators can achieve by forcing you to stay in a fixed location helps them to increase the level unease you feel. The entire experience is crafted to give you the spooks. It feels like you are inside of a horror film. In fact, the ability to handcraft these experiences will allow content creators to make far more immersive content than was ever possible.

The final category of Virtual Reality software I wanted to touch on is education. This is the direct application of the “experiences” concept, with a clear intent focused on educating the audience. The immersiveness of VR lends itself very well to educational experiences. VR is such a powerful education tool because it invites you to learn by actually experiencing the concepts, rather than just hearing about them.

The Body VR team believes they’ve stumbled upon the future of education with their immersive learning experience.

The types of educational experiences that are available remind me of what the children’s television show “The Magic Schoolbus” attempted to do. You can virtually experience many different things. The Body VR allows you to travel through the bloodstream to learn first-hand how the circulatory system works. With the BluVR you can swim in different ecosystems and learn facts about their inhabitants as they swim right past your nose. Titans of Space allows you to zoom through various planets and stars in a tour through our solar system and beyond. At each stop you learn information about the planet or surrounding moons. In all of these applications you are experiencing the concepts being taught. It almost doesn’t feel like learning!

Final Thoughts

Virtual reality has many strengths, the primary of which are immersion and simulated environments. Content creators and developers are finding many different applications of these concepts to create new ways to socialize, level up, or learn content. Once people get a chance to consume content in virtual reality, it’s hard to go back! One thing is certain – virtual reality is about to make a huge splash, but it will rely heavily on the software that is available for it. We’ve seen a lot of what’s possible, yet we’ve only scratched the surface.

Sponsored Content on XDA Developers

4 Things to Know About Tax Reform by RSM

“Tax reform” means different things to different people and while both Republicans and Democrats have expressed an interest in reforming the nation’s tax laws, they are far apart on what to do and how to do it.





Dispossessed in the Land of Dreams | New Republic

Dispossessed in the Land of Dreams

Those left behind by Silicon Valley’s technology boom struggle to stay in the place they call home.

Monica Potts

December 13, 2015

Photographs by Zach Gross

Sometime in July 2012, Suzan Russaw and her husband, James,

received a letter from their landlord asking them to vacate their $800-a-month

one-bedroom apartment in Palo Alto, California. He gave them 60 days to leave .

The “no-fault” eviction is a common way to clear out low-paying tenants without

a legal hassle and bring in people willing to pay thousands more in rent. James

was 83 at the time and suffering from the constellation of illnesses that

affect the old: He had high blood pressure and was undergoing dialysis for

kidney failure and experiencing the early stages of dementia.

Their rent was actually a couple of hundred dollars more than

James’s monthly Social Security benefits, but he made up the rest by piecing

together odd jobs. They looked for a new apartment for two months and didn’t

find anything close to their price range. Their landlord gave them a six-week

extension, but it yielded nothing. When mid-October came, Suzan and James had

no choice but to leave. With hurried help from neighbors, they packed most of

their belongings into two storage units and a ramshackle 1994 Ford Explorer

which they called “the van.” They didn’t know where they were going.

A majority of the homeless population in Palo Alto— 93 percent —ends

up sleeping outside or in their cars. In part, that’s because Palo Alto, a

technology boomtown that boasts a per capita income well over twice the average

for California, has almost no shelter space: For the city’s homeless

population, estimated to be at least 157, there are just 15 beds that rotate

among city churches through a shelter program called Hotel de Zink ; a charity

organizes a loose network of 130 spare rooms, regular people motivated to offer

up their homes only by neighborly goodwill. The lack of shelter space in Palo

Alto—and more broadly in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, which comprise

the peninsula south of San Francisco and around San Jose—is unusual for an

area of its size and population. A 2013 census showed Santa Clara County having

more than 7,000 homeless people, the fifth-highest homeless population per

capita in the country and among the highest populations sleeping outside or in

unsuitable shelters like vehicles.

San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area are gentrifying rapidly—especially

with the most recent Silicon Valley surge in social media companies, though the

trend stretches back decades—leading to a cascade of displacement of the

region’s poor, working class, and ethnic and racial minorities. In San

Francisco itself, currently the city with the most expensive housing market in

the country, rents increased 13.5 percent in 2014 from the year before, leading

more people to the middle-class suburbs. As real estate prices rise in places

like Palo Alto, the middle class has begun to buy homes in the exurbs of the

Central Valley, displacing farmworkers there.

Suzan, who is 70, is short and slight, with her bobbed hair dyed

red. The first time I met her, she wore leggings, a T-shirt, a black cardigan

wrapped around her shoulders, and fuzzy black boots I later learned were

slippers she’d gotten from Goodwill and sewn up to look like outside shoes.

(She wore basically the same outfit, with different T-shirts, nearly every time

we met, and I realized she didn’t have many clothes.) Her voice is high and

singsongy and she is always polite. You can tell she tries to smooth out

tensions rather than confront them. She is a font of forced sunniness and likes

to punctuate a sad sentence with phrases like “I’m so blessed!” or “I’m so

lucky!” She wore a small necklace and said jewelry was important to her. “I

feel, to dispel the image of homelessness, it’s important to have a little

bling,” she said.

In the van, Suzan was in charge of taking care of everyone and

everything, organizing a life that became filled with a unique brand of busy

boredom. She and James spent most of their time figuring out where to go next,

how to get there, and whether they could stay once they arrived. They found a

short-term unit in a local family shelter in Menlo Park that lasted for five

weeks. Afterward, they stayed in a few motels, but even fleabags in the area

charge upwards of $100 a night. When they couldn’t afford a room they camped

out in the van, reclining the backseats and making a pallet out of blankets

piled on top of their clothes and other belongings. Slowly, there were fewer

nights in hotels and more in the van, until the van was where they lived.

A life of homelessness is one of logistical challenges and

exhaustion. Little things, like planning a wardrobe for the week, involved

coordinated trips to storage units and laundromats, and could take hours. The

biggest conundrum? Where to pull over and sleep. Suzan and James learned

quickly not to pull over on a residential block, because the neighbors would

call the police. They tried a church or two, 24-hour businesses where they

thought they could hide amidst the other cars, and even an old naval field. The

places with public toilets were best because, for reasons no one can quite

explain, 3 a.m. is the witching hour for needing to pee. They kept their socks

and shoes on, both for staying warm on chilly Bay Area nights and also for

moving quickly if someone peered into their windows, or a cop flashed his light

inside, ready to rouse. Wherever they were sleeping, they couldn’t sleep there.

“Sometimes, I was so tired, I would be stopped at a red light and say, ‘Don’t

go to sleep. Don’t go to sleep,’” Suzan said. “And then I would fall asleep.”

A few months in, a nice man in a 7-Eleven parking lot told them

about a former high school turned community center on the eastern side of town

called Cubberley . He’d walked up to their van after recognizing signs of life

in the car, tired faces among the junk piling up in the back. Suzan and James

were familiar with the community center because they’d taken their daughter to

preschool there many years before, but they hadn’t thought about sleeping

there. Cubberley had a quiet back parking lot, a flat grass amphitheater with a

concrete paddock for a stage, and 24-hour public bathrooms with showers in an

old gym. Rumor was that the cops wouldn’t bother anyone.

Suzan’s husband, James Russaw, pictured with two of their grandchildren.

Cubberley was a psychic relief because it solved so many basic

needs: It had a place to bathe in the morning, a place to charge your phone.

The parking lot had also formed its own etiquette and sense of community.

People tended to park in the same places, a spot or two next to their

neighbors, and they recognized one another and nodded at night. They weren’t

exactly friends, but they were people who trusted each other, an impromptu

neighborhood no one wanted to lose after losing so much. It was safe, a good

place to spend the night. But it was next door to a segment of homeowners who

were fighting hard to move the car dwellers out.

Normally, wealthy people who move into an area don’t see the

results of their displacement because the people who lose their homes don’t

stick around; they move to cheaper suburbs and work themselves into the fabric

elsewhere. But the folks at Cubberley, 30 people on any given night, were the

displacement made manifest. Most weren’t plagued with mental health or

substance abuse problems; they simply could no longer afford rent and became

homeless in the last place they lived. People will put up with a lot to stay in

a place they know. “I’ve been analyzing why don’t I just get the heck on.

Everybody says that, go to Wyoming, Montana, you can get a mansion,” Suzan

said. “Move on, move on, always move on. And I say to myself, ‘Why should I

have to move on?’”

It’s a new chapter in an old story. In his seminal 1893 lecture at

the Chicago World’s Fair, Frederick Jackson Turner summarized the myth of the

American frontier and the waves of settlers who created it as an early form of

gentrification: First, farmers looking for land would find a remote spot of

wilderness to tame; once they succeeded, more men and women would arrive to

turn each new spot into a town; finally, outside investors would swoop in,

pushing out the frontiersman and leaving him to pack up and start all over

again. It has always been thus in America. Turner quoted from a guide published

in 1837 for migrants headed for the Western frontiers of Ohio, Indiana, and

Wisconsin: “Another wave rolls on. The men of capital and enterprise come. The

‘settler’ is ready to sell out and take the advantage of the rise of property,

push farther into the interior, and become himself a man of capital and enterprise

in turn.” This repeating cycle, Turner argued, of movement and resettlement was

essential to the American character. But he foresaw a looming crisis. “The

American energy will continually demand a wider field for its exercise,” he

wrote . “But never again will such gifts of free land offer themselves.” In

other words, we would run out of places for the displaced to go.

Suzan was born in 1945. Her father worked at what was then the

Lockheed Corporation, and her mother had been raised by a wealthy family in Oak

Park, Illinois. Her family called her Suzi. Though she grew up in nearby

Saratogaand spent some time in school in Switzerlandshe distinctly

remembers coming with her mother to visit Palo Alto, with its downtown theaters

and streets named after poets. Palo Alto more than any other place formed the

landscape of her childhood. “It was a little artsy-craftsy university townyou

find charming towns are university towns.”

Like many women of her day, Suzan didn’t graduate from college.

When she was 24, after her last stay in Switzerland, she moved to Mountain

View, the town on Palo Alto’s eastern border that is now home to Google and

LinkedIn. She was living off a small trust her family had set up for her when

she met James at a barbecue their apartment manager threw to foster

neighborliness among his tenants. James had grown up in a sharecropping family

in Georgia, moved west during World War II, and was more than 17 years her

senior, handsome and gentlemanly. Suzan thought: “I can learn something from

him.” They were an interracial couple in the late 1960s, which was unusual,

though she says her family didn’t mind. It was also an interclass marriage, and

it moved Suzan down the income ladder.

For years, James and Suzan lived together, unmarried. They bought

a house on University Avenue, just north of the county line and blocks from

downtown Palo Alto, in 1979, and four years later had their only daughter,

Nancy. It was the area’s ghetto, and the only source of affordable housing for

many years. It was also the center of violence in the region, and, in 1992, was

the murder capital of the country .

They never had much money. For most of their marriage, James ran a

small recycling company and Suzan acted as his bookkeeper, secretary, and

housewife. They refused to apply for most government assistance, even as

homeless elders. “My husband and I had never been on welfare or food stamps,”

she told me. “Even to this day.”

Suzan’s parents died in 2002 and 2003, and her older sister died

in 2009. (“I thank God that they’re gone,” she told me. “They would die if they

saw me now.”) It was a hard time for Suzan, who went to care for her dying

parents and nearly left James. She felt he’d checked out of the difficulties.

In retrospect, she thinks his dementia might already have been setting in;

James was already in his seventies. He had taken out a second mortgage on their

home, and they couldn’t pay it after he retired. They sold the house at a loss

in 2005; it’s now a Century 21 office.

After they moved into the van, they settled into a routine. On the

nights before James’s early-morning treatments, they slept in the dialysis

center’s parking lot. Otherwise they generally stayed at Cubberley. They were

still living off James’s retirement income, but most of it went to the $500

needed to rent the two storage units where their furniture remained, until they

lost one for nonpayment. Finally, a few months in, Suzan was able to use a

clause in a trust set up by her mother’s father to help her out in an

emergency. It doubled their incomemuch of which was eaten up by the costs of

gas, the remaining storage unit, parking tickets, and the other expenses of an

unsettled life. It was a respectable income, one that technically kept them

above poverty, but it still wasn’t enough for rent.

James was increasingly ill and van life was taking a toll. In

addition to James’s other problems, both he and Suzan were starting to

experience some of the health problems common among the homeless. The backseat

of the van filled with bags of clothes, papers, fast-food detritus, pens, old

parking tickets, and receipts. As the junk built up, the recline of their seats

inched forever upward, until they were sitting up all the time, causing their

legs to swell and nerves to become damaged, the medical consequences of not

being able to raise your feet at night.

Gentrification used to be about poor neighborhoods, usually black

and brown, underdeveloped and full of decrepit and neglected housing stock, run

by the occasional slumlord—often described as “blighted,” though that

designation has always been problematic —and how they become converted into

wealthier ones, usually through the influx of richer white people and their

demand for new services and new construction. It’s a negative process for the people

who have to move, but there’s occasionally an element of good, because

neglected neighborhoods revive. But what’s happening now in the Bay Area is

that people who’ve done nothing wrong—not paid their rent late, violated their

lease, or committed any other housing sin—are being forced out to make way.

Displacement is reaching into unquestionably vibrant, historic, middle- and

working-class neighborhoods, like The Mission in San Francisco, a former center

of Chicano power. (The Mission alone has lost 8,000 Latino residents in the

past ten years, according to a report from the local Council of Community

Housing Organizations and the Mission Economic Development Agency.) And it’s

happening to such an extent that the social workers who used to steer people to

affordable apartments as far away as Santa Rosa or Sacramento, a two-hour

drive, are now telling people to look even farther out. The vehicle dwellers I

spoke with said they’d heard of friends living in places like Stockton, once a

modest working-class city in the middle of the state, receiving

notice-to-vacate letters like the one Suzan and James received.

For the most part, the traits that draw people to Palo Altogood

schools, a charming downtown, nice neighborhoods in which to raise a family,

and a short commute to tech jobsare the very same things that made the

residents of Cubberley want to stay, even if it meant living in their car. The

destabilizing pressure of a real estate market is also felt by the merely rich,

the upper middle class, and the middle class, because the high-end demand of

the global elite sets the market prices. “My block has the original owners, a

retired schoolteacher and a retired postal worker,” said Hope Nakamura, a legal

aid attorney who lives in Palo Alto. “They could never afford to buy anything

there now.” Most people told me if they had to sell their homes today they

wouldn’t be able to buy again anywhere in the area, which means many Palo

Altans have all of their wealth tied up in expensive homes that they can’t access

without upending their lives. It makes everyone anxious.

The view inside a van parked outside a Palo Alto homeless organization.

The outcry from the neighbors over Cubberley was so fierce that it

reshaped Palo Alto’s city government. The city council is nonpartisan, but a

faction emerged that revived an old, slow-growth movement in town, known as the

“ residentialists .” Their concerns are varied (among them, the perennial

suburban concerns of property values and traffic), but their influence has been

to block any new development of affordable housing and shoo people like Suzan

and James away from Palo Alto. An uproar scuttled an affordable-housing

building for senior citizens near many public transit options that had been

proposed by the city housing authority and unanimously approved by the city

council. Opponents said they were worried about the effect the development

would have on the surrounding community—they argued it wasn’t zoned for

“density,” which is to say, small apartments—and that traffic congestion in

the area would be made worse. Aparna Ananthasubramaniam, then a senior at

Stanford, tried to start a women’s-only shelter in rotating churches, modeled

after the Hotel de Zink. She said a woman came up to her after a community

meeting where the same concerns had been raised by a real estate agent. “Her

lips were quivering and she was physically shaking from how angry she was,”

Ananthasubramaniam told me. “She was like, ‘You come back to me 20 years from

now once you have sunk more than $1 million into an asset, like a house, and

you tell me that you’re willing to take a risk like this.”

The trouble for Cubberley began when neighbors went to the police.

There’d been at least one fight, and the neighbors complained about trash left

around the center. At the time, Cubberley was home to a 64-year-old woman who’d

found a $20-an-hour job after nine years of unemployment; a tall, lanky,

panhandler from Louisiana who kept informal guard over her and other women at

the center; a 63-year-old part-time school crossing guard who cared for his

dying mother for 16 years, then lived off the proceeds from the sale of her

house until the money ran out; two retired school teachers; a 23-year-old Palo

Alto native who stayed with his mother in a rental car after his old car

spontaneously combusted; and, for about six months, Suzan and James. “They

didn’t fit this image that the powers that be are trying to create about

homeless people. They did not fit that image at all,” Suzan told me. “We made

sure the premises were respected, because it was an honor to be able to stay

there.” She and others told me they cleaned up their areas at the center every


“I said, ‘We have no place to go, and we’re staying right here.’ They were going to know about it.”

Pressured to find a way to move the residents out, the police

department went to the city council claiming they needed a law banning vehicle

habitation to address the neighbors’ concerns. Advocates for the homeless said

that any problems could be solved if police would just enforce existing laws.

Local attorneys warned the city council that such laws could soon be considered

unconstitutional , because the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was hearing a

challenge to a similar law in Los Angeles. Carrie LeRoy, an attorney who

advocated on behalf of the unhoused, and other attorneys threatened to file a

class-action lawsuit if the vehicle-habitation ban ever went into effect. The

city council passed the ban anyway , in a 7-2 vote in August 2013, and the

police department and other groups in the city started an outreach program to

tell people about the law. “All of them had received these notices from the

city,” LeRoy said, “And it was basically like, ‘Get out of our town.’”

A few weeks later, the city council also voted to close the

showers at Cubberley and give it a 10:30 p.m. curfew, which made it illegal to

sleep there. On their last night there, in October 2013, Suzan and James left

around 8 p.m. so they wouldn’t get caught past the new curfew. They tried some

old haunts and got kicked out. The stress of living in the van was hard on

James. Around this time, James decided to end his dialysis. “Of course, we knew

what that meant,” Suzan said.

One night, about a month after leaving Cubberley, the police

pulled Suzan and James over. Their registration was expired. “This officer, he

got a wild hair, and he said, ‘I’m going to impound your car,’ and called the

tow truck.” Suzan told me. They got out of the car. Without pushing and

demanding, she realized, she was never going to get out of the situation. She

told me she said to the officer, “This is our home, and if you impound it we

will not have a home.” He insisted. “I said ‘That’s fine. You do that. We will

stay right here. I will put the beds out, I will put what we need here, right

here on the sidewalk.” Other officers arrived and talked to them. They asked

Suzan whether, surely, there was some other place they could go. “I said, ‘We

have no place to go, and we’re staying right here.’ I was going to make a

stink. They were going to know about it.” Suzan told me people were poking

their heads out of their homes, and she realized the bigger fuss she made, the

more likely officers might decide just to leave them alone.

Because James’s health had continued to worsen, he and Suzan

finally qualified for motel vouchers during the cold weather. They got a room

in a rundown hotel. “It had a microwave and a hot bath,” Suzan said. In his

last few days, James was given a spot in a hospice in San Jose, and Suzan went

with him. “It was so cut-and-dry. They said, ‘This is an end-of-life bed,

period,’ ” Suzan said. “And I never said that to James.” He died on February

17, 2014, and a few weeks later a friend of theirs held a memorial service for

James at her house. Suzan wore an old silk jacket of her mother’s, one that

would later be ruined by moisture in the van, and a necklace Nancy had made.

They ate James’s favorite foodscornbread, shrimp, and pound cake. Suzan had a

few motel vouchers left, and afterward stayed with friends and volunteers for a

few weeks each, but she felt she was imposing.

That summer, she returned to her van. It was different without

James; she realized she’d gotten to know him better during their van life than

she ever had before. Maybe it was his dementia, but as they drove around or sat

together, squished amidst their stuff, he’d started to tell her long stories,

over and over, of his youth in Georgia. She’d never heard the tales before, but

she’d started to be able to picture it all. On her own, without his imposing

figure beside her, Suzan was scared, and more than a little lonely. Most

nights, she stayed tucked away in a church parking lot, without permission from

the pastor, hidden between bushes and vans. The law wasn’t being enforced, but

sleeping in the lot made her a kind of a criminal. “The neighbors never gave me

up,” she said.

Suzan told me she was in a fog of denial after James’s death, but

it’s probably what protected her because homelessness is exhausting. “You start

to lose it after a while,” she said. “You feel disenfranchised from your own

society.” The Downtown Streets Team , a local homeless organization, had been

helping her look for a long-term, stable housing solution. Indeed, Suzan told

me that at various times, she and James had 27 applications in for affordable

housing in Palo Alto. (When he died, she had to start over, submitting new

applications for herself.) Her social worker at the local senior citizens

center, Emily Farber, decided to also look for a temporary situation that would

get Suzan under a roof for a few months, or even a few weeks. “We were dealing

with very practical limitations: having a computer, having a stable phone

number,” Farber said. Craigslist was only something Suzan had heard of. She’d

finally gotten a cell phone through a federal program, but hadn’t quite

mastered it.

For many months, Farber struck out. She didn’t think Suzan would

want to live with three 25-year-old Google employees, or that they’d want her,

either. She even tried Airbnb. Because Suzan didn’t have a profile, Farber used

her own, and wrote to people who had rooms listed to say her 69-year-old friend

needed a place to stay in the area for a couple of weeks. “We got three rejections

in a row,” she said. Finally, in November, they found a room available for rent

for $1,100about 80 percent of her income from the trust and her widow’s

benefits from Social Security. Suzan would have her own bedroom and bathroom in

the two-bedroom apartment of a single mother. The mother crowded into the other

bedroom with her 16-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter. The only downside

for Suzan was that it was in Santa Clara, another charmingly bland suburban

enclave in the South Bay, a half hour south of Palo Alto and a world away for

Suzan. “It’s out of my comfort zone, but that’s OK!” she told me.

I met Suzan on the day she moved in, and the concept of being able

to close a door was almost as unsettling to her as the concept of sleeping in the

van had been. “I’m in this kind of survival mode,” she said, and had found a

certain comfort in her van. “I’ve got this little cocoon I’m staying in, and

everything is within arm’s reach.” She had a big blue mat in the back of the

van, like a grown-up version of the kind kindergartners nap on, but soon she’d

acquire a bed. She retrieved her old TV from her storage unit. She made a

comfortable room, with chairs and a bed and a small table, and decided to eat

her meals in there. She only signed a lease for three months, because it wasn’t

really sustainable on her fixed income. She’d also applied for an affordable

housing complex being built for seniors in Sunnyvale, one that would provide

permanent housing for 60 senior citizens from among the 7,000 homeless people

in the county at the time. She’d find out in April if she was selected in the

lottery. All her hopes were pinned on it.

Mapping Suzan Russaw’s Life in Silicon Valley

In the first few weeks after her move to Santa Clara, Suzan spent

a healthy portion of her limited income on gas, driving the Explorer back and

forth to Palo Alto. After all, her post office box was there, and so were her

social workers. Her errands demanded a lot of face time, and in some ways, she

still filled her days the way she had before she got her room, moving around trying

to solve her problems. Her car was still packed, too, as if she hadn’t let go

of the need to drive in it, to move forward, to keep her stuff around her

within arm’s reach, as if she were still without a home base.

Two afternoons a week she went to a Palo Alto food closet. She

usually made it right before it closed, in the early afternoons. When her

number was called, she went up to the counter to watch the volunteer sort

through what was left on the shelves, finding the most recently expired itemsthese

were older goods grocery stores couldn’t keep past their sell-by dates. Suzan’s

politeness was, as always, almost formal, from an earlier era, when being

ladylike was a learned skill. The volunteer would ask her if she wanted milk,

or peaches, or a serving-size Baggie of cereal, and she’d say, “Yes, very much

so!” These days, she got to take raw eggs instead of the boiled ones, a treat

reserved for those with kitchens. Her requests were glancing rather than

direct. “Have you any lettuce?” and the answer was often no. I said it seemed

like an efficient operation. Suzan said, “I really know the drill!”

Suzan needed to visit her social worker, Julia Lang, at the

Downtown Streets Team office to get the form that allowed her to go to an even

better food bank. She asked the receptionist whether her social worker was in.

She wasn’t, and Suzan explained she was looking for the food bank vouchers.

Then the receptionist asked for her address. That stopped Suzan. The

receptionist explained that the pantry was for Palo Alto residents, and Suzan

was considering, for the first time, whether that counted her. Suzan explained

that she and her husband had gone to the pantry the year before, and said they

should be in the system. We waited while the receptionist looked. Suzan waved

at someone she’d seen around for years, from her car-dwelling days. Suzan told

the receptionist, again, that they really should be in the system. But they

weren’t. Suzan said that was OK, and she would come back. The receptionist

said, “Are you sure? I just need your ID and your address.” Suzan demurred. She

needed to talk to her social worker. This is what it meant to have to leave her

hometown. She was leaving the city where she and James had known people, the

city where James had died, the city where she’d grown up and near where she’d

raised her own daughter. It was the city where she knew where to go, where

she’d figured out how to be homeless. It was the city where she knew the drill.

That homelessness persists in Silicon Valley has puzzled me. It

has an extremely wealthy population with liberal, altruistic values . Though it

has a large homeless population relative to its size , in sheer numbers it’s not

as large as New York City’s or L.A.’s . Some of the reasons could be found in

the meeting on November 17, 2014, when the city finally overturned the

car-camping ban . It had never been enforced because, as predicted, the Ninth

Circuit had overturned L.A.’s ban. In the end, all but one person who’d voted

for the ban the first time around voted to overturn it . The lone dissenter was

councilman Larry Klein . “The social welfare agency in our area is the county,

not the city,” he said. “To think we can solve the homeless problem just

doesn’t make sense.”

This idea was repeated many times among city officials—that

homelessness was too big an issue for the city to resolve. The city of Palo

Alto itself has one full-time staff member devoted to homelessness, and it

coordinates with county and nonprofit networks to counsel, house, and feed the


Suzan shows where she stored food in her car while homeless.

During the fight over the ban, the city tried to devise an

alternative —a program that would allow car dwellers to park at churches—but

then left the details up to the faith community to work out. Nick Selby, an

attorney and member of the Palo Alto Friends Meeting House , said he and his

fellow Quakers met with community resistance when they tried to accommodate

three or four car dwellers on their tiny lot. Neighbors circulated a petition

listing concerns like “the high prevalence of mental illness, drug abuse, and

communicable diseases in the homeless population” and the risk of declining

property values. But Selby said some of their concerns were fair. “People who

objected were saying to the city, ‘What’s your program?’” Selby said. “And the

city really had no answer to those questions.” Without a solid plan and

logistical help from the city, other churches were reluctant to step forward.

“The churches weren’t prepared to deal with this,” he said. After the church

car-camping plan fell through, the city council said it had no choice but a

ban .

Santa Clara County, too, struggles to address the problem. The

county is participating in federal programs to build permanent supportive

housing for the chronically homeless population, the population of long-term

homeless who typically have interacting mental health and substance abuse

problems. But land is expensive here, and the area is shortchanged by the

federal formula that disperses funds. California, ever in budget-crisis mode,

provides limited state funds. There isn’t a dedicated funding stream from the

cities, which don’t necessarily pay a tax to the county for these projects, and

local affordable housing developments are often rejected by residents as Palo

Alto’s was. In September, the city of San Jose and the county announced a $13

million program to buy old hotels and renovate them as shelters, which will

make 585 new beds available. While advocates credit the county’s efforts with

cutting the estimated homeless population by 14 percent since 2013, the number

of people like Suzan, who hide in their cars, is almost certainly

underestimated. But most such efforts are centered in San Jose. Chris

Richardson, a director of the Bay Area’s Downtown Streets Team, said what needs

to happen is not a mystery: Other cities have to fund affordable housing, they

have to fund more of it, and they have to do it in their own neighborhoods,

without relying on San Francisco and San Jose to absorb all of the area’s

poverty and problems. “You can’t just ship them down to the big, poor city,” he


When Palo Alto originally passed the car-camping ban, it also

devoted $250,000 to the county’s homelessness program. When they voted to

rescind the ban, council members asked for an update on what happened to the

money. The city staff was not prepared to report on how it had been spent at

that council meeting, more than a year into the funding. Members of the council

again reiterated their desire to help the homeless. “Helping the homeless” was

tabled, as a general idea, for another agenda at another meeting, as it always

seems to be, or passed off to the county, or to someone elseand so helping

the homeless is something nobody does.

Through the winter, Suzan remained ill; it was a bad flu season.

She kept paying the rent on her room, on her storage units, on her P.O. box in

Palo Alto, and she tried setting aside money she owed on parking tickets. Some

months she’d run out of gas money to drive the 15 miles to Palo Alto and check

her mail or visit her social workers. She was waiting to hear about the

affordable apartment.

In May, she was denied. Suzan had bad credit, both because of the

unpaid storage unit she and James had lost and because otherwise her credit

history was so thin. Julia Lang, one of her social workers, told me she couldn’t

even get a credit score for Suzan. Lang said people get denied on credit, or

because they make too little for affordable housing that’s supposedly intended

for extremely low-income people, all the time. “When you’re that destitute and

have gone through so many complicated situations, what are the chances that

your credit’s going to be good?” she said.

Suzan was livid and despondent, and she decided to appeal. “I

wasn’t going to take that lying down,” Suzan told me. “I was proud of myself.”

Catholic Charities helped her appeal. Suzan had to write a letter showing how

she intended to repair her credit, and that she understood why it was bad in

the first place. During the months of back and forth, Suzan bought a new Jeep,

only one year newer than the Explorer, in case she needed to sleep in her car

again. In July, she learned she’d won her appeal. She had two weeks to get her

affairs in order, pay the first month’s rent and security deposit, and move in.

Her social workers helped her with some of the move-in costs, and she signed a

lease for a year.

I saw Suzan again in August, about three weeks after she’d moved

in. Her hair was trimmed. She was wearing a brightly colored muumuu, blue and

green with tropical flowers“It’s a housedress but you can wear it out on the

street!”and a green sweater tied around her shoulders. She seemed relaxed and

rested, and I told her so. Her bed was full of folded clothes, and her room was

still in disarray. She was trying to cull her storage unit so that she could get

a smaller one and cut down on rent. Most of the people in her complex had been

in the same boat as Suzan, or had been worse off. She pays $810 a month, the

amount determined to be affordable for her income. It had taken her more than

three years, help from at least three social workers, and thousands of dollars,

but she was finally stably housed. At least, for a year.

WordPress SEO Plugin – SmartCrawl by WPMU DEV





Jobs & Pros

The Team

Sign up




SmartCrawl – Easier & Faster WordPress SEO

SmartCrawl – Easier & Faster WordPress SEO

Boost your PageRank and drive more traffic to your site with little effort and simple configuration.

Version 1.7.6


– Translations

Download SmartCrawl – Easier & Faster WordPress SEO

Watch Video

Zoom In Zoom In Zoom In Zoom In

Previous Next

Downloads 103,470

Compatibility WordPress 4.4 Multisite 4.4 BuddyPress 2.4.2

“Easy to setup and works like a charm.” Rozani Ghani



Let’s face it, content is still king. The best way to drive traffic to your site is amazing content. Good SEO is about making sure your amazing content is easy to find.

SmartCrawl does just that; it makes your content easy to find on search engines like Google and Bing by making web crawlers smarter.

Easier, Faster WordPress SEO

SmartCrawl includes only the most effective proven methods of optimization for high impact results with as little setup as possible.SmartCrawl cuts the time-consuming little tweaks and lets you take advantage of the most effective tools so you can quickly get back to what matters most–incredible content.


Sitemaps tell search engines how to find content on your site.

Moz Integration

Built-in integrate with Moz – the industry leader in SEO reports.

Title & Meta

Customize how page titles and descriptions display on search screens.

Automatic links

Auto link keywords to a page on your blog or a whole new site altogether.

The SmartCrawl Set Up Wizard will have you up and running quickly.

Our Setup Wizard Makes It Easier To Get Started

Great SEO can be easy. Our built-in Wizard will have you up and running in minutes. Get first-class results by simply making the changes that matter most.

You can even customize the Wizard to fit your specific needs. Streamline setup by hiding features you don’t want to use.

Direct integration with Bing and Google.

Share Updates With Search Engines Automatically

Make your content easier to discover with automated sitemap generation.

Send updates, changes and new content to search engines to improve content indexing.

Get a higher click through rate with custom titles and descriptions.

Better Titles, Descriptions And Keywords

When your content pops up on a search engine you only get a few words to make sure your content stands out.

Automate what information titles and descriptions include by default or provide custom titles, descriptions and keywords manually on each post and page.

Autolink to affiliates and strengthen in site linking.

Automatic Keyword Linking

Create a more connected site with automatic links.

Set keywords to link to internal or external content for building backlinks, sharing affiliate links or simply tying your content together. Link relevant content and save time.

We make it easy to integrate with Moz.

Moz Integration

Connect to Moz with a free account to receive reports that track how your site stands up against the competition with important SEO measurement tools like ranking, links and authority.

Give your site WordPress SuperPowers with SmartCrawl – Smarter Web Crawlers, Easier Faster WordPress SEO.

If you want big results with little effort–use SmartCrawl.

SmartCrawl Features

Make it easier for search engines to find your content.

Customizable setup wizard

Simple guided settings

Offer SEO options by user role

Direct interaction with Google

Direct interaction with Bing

Send sitemap updates automatic to search engines

Title and meta data optimization

Automatic sitewide linking

Complete Moz integration

Multisite and BuddyPress compatibility

Process posts and pages individually

Process RSS feeds

Conduct case sensitive matching

Prevent duplicate links

Open links in new tab/window

Exclude posts or pages from sitemap

Exclude custom post types

Exclude categories

Exclude tags

Exclude custom taxonomies

Include or exclude images

Include or exclude stylesheets

Include or remove the sitemap dashboard widget

Disabling automatic sitemap updates

Custom home title

Home meta description


Main blog archive meta robots options

Post title defaults

Post meta description defaults

Media title defaults

Media meta description defaults

Custom post titles (per custom post type)

Custom post meta descriptions (per custom post type)

Post categories, tags and custom taxonomy title and meta defaults

Post categories, tags and custom taxonomy robots tags

Author and date archives

404 page title and description defaults

Members get SmartCrawl – Easier & Faster WordPress SEO, plus…

Upfront Themes

View all







140+ Plugins

View all




The Google+ Plugin


Social Marketing

JOIN 8 3 8 8 8 4 , 8 9 8 6 8 3


We pride ourselves on our level of customer support and responsiveness to member requests. Your WordPress experience will never be the same

Become a member

PayPal Partner

39,741 Fans



246,212 Subscribers

Terms of Service

Privacy Policy


© 2004-2015 WPMU DEV – Project by Incsub

Got a question?

The Secret Guide to Video and SEO

The Secret Guide to Video and SEO

Since the Google Penguin and Panda updates, a lot of SEOs finally have realized that ranking a website in the long term is not just about building a large number of links. It’s also about creating high-quality content that will attract links naturally over time.

However, one type of content that still is underutilized in the world of SEO is online video. Although a lot of brands are incorporating video content into their overall online marketing strategies, most SEOs don’t place a high priority on it. Usually, they opt for creating various other types of content (e.g., infographics, images, written content, etc.).

If used correctly, video can be an extremely powerful form of content and make a significant contribution to your overall SEO strategy, in more ways than one.

Avoiding a Common Trap and Defining Your Goals

Although the idea of producing a video might seem like a “nice” idea, it’s important to remember that it must compliment your overall SEO strategy and generate a return on investment (ROI).

If you fail to define your goals in the early stages, not only will the video end up costing you (or your client) a hefty chunk of money, it will be money down the drain that could have been spent better elsewhere.

Failing to clearly define goals is a common SEO mistake and one that often is seen with content such as infographics.

Many SEOs will commission the creation of an expensive, cool-looking infographic without putting enough thought into the overall goal. They get blinded by the idea that “infographics build links” without stopping to think whether they want the infographic to increase conversions, increase high-quality traffic (i.e., visitors who are likely to convert to paying customers), or simply provide off-page SEO benefits (i.e., links).

It’s the same with video content. You need to know what you want to get out of it. Without knowing this, it will be difficult to conceptualize/commission a production that has any hope of successfully captivating the intended audience and leading to your desired goals.

What are Your Goals?

From an SEO point of view, there really are only two main goals that you possibly could have – to build links and generate social shares or to increase conversions .

Let’s start by looking the first benefit mentioned above…

1. Build Links/Generate Social Shares

If it’s done well, a video can generate a large number of links for a website; and often from some pretty reputable domains, too. I’m not just talking about a few links, either. I’m talking about hundreds or thousands of high-quality links in some cases.

The problem is there’s so much online video content that unless you create an exceptional video and have a great outreach/marketing plan, its success is going to be limited.

People don’t link to or share any old rubbish these days. So, to get the success you’re looking for, it’s important for you to really think about who you want to share the video and who you want to link to it.

Essentially, your video has to offer something to the viewer. It might make them laugh, educate them, amaze them, shock them, or annoy them (or even a combination of these). The point is it needs to evoke a strong enough emotional reaction that they’ll want to share it, either by clicking the Tweet/Share button or by writing a post about it on their blog/website (with a link back to your site, of course).


Perhaps one of the best examples of a video that generated a massive amount of backlinks is the “viral” video from DollarShaveClub.com (above).

About a year ago, hardly anyone had heard of Dollar Shave Club, but shortly after they produced and marketed the video, that all changed.

Strangely enough, the Dollar Shave Club video wasn’t produced for link building purposes. It was produced with the aim of raising brand awareness. But in the modern world of SEO/marketing, brand awareness and link building are directly related, at least when it comes to online content.

Let me explain.

According to YouTube, the Dollar Shave Club video was uploaded on March 6, 2012. Following the upload, it didn’t take long for the video to start going viral. Partly due to a great PR/outreach strategy and, in large part, thanks to its very amusing concept, it started to gain a lot of attention for the company.

Within hours, it was featured on leading news sites across the web, including Mashable (pictured above), The Next Web , Techcrunch , and literally hundreds of others. Within a month or so, it also had been featured on many other leading sites that most SEOs would work extremely hard to obtain links from, such as Forbes and BusinessWeek .

Obviously, this is great for brand exposure, but what has this got to do with link building?

Every single one of those leading news websites mentioned above linked out to Dollar Shave Club in their articles, as did the hundreds of other sites that reported on the video.

In fact, this screenshot (taken from MajesticSEO), shows just how successful the video was for Dollar Shave Club in terms of SEO.

As you can see, around March 2012 (when the video was uploaded), Dollar Shave Club attracted approximately 18,000 backlinks and has continued to attract relatively large numbers of links every month since then.

If you take a look at the cumulative view of backlinks gained (pictured below) since the video was uploaded (approximately 12 months ago), you’ll see that it has attracted almost 90,000 links to date and the site still is attracting links naturally every month as people continue to write about it (like me).

The reason for this is the video struck a chord with its intended audience, and, as a result, went “viral” and attracted links. It was funny, original, and kept its target audience in mind.

There also was an excellent outreach/PR strategy in place, which was responsible for getting the video off the ground and starting the link building process.

These are all things to note if you’re looking to use video for SEO.

SEOmoz.org Whiteboard Friday

As I mentioned earlier in this guide, videos don’t necessarily have to be funny to attract links. They just have to offer viewers something they want to see. One good way to do this is to create a video that’s educational.

Every Friday, SEOmoz.org posts a “whiteboard” style video on their blog. Due to the regularity of these videos, they’ve become known as the “Whiteboard Friday” videos. These videos not only attract a lot of attention from SEOs around the world, but also attract a significant number of links, embeds, and social shares; therefore increasing traffic for SEOmoz.

Here’s an example of a Whiteboard Friday video in which Rand Fishkin (founder of SEOmoz) talks about the varying effectiveness of social proof (well worth a watch, by the way).

As you can see, as well as embedding the video above, I’ve also chosen to link back to the original source of the video on SEOmoz. A lot of webmasters will do this naturally, which means that producing a great, informative, and educational video like this one almost always will act as a form of linkbait for your site. This is because most people will find video content more interesting than standard text content (if it’s high quality, of course).

Another smart move from SEOmoz (one that actually has been introduced only recently) is the inclusion of the social share buttons on the video embed. If you look at the video above, you’ll notice there are Facebook “Like” and “Tweet” buttons that allow the viewer to share the video with ease. This is a feature provided by Wistia , the video hosting company used by SEOmoz for their Whiteboard Friday videos.

Notice that, even though the video is embedded on KISSmetrics, the “Like” and “Tweet” buttons will share the original video URL on the SEOmoz website, thus increasing social shares and generating social signals for SEOmoz.

According to Open Site Explorer (pictured above), that particular Whiteboard Friday video received 402 links from 37 referring domains and well over 1,000 social shares. Once again, proof that people love video content.

What Should I Learn from All of This?

In both instances above (DollarShaveClub.com and SEOmoz.org), video content has been responsible for successfully attracting a substantial number of inbound links and social shares for the website in question. This proves that, when used correctly, videos really can provide a huge boost to your SEO campaign.

However, both of these videos successfully attracted links for different reasons.

For Dollar Shave Club, it was all about the video seeding/outreach strategy. Mike Dubin, the founder of Dollar Shave Club, came from a video seeding background , which obviously played a big part in the success of the video. No one knew about Dollar Shave Club in the early days, so the outreach process definitely played an important role in getting things off the ground.

With SEOmoz, it’s likely that there was no outreach conducted in order to attract links/social shares, as SEOmoz already has an extremely large, loyal community of followers who are likely to share their content naturally. For them, simply producing a high-quality video targeted at their fan base is enough to attract links.

It’s important to consider this when using videos for SEO because all sites are different, and, therefore, will require a different approach. Ask yourself: Do I have enough high-quality traffic already to attract links automatically, or do I need to conduct outreach? And, if so, how much?

It’s also important to remember that it doesn’t matter how good your outreach plan is if your video isn’t of exceptional quality. If that is the case, it’s not going to attract a large number of links.

It’s tempting to cut corners and produce a sub-standard video in order to keep costs down. But, in the long-run, this won’t pay off. Ask yourself: Is my target audience going to be interested in this? Would I link to this if I came across it? Does it evoke an emotion? If you answer “no” to any of these questions, go back and rethink things before you produce your video.

One last thing : To get the full SEO potential of your videos, consider hosting videos on your own website (instead of Youtube or Vimeo). The reason for this is to get people to link back to your domain, which will help your overall SEO efforts as well. The possible downside would be reduced exposure or shares.

Also, on most video hosting sites you can link back to your content from the video webpage. Don’t forget to do this! It’s a free link 🙂

2. Increase Conversions

Although some SEOs might disagree with this, I believe that the job of an SEO isn’t necessarily to increase rankings, but rather to increase online sales/revenue for the client.

Obviously, this is a two-part process: attracting more visitors to a website and then optimizing the website so that more of those visitors convert into paying customers/clients.

Video content can be fantastic for increasing conversions on just about any website. In fact, more brands than ever are using videos on landing pages and on various other pages of their websites to keep visitors engaged and, eventually, convince them to make a purchase.

There are two main ways to increase conversions with video – by embedding a video on a landing page and by making use of rich snippets .

Video on a Landing Page

When a visitor lands on your site, you’ve literally got seconds to impress them and get them engaged with what you have to offer. This is the whole point of a landing page. But these days, people are so used to seeing rich media content on the internet that, quite frankly, text content often doesn’t keep them engaged.

Accordingly, I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that embedding a video on your website not only will increase the length of time that visitors stick around, but, also, the number of conversions to paying customers, which, ultimately, is what SEO is all about.

Product Videos

Product videos are perhaps the most common way that retailers increase the conversion rate of their website using video content. Hundreds and thousands of retailers are making use of product videos these days, and it’s easy to see why.

According to Invodo , 52% of consumers say that watching product videos makes them feel more confident about going ahead and making a purchase.

Take a look at the screenshot above from the online retailer Zappos . It shows one of their product videos being used on the page for women’s Levi jeans. According to econsultancy , Zappos found that sales increased by between 6% and 30% on products with product videos.

As you can see from the video (embedded above), the videos are nothing very elaborate. They’re essentially just short product demonstrations, but, clearly, they do the job, as the results speak for themselves. Here are some other brands that increased their conversion rate with product videos .

Explainer/Introductory Videos

Obviously, not every business with a website has a product to sell, as some businesses are service oriented.

For these, you can increase conversions with the use of explainer/introductory videos. There are varying styles for these videos, and, truthfully, there’s no exact science as to what style works best. It’s more about producing a video that explains/introduces a client’s business effectively and in an engaging way.

Take the video used by Dropbox above, for example. It explains how the service works in an engaging, animated style. Dropbox found that they increased their conversion rate by over 10% by adding this video to their homepage. And considering that their homepage receives over 750,000 visitors a month, this means that it increased signups by several thousand every day and no doubt generated a huge ROI.

This video on the other hand introduces a local mobile bar company by explaining the service, introducing the guys behind the business, and showing their services in action. It’s a similar length to the Dropbox video, but it is presented in a different style. When embedded on the “about us” page of the client’s website, it increased his overall conversion rate by around 7%.

Rich Snippets

Increasing conversions with video isn’t only about what you show the visitor once they land on your website, but also what you show the visitor before they even get there.

If you’ve noticed Google’s search results recently, you have seen a significant increase in the use of something called rich snippets, and, in particular, video rich snippets.

If you’re new to rich snippets, you can watch Google’s official explanation in the video above. Essentially, though, this is what a site with video rich snippets looks like in the SERPs:

As you can see, Google displays information about the video embedded on the page, letting the Googler know that, should they click through to your website, a video is awaiting them.

To put it simply, video rich snippets help you stand out from the other nine search results on that particular page, and, therefore, searchers will be more inclined to click your result, which will increase traffic to your website.

You’ll be able to show searchers a thumbnail of your video and the length of your video. Make sure the thumbnail stands out and sums up what the video is about if you want to maximize conversions.

How Do You Use Rich Snippets for Video?

To show rich snippets for your video in the Google search results, you’re going to need to self-host your video. If you’re using WordPress, there is a workaround for hosting your videos with YouTube using the Yoast Plugin , but it’s definitely recommended that you self-host your content, if possible.

There are a number of other SEO benefits to self-hosting your videos as opposed to using a free video host such as YouTube, as documented here .

Once you’ve gotten your video hosted and embedded on your site, it’s simply a matter of informing Google about the video. To do this, you’ll have to add the required Schema.org code to your page and submit an XML sitemap within Google’s Webmaster Tools.

It’s a bit of a hassle, but once you know how to do it, it’s pretty easy to do time and time again. Plus, if you’re already ranking for any high-volume keywords, it is well worth the effort, as the increase in conversions should bring significantly more traffic to your site.


The popularity of online video presents a huge opportunity for SEOs willing to get creative to achieve results. Producing videos isn’t always cheap, but it usually isn’t as expensive as people believe it will be, either. If you’ve commissioned and marketed infographics before, you definitely can afford to produce a video that will generate a good ROI for you/your client.

Remember, quality is just as important when it comes to online video as it is when producing any other form of content.

About the Author: Josh Hardwick is the founder of ShortyMedia , a leading production company specializing in viral, corporate, and web videos. He also is a freelance SEO and loves producing great content and building links.

Related Posts

How to Recover From Any Google Penalty

Optimize Every Web Interaction

Create triggered popups, nudges, and lightboxes to boost conversions.

Start 14-Day Trial

How to Embed a YouTube Video | TechHive

How to Embed a YouTube Video

YouTube videos are meant to be shared. But the best way to share them is not by copying and pasting a link, but rather embedding the actual video in your blog, Web page, or the like. That way, your visitors can watch the clip directly without having to click away to YouTube proper.

Embedding a video used to be pretty straightforward, but recently YouTube has made some changes that make the process a bit more confusing. Here’s your start-to-finish guide to video embeds:


1. Open the YouTube page containing the video you want to embed.

2. Just below the video window, find and click the Share button.

3. At the bottom of the “Link to this video” box, click Embed .

4. Below that, you’ll see a highlighted chunk of text. This is the “embed code,” which you’ll need to copy and paste into your Web page. You can do so immediately by right-clicking the text and choosing Copy . However, you may want to modify some options first, as described below.

Notice the five checkboxes below the embed code. The one I have to enable most often is Use old embed code , which provides a different chunk of code that’s more widely compatible with blog tools. Make sure to enable any of these options you need before copying the embed code.

Also, you can choose from various sizes for your embedded video by clicking any of the gray boxes below the checkboxes. If you need something smaller, use the Custom box. For example, I routinely need my videos to be no larger than 450 pixels wide, so I enter 450 in the Width field. (YouTube automatically calculates the height.)

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at hasslefree@pcworld.com , or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums .