Common Video Indexing Pitfalls

These are some of the most common video indexing issues we have seen and how we suggest you resolve them to increase the likelihood that your videos will be returned in search results. You should also take a look at our Video Search Best Practices and our usual Webmaster Guidelines.

Blocking resources with robots.txt

A common practice is to use robots.txt to prevent search engines from crawling JavaScript, video, and image files. In order for Google to index a video, we must be able to see the thumbnail specified in your markup or sitemap, the page the video is on, the video itself, and any JavaScript or other resources needed to load the video. Make sure that your robots.txt rules do not block of these video-related resources.

If you are using video sitemaps or mRSS, make sure that Google can access any sitemap or mRSS feed that you submit. If these are blocked by robots.txt, we will not be able to read them.

More information about robots.txt.

Low-quality thumbnail images

We accept thumbnails of any image format but require them to be at least 160 x 90 pixels. The maximum size is 1920 x 1080 pixels.

Duplicate thumbnails, titles, or descriptions

Using the same thumbnail, title, or description for different videos can affect video indexing and can be confusing to users. Make sure that the data for each video is unique. For episodic content, a common problem is multiple videos with the same title-screen thumbnail.

Accidentally setting an expiration date in the past

When Google sees a video with an expiration date in the past, we will not include the video in any search results. This includes expiration dates from sitemaps, on-page markup, and the meta expiration tag in the site header. Make sure that your expiration dates are correct for each video. While this is useful if your video is no longer available after the expiration date, it's easy to accidentally setting the date to the past for an available video. If a video does not expire, do not include any expiration information.

Indicating actual expired videos

When an embedded video has been removed from a page, some sites use a Flash player to tell users that the video is no longer available. This can be problematic for search engines, and therefore, we recommend the following options:

  • Return an 404 (Not found) HTTP status code for any landing page that contains a removed or expired video. In addition to the 404 response code, you can still return the HTML of the page to make this transparent to most users.
  • Indicate expiration dates in on-page markup, video sitemaps (use the <video:expiration_date> element), or mRSS feed (<dcterms:valid> tag) submitted to Google.

Learn more about notifying Google of video changes and removing videos.

Complex JavaScript and URL fragments

When designing your site, it's important to configure your video pages without any overly complex JavaScript. If you are using overly complicated JavaScript to create the embed objects from within JavaScript under only certain circumstances, then it's also possible that we will not correctly index your videos. URLs for content or landing-pages that require 'hash marks' or fragment identifiers are not supported.Also, using Flash on the page can prevent efficient indexing. For best results, show your video title and description in plain HTML markup rather than using Flash.

If you are using on-page markup such as, the markup should be present without running Flash.

Small, hidden, or difficult to find videos

Make sure that your videos are visible and easy to find on your video pages. Google suggests using a standalone page for each video with a descriptive title or description unique to each individual video. Videos should be prominent on the page and should not be hidden or difficult to find.