An Introduction to SEO for Movies and Film

Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Lil Ginge

The film industry is big business. And that means that film studios have to spend many hundreds of millions of dollars on various advertising strategies to get their film seen by audiences all around the globe. Search engine optimization – or “SEO” – is one digital marketing strategy that can be employed by movie studios in pursuit of financial success for their blockbuster and smaller films alike.

What Is SEO and How Can Movie Studios Use It?

SEO is a branch of marketing that focuses on optimizing websites and website pages to rank well on internet search engines, especially Google. It is generally focused on keywords, the queries that people type or say when they enter a Google search. For example, if you want your website to rank for the keyword “Indiana Jones”, you will optimize a page on your website around that keyword. The idea is that when someone searches the query “Indiana Jones” in a Google search, your website will hopefully rank close to the top of page 1.

The higher you rank on Google for a particular keyword, the larger the share of search traffic from that query your site will generally receive. So, the site that ranks in position 1 for “Indiana Jones” will likely get about thirty-three percent of the web traffic searching for “Indiana Jones.” The number position will generally garner you about 20% of the traffic; position three about 10%. Everything below position 3 will garner a smaller and smaller share of traffic until the amount of traffic received from a given ranking position (say, 10 or 20) is negligible.

SEO traffic is often known as “free traffic” or “organic traffic.” But what does this mean in the context of SEO for movies? Free or organic traffic – any SEO traffic – specifically means traffic that is not derived from running paid advertisements on Google, Facebook, or really any other digital property. When you Google a search term, you likely will see advertisements at the very top of the search before you come to the SEO or “free” results. Companies have to pay to get their web pages listed in these ad spots. But companies do not pay Google any money to rank their pages organically through SEO.

Components of SEO for Movies

There are a number of different components to SEO marketing for movies, but the core three elements of SEO include:

  1. Technical SEO – the practice of optimizing your website for things like site speed, user experience, internal link structure, and meta data.
  2. Content – the practice of creating the best content on the web for a given keyword.
  3. Link building – the practice of acquiring links from other great websites on similar topics to your website.

External links from other websites to your website – called inbound external links or simply “backlinks” – are one of the most powerful signals to Google that your webpage is of high quality and should rank well for the targeted keyword. Of course, the links need to be from other high-quality websites on the same or similar topics in order to be relevant enough to help your site rank.

So for example, say a New York Times movie review of the film Raiders of the Lost Ark links to your web page about Indiana Jones, Google will look at this very favorably. However, a link from a random startup blog about “cute kittens” linking to your Indiana Jones page likely won’t help out at all.

If a film studio produced a movie called Movie released this year, they will likely want their own website or web pages devoted to this film to rank at the very top – or at least close to the top – of Google page 1 for queries like “Movie film 2022.” In order to do this, the film studio should make sure their website functions as well as possible on a technical level and also hosts great content – preferably the best content – on that film. That content can contain tons of information about the film including

  • The full cast and crew of the movie
  • Images from the film or the production
  • Video clips or trailers from or about the film
  • Reviews of links to reviews of the film
  • Many more details about the production of the film such as run time, release date, etc.

Social Media and SEO for Movies

One great way to promote a film is to combine social media marketing strategies with SEO marketing strategies. Great social media content has the power to go viral and build awareness of your film widespread on social media networks. People who become aware of a film through social media may then seek out more information about the film by Google searching it – which is where the studio’s SEO work comes in handy.

There are a number of different ways to build links to the content on your website about your film. For example, critics reviewing a film or film review aggregation sites will most likely link to your movie’s main homepage. The same is likely true regarding interviews of cast or crew from your film as well as from ticket sales websites like Moviefone or Fandango.

What To Do With Traffic for Your Film

You have a number of different options as to what to do with website traffic that lands on your webpage. For example, you may encourage them to go buy tickets to the film on a site like Fandango or to stream the film on a streaming platform like Hulu or HBO Max. Or, if you are selling merchandise related to the film, you can encourage them to buy the merchandise from other websites such as Amazon or even right from an e-commerce store right on your own film website.

Common SEO Strategies for Movies

One common SEO strategy employed by movie studios includes using internal linking and anchor text. Internal links are links from one page on your website to another page. The anchor text is literally the words used in the hyperlink. For example, if you link from your Indiana Jones homepage to a page about the Indiana Jones cast and crew, you can use “cast and crew” as your anchor text. But even better anchor text may be, “Cast and Crew of Raiders of the Lost Ark.” By being more specific, you are helping Google to better understand both what your target page is about and what you want it to rank for on Google’s search engine.

SEO is not a static process but an ongoing one. That is because Google is constantly changing, experimenting with, and updating its algorithm in its quest to bring users the absolute best content in response to their search queries. Not only do you need to be making updates to your website to keep with these algorithmic changes and always be improving your content, but competitors for your target keywords may also be doing this as well. 

It’s essentially a never-ending game to first get to and then stay at the top of a Google search for a query. Some may call this neverending practice of “SEO” a dark art but there’s really nothing “dark” about it. It just takes work and sustained commitment. 

Who Works on Search Engine Optimization For Movies?

Generally, a film studio or production company has three major options when it comes to hiring an SEO:

  • In-house / staff SEOs
  • SEO consultants
  • SEO agencies

Each of these different hiring structures will have different pros and cons as to whether they are the best fit for a particular company’s particular situation. While hiring an in-house SEO can be extremely effective, sometimes companies prefer the strategic and financial flexibility of relying on external help.

Why The Movie Business Needs SEO

Every year, thousands of feature films are produced by the world. Plus, many thousands of smaller film projects are produced annually. With this competitive and crowded space, you need to use digital marketing and SEO specifically to properly build awareness for and promote your film.

SEO can be a powerful tool for independent filmmakers and studios who do not have the kind of blockbuster movie budgets that the major studios have. But even the major film studios should be using SEO to help market and promote their films. As a result, ranking well on Google for search terms related to your film can be an extremely cost-effective way of marketing your film. 

If you found this article on film SEO helpful, check out my recent article on private equity in film.

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