Semantic Video Search: How to Improve Your Platform’s Video Content Discovery

Semantic search finds the distance between two search terms in a latent space, thereby understanding their correlation and hence, the user intent for a search query.
October 15, 2023
Minutes Read

Imagine you are an employee of a courier company, and you've been asked to watch new express delivery guidelines on the intranet. What do you do? You go to your intranet, search 'express delivery guideline', and hope to get the video you're looking for.

But, hey! It says "Video Not Found."

Text: Semantic Video Search with a 3D icon

You recheck your keyword or maybe refine it a bit further. But you get the same result again even after adding more keywords to make your search term more precise. Your takes include 'new express delivery guideline', 'express delivery guideline new', and 'new guidelines for express delivery. Still, no luck! What do you do now? Chances are, you might just give up on searching.

Now, think, do you want this to happen to your employees or end-users? Absolutely not!

If you are running a video OTT solution and want to keep your customers engaged and satisfied, you need to do two things:

1.       Enable your users to find the exact content they are looking for

2.       Speed up the search process

So, what you need is a smart video search engine. Yes! A smart video search engine works differently than traditional OTT platforms' native ones (if they have any at all).

But before we dig deep into how this new generation of the video search engine works, let me briefly explain why the keyword-based approaches aren’t optimal…  and what semantic search means for Video OTT providers.

Tag-Based Approach: The Problem with Traditional Video Search Engines

Most video OTT platforms have a tag-based search algorithm to find videos. In some cases, it means you can only get results if the keyword typed exactly matches a particular video tag.

When we talk about finding content on OTT platforms (and other verticals like corporate websites or news portals), this approach fails miserably! Why?

Because as per a U.S. study, 91.8% of search queries are long-tail keywords. This means people use complex and long phrases to find what they need. If you are using a traditional search engine that’s entirely based on the lexical search, your users might not get what they need.

How to solve this problem?

Well, there is a solution: "Semantic Search!"

With semantic web technologies hitting their stride in recent years, it's time for Video OTT Platform Providers to build smarter solutions for clients and the end-users.

What is Semantic Search? Why is it unique?

Semantic Search Creative

The concept of the Semantic Web was introduced by Tim Berners-Lee back in 1999 as a way of making information on the internet more accessible. To be precise, the technique aims at making data machine-readable instead of human-readable; hence enabling computers and programs to make sense of the internet.

As of today, semantic search is used in various industries (including eCommerce) to help customers and businesses find what they are looking for. It understands their intent. So, unlike traditional keyword- and tag-based approaches, exact query matches are not necessary.

For example, when you say "I need a Chinese recipe" or "Chinese dish", a semantic search engine will understand your query and provide relevant results. If there’s no video with the exact "phrase match", it may come up with Dim Sums or Wonton Soup, which are essentially Chinese cuisines. This makes the user experience more fulfilling.

Here's how Semantic Video Search works

Semantic Search Engines do four things to come up with relevant results. They are:

1. Categorize data

2. Find the distance between search terms embedded in a latent space

3. Present search results

4. Generate metadata and analyze user trends to improve their learning curve

Let me explain these four steps with an example. Suppose you are looking for a video about "Hacking" or maybe "Ethical Hacking."

Before you even begin searching, the search engine would’ve structured the data in a way that makes it easier to look it up. It would’ve assigned a weight to different parameters (such as title, description, genre, cast, etc.) to all videos available in the backend.

Then, it will pick up your query and analyze it. It will determine the correlation between one or more search terms, and find out the distance between them in a latent space (similar terms create a cluster of keywords with low spacial distance). In other words, it will try to find out how each keyword is related to another by mapping them in different ways. 

This also taps the previously generated metadata on the platform, which may include words like cyber attack, computer security, etc.

Then, it provides the user with the most contextual results.

Lastly, but most importantly, a semantic search engine will keep adding new data points every day based on customer behavior. So, the results keep improving with every search query and user interaction!

Leading OTT solution providers like Teyuto have begun their journey into semantic search by giving weightage to the description, categories, casts, and so on.

For instance, if a user types "Rowan Atkinson" instead of "Mr. Bean", Teyuto’s engine will find relevant matches based on the actor’s name and show "Mr. Bean" videos in the result as well.

Mr. Bean with Teddy; as a cartoon character and a real person

And that's not all; the service provider also plans to tie its searches with an AI recommendation engine. This will give users an even more delightful experience. Therefore, if a user searches for "Hacking", it may not only show all the videos related to hacking but also other content such as "Cybersecurity" or "Cryptography", depending on what other users have watched before.

Why Semantic Search is important for your OTT solution?

With the constant growth of the internet and content, it's almost impossible to keep up with the ever-growing demand for relevant content. That's where a smart semantic search engine comes into play; it makes your job easier and faster by:

1. Providing a better way to find what people are looking for – be it a product, service, how-to guide, or any other content on your platform!

2. Helping to find those long tail keywords that traditional video searches often miss out on! In turn, your users will get what they need (even if they don't know the exact keyword or phrase.)

3. Improving user experience like never before, which helps video platforms engage better with their customers and drive superior results.

A enjoying a video on a smartphone during bus travel

4. Giving you an edge over your competition. And ultimately...

5. Helping automation tools provide intelligent solutions, so that humans can focus their efforts elsewhere. If someone asks "I am looking for something funny" or "Show me some good movies", these semantic search engines will present users with exactly what they need without doing it programmatically.

Tips to Keep in Mind for a Better User Search Experience

Although a good video search engine will get most of your work done, you still need to do a couple of things. So, check these things off your list:

1. Understand How it Works

At the heart of it, everything ultimately depends on the data that’s already available. Even the best video search engine may not do much if there’s no data, to begin with.

Make sure you not only have an in-depth understanding of how these correlations are forming but also help optimize the process by feeding rich data to your system.

2. Improve CTAs (Calls-to-Action)

Have clear calls to action on your platform. It will help your users navigate through videos with ease! The more visual cues you provide, the better results will be returned by your customers. It will create a positive feedback loop for your engine.

As an added benefit, this exercise will further improve your engagement rate, and even transactions directly made through your video catalogs!

3. Use Tags

Your tags should be perfect! Don't just add random names that have nothing to do with your video. For instance, avoid using tags like "best" or "amazing" in your tags.

It may make you feel like you're offering the best content on the internet; but, it will confuse the system and make your search results worse. Rather, use tags like "funny" or "romantic" to describe your video, so that the system can understand it better and present the right videos to the viewers. Also, try to use similar tags for similar videos.

4. "Descriptive" Description

Provide a description for each video on your platform. Then, try to make it as descriptive as possible. This is because your description would also have a certain degree of search weight attached to it. Try to include as much detail as possible. It will make your videos more discoverable.

Text notification informing users about improved accuracy of results with added weight to description, tags, categories, and cast

5. Use Related Keywords

Make sure you use as many relevant keywords in your videos as possible. For example, if people are searching for "Learn Python" and you have a video called "How to Use Flask", then add keywords like "python" or "learn python" in your description.

6. Create Great Thumbnails

Make good thumbnail images for each video uploaded on your platform. This will help users who can't find what they're looking for with tags/category names to locate something based on a picture instead!

7. Enrich Your Metadata

You can use semantic search engines to enhance your metadata. This way, you'll have more accurate results and better search performance. And if possible, add captions or subtitles with every video too!

8. Update Titles

Update your titles regularly. For instance, if you've created an e-learning course called "The Ultimate 2021 Node JS Tutorial", and now it's 2023, then updating the title (and content, wherever applicable) seems to be a good idea.

9. Categorize

Lastly, and most importantly, make the task of your video search engine as easy as possible. Avoid letting a machine assume what to do.

Because a machine only thinks in binaries. For it, “a video” (without capitalized "v") is different from “a Video” (with capitalized "V"). And this is just one example.

When you have a video library of 10,000 videos, there could be n number of assumptions that it may be making.

So, make sure you have adequate guardrails in place. Add tags, categories, genres, and every other relevant information to help users find what they need faster! This will give more accurate search results.

Final Word on Semantic Search...

Semantic search is evolving quickly. It will soon be a crucial part of the video OTT industry and take the user experience to a whole new level. The sooner you start using it, the better!

So, if you are planning to build a video platform or looking to improve your existing one, make sure you utilize a great content discovery solution like Teyuto.

So, what are you waiting for? Head over to Teyuto now; have a chat with the team, and give your users/customers an all-new experience like never before!

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Marcello Violini
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