How Images, Video, Audio, and Flash Content Help Your Search Engine Ranking
A great way to attract both search engines and visitors to your Web site is by using engagement objects. These are non-text elements such as images, videos, audio, or interactive elements on a Web page that help engage users. Not only do they make your page more interesting to a user, but they are also now becoming increasingly important as a search engine ranking factor.
With the rise of blended search (also known as Universal Search in Google), search engine results pages (SERPs) are now able to show a combination of different types of files to a searcher. So a search for 1969 Ford Mustang can return photos, videos, and so on, in addition to Web site links, all on the same SERP (as shown in the figure).
The search engines (particularly Google) want to provide the most relevant and engaging results to their users, so having engagement objects on your Web site can actually make you rank higher in search results than your competitors.
Take a look at your top competitors’ Web pages as a user would and notice their engagement objects. Keep your own Web site in mind so you can make a list of things you might need to add. Besides getting an overall feel for how these sites engage their users, look to see how extensively they incorporate the following engagement objects:
Images. Notice the number of photos, illustrations, diagrams, charts, and so on. Also pay attention to size. Larger images with good attribute text and good surrounding text can get indexed and actually returned as a search result itself, so notice whether the competitor has anything like this.
Video. Video is extremely important these days for getting noticed on the Web. The best method is to embed the video right into your landing page and also upload it or a portion of it to a video-sharing site like YouTube. Include a keyword-rich description and a link back to your site, and you’ll probably get traffic as a result. Consider this: YouTube's internal search function now gets more total searches than Yahoo!. Depending on how you look at it, that means YouTube is the second most visited search engine in its own right. Obviously, YouTube's site search isn't a true search engine, but you better believe that the traffic is true traffic. If your competitors haven’t been savvy enough to upload videos to YouTube and embed videos on their sites yet, here’s a good way to one-up them. Being where people can find you is critical.
Audio. Look for embedded audio files within the site, which is another type of element that’s good for user engagement. Audio files are expected on music-industry sites, but other sites might benefit from a creative use of audio, as well. Google can now parse soundtracks and generate a text of the words that can be subsequently indexed. This clearly shows that audio is a valid content form.
Flash. Flash files (SWF) can also help a site rank, especially if there’s lots of explanatory text and if it’s something that attracts people’s interest enough to link to it. (Note that a site built completely in Flash, however, can’t be very competitive in searches because it lacks sufficient text content.) Check out your competitors’ use of Flash. If they all have some Flash elements that help engage users, you’re probably going to need to build some, too.