Interactive media is emerging as a prominent feature of websites these days. From AJAX to Flash to streaming movies, they all provide a rich user experience that having text and images alone cannot match. When applied correctly, these types of media can be invaluable in terms of engaging users; however, media files do to take up valuable page real-estate and aren't exactly at the top of any search marketing company's recommendations list.

Search Marketing

Most search marketing companies have it ingrained in their minds that media on a site is considered a negative feature because search engine spiders can't index the content. It is true that when most spiders are crawling through a website's pages and notice Flash or a media file, they will simply skip over them. If they can't find your content, there goes the relevance that could otherwise have influenced your rankings.

However, search marketing firms have to begin recognizing that there is more to an online strategy than getting top rankings and the initial click-thru. The other part, maybe the most important part, of the strategy has to be user experience. Wouldn't it be more beneficial to a site owner to have 500 visitors who view 10 pages per visit while average 3 minutes on the site rather than 2,000 visitors of which 90% exit as soon as they hit the home page?

Metrics alone can paint a picture of success that conversions and ROI do not match, and in the end, any online strategy should be oriented to increasing revenue. This does not mean that site owners should drown their sites with Flash and AJAX, rather, they should use these media types thoughtfully, in order to strike the right balance between getting users to their site in the first place, then keeping them there to close the deal. Successful car salesmen don't work the parking lot, they make it attractive for buyers to come into the showroom and not leave without a new set of car keys.

An example of using media thoughtfully would be to externalize Flash and use a simple line of JavaScript to display it. Another way would be to develop your site's entire search functionality in AJAX but also create search-criteria specific, static HTML pages for the search engine spiders, to help promote a deeper crawl through your site. In the end, the focus should be just as much on the user as it is on the spider; otherwise you will build a website with amazing visibility that nobody goes to not because it's not relevant, but because it's not enjoyable and as any marketer will tell you: emotive connections facilitate all sales.

Tracking with Web Analytics

How many site owners actually know how much ROI they are receiving from their interactive media? Specifically, how long are users watching the digital marketing file? How many presentation slides did users make it through before exiting? How many users made it through to the AJAX developed product search funnel?

It is important that you establish key performance indicators before you launch your site and that you implement web analytics in conjunction with interactive media. By doing this, site owners can work with development teams to ensure that they add conversion triggers inside of the media's code so that it can communicate with the analytics tracking software.

Web Analytics companies are seeing the need for site owners to track media metrics, therefore, organizations such as WebSideStory have released software such as HBX 3.5 to do this effectively.

Cost

There are many costs associated with having media on your website. In addition to having content writers creating text based content, site owners potentially have to pay for things such as: design/development for Flash, optimizing audio and video, programming/QA for AJAX, and increased monthly bandwidth charges (media files have greater size than text and images).

With the help of web analytics, site owners can monetize the value of having interactive media on their websites. Some analytics packages are advanced enough to correlate their users' behavior with interactive media with the conversions such as form completions or purchases. I recommend that all site owners take advantage of this so that budgeted dollars toward media aren't wasted.

Future

I predict that the interactive media sensation will continue to grow and this type of functionality will become a standard feature of many websites. Users will begin preferring AJAX-based sites for which browsers don't have to completely reload pages. Companies will one day offer all of their text articles through video and audio files, and the development of Flash will become so simplified that any user will have the ability to embed files into their website within minutes.

In order to stay up-to-date, search engines will release spiders that will be more intelligent and able to easily index content found within Flash and media files. We found indications that Google's spider is already that intelligent when we saw occurrences of excerpted text from within Flash files on Google's results page listings.

By employing a media-conscious search marketing strategy and relying on web analytics to help make educated decisions, all companies can take advantage of increasing the quality of their end users' website experiences while also keeping their ROI in line.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.


August 7, 2006





Manoj has been in the Digital marketing industry for over 10 years with experience at some of Canada's largest companies: WestJet and Shaw Communications. Manoj first started in the search marketing industry with Enquiro Search Solutions, where he spearheaded web analytics, SEO Training and the development of cutting edge search marketing solutions for clients. Manoj is also an entrepreneur in the Mobile and Local Deals space.

Manoj is a Professional Speaker having participated at events such as Web Analytics Congress (Amsterdam), Emetrics, Web Analytics Xchange, WebTrends Engage, Internet Marketing Conference, Social Media Innovation Summit and Search Engine Strategies. He has also contributed to several leading online publications such as: Search Engine Land, Marketing Pilgrim, WebProNews, Search Engine Guide and the Web Analytics Assocation.

He founded and successfully sold Web Analytics World (a top 100 Digital Marketing Blog – http://adage.com/power150) and was voted #39th Most Influential Digital Marketer in North America – 2009 (see: www.Invesp.net)





Search Engine Guide > Manoj Jasra > Interactive Media: Good or Bad?