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.
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.
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.
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.
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.