Our industry rolls along at breakneck speed. We are peeking around the corner trying to get a glimpse of Web 3.0 and big brand marketers are certainly investing heavily in the digital assets that make your user experience more engaging. Problem is that the search engines are still firmly rooted in Web 1.0. At Agency.com we are constantly asked by our clients to build rich experiences, integrate video, design pageless interfaces, connect widgetry and find ways to blow your mind on behalf of global brand marketers. But how in the world do we make sure that the search engines can engage with this content?
Barring a quantum leap in the ability of search algorithms to “understand” digital assets such as images, videos, audio and interactive design, our job as optimizers is to make sure that the search engines can understand the context in which these assets live. Let’s break down some of the issues as they pertain to optimization of digital assets.
Flash, AJAX and other cool interactivity
Enter the debate on Flash. Certainly Flash is indexable, and has been for years. But indexability does not top rankings make. For Flash content to be indexable, you have to build an HTML layer that represents the Flash content. Ideally use SWFObject to put both of these elements on the same URL and let the browser sort them out.
Add to that the fact that AJAX is pretty unfriendly too. The A in AJAX stands for asynchronous, so any content that the search engines need to see can’t be called by the script after the initial page load. Googlebot is not a browser and does not have a mouse to cause an additional call, so anything that you want Google to see has to be included in the initial page load. These issues are incredibly challenging for the big brand marketers that constantly require the best interactive experience and the most seamless design. Note, though, you can have your cake and eat it too with alternate HTML content that can easily be read by search engine crawlers.
With video that you have embedded in your site, be sure that there is a text wrapper that describes the video content in an optimized way. If you are syndicating video content be sure to get positive reviews and build views so that these assets will drive towards the top of search results. Be sure to optimize video titles and descriptions both on your site and on the the video sites. Build a dedicated Google Video Sitemap to help them find your assets. And point some links at your YouTube videos so that they might have a chance to gain placement in Google’s universal search results.
Optimizing audio assets
As with video, you need to be sure that there is text wrapped around your podcasts so that the search engines can see the context of the asset. Try a transcript of the first minute or two, or create a paragraph summary. Don’t put a dozen podcasts on one page and hope that the search engines will sort them out. Instead, build an architecture so that each asset has its own page and can be uniquely titled and tagged.
It is interesting to note that image search is increasingly more important to drive meaningful traffic to sites. What better way to shop for a Led Zeppelin t-shirt than to go to Google Images and search there? Name your image files with keywords, place optimized text close to the images in your page code and don’t forget alt attributes. Also in Google Webmaster Tools be sure to enable permission for Google Image Labeler to access your images.
These are just a few thoughts for dealing with optimization issues with digital assets. We constantly struggle with big brand marketers to be sure that all of the effort they go through to produce digital content is as accessible as possible to end users: humans and crawlers alike.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.