The most important thing you can do, from an SEO perspective, is have text on your Website. You see, Search Engines love text! This is because they understand text and, when a person enters a search term into the Search Engine, the Search Engine is able to match the search term with text on a Website. Video, image and sound however aren’t indexed word-for-word so for a Search Engine to match a video with a text search term is very difficult. Of course, the various meta that may be attached to media (e.g. tags, alt text, titles etc.) may provide the Search Engines with a summary of what the media is about but that still isn’t exactly what the media is about.
For ease of understanding, we’ll divide text and media into two headings as below:
Text is Primary SEO (direct SEO)
The mantra by the Search Engines that original content is the best SEO is accurate. We should however amend this slightly to ‘original text content’ is the best SEO. As described previously, the Search Engine crawlers can process and understand text and then the Search Engines themselves can match the crawled text with search terms. And this is why blogging is seen as good SEO; in WordPress, Blogger and other good platforms, active bloggers usually frequently post lots of original text content. The Search Engines are therefore able to index the text that adds to their ability to match the search terms that people enter into the Search Engines. Keep in mind that the objective of Google, Bing/Yahoo, Duck Duck Go and the other Search Engines is to provide the searcher with the best match to their query. If there is an exact match between the Search term and text on a Webpage then there is a likelihood that the persons search need will be fulfilled.
Of course, text isn’t everything as the Search Engines take hundreds of factors into consideration when determining the most relevant result to a search query. Text is, however, the most basic and important indicator of relevance from an SEO perspective.
Secondary SEO Benefits (indirect SEO)
So, if text is so important to SEO then why the need for video, images, sound and other media? There is the obvious need such as many people search specifically for videos, sound or images. Most often however media provides an indirect SEO benefit; go to YouTube and you’ll notice that many of the videos have the producers name and URL (the same goes for other media Sites such as Flickr and Podcast.com). If the viewer likes the video content then they may visit the producers Site. The Search Engines track the number of visitors to a Site (as well as where the visitor originated) therefore this may well benefit where in the Search Results Pages (SERPs) the producers Site appears (above it was mentioned that Search Engines use many ranking factors to determine relevance). The video on YouTube may contain a title, description and tags however this is unlikely to be enough to influence the SERPs as these are easily manipulated to reflect something other than the video content. If many people are visiting a specific URL after viewing a YouTube video then the assumption may be made that the video is providing a compelling reason for viewers to visit a URL (and hence the URL is likely to relevant to Search Terms related to the video).
Media may also be embedded within your Site content however, again, the benefits are indirect such as people staying longer on your Site.
Without doubt it is most important to concentrate on on-page SEO which includes text. Off-page factors such as sharing images on Piknic have advantages but if the on-page SEO isn’t good then the off-page SEO will have little, if any, SEO benefits. Of the on-page SEO, text is extremely important to rank well in the SERPs. If video, images or sound are embedded then it is essential to include titles, descriptions and any other available meta so that the crawlers are able to have some understanding of the media. For sound and video there is always the option to transcribe the content into text (SEOmoz does this to great effect and Google Video offers the means for this).
Bill Gates wrote in 1996 that ‘content is king’. Text however is the real ruling king!