Multimedia and Search Engine Optimization

After an email inquiry from a small business website owner who had considered adding a flash presentation to their website, it’s time to emphasize the search engine optimization value of flash and other multimedia website content. For a small business commercial website design, my advice is avoiding content that requires a large file size such as multimedia. Unless it is absolutely required and does NOT load automatically, visitors on dialup will leave immediately due to the intolerable load time.

Exceptions might be photographers or graphic artists showing high resolution versions of their work, or perhaps a recording studio with sample music or videos. The average small business owner does not need autoloading multimedia.

Here is a response to the email from the site owner previously mentioned who was considering flash:

“Why would you want to add a flash scene to your site? In my list of “Don’t do this” for website design, flash is at the top of the list. It has zero SEO value, and the file size is intolerable for people on dialup. With more than 50% of internet users still on dialup you cut off half your potential visitors by having flash. Unlike videos that allow visitors to make a choice of play or not, flash loads automatically and cannot be avoided. People visit commercial websites for information. Flash is “entertainment” and most people want answers to problems, so my advice is stay focused on text content that search engines can index.”

Let’s consider audio and video next. Another client wants background music to play automatically when a visitor arrives at any page of her restaurant website. This is an intrusion of the visitor’s expectations and privacy, and could actually get them in trouble. Imagine a visitor at work with their speakers turned up, and searching for an area restaurant to visit that evening. The embarrassment of being caught engaged in non-work related surfing on company time could get them fired. Giving visitors a choice with a play button would be more appropriate.

The real question for any small business owner is deciding if music or video in their commercial website design will enhance the sales of their product or service. If the value is strictly entertainment, don’t do it. Another client insisted having flash content on their site, and stated their average sale is $500,000 and they were confident their target market all use high speed internet access. That seems appropriate at first. However, a site done entirely in flash has zero content when it comes to search engines. A 100% flash website will not get traffic driven by search engines, so the owner’s success depends on direct marketing and driving visitors to the website.

Audio, whether voice or music, may be appropriate. Video certainly provides an opportunity to introduce your business, demonstrate a product, or provide advice as a tutorial. As long as these do not autoload and the visitor is given the choice of listening or viewing, multimedia may enhance the experience and sales potential. A visual or audio experience may create a more lasting impression as long as it’s not forced on the viewer. Weigh the pros and cons first.

Next, consider the marketing basics of matching target customers and their needs to what you offer, and then decide the most appropriate method of delivering your sales message. Multimedia is content that cannot be viewed or rated by search engines, so if search engine optimization and driving traffic to your site is important, be careful with multimedia choices for your small business website design.

Finally, people search the internet for information with answers to problems. Problems are perceived needs that visitors want to have solved. The goal is the same whether you call their motivation “information” or a “problem”. If your website is optimized for people first, and then considers search engines, you are more likely to convert visitors to buying customers. People looking for answers are impatient. If your competition has a small business website that uses flash or other autoloading multimedia and you do not, potential customers are more likely to find answers quickly on your website.

Understanding what visitors to commercial small business websites really want, could give you the competitive edge.