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Step 11: How to Optimize Multimedia Content for SEO

In the last lesson, you learned why having engaging, rich media objects on your web pages matters for search engine ranking. And let's face it — without them, not even a zombie would want to read your content! Since it's crucial for human visitors as well as the search engines, here you learn how to optimize multimedia content for SEO. Actually, this SEO tutorial lesson is the fun part, where you get to be creative and improve your site.

Dog looking bored captioned Don't be boring

Photo by Josh (CC by 2.0), modified

As a little refresher, engagement objects are non-text elements such as images, videos, audio and other types of rich media that help engage and retain a visitor’s interest AND raise the quality of your web page. Search engines are becoming more adept at reading these non-text elements, but it's the job of SEO to communicate what the content is about.

Here we'll discuss the most frequently used and SEO-significant rich media elements — images, video and audio. Let’s take a look at some best practices for optimizing these key engagement objects.

Image Optimization Best Practices for SEO

It is a widely known fact that content with images performs better than plain text content. However, it's also an area of optimization that businesses frequently ignore. Here are a few tips to help you optimize images for search:

Image attributes in WordPress

Image attributes are easy to set in WordPress.

  • Image selection: Choose an image that relates to the subject matter of your content. Beyond being relevant, an image that's original (such as a photo you stage and shoot yourself) has more value from an SEO and branding perspective, since it will be unique.
  • Honor copyrights: If you do use stock photos, make sure to pay any required license fees and give proper attribution. (SEO Tip: You can search for royalty-free or "creative commons" images, but be careful since each individual image may have its own usage requirements.) Images with trademarks or logos can also be tricky; check the owner's legal requirements to make sure your user is permissible.
  • File format: Save the image in a format search engines can index. With most image editors, you can save the file as a JPEG or GIF.
  • Name: Describe the picture using the appropriate keyword(s) within the file name.
Use text or use image with ALT attribute
  • ALT text: Include brief text describing the image in an ALT attribute (in the HTML image tag). This text can be read by both search engines and people (especially the visually impaired, who use screen-reader software to "read" a page).
  • Text support: Give the image some context by describing it in a caption and in the surrounding text, including the keywords you used in the file name and ALT attribute.
  • Size: File size matters on the web. Keeping image file sizes small means your pages load quickly, which is vital particularly for a good mobile user experience.
    SEO Tips: Make the browser's job of displaying your images easier. Resize each image before uploading it to your website, and specify height and width attributes in the image tag.
  • Sitemap: (Optional) Create an image XML Sitemap that lists all your images, and then submit it to the search engines for increased visibility within image search. (See Step 9 for more on creating XML Sitemaps.)

Image Types: The Choice is Yours

There are many types of images to choose from. A photo grabs a reader's attention well, especially if it contains people's faces. Beyond photographs, consider diagrams, artwork, illustrations, charts, graphs, logos, screenshotsmemes — basically, any visual rich media element that communicates your subject matter and engages your user.

Another type of image that's particularly popular (and often gets reshared a lot) is the infographic. Infographics are relatively easy to build — you can find data through research (citing your sources, of course), and then put it together using one of the many free infographic tools available online. As a segue to our next section on video optimization, here's an example infographic we made using Piktochart:

Why Use Video Infographic

Video Optimization Best Practices for SEO

As the "Why Use Video?" infographic above explains, video is without a doubt a key factor in SEO. Bruce Clay considers it to be the most important engagement element to have in your multimedia content arsenal. In fact, Google has a vested interest in video since it owns YouTube, which has become the second most popular search engine on the web.

Making videos doesn't require a huge investment in equipment and software, or even a lot of tech savvy anymore. Some simple, low-end options include smartphone videos, screen-capture videos, and Google+ Hangouts On Air (i.e., live video conferences with up to 10 participants talking from remote locations, filmed with their laptop mics and cameras, and automatically turned into a YouTube video).

Whether your videos are recorded with your webcam or high-end productions, you'll need to follow some SEO tips to optimize this multimedia content and help your videos rank well in search:

  • Format: Save your video in a format search engines can read, such as MPG, MPEG, MOV, M4V and WMV among several others.
  • Hosting: Use YouTube (or a similar video hosting site, like Vimeo) to host your video and then embed it on your site. This enables the video to be found in YouTube searches, as well as web and video searches in Google, Bing, etc.
  • Branding: Make your brand name or website URL visible if you host the video on a third-party site like YouTube. For instance, upload it to your brand's YouTube channel, and show your brand name in the video (a subtle reference near the end works well).
  • Tags: Place keywords in the video's file name, Description and Keyword tags.
  • Surrounding text: Optimize text around the embedded video with relevant keywords. Describe what the video is about so readers know what to expect and search engines can make sense of your video.
  • Transcript: Create and upload a transcript, or use YouTube subtitles and captions as a transcript alternative. (SEO tip: Your keyword targets should have been mentioned in the video, so they'll naturally appear in the transcript.)
  • Sitemap: Create and submit a video XML Sitemap to make it easier for search engines to find and index your video content. (See Step 9 for more on creating XML Sitemaps.)

Audio and Podcast Optimization for SEO

Audio is a great way to add value to your existing content while enhancing the user experience. Music sites are not the only ones that can offer quality audio files for visitors to listen to. Even non-music sites can find ways to enrich the visitor's experience using audio. (Note: We suggest letting the visitor control whether audio plays, rather than starting the sound automatically, as a courtesy.)

SEM Synergy podcast

Widespread Internet access in cars and phones has enabled podcasts to resurge as a popular way to consume content. A podcast is a digital audio file that can be downloaded or streamed from the web. Millions of people listen to podcasts every day to learn new skills, get industry news and updates, or hear an audio book — among many other reasons to listen to podcasts. As an example, Bruce Clay hosts a weekly half-hour radio show talking about current Internet marketing topics (SEM Synergy) that people can listen to live, or download or stream as a podcast. Consider hosting a podcast from your site if you have lessons, news recaps, interviews, or some other type of audio content that would be interesting and useful for your audience to digest on a regular basis.

Here are a few tips for incorporating audio files (podcasts or other types) into your multimedia content:

  • Quality: Choose audio files with good sound quality.
  • File naming: Optimize audio file names with relevant keywords just as you would for image or video files.
  • Relevant text: Similar to video, you can create and provide a transcript that includes mentions of your keywords. Also use the text surrounding the podcast/audio file to describe its contents and incorporate keywords.
  • Title, description: Make sure each episode of your podcast has its own unique title and description.


Hear more on the importance of producing expert, competent content as part of your Internet marketing strategy. Optimizing multimedia elements fits into your overall website content and helps make that strategy succeed.

Bruce Clay is speaking to Murray Newlands in an interview for Search Engine Journal.


Next up in the SEO tutorial, you'll learn how to organize your website using siloing. Bruce Clay was the first to introduce this key technique, and it alone has helped many brands see rapid, measurable improvements in search engine rankings.

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Need more SEO tips?
See more on Video Optimization or Search Engine Optimization

Related blog posts and articles:

Create an Infographic for Free (Seriously)
10 Video SEO Tips to Improve Rank and User Experience
How to Build Your Brand with Google+ Hangouts On Air
A 6-Step Guide for Repurposing Content