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10 Engaging Ways to Incorporate Engagement Objects™

EDITOR'S NOTE: Our free, online SEO Tutorial contains current guidance on how to use engagement objects.

by Katie Wertz, March 16, 2009

Engagement Objects are multimedia content like video, audio files, pictures, maps, or charts, as well as applications like macros or polls, that you can stick on your Web site in order to actively "engage" your user. For a quick way to get an idea of ways to engage your users, take any Google vertical search and determine what they're indexing. That content is an Engagement Object. It's something you put on your page in addition to the rest of your content. Like a tasty garnish to your main course. They're important not just because of the need to embrace blended search in your SEO strategy, but also because objects like videos and images enhance the user experience, and thus up your chances of a conversion. So Engagement Objects are definitely something you should look into for your own site as a way to spruce things up a bit. But how would you go about doing that? There's a myriad of different ways to use Engagement Objects, so how do you know what the right one is for you?

Some people call Engagement Objects "link bait," and in a way that's true but it's putting the cart before the horse. The primary goal of an Engagement Object is to interact with your user, not to increase your traffic with a cheap stunt or even as an SEO technique. It's a simple fact that people like to be entertained (look at prime time television if you need any proof of that) and Engagement Objects can be link bait if they are outrageous or entertaining enough. Clever marketers know how to capitalize on that. Matt Inman, of 0at.org, is very good at using Engagement Objects as link bait through his clever images.

So what does this mean for you? Engagement Objects is a large pool to jump into, and getting started could be a little overwhelming. What should you use? And how? Should you do something that's pure link bait or should it be something that's there on your site for the long haul? We've put together a list of ten types of Engagement Objects that you can use in order to entertain your visitors, add a little bit to your search engine optimization and score some points in the vertical search engines.

1. Videos

With the advent of YouTube, anyone with a video camera, some editing software and a little bit of free time can create a video of just about anything. And because of the YouTube's partnership with Google, it's a great way to be found as well. Some examples of people using videos effectively are the guys from Blendtec. They've created a series of videos using their blenders to demolish everything from brooms, skis, golf balls and in one memorable instance, an iPhone. They've placed these videos on their site as an effective means of drawing in the viewer and demonstrating their product. The effect is undeniable. Before the "Will It Blend" campaign, very few people had ever heard of Blendtec. Now, they're world famous and their sales have increased 700 percent.

You don't have to destroy something to build engaging content, however. Something as simple as a song can bring in eyes. 

2. Podcasts/Audio files

Podcasts are like radio shows that you can stream online. They're a good supplement for journalists, columnists, radio personalities and media personnel to bring their content online. Especially if online is the only place where the podcast is available. A good example of someone using a podcast effectively is Anderson Cooper. The CNN journalist has a daily podcast available on iTunes and on the CNN Web site discussing the hot topics in the day's news. Other media personalities like Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and the Today show make use of podcasts. Even popular advice columnists like Dan Savage have a podcast that adds additional material to their weekly columns.



3. Images

Images are another big Engagement Object. They enhance text and increase their user experience. When used the right way they can also become link bait. A blog called This is why you're fat is a good example of using images as Engagement Objects. This blog features images of some of the most disgusting, fattening concoctions known to mankind, like fried guacamole or a meat cake with mashed potatoes used as "icing." This site, due to the imagery it provides, became incredibly popular within days of its launch.



4. Macros

Those pictures of cats and misspelled words, otherwise known as macros, are in fact, Engagement Objects. Macros are images that will appear in the image vertical search engines, and a great way to entertain visitors, or to get your point across. Many users out there have wasted whole afternoons looking at sites like icanhazcheezburger.com and that site gets links in a way that most sites can only dream of. They also offer the ability for users to create their own macros, which bringing another level of engagement to the site that furthers their popularity.



5. Graphs or Charts

In meetings, it's often quite common to use a graph or a chart to effectively showcase data. It's no different to use a graph or a chart on the Web as a means of engaging users and enhancing your content, and getting your point across. It can be simple and humorous as the flowchart demonstrating the proper usage of "Oh Snap!" or useful enough that people want to hang it on their wall like Bruce Clay, Inc.'s own Search Engine Relationship Chart.



6. Webcomics

Webcomics are also very popular on the Web, and they can range from a gag-a-day strip like you would find in a newspaper to longer, more complicated storylines. They're also an effective means of enhancing your site, drawing users to you (especially if they're GOOD webcomics) and advertisement if you provide a good or service. Ficional SEO company Ranked Hard starts off every blog post with a fun comic that relates to the entry, a clever trick that keeps industry people coming back. Big Oak SEO is the company behind this devious bit of engagement. Artist Chris Yates uses his webcomic Reprographics as a way of selling his artwork (and entertaining himself).



7. RSS feeds

Skittles recently used an RSS feed as an effective Engagement Object. Using an RSS feed from Twitter, Skittles.com posted the tweets of all users who said the word "skittles" on their Web site. Not surprisingly, "skittles" was a very popular word that day on Twitter and probably drew more people to the Skittles corporate site than had ever been there before. However, this is a dangerous example. Remember that you're adding Engagement Objects to increase your site's relevance and worth. Cheap stunts that just draw eyeballs are only good if eyeballs are the only thing you're looking for. If you have a larger goal (like link building for search engine optimization, newsletter sign ups or sales), you have to do more than just make a stir.



8. Maps

Maps are also useful Engagement Objects. Many brick and mortar businesses use them on their Web sites to give directions to their locations, and these maps will pop up in local search engines. Google Sightseeing is a site that uses Google Maps as a way of exploring new places and sights as suggested by the readers.



9. Polls

Polls are literally engaging with your audience, asking their opinion on a variety of subjects. Plus, not only does it engage your users, it can also provide you with some very valuable data or feedback into the hearts and minds of your audience. The Bruce Clay blog used a poll to ask our readers what they felt about Guy Kawasaki's controversial advice on how to use Twitter. While many in the comments felt that Guy was missing the point when it came to building a conversation, the poll results revealed an otherwise silent majority who supported Guy's philosophy.



10. Live Streaming

This past fall, one of the biggest Internet phenomenona was the Shiba Inu puppycam from Ustream. Ustream is a site that allows users to stream live video to their site. A couple in San Francisco used the site as a means of keeping tabs on a litter of newborn Shiba Inu puppies, and wound up becoming Internet superstars. Other sites use the technology to stream music concerts or live events. Using live streaming video is like uploading a video with all the pitfalls of live television.

The best thing to remember when creating your own Engagement Objects is to be creative and clever. They are there to enhance the content of your Web site and effectively communicate your point to your visitors, from blenders that can blend just about anything to polls that strive to find out the user's point of view. One of the most effective ways to draw visitors to your site, and to keep them there, is to give them a reason to come to you, and a reason to explore the rest of the site. Engagement Objects are one of the best ways to do so.


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