In the early days of search, site relevancy was determined by the text content of your site alone. The spiders weren't sophisticated enough to take images, movies, sounds, etc., into consideration. Times have changed. With Web 2.0 becoming more of a Web standard for content presentation, the search engines are now starting to list rich media files in the organic listings. Ask.com is at the forefront of this new search method with Ask3D, a skin-able, blended search engine. A search for a city name will return weather reports, recent news headlines, featured attractions, images, maps and more. Google is running a close second and is now including YouTube videos in their organic space. Certain queries return news headlines, blog posts, stock quotes, etc. So what is it going to take to achieve high rankings now?
Let's start with video optimization. Currently, Google and YouTube are the most prominent video hosting providers. Just like naming images on your site with relevant names, you will want to name the video file with a term relevant to what the video is about. For instance, if you have a video tutorial for a specific Photoshop technique, call it something like "photoshop-tutorial.mpg". Making sure there is a major keyword in the video filename is a critical part in getting your videos to rank. In Google Video or YouTube, you can also optimize the Title and Description of your videos. This is another place to include some keywords that describe your video. The "permissions" option should be set to public if you want your video to show up in Google results. These video hosting providers also have options where you can "tag" your movies with more relevant keywords, much like a Meta keywords tag. For best results, your most important tags should match your Title and Description for the movie.
Optimizing images is a slightly more fluid process than video optimization. Not only do you have to consider image names, but the quality, originality and format of the image plays a role as well. Files that are JPGs tend to do better than GIFs since the search engines typically view GIF images as standard graphics.
There are on-page elements as well that play a role in determining if your image will rank well in image searches. The page that contains the image should be optimized for the same keywords that you want the image to rank for. The point here is relevancy. Since the search engines can't "see" images, they rely on the surrounding text content describing them to figure out what the image is about. Image tagging, much like video tagging can be used to help your image's relevancy as well. Many social sites have contextual tags (captions, location, themes, comments, etc.) that you can include in your images to make them more relevant to the search term you want them to rank for. The ALT attribute is still one of the biggest factors. If your image doesn't have a relevant ALT attribute it's not likely to do well in ranking.
Another factor for image ranking is how your images are organized. The search engines seem to reward images that are organized in their own image folder on the server. Many people will use robots.txt to disallow their image folder because it doesn't have any real content in it — we do not recommend this. It doesn't matter if you have all your graphical user interface (GUI) elements in this folder, too; these will tend to be ignored by the search engines.
The new era of search is becoming a much more dynamic and customizable experience. Sites that do not jump on board and start developing rich media content will be at a considerable disadvantage moving forward. The best time to act is now while the search engines are still perfecting blended search.