Making SEO Interactive: Best Practices for Modern Content
For an industry that’s always changing, it’s amazing how many SEO experts focus on content that stands still. There’s no doubt that factors like keywords, links and title tags play a role in search visibility – it’s just that more engaging forms of content are quickly gaining the same kind of relevance. It’s all a part of Google’s seemingly endless movement towards a more satisfying search experience for users. After all, if an interactive infographic presents information more intuitively and clearly than a long article, why shouldn’t search engines direct people to that resource? The best interactive content is personalized, participatory and digestible – Google realizes this, and so should digital marketers.
What Is Interactive Content?
First things first: you might be wondering what sets interactive content apart from the static content we all know and love. Interactive content initiates active user engagement, where the user must participate in some way in order to receive some kind of feedback. In less technical terms, interactive content is the stuff you see online that begs to be clicked, moved or generally messed around with. That’s not to say interactive content is just for fun, as it can be informative, educational and provide relevant value to users. It’s a form of content marketing that can drastically improve your SEO results, because as we’ve seen, engaging content is more valuable than ever.
Types of Interactivity
Some forms of content are easy to identify. Blogs, white papers, product descriptions, and how-to articles – these are all static pieces of written content. Interactive content is a little different. As surprising as it might seem, the applications for this category are still being invented. For example, interactive virtual reality videos that give users a 360-degree view of a space or product showroom have only started appearing in the last few years. Some more recognizable forms of interactive content include before/after image sliders, quizzes, games, polls, moving infographics, map overlays and interactive timelines. Virtually any type of website can utilize some form of interactive content.
What do you do when you’re walking and you encounter a wall? Chances are you stop and turn around – or you ignore it altogether. People act the same way when they’re greeted with a wall of text on a website. For better or worse, increasing access to information means people have shortened attention spans. In fact, according to one study, our attention spans may actually be shorter than that of goldfish. The next generation of content won’t always tell you something; it will demonstrate it to you.
Interactive content keeps people engaged, which leads to higher dwell times on the page – an important ranking signal. Additionally, effective interactive experiences often provide useful content, increased usability and lower bounce rates, which all factor into SERP rankings. You can go into Google Analytics to see these stats, and chances are your most engaging pages will have the best SEO results. Interactive content is also extremely sharable, so you are sure to boost your link and social profile building efforts, and get some extra SEO juice. As Google’s algorithms evolve, they will continue to naturally reward the resources people find most useful, so delving into interactivity today could pay dividends tomorrow.
They say actions speak louder than words, and that’s increasingly true in the SEO industry. No, we’re not saying, “go to your website and delete any trace of the English language on your screen.” Written content still matters – it’s one of Google’s top three ranking factors –and Google will continue to derive the purpose of a website through words for the foreseeable future. Search algorithms are changing, however, and the meaning behind those words matter more than getting just the right keywords in just the right places. It’s the same kind of meaning you can pump into your interactive content – simply relevant information that provides value to the user.
How to Optimize the Interactive
One of the biggest reasons content creators may shy away from interactive work is because they think it’s impossible to optimize for search. They ask themselves how Google can understand something that isn’t literally spelled out for it. Optimizing for interactive content takes a different mindset than simple text. Even though most interactive experiences don’t render text in a way that search engines can directly index, there are some workarounds.
A NoScript HTML allows you to hide a written description of your interactive visual presentation, so Google can understand its purpose and users don’t have to read through the text. Be careful though, keyword stuffing in NoScript HTML is as bad as on a normal page.
One of the most effective ways to implement interactive content is through third party sources – just be aware that there are some (fixable) indexing issues that can arise from this approach. Sometimes your content isn’t actually located on your domain, but on the third party’s. You can account for this by using a rel-canonical tag that gives your content the SEO authority it’s missing. This tag informs search engines that the content is meant to index just like any other page on your site. You might not have to worry about implementing this however, because many newer interactive platforms allow you to embed interactive elements right onto your site, so you automatically get credit for any ranking signals.
Case Study: LA24
Aside from the SEO benefits, interactive content is great for, well, interacting with. When you can tap, slide, shake and move things around a screen, it’s hard not to feel like a kid again. One great example of fun interactive content that ranks well is the website for the Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid. As soon as you hit the site, there is a sense of movement and interactivity that invites you click around. Digging a little deeper into the site reveals a 3D map of planned venues that reacts to mouse movement. You can zoom into sections of the city to get a closer look, and it feels like a pixelated playground.
Interestingly, there isn’t much traditional SEO content on the site, yet it still ranks well for important keywords. When you search “2024 Olympics” in Google, it has the seventh spot, and is the only bidding city to appear on the front page. Even searching the year alone, “2024”, places the site in the fourth spot of Google’s SERP. How does a site made up mostly of images, videos and interactive content perform so well? Google recognizes that people are still getting the information they need about the city’s Olympic bid, and as long as that’s the case, it doesn’t matter whether the page has the perfectly tailored keywords or backlinks. It’s all about providing a better user experience, from the moment a user searches for something to the satisfying answers they uncover.
If you look at a webpage from the 1990’s, the differences in content is striking. There was no such thing as background videos, parallax scrolling or customized maps. During the first years of the Internet, content was almost all text, and the shadier SEO agencies would keyword stuff to take advantage of simpler Google algorithms. Today, websites are more interactive than ever before, and what is presented is more important than how it’s presented. You’re not confusing search engines with interactive content anymore – in fact, you’re probably improving your website’s rankings. It wouldn’t make sense to do interactive content without a purpose, but if there is an application that makes sense for your client or business, it’s an avenue worth exploring.