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Different types of media are used widely across the internet in basically every way that you can think of. Pictures, text, blog posts, music, podcasts — the list goes on. As a form of communication, media online has evolved in several different ways. Two of these evolutions are rich media and multimedia. Rich media and multimedia are representative of similar ideas and media types, but may subtly serve different purposes. Multimedia is an umbrella term that can apply to many different kinds of compound media — including rich media. However, rich media describes a more specific set of multimedia features on the web. Below you can find more about multimedia, rich media, and the different ways that they are used.
Multimedia is communicative media that typically uses more than one medium simultaneously. Multimedia has actually existed long before the internet — the concept dates back to the 1960s. It has evolved as film, art, and now the internet, and continues to progress and change the way that we view and interact with media. Videos, infographics, movies, and other presentations like these are all examples of multimedia.
Multimedia is used in a variety of contexts: entertainment, education, marketing, ads, art — even political campaigns and government agencies use multimedia. Perhaps one of the reasons that multimedia is so widely used is because it is incredibly easy to make. There are several apps, online programs, and even the built-in settings on your phone or computer that can help you make multimedia in a snap.
Rich media is a type of multimedia that, according to Google Support, must “include advanced features like video, audio, or other elements that encourage viewers to interact and engage with the content.” For example, an ad that expands when the page loads, or floats as the user scrolls would be rich media. These dynamic elements are designed to create a strong user response as well as to be an interactive part of the page. Rich media typically has many parts, and may incorporate multimedia, such as video or audio components.
There are several types of rich media that you may see across the web, including:
These types of rich media may occur separately or together. You can find more rich media examples in Google’s rich media gallery.
Using multimedia and rich media can influence your page’s UX, web crawler diagnostics, and linkability, which are all important SEO metrics. From a reader’s perspective, multimedia can communicate ideas more efficiently than a wall of text. Therefore, supplementing your page with relevant visuals or graphics may be an important contextual supplement to keyword-rich content that can help you earn more search traffic.
Another crucial part of using multimedia on your page is alt text. Alt text is a part of your page’s HTML and is used to describe your image to search engines, as well as visually impaired readers using screen-reading software. With alt text, you can further associate your content with relevant keywords, and help search engine algorithms understand what your image is about and how to contextualize it with your page’s content.
When it comes to rich media, advances in HTML are used to incorporate the many layers that are a part of rich media ad displays. Studies have shown that rich media ads can result in higher click-through rates, which can appeal to site owners looking to improve ad revenue or discoverability. However, it should be noted that because of its dynamic nature, rich media files are typically larger than multimedia files. This is something to be aware of during your SEO audit, as bigger files can slow down your page load speed, and affect your site’s user experience.
When it comes to multimedia vs. rich media and their differences, it all boils down to your needs and your site’s capabilities. If you can use rich media without sacrificing user experience — whether this is loading speed, page organization, or ability to support a link building campaign — then it’s a great option that’s been endorsed by authorities in search, including Google itself, which offers rich media templates to site owners. If your page can’t handle the demands of rich media, multimedia elements can still hit the critical points that rich media conveys, just not as dynamically.