Rich media on a site can sell products or impede sales depending on how it's deployed, a retailer and search engine optimization expert told attendees at the Internet Retailer Web Design '08 Conference.

Rich media on a web site can help sell products, or it can get in the way of sales-it all depends on how it’s deployed, an online retailer and a search engine optimization specialist told attendees at the Internet Retailer Web Design ’08 Conference last week.

Shari Thurow, founder and search engine optimization director of Omni Marketing Interactive, offered tips for making sure rich media on a site works for and not against a retailer’s sales objectives. Rich media applications must first meet user expectations, she says, meaning that what a user thinks will happen when he clicks a site feature actually happens.

Thurow offered Ikea’s web site as an example of one that meets users’ expectations in some of its uses of rich media and doesn’t in others-for instance, when a click on a product image brings up product detail in one instance but a click on another product doesn’t bring up the same relevant information.

Enlarged images of a display of shoes to showcase the capacity of a wardrobe left Ikea shoppers with a recollection of the shoe image rather than any feature of the wardrobe. Even though rich media attracted people initially, it ultimately distracted them from the purchase of a wardrobe, she adds.


Thurow also notes that while it can dazzle visually, rich media on a site can impede other site objectives, such as having site pages easily indexed and ranked high in search results. Because of how search engine crawlers work, the more rich media you put on a site, the less likely it is to appear at the top of search results, she notes. Sites that want to add rich media should first consult a search engine expert to gauge its effects on search engine rankings, she adds.

Sharing the platform with Thurow was Bart Patterson, founder and president of, who discussed his site’s approach to the effective use of rich media. With top golf shoe maker FootJoy’s customizable shoe a big sales opportunity, the regional had to figure out how to build an online shoe configurator that would stand out from those of bigger national competitors, while delivering a better experience to the customer. decided that it would make its configurator different by making it fun to use. Mindful of its core 40-and-older audience, GolfLocker minimized the configurator’s use of icons and terms that some users might not be familiar with, and also avoided smaller type and clutter that would interfere with the shopping experience for its target audience.

The tool, designed by web design and development firm A Far Site Better, made it easy to bring up large color swatches and different finishes, and it effectively displayed all the categories of options, that, all told, represented 80,000 possible combinations. says the rich media shoe configurator has paid off in several ways. For one, Patterson says, its presence on the site has helped increase confidence nationally in the smaller regional retailer. It’s also more than doubled the length of the average site visit as visitors engage the tool and play with options. In addition, he says, first-time customers who engage the shoe configurator become repeat customers faster than those who enter the site through any other category.