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Media Embeds & WordPress: So Easy It Should Be on an Infomercial!

Media Embeds & WordPress: So Easy It Should Be on an Infomercial!

by Jessica Jones

You know that moment in an infomercial where the host does something AMAZING, but with very little effort, all thanks to the device he’s selling? That moment when the audience goes “OOOOO” and the host gives his winning smile and says “It’s so easy!” I sometimes feel like this while teaching Working with WordPress classes when I show the class how easy it is to embed a YouTube video onto their site.

Got a new recording? Embed it right onto your WordPress site!
Got a new recording? Embed it right onto your WordPress site!

Because it really is so easy. You copy the video’s URL into your content, and boom, video. In a post a while back focusing on YouTube I talked about the benefits of using YouTube videos for marketing purposes but I didn’t touch on the process of actually adding a video to your page once it’s added to your YouTube channel. WordPress uses oEmbed, a format that allows your WordPress site to pull and display media from various other sites without the use of code.

What other kinds of media can you easily add to your site using this method? The WordPress Codex’s article on embeds has a handy list, as well as some general information about embedding and oEmbed. In the list you’ll find a wide variety of media types – videos, music, articles, publications, projects, to name a few. But before you get overwhelmed by the possibilities and start adding everything under creation to your main page, let’s talk a bit about your options.

Focus on your own content – and that in moderation.

First off, keep in mind that, as awesome as media embeds are, you don’t want to go too crazy with them. Some pages are built around the concept of many embeds – a musician’s site is likely to showcase quite a few embedded songs and videos. However, unless the media you’re embedding is truly the main focus of your business or organization, and by extension your website, you don’t want to overwhelm users by adding too much. One particularly relevant video on your main page could be a great benefit – three could start to look cluttered.

Another important distinction is whether the content is original. If you produced an amazingly fun and useful video showing your users how to squirrel-proof their bird feeder, then yes, you should be proud of that original content and make it available for your users. If, however, you stumbled across someone else’s amazingly fun and useful video?

There’s nothing wrong with linking to someone else’s content, and many media sites like YouTube allow you to embed any content onto your site no matter who created it, but you generally don’t want to give non-original content a very prominent spot on your site. Your site should be a showcase for what your business produces, and your content should reflect that. If you put what amounts to someone else’s commercial on your site, then your users might decide to go buy their squirrel-proofed bird feeder instead of yours. After all, they’re the ones that made the amazingly fun and useful video.

Another good guideline: avoid media embeds that autoplay. Always give your users the choice to click “Play” – many people will immediately leave a site that begins making noise on its own. A song or video playing without being told to is frequently considered obnoxious: remember that your users may be at work or in another environment where unexpected sound could be irritating.

Songs, magazines, polls, projects, documents – embed away!

Okay, so, you don’t want to overdo it with embeds and make your site look too busy, and you don’t want to overly showcase content that isn’t original. What are some of the ways that embedded content can be used effectively to promote your business or organization?

Is your website for a coffee shop that features live music or a church that likes to make sermons available to those that can’t make it to services? Set up an account with SoundCloud and embed recordings. You can make the most recent offering available on your main page, and users can visit your account to listen to previous recordings.

Is your organization or group holding a Kickstarter to fund your next planned venture? You can embed your Kickstarter video, along with information about the project, so that your users can learn more about it directly from your site, and then visit your Kickstarter page if they decide to help fund you.

Do you work for a publication, or an organization or business that provides a regular publication? Make your magazine or newsletters available on ISSUU and embed them so that users can read them directly from your site, or download them if they prefer.

Do you like to regularly poll your users for their opinions? Embed a PollDaddy survey onto your site and change it out frequently to keep your visitors engaging with your site on every visit.

Draw users in – don’t irritate them!

Embedded media can be a great way to draw your users’ interest and encourage them to engage with your content – when it’s used effectively. Someone visiting your site for the first time may choose to listen to that recording, or watch that video, or page through that newsletter if it’s front and center and presented attractively. A regular customer may come to your site specifically to find out whether you’ve released a new issue or posted a new how-to video and see your latest offering right there on your front page.

The flip side is that thoughtless use or overuse of media – or the use of autoplaying media – could cause someone to leave your site without investigating further.

Like many effective design and engagement techniques, media embeds are something that should be used carefully and thoughtfully. Your video of your hedgehog break dancing might become a YouTube sensation, but you might want to reconsider posting it on your law firm’s website.