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Google Crawling Flash: Optimizing Flash for SEO 2.0
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
The other day, Google announced that they have been developing a new algorithm for indexing text found within Flash files. While they have been able to do this for some time, it appears that there has been a major break-through and that Google will now be able to index content from Flash menus, buttons, banners and entire Flash site something that previously gave their crawlers trouble in indexing this content.

According to Google;
Now that we've launched our Flash indexing algorithm, web designers can expect improved visibility of their published Flash content, and you can expect to see better search results and snippets.
So does this mean that you should go out and place your content within Flash and create these Flash sites? Well in one word no. I would expect that the search engine crawlers still have an easier time and as a result have a preference for crawling simple html content. Of course you need to think about your users. Are you sure that they want to experience a site entirely in Flash? Flash can be a cool feature but, it's really just a cover to the book that is your content. Having said that, the fact that Google can index content within Flash is a fairly major break-through that will benefit many Webmasters (providing that Google continues to rank the most relevant content regardless if it is within Flash or not.)

So what does this improved Flash indexing by Google mean? Well here are a few Questions that Google has answered about how they now crawl Flash files.

Q: Which Flash files can Google better index now?
We've improved our ability to index textual content in SWF files of all kinds. This includes Flash "gadgets" such as buttons or menus, self-contained Flash websites, and everything in between.

Q: What content can Google better index from these Flash files?
All of the text that users can see as they interact with your Flash file. If your website contains Flash, the textual content in your Flash files can be used when Google generates a snippet for your website. Also, the words that appear in your Flash files can be used to match query terms in Google searches.

Q: What about non-textual content, such as images?
At present, we are only discovering and indexing textual content in Flash files. If your Flash files only include images, we will not recognize or index any text that may appear in those images. Similarly, we do not generate any anchor text for Flash buttons which target some URL, but which have no associated text.

Also note that we do not index FLV files, such as the videos that play on YouTube, because these files contain no text elements.

Q: What are the current technical limitations of Google's ability to index Flash?

There are three main limitations at present, and we are already working on resolving them:

1. Googlebot does not execute some types of JavaScript. So if your web page loads a Flash file via JavaScript, Google may not be aware of that Flash file, in which case it will not be indexed.

2. We currently do not attach content from external resources that are loaded by your Flash files. If your Flash file loads an HTML file, an XML file, another SWF file, etc., Google will separately index that resource, but it will not yet be considered to be part of the content in your Flash file.

3. While we are able to index Flash in almost all of the languages found on the web, currently there are difficulties with Flash content written in bidirectional languages. Until this is fixed, we will be unable to index Hebrew language or Arabic language content from Flash files.

For more on Google's improved Flash indexing click here. Look for Yahoo to be able to crawl and index Flash more efficiently as well as Adobe has stated that they have created an optimized Flash player for search engines and are currently collaborating with both Google and Yahoo!.

Optimizing Flash for SEO 2.0

SEO 2.0 is going to mean optimizing the content found within your Flash files. If the copy within the Flash is the most relevant, you can expect to see these pages jumping up in the organic results of Google. Vanessa Fox over at Search Engine Land had a great recap:

Google Now Crawling and Indexing Flash Content

Optimizing flash means just that, you optimize Flash for the user. If the content is relevant, it should rise to the surface. Optimize Flash does not mean spamming Flash. I'd equate this to keyword stuffing alt tags that so many Webmasters continue to do. I would hate to see keyword stuffed Flash files.

Key Points to Remember
  • Remember that Google won't crawl or index any Flash executed via JavaScript.
  • All non-textual content will remain "un-crawled" and not get indexed by the search engines
  • Any external sources that the Flash file loads will be indexed separately
  • Flash does not necessarily make your site more crawlable. Google Webmaster Central Blog has some great tips on making your site more accessible. http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/04/webmaster-tips-for-creating-accessible.html
It's great to see Google branch out and evolve with the demands of web site owners, designers and Webmasters.


posted by Jody @ 2:26 PM  
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