A question I hear a lot is whether Flash is now search engine friendly. There was a big buzz around the announcement last year that Google, Yahoo and other SEs were beginning to spider and index Flash. Is it true?
I’ve never thought so. Adobe claimed that they had furnished technology to Google and Yahoo that would allow them to extract the text embedded in a Flash file and add it to the indexes like any other text, but I’ve been a skeptic. Now, in the first post linked below, Damien Bianchi of Adobe basically says that the crawling issue is not yet resolved. He says that in order for SEs to see text in a Flash file, “the content must be placed in an HTML source.” That doesn’t solve the problem.
To help matters, Adobe has started something in their Developer Center called the Search Engine Optimization Technology Center where there is an accumulating group of posts about how to write Flash for SEO as well as usability. These are useful ideas about how to accommodate to the limits of Flash indexing. In two recent posts, Bianchi has issued some guidelines for developing with Flash that make more intuitive sense than ‘trust Google and Adobe’.
The overview post is on search optimization for RIAs (rich Internet applications – Flash, AJAX, JavaFX, Silverlight, Curl). It is a long (for the Internet) article that outlines why Flash isn’t easy to index and offers some ideas about how to get around that. Included are some nice code examples for our developer friends, as well as a list of techniques for making Flash sites or applications search friendly. This post is the in-depth version of the second bullet-pointed post that summarizes what to do for those of us who are technically-challenged.
The second post is an SEO for Flash checklist. Again some of this is technical and means close to nothing to me, but many of these items are clear and useful guides to developing a site using Flash — here’s some points I get:
- Create unique URLs for each section of your Flash movie, using appropriate keywords in each.
- Make sure your main navigation is in HTML.
- Make “strategic design decisions.” I love this one. It means: come on folks, don’t be lazy — use Flash to enhance usability in reasonable ways embedded within an HTML-based structure.
- Have a sitemap.xml.
- Have a text-based sitemap page on the site.
- Have a video sitemap (usefully explained as a version of the XML sitemap — I’ll check more into this one).
- Make sure the robots.txt file is up to date.
- Avoid popups to run your Flash content — the robots won’t see it.
Flash is one of the most wonderful applications going for usability — it looks beautiful and works well. Use it strategically and you can have both usability and search engine visibility.