April 6, 2005 4:10 PM PDT

Flash authors ponder Google pitfalls

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Google protects its search results

April 16, 2002
SAN FRANCISCO--What if you built a Web site in Flash and no one could find it?

That's the anxiety that packed more than 100 Flash authors into a meeting room on Wednesday at San Francisco's Herbst Theater during the Flashforward2005 conference, which runs through Friday. The main question on everyone's mind: whether Google indexes pages written in Macromedia's Flash animation format as well as it does "static" Web pages, such as those written in HTML, SHTML, ASP or PHP.

"Flash is a self-contained unit," said workshop leader Gregory Cox, owner of the Leyline Web site promotion consultancy in Ventura, Calif. "The way search engine spiders work, they collect text--what I call 'Google food.' With Flash, there's nothing for search engines to sink their teeth into."

Cox acknowledged reports in the search optimization industry that Google was, in fact, capable of combing through Flash movies for keywords. (Google, which typically keeps mum on its indexing techniques, was not immediately available to comment for this report.)

But that doesn't put Flash sites on equal footing with their static page competitors, Cox cautioned.

The chief hazard is a site written entirely in Flash. Cox said Google will treat that site as a single file. As a result, the site will lose out in important Google indexing metrics, like the ratio certain keywords make up within a page. On a 100 percent Flash site, Google will calculate that ratio based on the total word count of the site.

Moreover, when Google and other search engines fail to index separate pages within a site, merchants and other Web site operators lose out on opportunities to land specific pages high in the search results for specific queries.

"The more pages you have, the easier it is to promote your products," Cox said.

Cox suggested two strategies for making Flash sites more receptive to Google indexing. One is to offer the site in both Flash and static versions, an already common practice.

His second suggestion was to embed Flash files within multiple static pages.

Workshop attendees chimed in with suggestions of their own. One participant noted that Flash had a feature for exporting text into a Web site's metadata--invisible information describing the page to search engines--for easier indexing.

Another participant volunteered with an assessment of this approach.

"It doesn't really work at all," he said.

8 comments

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In its current state, Flash should be used as an adjunct to a web site...
...not as the wrapper/navigational controller.

Example: virtual makeover site for women - have the makeover tool be a flash-based panel. But have all HTML-based navigation.

Another example: Have a small Flash-based advertisement on a site's front-page. But have the majority of the site content in HTML so it can be spidered.

Flash has its place - but, at this stage of the game, it's tactical - not strategic (IMO).

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://directorblue.blogspot.com" target="_newWindow">http://directorblue.blogspot.com</a>
Posted by directorblue (148 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Flash Lites: Quit being lazy
Here is a simple, effective remedy: Don't use flash for navigation or content. I've seen too many lazy and/or uneducated companies and webmasters that make sites from Flash; a purpose for which it was not created. Who's bright idea was that, anyway?

Many people, including me, don't care to download a third-party program just to see eye candy, unless we're looking for frogs in blenders. Give me the information for which I'm looking, and I *might* buy from you. Make me jump through your hoops to see your site and I'll get it elsewhere. Tell your execs that, too.

It's that simple.

Cheers,
Robert Reese~
Posted by sixit (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
wow
You and your 2400 baud modem may like life in the text based era, but flash has ALOT to offer. While I hate "flash intros" and whole site made entirely in flash, I have seen very intuitive menu systems and content in flash that would have been crappy in pure text. And if your too lazy to install flash you must have loved when those whippersnappers started using those jpeg thingamagigs.
Posted by kbrill (1 comment )
Link Flag
Metadata not indexed?
I thought Google avoided meta tags for description and keywords, instead loading its summary from the page itself?

Flash is great for entertainment, but rarely is there a need for an entire site to be made out of it.
Posted by TV James (680 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Meta Title in Google
As far as I can tell, Google is still using the meta description tags when indexing pages. I checked out some of my sites and the meta description is being displayed with the results.
Posted by meechp123 (12 comments )
Link Flag
Flash and SEO
We recently completed a project wherby we parsed HTML as xml
and just pulled it into flash. If a user (or search engine spider)
cannot see the flash, then they get a standards-compliant html
page with all of the links and text easily viewable.

We are just starting on the rest of the SEO and link popularity
campaign, so we should start seeing the full effects soon.

Check it out - www.fathomonline.com

- Ross Anderson
posner advertising
www.posneradv.com
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Speaker Cox explains further
The second suggestion that I made in the presentation, about Flash being embedded into static pages, can be taken a step further. You can use 'inlcude tag' technology (usable both in .SHTML and .ASP) to include Flash components into a templated, but static system. That way, even if you use Flash extensively throughout your site, you can update it quickly. Just be sure you have actual html text on every page. For more information about using include tags, go here: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.web-source.net/web_development/server_side_includes.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.web-source.net/web_development/server_side_includes.htm</a> . - Sincerely, Gregory Cox
Posted by snapper422 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I have also included my discussion here:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.leyline.net/speaking_engagements_01.shtml" target="_newWindow">http://www.leyline.net/speaking_engagements_01.shtml</a> is the page that has my actual presentation and supplemental files. - G.
Posted by snapper422 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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