Making Flash Indexable

No one would ever argue the fact that Flash is an awesome platform for developing all kinds of websites, internet applications, animations, etc. But, and that’s a big BUT, when it comes to SEO, content created in Flash is very hard, if not impossible, to be made indexable by search engines.

By using Flash on a web site,  search engines are left with next to nothing to index, and therefore the site will rank poorly in search  results, unless off-page factors such as back-links are good enough to raise the pages of the site.

Although there are legitimate work-arounds, such as using SWFObject (a JavaScript-based way of making Flash content accessible to browsers without Flash installed, including screen readers and therefore search engines), the amount of additional work that must go into making content created in Flash at least partly discoverable by search engines, turns many web developers off.

On 2008, Google announced that using technology provided by Adobe it had enhanced the Google Search Engine to index the text embedded within Flash movies. However, the attempt didn’t really live up to the expectations generated by the announcement and was ultimately aptly termed as “Google’s Flash Indexing Disaster” by a well-known on-line credible source.

More recently, on March this year, Adobe Systems has filed a patent for technology that could make rich media applications easier for search engines to find, index and rank. Adobe described the annotation-based process that tells the search engine what parts of the web site to crawl, as:

“… a developer annotates portions of the procedural code of a rich Internet application to facilitate exposing particular content to a search engine. Such annotations may comprise information describing the content to be identified by a Web crawler. Additionally or alternatively, such annotations may comprise a state name, or other identifier and/or information, facilitating direct, or semi-direct, access to the identified content.”

Embodiments of the invention provide a translation module for interfacing between a Web crawler and a rich Internet application annotated according to an embodiment of the invention. For example, a translation module may interact with a Web crawler to respond to Web crawler navigation instructions and access declarative code associated with different states of a rich Internet application, providing responsive information identifying content in a structure that is compatible with a search engine associated with the Web crawler. According to embodiments of the invention, the structure of the content provided by the translation module comprises declaratory code, such as HTML page code or pseudo HTML page code.”

Adobe has no intentions whatsoever of pulling back on Flash development and partnership with Google is all too obvious. During the Google I/O 2010 conference in May, Google CEO Eric Schmidt asked Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen about the key technological innovations that Flash will bring to Google TV. Adobe is working to support Android applications as well.

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5 thoughts on “Making Flash Indexable

  1. Aw, this was a categorically helpful post. In theory I’ d like to apply Flash to my websites too – prepossessing measure and earnest application to code an animation graphic…
    but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot and conditions appear to fall something below my expectations.
    So I decided to upload the Flash to youTube, where at least I have a better chance of being indexed.
    What are your thoughts on this strategy?

  2. Just having your Flash (converted and) uploaded to YouTube, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have a better chance of being indexed.

    You will gain more exposure, perhaps, but you need to properly tag your video, add a description, etc.

  3. Last month we expanded our SWF indexing capabilities thanks to our continued collaboration with Adobe and a new library that is more robust and compatible with features supported by Flash Player 10.1. Additionally, thanks to improvements in the way we handle JavaScript, we are also now significantly better at recognizing and indexing sites that use JavaScript to embed SWF content. Finally, we have made improvements in our video indexing technology, resulting in better detection of when a page has a video and better extraction of metadata such as alternate thumbnails from Flash technology based videos. All in all, our SWF indexing technology now allows us to see content from SWF files on hundreds of millions of pages across the web.

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