Making Flash Indexable

August 3, 2010

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.