Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

SEO and RIA get closer together with Flash indexing news

Category: Adobe, Google

Google and Adobe have been working on improving the indexing of Flash applications. In the past we could simply look at the SWF files and try to grab strings out of them, but there was zero context.

To go further Google uses the SWF Searchable work from Adobe to be more of a ‘human’ actor on the application.

This is what it doesn’t do:

  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.

This is good news for all rich applications. One of the common worries when it comes to richer application development is “what do search engines see” and we sometimes see people go back to the simpler world just to make that happier. With the search engines stepping up themselves, we can go back to writing applications that make sense for our human users, and hope that the computers catch up. Of course, we always have to do so in a practical way.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 2:05 pm

3 rating from 29 votes


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Horrible. In 10 years from now, MS will buy Adobe and then all the web will be a hybrid of Flash and Silverlight named Flashlight. No more HTML cuz Flash is so fancy.

Comment by Gordon — July 1, 2008

So does this mean we should expect a flood of “Loading…” and “skip intro” text coming soon to search engine results? ;) Jokes aside, it will be interesting to see if and how the context of content is shown since SWFs may be little more than sequences of animated content or images, in some cases. Ultimately, being able to parse strings out of any binary/movie format is good if it will expose good content.

Comment by Schill — July 1, 2008

It looks like (and just a guess here) that URLs to .swf files may being parsed; I did a search for a .swf I author which is written out via JS, and it is showing up in search results. It would appear that a bit of inline JS which declares a variable with a URL to load is being noted at the least- eg. var url = ‘/path/to/some/movie.swf’

Comment by Schill — July 1, 2008

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.

Wow.. google indirectly killing off SWFObject and force us to stay away from good practice…

Comment by rockacola — July 1, 2008

I’m not sure I’m ready to agree with the statement “This is good news for all rich applications.” If Google does a better job of indexing into rich applications that are implemented in SWF than it does at indexing into rich applications implement using JS/CSS/XHTML, then standards based rich applications could suffer.
It all depends on how thoughtful Google is with how it proceeds, and if Google remains very deliberately even handed and provides equal advantage each step of the way.
Of course, I’m a little bit biased towards Google encouraging Web technology development in the direction of standards rather than plug-ins / alternate universes.

Comment by uize — July 2, 2008

Out of curiosity: Can’t flash developer use flash as a progressive enhancement to an otherwise standards compliant XHTML site? I never fully understood why Flash developers do not use their ActionScript to access the DOM to get content into their flashcrap. This way, they would not need to provide alternate content. The site would be fully indexable, accessible and degrades gracefully. And no need for Google to enhance their spiders in this direction.

Comment by Gordon — July 3, 2008

Goodness me all this stuff with flash, SEO and google is just odd

Comment by Aphrodisiac — July 30, 2008

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