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Optimizing Flash In 2008


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#1 loki

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 12:52 PM

a potential client has a site created entirely in flash. they are in the image business so it's not entirely inappropriate. however...

how do i optimize a site made entirely in flash. i know that in 2004 google made some limited inroads into parsing content in swf files. i also see that macromedia have a tool as part of their software developers kit that can extract text/links from a swf and make it into a separate file that is then part of the swf file.

seems pretty limited and in both cases i would just have one page to play with.

apart from creating a paralel html site, have there been any further developments lately for seo-ing flash?

thanks all and happy, belated 2008.

Edited by loki, 31 January 2008 - 12:53 PM.


#2 bobbb

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 01:09 PM

This won't answer your question but I know there are many people like me that will click return on an all flash site with no skip intro button. I must really want to see the content to override this reaction which is re-enforced as the seconds click past 11. I really really (or must) want to see this site. But that is me.

#3 beussery

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 09:07 PM

The best you can hope for is to help engines index content locked in Flash. Google suggests sIFR but doesn't say not to use SWFObject. At the same time Google has called SWFObject "Dangerous" but goes on the say that's no reason not to use it. Bottom line, if you use SWFObject be absolutely certain you know what you are doing.

Google Best Uses of Flash:
http://googlewebmast...s-of-flash.html

SWFObject is not a method for Flash SEO as some would say but, it is a method to help engines index content locked in Flash. Be aware that SWFObject & SWFAddress 2.0 both use #anchors in the URL and that Googlebot ignores #anchors therefore giving PR credit and keyword relevancy to the portion of the URL prior to the #anchor. I've pointed this issue out to Rostislav Hristov founder of Asual.com in a number of forums including:

- http://ajaxian.com/a...-flash-and-ajax

- http://groups.google...9d03f66f5c73c02

So, don't let anyone tell you that with SWFObject "if the client supports JavaScript it's automatically rewritten" another URL because that is irrelevant. What is relevant is that when users with Flash post a link NOTING automatically rewrites the URL for the engine.

Google Group threads to check out:
http://www.google.co.....eussery+Flash

Hope that helps and best of luck to you!

-beussery

Edited by beussery, 02 February 2008 - 09:08 PM.


#4 bwelford

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 12:03 AM

Welcome to the Forums, beussery. :wave:

I can't comment on this particular topic, but thanks for your contribution.

#5 DCrx

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 06:51 AM

Think about it this way, what are SE seeing -- even if they parse the standard all-flash site perfectly?

One file.

Most flashers like to build one file all-in-one flash sites. With that SEs read the file as one giant page. The drawback is many sites optimize different pages with different sets of keywords. With the one file you get, at best, one set of keywords.

#6 beussery

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 01:32 PM

Thanks bwelford!

DCrx you are correct. To address this issue there are new trends in SWFObject / SWFAddress where "duplicate" pages are made each correlating to content seen by the user via #anchor. This technique confuses engines, allocates PageRank as well as keyword relevancy to the wrong URL because Google ignores #anchors.

example:

- users with flash see:
http://www.asual.com...e...e&year=2001

- Googlebot sees:
http://209.85.165.10...:...=en&strip=1


When I pointed this issue out to the creator of the technique his reply was:

"The case is valid. Deep links with anchors published on other sites
will tell Google to index the start page.
If you want people to link to the site properly you should offer them
other mechanisms to do so ("Link to this page" button, Permalink, RSS,
etc). "

http://groups.google...15e9970cd5ff947

A bit ironic that their own "SEO" example proves the technique is invalid and that they make no mention of this issue to their own users! Why would I want to offer a method to help users link to the site "properly" other than the address in the address bar? Obviously these folks don't get it!

Bottom line, there is still no method to optimize Flash to compete with HTML. There is no way that I know of to retrofit SWFObject with sIFR. Therefore the best loki can hope for is to help Flash content be indexed using SWFObject. At the same time engines index some content in Flash and the content in loki's clients site may in fact already be indexed. Indexed and ranking are two different issues SWFObject may allow for an increase in indexed content but at the same time it quashes the ability to rank for valuable keyword terms.

The only other thing you can do to help, is to implement Adobe Flash SDK which is designed for site search but used by Google. This is not a fix by any means but Google's Matt Cutts recently verified that Google is using the SDK.

#7 loki

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 04:53 AM

thanks all for the feedback. what i'm seeing here is that at best i can get the SEs to index a (large) single file.

a workable commercial option has occurred to me that i'd like to run past you all:

i could set up a blog (wordpress or similar) and get content into that. it's an inexpensive option to 'duplicating' the site in html, and in this case i'd just need an indexable link to the blog in the swf file.

i guess that still leaves the problem that any one finding a result in the SEs and clicking on it will go to the blog instead of the website itself.

in an older post someone logically suggested a redirect for 'real people' to the website. i don't know the poster so cannot comment on their reliability but my immediate worry would be being seen by the SEs as cloaking.

your thoughts?

#8 bwelford

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 10:05 AM

I think what you're suggesting, loki, is a very reasonable way to go. The most robust rule is to ensure that the search engine spiders see what your regular visitors see. There can be exceptions to that rule, but you can never be sure that now or in the future any variants will work 100% with all the search engines.

On the other hand, a blog has some strengths that the website does not have. Marketing is not just about beaming out your information to passive customers. Marketing is now seen as an ongoing dialogue with your customers and prospects. In each post on your blog at the top you can signal that visitors can stay in touch by subscribing to the news feed. You can also very visibly suggest they visit the website if they have not already done so. You are more likely to be able to establish a relationship with your visitors in this way. The fact is that it is much more visible to search engines is a valuable bonus.

#9 loki

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 01:12 PM

good advice, thanks.

FYI it looks like they're happy to rebuild the site and just use embedded flash for the products.

#10 beussery

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 08:53 PM

As bwelford said a blog is never a bad option. One thing about blogs is that by allowing comments you are also keeping content fresh.

A redirect for users without Flash isn't a bad idea if set up properly and Google actually suggests creating an HTML version while blocking the Flash version via robots.txt.

http://www.google.co...mp;answer=72746

To avoid duplicate content it's a good idea to disallow the Flash either way.
http://www.google.co...py?answer=35267

You might also consider Google Video Sitemaps:
http://blog.digitalb...try.com/?p=1200

Hope that helps and best of luck to you! :)

#11 loki

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 05:11 AM

all excellent advice, thanks to you all.

#12 niemi

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 07:15 PM

One thing, I don't know if I have missed someone else's post, but I'm kinda wondering why anyone haven't mentioned it.

All those suggestion alternative content, that's real swell - but!

Even if you have set your alternative content perfectly up so Googlebot can come and :disco2: all night you still have one major problem. The alternative pages will not have any incoming links cause only Google sees them.

All links from users will go to the root. :panic:

Could that actually be an advantage?

Edited by niemi, 07 February 2008 - 07:15 PM.


#13 beussery

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Posted 08 February 2008 - 09:55 PM

>Could that actually be an advantage?

Nope...

If you've got 1,000 pages pointing at the root, all using different anchor text it thins relevancy especially when anchor text is technically pointed at the wrong page from the perspective of the engines. There are other reasons but that is the biggest one.

#14 niemi

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Posted 09 February 2008 - 10:38 AM

I know, but still 1000 links to the root, rather than 1000 pages with one link each?

Edited by niemi, 09 February 2008 - 10:39 AM.


#15 jaybong

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Posted 14 February 2008 - 05:23 AM

I recently talked this over with our programmer and we decided to:
Cloak the flash so that search engines and users with flash turned off would see text (and a download flash player button).
The text would be displayed by extracting an xml file and putting it in place of the flash.

Sorry not sure how this is done technically but we thought this was the best compromise. Slightly blackhat but the intent is to create a good experience for users and SE's. The cloaking displays the exact same content as the flash would so there is no trickery going on.

#16 loki

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Posted 14 February 2008 - 05:31 AM

in theory that sounds like a perfect balance, but how can you be confident that gg won't see cloaking and penalise you? (i doubt gg distinguishes between bklack hat cloaking and ok cloaking.)

#17 DCrx

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Posted 14 February 2008 - 07:48 AM

I'll see loki's concern and raise you on user experience. Name one, single Flash site that has tested that their particular Flash implementation or content has produced -- not just a user experience -- but a desirable user experience.

Based on this UX argument, I can pick up a brick and hit someone in the head with it and call it a user experience. ...You see the obvious problem with having unqualified generalities.

I'm not being especially critical of your project, just making the observation "user experience" is the last refuge of the truly desperate Flash-at-any-cost designer. So much mischief has been done with the rationalization of user experience (notice there is no qualification as to degree of desirability, just generic experience) it has now become a red flag. User experience has become a code word for "we will not test this -- so don't bother confusing us with facts."

Just an unpleasant FYI: UX design is testable, has methodology and user test protocols, and consequently is not a "get out of unpleasant user realities, FREE" card.

Edited by DCrx, 14 February 2008 - 07:54 AM.


#18 loki

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Posted 14 February 2008 - 11:31 AM

huh, someone who's more anti-flash than me. who'da thunk.

:)

#19 seo_india

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Posted 16 February 2008 - 05:04 AM

Google can crawl every single text within flash file (THAT IS FOR SURE). It can also pull-out links within your flash files.

However you can add an html version link at the bottom. This html version will consist of simple HTML pages without much flash. I am sure it will solve your problem

#20 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 16 February 2008 - 06:35 AM

I'm confused.... I thought years ago it was advised that you have your standard site, then create "flash pages" that you can load up "over the top".

So long as the "Flash page" and the "Non-Flash page" match - you should be safe (as you are not cloaking/hiding/displaying different content).
Even with a CMS it is doable, as you should beable to have an "upload/include file" option per page/article etc., so it can still sit on top.

If you are worried that the Non-Flash will be visible behind the flash, you can place it in a div and apply overflow to it.

Bots still see everything they need to, you can still use pretty flash etc., and if viewers don't have flash, they get the normal site.

?

#21 beussery

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Posted 24 February 2008 - 11:42 PM

Autocrat, you are correct if you make a dup html version the Flash should be disallowed. The problems come in when folks use SWFAddress because engines ignore #anchors. In addition there is Google's new Universal Search Interface (IE Flash cant be translated, Flash supports 11 languages but Google 130+, engines can't extract images, video, audio or other from Flash).

To the other questions about inbound links going to the root. It's not technically the root but the level prior to the #anchor. In other words, it could be the root but doesn't have to be based on where the #anchor is located in the URL. Either way, do you want links or rankings? Inbound links may help PR but don't forget the inbound anchor text that comes along too. Seems to reason that relevant anchor text for page 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8... thins relevancy for the page prior to the #anchor. Imagine what happens when you have 100s, 1000s or 1,000,000s of pages.

All of these = a "suboptimal" solution in my book but to each his own. Bottom line there is no "perfect" solution for optimizing Flash.

#22 Mike Hensman

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 06:39 PM

It can be done we have a simple website creation tool 'WiseNav' that renders entirely in Flash and our team have ensured that the pages of the site are easily tagged by novice developers so that they would typically get first page ranking if not top five in search engines. I don't want to make this a marketing pitch or give away our trade secrets but it is possible.

#23 loki

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 05:02 AM

ok, i'll bite.

#24 TheMoff

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 07:34 AM

Hi loki,

I've talked to a guy in the UK who I think has cracked the flash SE thing. I am considering him to redevelop one of my company's websites. I don't think its approriate to put his name here but please PM me and I'll pass you his details if you like.

BTW I know nothing about flash, I'm just a simple marketer... :blink:



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