Google Makes Flash Better, Not Best for SEO

By Bryson Meunier, Supervisor, Search Engine Optimization

For years Adobe Flash was the technology that separated the SEO from the Web designer. Flash allows designers to create fluid, cutting-edge web sites and is frequently used to improve the desktop user experience. However, the search engines wouldn’t (and couldn’t) properly index it, causing SEO problems for designers who didn’t take proper precautions when building a Flash site. Last Monday Google announced their improved indexing of Flash web sites, including text extraction from Flash movies, and designers worldwide breathed a collective sigh of relief. But what does Google’s announcement really mean for people who build and promote web sites built in Flash?

Google now utilizes Adobe technology to discover and index textual elements within Flash files. Since Google can now extract text from a Flash movie, Flash web sites with discoverable deep links and the most important content in text should be more easily indexed and ranked as a result of this announcement. However, just as an HTML page can in theory be indexed and ranked without special consideration for SEO, an audit for obstructions to accessibility, usability and relevant content delivery will likely help that HTML page be indexed faster and ranked better. Likewise, Google can now index and rank Flash web sites without special consideration for SEO, but since not all Flash web sites are created equal, an SEO audit will always help to make the content more relevant, accessible and discoverable.

That said, this announcement does not change SEO best practices for developing in Flash significantly. Resolution Media still recommends building a basic textual version of a web site and enhancing that core experience with more dynamic elements such as JavaScript and Flash. In July of 2007, Google made this same recommendation on the Google Webmaster Central blog, even though at that time Google could extract text from some Flash files. A year later they can extract more text, but still cannot read text in images. Furthermore, not all Internet spiders can even extract text from Flash files. While a Flash site may now be more easily and accurately indexed, the ideal method for developing in Flash takes all search engines and users into consideration, progressively enhancing a basic user experience with elements that will enhance the experience of users with more modern browsers, and search engine spiders with more sophisticated crawling and indexing capabilities.


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