Posted June 19, 2009 5:20 pm by with 11 comments

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Google announced today that they have improved their flash indexing capabilities. Last year they announced an update to their flash indexing, and let’s just say it wasn’t well received. This time around, Google claims to be able to index external flash resources. For those non-Flash experts out there, SWF files use an external file to load content. This content can be in the form of HTML, XML  or even another SWF file. Google’s update analyzes and extracts the content in that file, and then they index it.

My initial reaction (which was confirmed by the screenshot they provided) was this will be horrible from a user’s perspective. Depending on what type of content lives in that external file, what Google extracts from it could look like jibberish. Here is the example screenshot they provided of a search result that utilizes this update:

It’s not the ideal scenario for a user, but then again developers weren’t optimizing these files because the search engines weren’t indexing them. This could be a great opportunity for websites utilizing Flash to update those content files to be more search engine friendly.

To date, Google’s search engine is capable of the following when encountering a Flash file:

  • Index textual content displayed as a user interacts with the file. We click buttons and enter input, just like a user would.
  • Discover links within Flash files.
  • Load external resources and associate the content with the parent file.
  • Support common JavaScript techniques for embedding Flash, such as SWFObject and SWFObject2.
  • Index sites scripted with AS1, AS2 and AS3, even if the ActionScript is obfuscated.

Time and testing will determine how effective this update will be. I’m just happy Google is continuing to try and improve their flash indexing capabilities.

What do you think? Will this affect your usage of Flash? Will you be updating your files?

  • I don’t think this will change my mind about Flash. How can you hope to rank at all if the indexing is so iffy? I think the consumer, or purchasers of websites, need to be educated more about what they’re buying when buying a website. I’ve had clients come to me with all-Flash sites, and I think I’ve upset a few when I explain that search engines cannot index them properly. They insist their original developer said it was the latest thing, and they usually paid way more than if their site had been done in HTML. Flash is cool to insert into a site (like a video or animation), but I will continue to avoid all-Flash sites.

  • This is some great new information. We’re about to do some Flash advertising on our homepage and this will come in as a handy resource. Looks like we’ll be nofollowing the links!

    PS I’m loving Radically Transparent. I have a bunch of VPs awaiting my social media report coming out at the end of the month, my first attempt at listening to our brand.

    jlbraaten’s last blog post..3 Steps to Find Your Social Media Tools and Purpose

  • I truly support bonnie in the aspect of hoping to rank higher with flash content in web pages, i think good content (i.e text and html content) will always be the best.

    edos’s last blog post..It Is Easy to Make Money Completing Surveys

  • Hi friend.. Good job… Thanks for your sharing. Your presentation very useful for me.

  • Its about time they did this. I personally though will not be starting to use flash because of this announcement. Give it another couple of years, maybe.

  • I still would not trust an entire flash site. Flash sites just feel very outdated when i see them. Elements of flash are fine in my opinion but to build a whole site in it I just don’t know about.

  • The biggest problem with an all flash site never had much to do with indexing the content, but rather the URLs. Without unique and separate URLs for each “page” of content then deep linking, bookmarking and even the rudimentary browser functionality like the “back” button are broken. This is just unacceptable.

    The work around has always been to relegate Flash for use just as you would a rollover image, embedded and separate from your actual content. Doing anything else is just lazy designers not wanting to design in more than one app and detrimental to your overall site’s success. If you ask me, announcements like this only give the lazy more ammunition for their misguided quest to shove Flash down everyone’s throat. It’s been over a decade that designers have been on this quest to make all Flash sites a standard, and it’s been that long that it hasn’t taken. Give it up!

    Terry Howard’s last blog post..Social Media Marketing: Network Responsibly

  • mike

    I guess this means they will also index AJAX content.

  • Can someone please direct me to a tutorial on how to do this?


  • Just to clarify for those who may not know, you CAN deep link in flash, and create links that work and embrace a browsers “back” and “forward” functionality, but it then becomes a question of your flash team’s experience level and what time/budgetary contraints are on a project. You can even enable bookmarking.

    These have been possible for quite some time (this article cites doing it in 2007), but haven’t not been integrated as a standard to the flash experience unfortunately.

    Anyways, it’s very cool to see progress on the indexing front with flash, it makes me wonder how this will carry over into Adobe’s and Google’s future plans with Air apps and Google’s ability to index that content, and relay that information back to us.

    Ryan Thompson’s last blog post..Twitter in Plain English

  • Guess it would help if I posted the link to the actual article I was mentioning, sorry about that. 🙂

    Ryan Paul Thompson’s last blog post..Twitter in Plain English