Google now indexing Flash ?

Google Now Indexing Flash Content

Every 6 months or so, we hear groundbreaking news about how new spider software is allowing Google to Index Flash text. I’m again hearing that this is again being touted, but the evidence doesn’t show that it’s the case.

Yes, Google can read and index flash content, but they still can’t index flash in a way that is beneficial to your optimisation efforts, so it’s unlikely that any flash sites or flash pages will grab number one positions for ANY search terms in the google index anytime soon.

Checking Flash Pages on Google

To see just how successful Google are at indexing flash movies, choose any keyterm and request the flash SWF filetype in a google search box, like this - “curtain rails” filetype:SWF

In the curtain rails example above, you’ll see it found 42 SWF files - not one of them features in the top 100 for curtain rails that I could find. On one of the pages that it has picked up the text correctly, www.nuvulus.com/flash/motor01.swf  if we search for a fairly easy keyterm on the page, nuvulus motorised curtain rails, we find that there are 16 results and the page doesn’t feature until you draw in the results from what used to be called the Supplemental Index, (not sure what Google are calling it now). Why? because although Google can index flash content in some cases, it still randomly selects text from the page to use as a Title tag - which if you go back to the curtain rails results will let you see that they are not very good at recognising the best text to use:  CANCEL Please fill the box with your e-mail address. OK PROMO NEWS <p align=”left”><font face=”tahoma” size=”10″ color=”#333333 The following pages detail some of our more popular designs etc, etc.

Update 2nd January, 2009: Interesting to note, that although Google are not supposed to follow nofollow tags, the flash page featuring the term nuvulus motorised curtain rails, started to feature in the engines two days after this page, featuring their link was cached…… 

Flash is bad for Optimisation

Don’t use Flash if you want to feature on the front pages of the search engines for your search terms. Flash is a movie; an image, and no matter what Google claim to be able to read, Flash files are unlikely ever to reach the top of the search engines for competitive terms - or as we’ve seen with the nuvulus motorised curtain rail above, even terms that are simple to achieve. In fact, if I just write the word Nuvulus and mention curtain rails and motorised curtain rails, or motorized curtain rails, (to give it the American spelling), in this sentence, I’ll probably achieve a better ranking than the fully fashioned webpage all about the said curtain poles, sorry… rails. Ranked number 3 for the term in two and a half minutes.

If you must use flash, use it sparingly, because even if you use SWFobject or SIFR, it is still a bad idea if you want to rank on the search engines.

Ask yourself, what do you want a pretty website with all kinds of flashy images that nobody ever finds - or a site that makes money - it’s a fairly easy choice!

5 Responses to “Google now indexing Flash ?”

Jeff the Search Engine Writer Says:

I have always wondered how to optimize flash websites, so maybe you can shed a little light, or maybe sense on this idea i had?

I was thinking that i could put a spider detection script on my index page, and if it detects a spide it goes to a plain text version of my flash website, which has all the flash content, but in a plain form.

If no spider detected, then flash boots up normally.

Would it be best to use an “if” condition and echo out either plain text or flash

or

Would it be better to redirect the spider?

I heard spiders dont like redirects? true/flase?

The Big Man Says:

Hello Jeff, you don’t have to mess about with detection scripts and certainly don’t use a temporary redirect to take the spider to alternative text.

Simply use the flash content on the site and form it into an optimised page:
H1, P, H2, P, UL, LI, H3 P and include a picture with an alt tag and text based navigation if the flash site has been developed with more than one movie. Then place it in a noscript tag and add it to the source code near the opening body tag.

I’m not talking about hidden spam, I mean that you should take the text content that appears in flash, throughout the site, and form it into one properly formed and optimised page. An example of an optimised noscript tag can be found in the source code of http://www.derekheron.com

You obviously also have to optimise the Page titele and head tags as well, but this is the best way to go, as it not only lets Google know what the site is about, it makes the flash movie readable by blind readers, making it more accessable.

I hope this helps Jeff.

B Hartz Says:

Big Man —

Even with that Optimization method, you’ve got a problem with Google linking DIRECTLY to your SWF and bypassing your HTML code. Not necessarily a great thing…

Let’s keep in mind that many sites have pieces of HTML AND flash components working together. Google will now index those separately and show the results SEPARATELY — so folks will now be able to just click on that flash file in the results, rather than your website. Result: they’ll be seeing an swf sans the rest of your site.

The Big Man Says:

You are absolutely correct Brian. Google have always picked up and indexed Flash files as well as the html pages that they appear on. Just as they pick up other image based files, as well as the pages that they appear on. I’m not commenting on having the file cached - if it is linked to correctly, it should get cached every time. This has been the case for as long as I can remember.

The article is talking about getting fully flash pages optimised, and them appearing on the front pages of the search engines. Its not about about getting embedded flash files indexed.

I note that on your site, you have added a noscript tag. If I may offer some advice? Your file is all inside an H1 tag, which can come accross to the search engine spiders as spam. If you want the file to be seen as an ethical noscript page, write it as a web page. Start with an heading in an H1 tag then a paragraph inside a P tag, then an H2 tag, P tag, UL, LI, H3, P. If you build it this way, it will give you better results.

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