What Google's improved Flash indexing means for
A month ago, Google announced that
they had improved the way it indexes Flash files. Has something
changed in Google's search results in the meantime? Is this
change good news for you if you have a Flash site?
What has changed?
can now index the textual content in SWF files of all kinds,
including buttons, menus and self-contained Flash websites.
Google can also discover URLs that appear in Flash files
and it adds these URLs to the crawling pipeline.
What has not changed?
Google still doesn't recognize the text that appears on
images. FLV files, such as YouTube videos also won't be
indexed because they don't contain text.
As many Flash websites consist of images and other multimedia
elements, the only text that Google finds on these websites
might be "Loading", "Please wait" or "Copyright".
not be able to find your Flash file.
In addition, Google cannot attach content from external
sources that are loaded by Flash files. If your Flash page
loads an HTML or XML file then these files will be treated
as separate documents.
Why is Flash still a problem for search engines?
Flash content and regular HTML pages are fundamentally
different. Just because Google can now index some text
from Flash files doesn't mean that Flash files are now
search engine friendly. Here's why:
- It's hard to divide the text into meaningful sections.
Flash doesn't use <h1> or <p> tags to separate
different sections of text. It's hard to tell what's
important and what's not. Even worse, Flash designers
often break down words into their individual letters
to create "cool" text effects. That means that search
engines cannot index these texts.
- Usually, the complete content of a website is presented
on the same URL. You cannot link to a special part of
a Flash website. That means that it is also difficult
for search engines to find the relevant section of the
In addition, this means that Flash websites don't get
good inbound links to the right pages. Most Flash websites
only get links to their home page.
- The structure of Flash websites makes it difficult
to get high rankings. Many Flash files are linked from
other Flash files and no other websites link to these
internal Flash elements. The lack of links from other
websites makes it very difficult to get high rankings
for these elements.
- Flash doesn't use the basic SEO methods. You won't
find proper link texts, headline tags or even properly
optimized title tags in most Flash sites. That makes
it very difficult to get good rankings.
- Most Flash content is still not crawlable. As mentioned
above, Google won't index content in images and it has
What can you do to improve your rankings if you
have a Flash site?
If possible, avoid pure Flash websites and use Flash elements
only when needed. If you must use Flash on your website,
the following tips will help you to get better rankings:
- Include the text and the links from the Flash file
in an HTML version on the same page.
can parse Flash and then present the CSS DIVs that contain
the corresponding content. Regular website users will
see the Flash file, visitors who cannot parse Flash (for
example search engines) will see the HTML version.
- Use CSS and create a layer with your regular HTML content
and then position another layer with the Flash content
above the HTML layer so that your website visitors only
see the Flash content.
Note that search engines might misinterpret this method
as a spamming attempt.
- Use different URLs for different sections of your website.
Each set of content should have its own unique URL.
Flash has not been designed for search engines and it is
extremely difficult to get high rankings with pure Flash
sites. Using regular
optimized web pages is the best way to get in Google's
top 10 results.
If you have a pure Flash website, you should make sure that
your website has as
many good inbound links as possible.