Search Engines Can See the Movies – Macromedia FLASH SDK
Macromedia has solved what was likely one of its biggest problems.
As of this month, FLASH files (.SWF) can now be read and indexed by search engine spiders. Until now, the general rule was that spiders could not extract data from .SWF files. The development of the FLASH SDK will have a large impact on the design world. A few years ago FLASH emerged as a cutting edge design technique. Literally millions of web sites were designed using this rich, multimedia environment. While many sites designed using FLASH are highly creative and aesthetically pleasing, traditionally they have not ranked well on search engines.
For years sites designed primarily in FLASH have posed problems for SEOs as search engine spiders were unable to read much of the content presented by FLASH flies. FLASH is basically a small movie that can be read by common search browsers such as Internet Explorer or Netscape. Frequently, FLASH is used to create the INDEX page of sites, offering designers a chance to make a stunning impression on site visitors. While the internal pages of the site might designed using easily read text-based code such as HTML, XLM, or PHP, FLASH files are basically layers of graphics strung together.
The dilemma for SEOs was that spiders would generally not move past the most important page of the site, the first one. A spider-friendly INDEX page is extremely important for strong rankings. The INDEX page usually presents the most useful information for SEOs and is generally considered the primary target for search engine rankings. For companies with multiple focuses, the INDEX page is often the page that is used to refer visitors (and spiders) to the various sub-sections of the site. When you know your potential client has invested time and money in the development of an extraordinary web site, it is difficult to tell them that the introduction page they are justifiably proud of is going to act like lead weights on their rankings. This obviously presented a big problem for Macromedia, (the creators of FLASH) as well. One of their banner-products was being panned by search professionals and “searchability” has become a primary factor in web site design.
When a major software maker has a problem with one of it’s most popular software packages, fixing it means making sure that the majority of the people who use your software can benefit from the patch. For Macromedia however, the problem wasn’t specifically with their software. FLASH suites can produce amazingly intricate products. The problem was that search engines couldn’t read those products. Logically, the solution had to be tailored to the search engines as opposed to the software users. Last month, Macromedia introduced the FLASH Search Engine SDK. Designed to be incorporated into existing or new search-engine code, the SDK will allow search engines to view a FLASH file as a standard HTML page. An example FLASH file is displayed on the Macromedia web site.
The major search engines have already incorporated the patch into their software. Smaller search tools will almost certainly follow suit and it is a safe bet that the FLASH SDK will be an important part of all new search engines. Let’s look at the code used in the example posted on the Macromedia site. It shows us many of the basic elements necessary for a good SEO campaign are present and available to SEOs. Reading through the code shows us a TITLE, lots of TEXT, and the ability of the search spiders to see and follow LINKS. With most of the site-elements SEOs work with available, FLASH files are now open for optimization!
This opens a number of questions regarding how SEOs will work with SWF sites. For existing FLASH presentations, it is probably a good idea to involve the original designer, if possible. There is a lot to know about any file before working on it, and for many SEOs, learning about FLASH has never been a high priority. For new FLASH presentations, it is definitely good advice to consult an SEO before embarking on the design. There are dozens of valuable tips and important information SEOs can provide, thus building optimization into the original design. However SEOs work with FLASH, the boundaries of text-based code have been broken and commercial web sites are likely to become much more interesting.
Jim Hedger is the SEO Manager of StepForth Search Engine Placement Inc. Based in Victoria, BC, Canada, StepForth is the result of the consolidation of BraveArt Website Management, Promotion Experts, and Phoenix Creative Works, and has provided professional search engine placement and management services since 1997. http://www.stepforth.com/ Tel – 250-385-1190 Toll Free – 877-385-5526 Fax – 250-385-1198