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Old 06-22-2007   #1
sdffa11
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Flash and SEO

I was just recently hired for an in house position at an online retail business to handle their SEM. But a small part of my job is going to have to deal with aspects of SEO. I graduated last year and have 6 months experience at another SEO/SEM company but decided to switch jobs after learning that I could earn a lot more at another company. Most of my experience at my previous position has to deal with SEM but I have had a little experience organically optimizing clients' websites but now, my supervisor asked me to look up some information regarding Flash and SEO since he would like to implement Flash to our revised website in a couple of months.

Now I have already did a search on the forums and search engines for articles regarding Flash and SEO but I have seen a lot of differing opinions. Some say that using Flash is not a problem when trying to optimize a website provided you do it correctly but none seem to go into detail on "how to do it correctly". Others say flash should not be used at all because search engines cannot identify .swf files. Also, some of these articles that I have read seem to be many years old so I do not really trust it since this topic could be inconsistent compared to years ago. Can some of your SEO experts fill me in on this problem to help make my transition to this new position as smoothly as possible? Thanks a lot.
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Old 06-22-2007   #2
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Also, please note that I have no experience in ever touching any flash files. I just found out yesterday what a .swf file was so if you can help me out, please try to dumb down the terms as I am fairly new at this topic and industry.
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Old 06-22-2007   #3
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Your best bet would be to use peaces of flash in the HTML pages. You're not going to find out the techniques used to optimize full flash sites just yet. They're still so far under the radar that most still consider them black het and thinkt hey'll get sites banned (which may or may not be true, I'm still doing tests).

You need to make sure that your boss plans on having a hybrid flash/HTML site or plans on developing full verisons of both. Search engines CANNOT read the contents of a SWF file. So you have to get creative if you want to use flash. One example you can show him is: odysseygolf.com it uses both flash and html for a very nice user experience and ranks good for their targeted terms.
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Old 06-22-2007   #4
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Chris Boggs addresses the Flash issue in his SEW Expert column today, Flash: The Pink Elephant or the Spark. That article at least will give a current and thorough background.

Basically, he's saying the best solution is to go with a hybrid model, of using Flash sparingly while keeping the majority of content as HTML, so it can be indexed.

He also links to a few newer technology options for you to check out, including sIFR, SEFFS, and SOFA.

Hope this helps,
Kevin
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Old 06-22-2007   #5
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Flash and SEO

At Sempo NYC, the Google Analytics team was heard saying that the possibility of indexing flash was slim to none.

Go with the hybrid model if you want to do SEO work on flash site.s
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Old 06-22-2007   #6
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In Chris's example syncmyride.com is using hidden DIV tags to show content to the spider but not the user. Ofcourse the argument is that the flash movie is showing the exact same conent; but in actuality its "identical conent" and not the "same content". This is one technique being researched, and since its being used on a company like Ford, it's likely going to be allowed. The question comes from when a small shop uses it, will they get booted fromt he index for it?
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Old 06-22-2007   #7
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thanks for all the advice. going by everyones advice, i know that my boss plans to revise the site using both HTML and flash so i dont think incorporating flash into the website will interfere with the optimization on my part. but one of my main questions is, will the actual physical location of the flash code in the page source code affect the optimization in any way?

also, are there any other significant ways to improve the organic ranking besides splitting the website with both HTML and flash?
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Old 06-22-2007   #8
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Increase the value and amount of inbound links to your site.
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Old 06-22-2007   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SanDiegoSEO
Increase the value and amount of inbound links to your site.
Yup, I already got that. I am just trying to figure out any differences that I should be aware of when optimizing a flash site as opposed to an HTML site since I have only had experience in optimizing HTML sites.
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Old 06-22-2007   #10
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Use flash like you would any other image. If you wouldn't make an entire gif or jpg page / site, don't make one in all Flash either. Provide some html content and links for search engines to follow.

As far as the DIV debate:
- providing "alternative content" is not a function of the DIV "tag"
- invisible div layers on pages aren't in keeping with Google site quality guidelines.
http://googleenterprise.blogspot.com...e-updates.html
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Old 06-22-2007   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tasman
At Sempo NYC, the Google Analytics team was heard saying that the possibility of indexing flash was slim to none.

Go with the hybrid model if you want to do SEO work on flash site.s
Google can index Flash!

The problem is extracting information from Flash files. If you have content (text, links, images, audio, video) embedded within a Flash file chances are search engines can't see your content.
http://www.google.com/support/webmas...y?answer=35267

"Flash-based sites
It’s not only Googlebot who doesn’t watch a 20 second video load before the home page comes into view. A lot of users don’t either. Some users don’t want to wait that long; other users don’t have Flash installed. If all of your content and menus are in Flash, search engines may have a harder time following the links. If you feel strongly about using Flash, just make an HTML version of the page available as well. The search engine bots will thank you. Your users will thank you. Feel free to block the Flash version from the crawlers with a robots.txt file, since you don’t need your pages indexed twice. If your home page is Flash, put the navigation outside of the Flash content. You could offer a choice on the home page so users can choose either the HTML version or the Flash version of the site. (You might be surprised at what users choose.)"
http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/guest-...eview-session/
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Old 06-22-2007   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SanDiegoSEO
Increase the value and amount of inbound links to your site.
This is probably a stupid question but does the destination of the inbound links to the site matter as long as it goes to the domain? I was under the impression that links would be more weighted if they were directed to the homepage rather than a subpage. Or does this not matter and any inbound link to the site will increase popularity equally?
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Old 06-22-2007   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sdffa11
This is probably a stupid question but does the destination of the inbound links to the site matter as long as it goes to the domain? I was under the impression that links would be more weighted if they were directed to the homepage rather than a subpage. Or does this not matter and any inbound link to the site will increase popularity equally?
It matters but, the most relevant page is the best page to link.
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Old 06-22-2007   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SanDiegoSEO
In Chris's example syncmyride.com is using hidden DIV tags to show content to the spider but not the user. Ofcourse the argument is that the flash movie is showing the exact same conent; but in actuality its "identical conent" and not the "same content". This is one technique being researched, and since its being used on a company like Ford, it's likely going to be allowed. The question comes from when a small shop uses it, will they get booted fromt he index for it?
So true!
For example, I can't find any of the following text at the URL yet search engines can.
"Get Flash Introducing Sync – a fully-integrated, voice-activated in-car communications and entertainment system for your mobile phone and digital music player – offered exclusively on Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury products in North America."
http://216.239.51.104/search?q=cache...&gl=us&strip=1

How does the user find this link?
http://www.syncmyride.com/default.as...e=en-US#/home/

The class is even called hidden! Hmm... wonder what the intent is on this one.
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Old 06-22-2007   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beu
It matters but, the most relevant page is the best page to link.
Ok. Thanks to everyone who offered their help and advice.
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Old 06-22-2007   #16
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I think this is a technique that needs to be reviewed. With bigger brands getting away with it, we should verify that they're getting away with it or it's allowed. If this technique is valid and is allowed then smaller shops may be able to get those flash sites they want indexed.
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Old 06-22-2007   #17
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I'm going to go ahead and put this thread back out. This is the kind of discussion we want. It is our opinion that the method is within the rules, in a roundabout technical way that I can't explain that well, but that I'll get someone to come in and do...so this isn't outing...thanks though.

Last edited by Chris Boggs : 06-22-2007 at 11:32 PM.
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Old 06-23-2007   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Boggs
I'm going to go ahead and put this thread back out. This is the kind of discussion we want. It is our opinion that the method is within the rules, in a roundabout technical way that I can't explain that well, but that I'll get someone to come in and do...so this isn't outing...thanks though.
I don't want to get this thread pulled again but, Danny and Barry discovered an identical situation two months ago. They blogged on it, Google alerted the automotive manufacturer in question to the issue and the agency responsible made changes right away. If this were an acceptable method I don't think such swift action would have taken.

Here it is:
http://searchengineland.com/070503-121944.php

"Google has guidelines against using hidden text. In fact, such use got a different car maker, BMW, banned briefly from Google last year."

Here is what Google said:
http://googleenterprise.blogspot.com...e-updates.html

"...an invisible div layer on site pages, which is not in keeping with Google site quality guidelines."

In our case there is also, "text that is clearly not visible on the page. In fact it's kept invisible" by a "hidden" div class. Here is the code:
<div id="outer_container" class="hidden">

<div id="bkg_container">

Sync
<div id="message_box">
<p id="box_content">
Get Flash
Introducing Sync – a fully-integrated, voice-activated in-car communications and entertainment system for your mobile phone and digital music player – offered exclusively on Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury products in North America.<br/><br/>
To view the Sync website, please download the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer/">Flash Player</a> for free.
</p>
</div>
</div>

</div>

The CSS also reflects that the content is intended to be "hidden". Here is the code:
".hidden {
display:none;"
....com/css/sync.css

In addition to text content in "hidden" div tags, there are "hidden" links that users can't access designed for search engines.

Now I don't know about you but, that is what I call:
"Hidden text and links"

http://www.google.com/support/webmas...y?answer=66353

With the advent of Universal Search, I can't see this method being approved due to the fact Flash supports 10 languages and Google more than 100. What that means for Flash users who speak one of the 90 or so languages not supported by Flash, is that the translated SERP description will not match the content on the actual page. Maybe I'm crazy but, I think Matt Cutts was hinting at this issue in his videos. Ever notice that "Language Famillies of the World" poster on the wall?

So there you have it, my 2 cents! I'm jumping off the soapbox.

(Please feel free to edit any "outings" from my posts instead of pulling the thread again!)

Last edited by beu : 06-23-2007 at 04:03 AM.
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Old 06-23-2007   #19
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<off-topic>
Quote:
Danny and Barry discovered an identical situation two months ago. They blogged on it,
Indicating that there was a management decision made.

Quote:
Google alerted the automotive manufacturer in question to the issue and the agency responsible made changes right away.

If this were an acceptable method I don't think such swift action would have taken.
It surely wouldn't have if it weren't a huge mega-corporation, beyond hitting the nuke button.
</off-topic>
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Old 06-25-2007   #20
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Some of the team is going over the code and preparing an answer for the excellent comments above. Thanks for your patience!
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