Can Flash Gain Search Engine Respect?

 
 
By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-11-17 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Search engines find Flash hard to crawl and index, but new approaches could give Flash-based sites more ranking parity with their HTML cousins.

LAS VEGAS—For Web sites based on Macromedia Flash, search engines are anything but friendly. The major crawlers used to discover content rarely dig deep into Flash, often missing pages or, worse yet, ignoring sites altogether. But a pair of Web designers detailed a new approach on Tuesday at the WebmasterWorld.com World Search Conference here to change that. They are investigating a way to abstract the content and presentation layers of Flash sites so that search engines can spider the HTML that they favor and sites can take advantage of the multimedia and interactivity features of Flash.
"We want [Flash sites] to act just like HTML Web sites," said George Shaw, creative director at DivinePenguin, in Los Angeles. "Theres no reason philosophically why they shouldnt."
Shaw is one of the designers behind a project called RichMediaSEO. The other is Gregory Markel, founder and president of search marketing company Infuse Creative, of Santa Monica, Calif. While demand remains high for Flash-based sites in industries such as entertainment, which want to display multimedia, the lack of full search-engine support creates roadblocks, the designers said. "The only issue were running into is verifiability of the content," Shaw said. "Its a trust issue at this point. The search engines need to trust that the content theyre searching is the same as the Flash [sites] are displaying."
The options for Flash sites today, though, remain limited. Shaw and Markel agreed that sites should avoid Flash if search engine optimization is a top priority and if the multimedia and interactivity features of Flash are not necessary. Even sites using Flash need to take a hybrid approach by combining Flash and HTML, rather than relying exclusively for Flash in their architecture, Shaw said. The pairs efforts are not the first to try to tackle Flashs search engine problems, Macromedia Inc. in 2002 released a software development kit (SDK) for Flash to help search engines index the content. Click here to read about multimedia search engine Singingfishs introduction of Flash support. But the SDK has offered limited help, Markel said. He said that Macromedia in recent months has become more involved in figuring out how to optimize Flash for search engines. Google Inc. earlier this year appeared to begin indexing Flash using its own SDK, but that effort has appeared to be on again, off again, Markel said. Tim Mayer, director of product management for search at Yahoo Inc., said that Yahoo does not spider into Flash content for its Web index but could once it "helps our comprehensiveness." Multimedia sites, though, can use Yahoos paid inclusion program, Overture Site Match, to feed the content into its index. "At this point, if youre using Flash you rarely are going to get a No. 1 listing, and thats a shame," Mayer said Check out eWEEK.coms Enterprise Applications Center at http://enterpriseapps.eweek.com for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.

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Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for eWEEK.com, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for eWEEK.com. Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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