How to optimise Flash for search engines.

05Sep I am a fraud!

There, I said it.

I am a fraud.

Why am I making this admission? Well it’s come to my attention that much like 95% of people involved in optimising Flash Icon all I’m doing is talking a good game.

I read, I research, I come up with ideas and impliment some of them, but I don’t actually run a pure Flash site with the intention of optimizing it and until I do how can you trust anything I say?!

So, I’m going to remedy that.

Over the next couple of months I’m going to build a site in Flash and try to get it to rank. How well will I succeed? Only one way to find out.

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03Sep New Flash SEO logo!

Having used the old Flash Icon ‘f’ as a logo up until now I decided it was time to get myself a new logo.

I’ve used the Digital Point forums before for logos and such like I created a small competition for people to submit designs and finally got the winning entrylogo




Looks like the new Flash (and indeed all CS3 program) file thumbnails and with the file type as SEO.

Simple yet clever idea which is hopefully what this blog is all about.

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31Aug YouTube Captions, useful for SEO?

I was uploading a video for my sister (a short film which was broadcast as a comedy short on the BBC, more info can be found on the page I’ve embedded it on) called Bathtime when I noticed I was presented with the option to add subtitles/captions, which is new.

The Youtube Blog reveals a little more information about the process and it’s already been picked up by the BBC and CNET among others. This new feature allows you to add subtitles in up to 120 languages.

My immediate thoughts were that, if the subtitles were located in an accessible file, that search engines might be able to find out a bit more information about what’s in a video. Having had a quick look, it seems this was overly optimistic, however it did get me thinking…

Recently I was looking at CSS and HTML captions for photos as can be seen in this example from (I’m a big neighbours fan).

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Here the green caption background is produced by CSS and standard HTML formatting for the caption text. This is done on most pages and I imagine they’ve managed to create a system where it’s easy to just input the size of an image to achieve the desired effect. Indeed the only real drawback to using this for every image is having to create a class for each image size. If you have standard image locations though it wouldn’t be much of a problem.

So, looking at the YouTube captions (and indeed they look like every other subtitle ever) a CSS class with a black background and some white text over the topmakes me wonder if a similar effect can be achieved for videos. Of course the added complication is adding timing to the text.

Ultimately I think the amount of time that’d have to be spent matching the subtitles up would be too great to be viable, but if a system could be made where videos can be marked then it could be a good way to optimise a video for different languages as well as the added value of the search engines knowing the video content.

Whilst I’ve no idea how to go about this, if it can be thought of it can be done! Of course that would usher in a whole new era of how to produce video content for the web, with presenters and writers now having to adapt the same way as traditional print writers have.

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22Aug Video Sitemaps

Apologies for still not adding the project I promised (the one that involved prizes) but I’m having some trouble getting WordPress to display .swf Icon files correctly. It works in preview mode, so hopefully I’m nearly there.

These days everybody knows that to help the search engines find your site that you should create a sitemap, listing all of your site’s pages. What some people don’t realise is that with vertical search (types or topics of search, the kind that returns News and Video results into the main index) you can submit a sitemap of your video to webmaster tools which will index it in Google Videos.

These sitemaps allow you to add a title and description as well as a few other details. Being able to title and describe a video is a huge advantage when it comes to letting Google know what your video is about and by extension let users find it.

When writing the description you are limited to 2048 characters (about 300 words) and you should use this space as you would meta description tags. Place relevant keywords in the description as well as writing it so as to encourage viewing.

Videos appear on the front page of Google SERPS all the time now and may be an easy way to gain prominence for selective keywords. Of course make sure the video you are promoting is relevant and not just a random YouTube video you’ve shoved on your site a dozen times with a dozen different descriptions!

Google provides instructions on how to add a video sitemap on their Webmaster Help Centre.

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12Aug Google and Intro Pages?

Back at the beginning of June Google added the option to skip intro pages on Flash Icon websites by adding a nav option to the end of the page title, thus skipintro1

In line with their mission to bring people the most relevant content it seems like a good idea as there is very rarely any information contained on these splash pages and most seem to consist of an elaborate video as you watch the pieces of the site fall into place before you can get at the content.

However is this one time that Google is playing catch-up and is it just for Flash sites or other splash pages that it’s trying to get rid of?

Intro pages generally started to lose favour after the publishing of Jacob Nielsen’s article that Flash was “99% Bad” in late 2000, not long after Google started to pick up some steam. The report itself is generally inaccurate these days (and indeed some was then) but it did get designers starting to think about what they were doing with Flash. From that point on less and less sites used a splash page and current Flash websites have mostly be redesigned to get rid of them.

However some do still exist and I certainly think that skipping them is a great option, especially if I’ve been to the page before. This would have been better 5 years ago, but thanks anyway Google.

There are different types of intro pages though and currently Google does not seem to offer the option to skip them all, but it’s unclear how they select the ones who do. There currently doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Google will allow users to skip intros that don’t have a ‘skip intro’ link on them, however not all Flash sites that do seem to be given that link either. Could it be tracking which intros users aren’t watching and offering the option on those sites only?

There’s also some evidence that sites which aren’t pure Flash have the [skip intro] option on them. Sites such as (I was at K-box at the weekend :D) are, in this instance, a parked page with a Flash intro inserted as an object. In this case there is a also a skip option, but that can’t be the only deciding factor.

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The intro is inserted by using object tags.

Some sites actually present the users with an advert as a splash page, such as the NYTimes and The Onion. Both of these sites give the user the option to skip the ad, however Google doesn’t give the user the option to go directly to the content from the search results. How does it differentiate the pages?

My initial thoughts are that Googlebot looks for an isolated ‘Skip Intro’ text link next to a Flash object file and that the ‘Skip Intro’ can also, obviously, be in other languages such as the French ‘Passer l’introduction’.

The question then becomes that if Google hates splash pages will it eventually eliminate all results that don’t take the user directly to what they want and how will this effect revenue on sites like these?

A bit more research is required before a conclusive result can be drawn.

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