I suppose one of the first questions you’ll be asking is “If you’re good at optimising Flash why is your site on WordPress?” and it’d be a fair enough question.
The answer is quite simple, just because I can optimise Flash doesn’t mean I either want to or that it’s easy. Indeed given the choice I’d rather just shove a handful of SEO friendly plugins into WordPress, tinker around with the backend and let it take all of the stress out of the onpage SEO rather than work with almost any other CMS. As a majority of this site consists of my thoughts and ideas the WordPress format is also more suited to it, I’ve not yet seen a pure Flash blog.
The other reason is that I’m not really much of a Flash designer. Traditionally SEO has been at one end of the scale and Flash sites at the other. Things do look like they’re changing, however I still don’t see Flash as a great platform to optimise for. Things might change so I try and keep at least on the curve for the latest Flash developments.
I think giving an example of my artistic skills should be enough to settle any further questions on this matter.
Doing a post on Black Hat techniques so soon into my new blog may, incorrectly, lead you to an opinion about what kind of SEO I do however, as people experiment with what Google can now read, it does raise an interesting question about what Google does with the links it finds in the swf files.
Programmers can now stuff Flash programs with hundreds, or thousands, of links which won’t be readily viewable to the users. It doesn’t even need to be this extreme; adding a handful of links to a useful Flash widget or a hundred spam sites and you could be getting thousands of backlinks to your sites within days.
This is happening now and as it’s invisible to Google’s evaluators it’s bound to be very difficult for their anti-spam team to initially keep on top of. Could this see a return of the Google Bomb?
I don’t think so and this opens up the question as to what weight Flash sites will be given for their content and links. It’s still unclear how text will be able to be structured inside the swf files, if at all. Will we be able to add the equivalent of Title Tags and Header Tags, does it all count as Paragraph text, do links pass on any juice?
Personally I don’t think links found in Flash files will pass on much, if any, PR and that Google are far-sighted enough to anticipated this happening as it’s exactly the same as cloaking. Whilst more tests will have to be done to see what can be achieved in Flash I think rather than exploding like a bomb any spam will be contained within a smaller radius, thus, a Flashbang; which according to Wikipedia is not even a grenade at all!
MSN Search and Ask accounted for 9.5% of U.S. and 7% of U.K. traffic searches in June 2008 (source Hitwise). Ignoring the fact that Google and Yahoo still aren’t indexing Flash sites perfectly, do you really want to exclude that sort of percentage of your possible audience?
28Jul So what can’t Flash do?
Before we go down the road of thinking that the new changes to the search engines are going to jump your Flash page up the rankings let’s look at what Flash still can’t do.
Search engines (or at least Google) has been able to index static text in Flash files for a while now, the difference is that it can now do the same for ‘dynamic text’.
In theory if more of your content is being crawled then the more phrases and words you can be relevant for, except without some clever programming the text is going to be unstructured and under-optimised.
Even with clever programming your content may sit in clearly defined sections but your off page linking campaigns can’t link directly to the content. Flash sites inherently sit on just one URL, so focusing on one keyword for a specific section of content isn’t possible, resulting in the dilution of your anchor text’s keywords from links.
You can get over this problem by embedding the flash in php, but I’m talking here purely about a Flash site.
There are three main limitations to Google’s ability to index Flash, two of these are directly realted to how the site is built.
From Google’s blog
2. We currently do not attach content from external resources that are loaded by your Flash files. If your Flash file loads an HTML file, an XML file, another SWF file, etc., Google will separately index that resource, but it will not yet be considered to be part of the content in your Flash file.
SEARCH FRIENDLY FLASH
Whilst this recent update doesn’t solve all the problems associated with Flash it does show that Google are looking to evolve beyond the HTML dominated search rankings and if the next incarnation of Flash (or the one after, or the one after) is 100% search engine friendly then having all the pieces in place now gives us an advantage.
Full press release here.
Using Flash to build sites has typically resulted in poor search engine rankings as Flash files (.swf ) are binary data and prove difficult to read for the crawlers as well as the difficulty of getting deep links to subpages.
Whilst there are still many obstacles to overcome and nobody is yet sure of how well Google can read Flash there is now a lot more that can be done to improve visibility through SEO.