Thursday, July 03, 2008

Google/Yahoo! may soon be able to "search" your Flash applications

A consideration for building any consumer focused website is that many of the new breed of Rich Internet Application (RIA) technologies (AJAX, Flash, Silverlight, etc) are not easily navigated by search engines ("indexed"), and therefore sites that are RIA-heavy do not appear at the top of searches people do for relevant terms.

Those Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consultants you've hired to look over your website probably told you to go easy on the Flash animations. But that may be about to change. Adobe announced a couple of days ago that they will be working closely with Google and Yahoo! to provide technology to extract indexable content from Flash files:

"...We are giving a special, search-engine optimized Flash Player to Yahoo and Google which is going to help them crawl through every bit of your SWF file. This Flash Player will act just like a person would in some cases. It will click on your buttons, it will move through the states of your application, get data from the server when your application normally would, and it will capture all of the text and data that you’ve got inside of your Flash-based application..."

That sounds pretty grand. Google have posted a more down-to-earth explanation of what they expect to index from Flash files, which includes text-based stuff like blocks of text and URLs. (You can hide text from Google by turning it into an image :))

(Picture from Doug McCune's blog)

So how do you get your Flash-heavy site to the top of Google? Nobody knows since the Google rank algorithm is proprietary and constantly being tweaked. [NOTE TO SELF - Which reminds me, I must get around to doing a blog post on SEO since I've seen many clients come up with a grand vision for a website, only to have to make radical changes once SEO is considered.]

Equally interesting is the fact that Microsoft was not mentioned in the press release. Was Microsoft given the opportunity to participate? Did they not want to participate as that may give Flash an advantage over their own Silverlight RIA technology? Or maybe Microsoft are interested in promoting a non-keyword based way to search.

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