Can search engines read flash? A lot of people think that because flash is a program running on a website, it cannot be read by search engines. This is true to some extant however that does not mean there aren’t methods to make your flash movies Search Engine friendly. In fact Google CAN index your flash movies. In “Google Can Now Index . . . Flash!An Interview with Michael Marshall by Robin Nobles” (here), they discuss how Google indexes your flash movie and different things the author can do to help the process.

There are also other methods you can use if you want to be sure all search engines are indexing your flash movie. I use SWFobject. Here’s a brief explanation of how it can be used with some examples.

So first thing you need to do is upload swfobject.js to your website and link it in your header somewhere:

Then you need to create a div tag with all the default contents of the flash movie. What your going to do is over right all of the data inside of that div tag when you load your flash movie.

This is what the search engines will read

View Live Tutorial

And your done! So here’s the result:
Flash

And here’s what you see if you don’t have javascript or Flash Player:
No-Flash

And here’s what the search engines see:
SEO

Not too shabby.

The cool thing about all of this is the code is valid HTML and XHTML 1.0. There are also a bunch of other cool features with swfobject so explore their website and have some fun.

Now there has been some discussion on whether or not the content in the div tag that is being overwritten might be looked at as spam by Google at some point. So far it hasn’t been a problem and as long as developers don’t abuse this we should be good well into the future.

So go off and have fun with flash. Make many websites and flash intros to your hearts content (if your into that sorta thing). The future of flash looks brighter every day.

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  • http://jonbishop.com Jon Bishop

    @Webead: I don’t think that annoying flash sites will be around as long as their are annoying web sites and annoying developers to create them

  • http://www.webheadinteractive.com/ Webhead

    I kinda liked the fact that flash was unreadable by search engines. This made the full annoying flash sites a thing of the past. Flash can be beneficial if use properly and sparingly.

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  • http://adamfullerton.com Adam

    This is a great post, I know there was a lot of debate around it back in June when Google came out with an update regarding this issue which is always a relevant one.

  • http://www.dataflurry.com/marketing/seo_consultants_experts.html Joel McLaughlin

    Super interesting stuff. I get regular inquiries on how to properly integrate flash and normally I tell people to shy away from it. However this information will help for people that already have a flash site.

  • http://jonbishop.com Jon Bishop

    Thank Elliot,
    So until that time the option above is your best option. The alternate content within the DIV tag, properly laid out in HTML, is necessary to build an accessible site. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • http://www.veedeepee.com Eliot Harper

    Hi Jon, Yes, Google has been able to crawl .SWF files along with other file types for quite some time now. See the complete list of supported file types at http://www.google.com/help/faq_filetypes.html. You can review supported Flash objects by Google and other search engines on Tim Nash’s blog at http://www.timnash.co.uk/02/2008/swf-seo (in the table on that page).

    While some search engines can crawl Flash content, Flash does not provide the same level of structured content as HTML. In HTML, search engines rely on tags to identify structured content (h1, h2, alt,etc.). However, search engines today evaluate all content within a Flash file with equal weight and are unable to distinguish headings apart from other content, so you can’t create structured content in SWF like you can do in HTML. Yet!

    Eliot
    VDP blog: http://www.veedeepee.com

  • Jon Bishop

    Google will index your XML file however it’s not clear if Google would point someone to a Flash file rather than the XML file thats loaded into it. I would recommend adding the XML content within the div tags as HTML.

  • douger93

    Is there any problem with this method for SEO when your Flash site has dynamic xml content?

    Or can you simply add the content from the xml inside the div tags?

  • Andy

    Great tutorial. This will be really useful for anyone who didn’t know about it.