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Google is indexing SWF files
Bad news for flash haters

 10:26 pm on Aug 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

I may have missed them but I haven't seen any posts or articles reporting this...

I noticed today that Google is not only indexing flash files but it is fully parsing the text contained in them and including them in the SERPs.



 10:32 pm on Aug 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

Wow, try a 'keyword filetype:swf' search, text is definately being parsed.


 12:32 am on Aug 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

yes, i stumbled upon this today:

check out the last result on the SERP...it's one of my SWF files, and it includes indexed text content!



 12:39 am on Aug 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

This is not new at all, it has been like this since almost a year - maybe more.




 5:20 am on Aug 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Those threads were referring to Google's ability to index and follow links.

It appears that Google is now indexing text content in addition to links, as well as using the text in their ranking algos.


 6:03 am on Aug 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

The old ones talk about Google following Flash links, however, the new ones (from April 2004 [webmasterworld.com]) actually speak about Google indexing text, etc.



 6:45 am on Aug 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Ah, well it was new to me anyway.

And to a lot of others I assume since there are still people running around WebmasterWorld yelling "Flash will kill your search engine rankings!" :-)

I actually saw one of them bite someone the other day.

Lord Majestic

 8:20 am on Aug 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Am I correct thinking that the text that is indexed might not necesserily be on flash's first page?

If thats the case, then how would surfer find the text that was matched by search query, but it might be buried deep inside great many flash's screens?

Luckily people can't (or don't) link to specific pages inside flash files, so there :P


 9:12 am on Aug 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Google indexing Flash doesn't necessarily mean it will be making any Flash SEOs happy.

Why I say this, is because it is only indexing the text out of the Flash file.

This means no html tags are going to come into play - and this includes your standard <h1> <h2> tags as well as your classic <title> tags.

The only possible ways you will be able to try optimizing it, is by the filename and the context - which would not be an easy job IMHO.



 10:10 pm on Aug 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

When parsing the source code of a flash file it is incredibly easy to see what size (either in pixels/points or %) text is.

In fact it's almost impossible that Google is not parsing this info. Hard to say at this point if they're using the info in their algos though. I'm sure they have a sub department working on new algos for flash file ranking as we type.


 4:41 am on Aug 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Ok, I was aware that Google (and others) are indexing Flash files but I wonder just how deep they can see.

What I mean is...
If I have a Flash menu and the links are generated dynamically from an xml (or other) datasource, will the engines be capable of seeing and following those links? (ie: the links are variables within the action script)
Or do I have to provide an alternate HTML set of links just for SEs? (I know that's a good idea anyway, just wondering if it's a necessity.)


[edited by: Peb0 at 5:40 am (utc) on Aug. 12, 2004]


 5:38 am on Aug 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

In other words the question is whether Google is parsing flash files like a spider (interacting with them similar to the way an end user would) or if they're parsing through the .swf source.

My guess is they're parsing the source which would mean that data added dynamically through a server side script is not going to make it into the SERPs for right now


 1:43 pm on Aug 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

This is the "safe" assumption we have made. Our template includes a plain html link to a "site map", which is comprised of all plain html links to our entire website.

For now, it's more of a curiosity I have.
<begin daydreaming>It will be nice when we don't have to design catch-alls.</end daydreaming>

cgibin:localcacheoverflowFATALERROR22650Purge.... restartRealityCheck 63% complete


 3:12 pm on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

One way to ensure that your text is inside of an .swf even if that .swf's text is generated dynamically...is to use one the .swf generating libraries available. There is one for perl...that I use to add my text to variables inside the movie before it is presented to the user.

This should solve the dynamic content loading problem of text getting parsed by the search engines.

SWF::Builder is built upon a set of libraries that will allow this and many other options, including reverse engineering of the file that you created in Flash MX to the perl code it would take to build that swf. Then, change the code to pull in the dynamic pieces that you need.

You can also compile actionscript into .swf directly which can be very helpful.

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