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Google now indexing flash?
bull




msg:105213
 5:45 pm on Apr 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

Continued from:
[webmasterworld.com...]

just saw a serp with an indexed flash page, can't still believe my eyes. At least [flash] is shown at the result.

[edited by: Brett_Tabke at 9:14 pm (utc) on April 28, 2004]

 

Patrick Taylor




msg:105243
 12:09 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'll stand corrected if someone can point me towards a flash site of genuine importance and informational benefit.

I built my own previous website in Flash: not for my amusement or my friends but a business website on which I explained about the excellent services I provide - information of genuine importance and informational benefit to my clients and potential clients. The content wasn't being properly indexed by search engines, and I was concerned about accessibility, so I built another one in html.

BigDave




msg:105244
 12:17 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'll stand corrected if someone can point me towards a flash site of genuine importance and informational benefit.

It will take a lot more than one flash website to convince me that flash should ever rank well in the SERPs unless you specifically request it.

It is fine with me if google indexes them, but if they start replacing non-flash sites at the top, that will be the day that I switch search engines.

It's not that flash can't be useful, nor is it that flash sites can't contain information, it is that I don't want them to come up standard in my searches when my normal browser does not have a flash plugin.

If you have an appropriate part of your site in flash, and I would like to check it out, then I will open my browser that does have flash installed.

There is no question that flash is useful for things like games, and virtual tours and such. But it is a real PITA when I am trying to find some straight information.

One of my biggest complaints about flash sites is that they make it as one big file. I can't bookmark the page within the site that has the information that I want. All this because they want to have it do some fancy effect when I click on some part of their site.

You also can't search for the information you are looking for with your browser.

All you designers that like your pretty pictures can make your sites in flash, but please don't insist that they have a right to ruin my search results.

Patrick Taylor




msg:105245
 12:44 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

It is fine with me if google indexes them, but if they start replacing non-flash sites at the top, that will be the day that I switch search engines.

I agree that Flash still has serious limitations in terms of Google (or any search engine) SERPS, and for people who need accessible content or who don't want to use a plug-in, but the words inside a Flash page need be no less relevant or "important" than the words on an html page. We shouldn't blame the tool for what some designers do with it.

The first step in bringing Flash content more into the mainstream, and thereby hastening the resolution of the design issues it raises, is for text inside it to be more readily indexable. And I don't really see what the big deal is in using a plug-in - it's just a program, like a browser is on my computer.

grelmar




msg:105246
 2:10 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Ugh, Flash.

If its going to be in SERPS, it should be CLEARLY marked as such. It already annoys me when I click on a result off Google and a PDF comes up. I use a tab browser so when I'm searching for something, I just quickly "scan the headlines" opening up everything that looks remotely relevant in a new tab, and can move through pages of results in seconds this way.

When I hit a PDF doing this, it really breaks the flow up. SWF wouldn't be as bad, because I won't get that annoying Adobe logo screen in my face, but when I'm doing research, I want stuff I can quickly cut and paste for notes. Can't do that with flash (can with PDF).

And flash GRINDS if you're not on a fast machine with a good connection. I happen to be at a friend's, at the moment, who's in exactly this position, and the Billy the Kid site someone pointed out as being good.... well, it wasn't. Took forever to load, and by the time it did, I didn't give a darn what it said, it had already ticked me off. And I'm a history buff. Discovery channel should know better. They're about education and science, and accessability is one of their key goals.

Overall, I'm not happy about flash showing up in SERPs. Unless it's clearly marked as such (and I mean by having the main link at the top being in flashing neon red, or something to that effect, not just having the filetype listed in that bottom small print link that hardly anyone reads.)

mfishy




msg:105247
 2:16 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

is that I don't want them to come up standard in my searches when my normal browser does not have a flash plugin.

I tend to agree. The same goes for pdf

Powdork




msg:105248
 2:49 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

I want stuff I can quickly cut and paste for notes. Can't do that with flash (can with PDF).
And many developers consider that, and the fact that you can't view source, as some of the benefits of flash. however, in flash mx, at least, we can check a button marked 'make selectable' to let you highlight text, if we wish.

And flash GRINDS if you're not on a fast machine with a good connection.
And html doesn't render well on an eight track player. Sometimes its just time to move ahead or get left behind.

rfgdxm1




msg:105249
 2:50 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

PLEASE Google: NO flash in the regular SERPs.

Patrick Taylor




msg:105250
 3:20 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

It already annoys me when I click on a result off Google and a PDF comes up ... I want stuff I can quickly cut and paste ... can't do that with flash (can with PDF).

Eh? You can't cut (copy) and paste Flash text? Of course you can, if it's set that way. Incidentally, it can be loaded in from a text file or a database and look exactly the same as html text - same fonts, everything. And what on earth is the connection between Flash and PDF?

Flash GRINDS if you're not on a fast machine with a good connection.

My Flash site didn't grind - quite the opposite. You're blaming the tool instead of the designer. Plenty of normal html pages GRIND too.

BigDave




msg:105251
 3:22 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

And html doesn't render well on an eight track player. Sometimes its just time to move ahead or get left behind.

Are you trying to prove the point? An eight track is for playing eight track tapes. A browser is for displaying HTML. A flash player is for playing flash.

I tend to agree. The same goes for pdf

While I mostly agree, at least PDFs have a much greater chance of containing useful information. The problem is that PDFs are used far too often when good old HTML would wourk just as well or better.

One problem with PDFs is that some of the most useful ones don't actually contain searchable text, just the image of text. And example of this is court documents.

What really annoys me is when a site has both HTML and PDF versions of the same documents and it is the PDF one that comes up in the SERPs.

While I rate PDFs higher than flash, I still wish that they would give HTML more of an advantage just from a speed of loading standpoint. Let me go through at least a page of HTML choices before you toss a slower loading PDF at me.

Patrick Taylor




msg:105252
 3:56 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

I rate PDFs higher than Flash.

Each to his (or her) own, in web pages as in other things. You maybe won't like the metaphor, but one that comes to mind is that "good old html" is an aeroplane and Flash is a helicopter (PDF is a hot air balloon).

martinibuster




msg:105253
 4:24 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Google's mission is to bring information to those who are seeking it.

The format of the information is not as important as the information itself.

When searching on the internet, it's the information not the medium that's important, and it's Google's stated mission to dig that out for you.

For instance, in a recent interview published at MSNBC [msnbc.msn.com], Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google had this to say about Google's focus:

We've taken the position that we want to stay more focused on information and search. And we define information as more than Web information.

So, I think if you came back with a proposal about a Linux desktop company, you'd have to understand it in the context of information search. We would not do it independent of that. We would have to convince ourselves it somehow furthered information search.

Information search is Google's focus. If that information is found in Flash, in a supermarket aisle, or an offline catalog, Google wants to be there giving it to you on your computer screen, pda, wristwatch, and beyond.

BigDave




msg:105254
 4:33 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Patrick,

I think you are missing my point.

While both .swf and .pdf *can* be used to convey useful information, if you were to compare the percentage of .swf files with useful info to the percentage of.pdf files with useful info, .swf loses by an incredibly wide margin.

In either case, most of the sites could provide me with the info I desire in an open standard format that is built into my browser, but they choose to go with something new and fancy when there is no need.

Flash and acrobat both have their place, but their place is not as the primary piece of web design.

I actually choose to surf without having flash, quicktime, acrobat or any of that other junk installed in my primary browser for the simple reason that it allows me to choose when I want to deal with all that stuff. Most people that design with those features wantto control my experience instead of letting me make that decision. I choose to retain that control.

And I am certainly not alone in this. Lots of older folks don't trust any suggestions for plugins, and several of my mom's friends were thrilled when I showed them how to use a browser without flash, and have another browser with it, so that they would only have to use it when *they choose to use it*.

Flash might be an enabling technology, but it is more often an annoying, intrusive, and abused technology. Until *you* as a flash evangelist work on solving all the problems with it, it will continue to have image problems. And if those bad flash pages start showing up at the top of the SERPs, they will only do more damage to the already bad reputation that flash pages have.

And it will certainly be a bad choice for Google to give them high rankings because the vast majority of flash sites really are crap. Until that fact changes, don't expect high rankings for your "good" flash pages.

And you still haven't told me how to do a page search or bookmark a page in a flash program.

Powdork




msg:105255
 4:49 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Are you trying to prove the point? An eight track is for playing eight track tapes. A browser is for displaying HTML. A flash player is for playing flash.
No I am saying that if you want to play the game you may have to buy a toy or two. There is nothing wrong with an exciting and interactive web and many, many people are looking for exactly that. Flash (or something like it) may be the future while html may be todays floppy disc.
Not everyone is looking for information. Some people want an experience and flash can provide that. It can also just provide information. All you need is a free plugin that doesn't come from M$. If Flash is giving a richer experience to the average surfer, a search engine would be shooting itself in the foot by not indexing it.
I do agree that .swf extensions should be identified as such in the serps as they are in human edited directories. But I think it should be done with cool, small file flash icon, rather than the text as it is now.
That would make a great contest, wouldn't it?:)

BigDave




msg:105256
 5:35 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

If Flash is giving a richer experience to the average surfer, a search engine would be shooting itself in the foot by not indexing it.

But it rarely gives a richer experience. Most of the time it just annoys the user because it is used inappropriately.

Until the majority of the flash on the web is useful, instead of just annoying, it is in the search engine's interest to lower any .swf results because it is a factor that suggests that it is of lesser value.

Patrick Taylor




msg:105257
 5:45 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

it will continue to have image problems

Dave, I never suggested it doesn't have image problems. I know it does. All I'm saying is that here we have a great design tool if only it would be used properly.

It will certainly be a bad choice for Google to give them high rankings because the vast majority of flash sites really are crap. Until that fact changes, don't expect high rankings for your "good" flash pages.

Not sure what you mean here. Google would presumably only give a page - html or Flash - ranking on its relevancy merit. <added>Just read you last post - you're saying Google downgrade all Flash because some of it is crap</added>

And you still haven't told me how to do a page search or bookmark a page in a flash program.

I know... and I can't.

Powdork




msg:105258
 6:36 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

But it rarely gives a richer experience. Most of the time it just annoys the user because it is used inappropriately.
I disagree, and I'm comfortable with that.
Should Google downgrade sites which use tables because some people use them incorrectly? The worst thing is that you have no way of knowing what's about to hit you because there is no tag identifying the 1997 page as ugly next to it in the serps.

We should also consider that this argument is moot since it appears Google will be indexing Flash (and anything else they can) more in the future. The real questions should be:
1. How can we effectively get our flash content indexed as well as html.
2. How can we deal with the influx of new competing pages which will inevitably seep into the serps?
3. Flash authors can do remarkable things? How can we do bookmarkable things?;)

BigDave




msg:105259
 6:40 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Just read you last post - you're saying Google downgrade all Flash because some of it is crap

No, they should downgrade all of it because almost all of it is crap. Therefore, it is a good indicator that it's relevancy will be low.

Just like a title can be a good indicator of what a page is about, the format of the data can be an indicator of it's quality.

Theough it is rarely stated this way, Google is calculating the odds that something might be what a user is looking for. They are calcualing it based on a statistical model. And right now a flash site or page will have do very well to get past the negative value they receive for using a tool that is most often used to produce something people don't want to come across when they are searching.

You can post the perfect solution to peace in the middle east on a bathroom wall in a truck stop. Are you going to insist that everyone take you seriously and ignore the fact that everything else on the wall is random garbage?

You can go ahead and use the tool of your choice. After all, it *is* your choice. Just don't expect that your choice gives you any rights. I still have my choice, and Google still has their's. And if Google chooses to littler their SERPs with flash results that I don't like, I will go to another search engine, and you will be happy with them.

Patrick Taylor




msg:105260
 8:20 am on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

If Google chooses to litter their SERPs with flash results that I don't like, I will go to another search engine, and you will be happy with them.

Er, do you mean me? I happen to have moved away from Flash-only sites because of indexing and usability concerns, and I said as much in an earlier post. It's in my interest as much as anyone else's that Google delivers good relevant SERPS that people actually want.

All I'm doing is welcoming any move by Google to be able to read text in Flash pages or files (and to develop their ranking technology) because I believe that some Flash sites contain interesting information or otherwise give a good experience in some way. But I'm happy to leave it to Google to decide what is litter and what is good content, be it in Flash or html.

richardsi




msg:105261
 1:09 pm on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Trying to find an answer to this question...

Does anyone know if Google is using the official Flash Search Engine SDK that was put out a while back?

bcolflesh




msg:105262
 1:36 pm on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Does anyone know if Google is using the official Flash Search Engine SDK that was put out a while back?

Maybe GG knows, but what would do with the info? In most cases, it's probable that there wouldn't be any actual page to link directly to the info it extracts, just the holder for the .swf file.

GoogleGuy




msg:105263
 4:09 pm on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

I haven't hunted down the person who was looking at Flash to ask about it. I suspect that if we added Flash indexing, we did it ourselves instead of using the SDK.

Historically, I've been mildly skeptical about the information content of Flash files (e.g. there's not usually straight text in there; it's more like characters/words plus paths and such, as folks here know, and the prior probability of high information content is probably lower than say .pdf), but I figure it can't hurt to have the capability to read swf, and then down the road we can see how it affects relevance. Just my personal take on it, of course; bear in mind that I haven't talked to the person who was looking at Flash.

Powdork




msg:105264
 4:35 pm on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

It seems like a win win situation. If you can read it and index it then you should be able to rank it just as you do html files. If it has the relevant information it should rank well, if it doesn't, it shouldn't. I don't think anyone is saying a flash site should rank better because it's flash, just that it should be ranked according to the same criteria as html, or a pdf.

grelmar




msg:105265
 5:05 pm on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Sooner or later you have to get in the game or move on?

Hmmm... Lemme think about that....

Firstly, my main machine can handle all that stuff perfectly well, but I'm often on other people's machines, and you'd be surprised (or maybe not) how many people have older tech out there that runs perfectly fine until it comes up against heavy formats like flash. Why? Because a huge chunk of people jkust use their computers for communication (e-mail and such), and information gatherers/storage devices. You don't need a powerful machine for those purposes, so a lot of users are reluctant to go and drop a grand or more just to get a computer that can handle a few things, that they hardly ever use, better.

Secondly, flash does grind, way more than HTML. Even a badly coded HTML page with the same content will almost invariably be lighter than a Flash page.

Am I saying there's no place for flash? Not hardly. Some of my favorite sites are flash sites. If they're done right, they can make a slick-interfacing, enjoyable site. But the majority of flsh sites could've been done just as well in HTML, with way better accessability and usability.

And like flash or hate it, the simple FACT is that there are a high % of machines in THE REAL WORLD that don't deal with it well (or not at all), and this should be taken into account in SERPs.

Should flash be taken right out of SERPs? No, because that would be unfair to people who ARE developping good content in Flash that has every right to get noticed. I just believe that Google, and others, should figure out a way of clearly identifyin Flash, and PDF, or any non-HTML pages clearly in the results. Color coding the links would be a fairly easy thing to do. Standard Blue for HTML, Green for PDF, Tan for flash, some other color for "other" file formats. (Ok, maybe not the best color choices, but you get the idea). If done right, it wouldn't look bad (though not quite as "clean" as the current Google look, I admit), and the information conveyed would be infinitely greater.

GoogleGuy




msg:105266
 5:18 pm on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hey grelmar, I think we do show tags like
[FLASH]
[PDF]
[WML]
beside unusual filetypes. That gives users a hint so that they can decide for themselves if they want to click on the link.

BigDave




msg:105267
 5:30 pm on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hey grelmar, I think we do show tags like
[FLASH]
[PDF]
[WML]
beside unusual filetypes. That gives users a hint so that they can decide for themselves if they want to click on the link.

Yup, those are there. You also offer "View as HTML" on some of the formats that you are able to translate, which I really appreciate. But it is still far from a perfect translation.

The problem is when those proprietary formats hog all the top spots. Getting 25 pdf and doc files in the top 30 sites, and with the average size of PDF files, it makes finding the information that I am searching for rather tedious.

SlowMove




msg:105268
 5:34 pm on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

There's still the issue of the search engine not knowing how much of the text that it can read from flash is being displayed to the user. Just as anchor text on a text link is weighted heavier than alt text on a graphic link because the search engines don't bother to try to analyze the image, html text is less likely to be hidden than flash text.

pleeker




msg:105269
 5:43 pm on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Google's mission is to bring information to those who are seeking it.

The format of the information is not as important as the information itself.

Google's mission statement also has the word "useful" in there somewhere, and the debate here is how useful is the (alleged) information in the typical flash file.

I think we've all seen flash sites, or flash files, that have good information ... but Flash's inherent poor usability makes the usefulness of that information questionable. So the format is most definitely as important as the information itself, at least in Flash's case.

robsynnott




msg:105270
 7:23 pm on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

And does the AdSense bot read them as well?

Prob'ly, they'll soon have a bot that OCRs images :D

bull




msg:105271
 7:49 pm on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

please, please, pretty please show file sizes of PDF and flash files in your serps. you do it for html - why not for anything else?

grelmar




msg:105272
 8:55 pm on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

GG:

Hmmm, unless I've gone suddenly tag blind, I don't see the aforementioned tags in a search. No way to turn them on in preferences either.

Powdork




msg:105273
 9:00 pm on Apr 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

but Flash's inherent poor usability makes the usefulness of that information questionable. So the format is most definitely as important as the information itself, at least in Flash's case.
what inherent poor usability? My three year old can easily navigate through nickjr's playtime with no problem. It is made to be overly usable with flash. Many online tutorials are done entirely in flash.
As far as cost goes, for $300 I could have ten times the computer I'm running it on now, and getting the plugin is about as easy as logging in to webmasterworld, and free too.

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