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Best Way to Get Text on Flash Pages to Search?

Is noscript tags the best way?

8:00 pm on Oct 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

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An advertising company that only builds all-Flash sites wants me to pitch them on SEO and SEM services. Their sites are typically all one Flash file, and not separate Flash files in HTML pages.

I'm preparing myself for a couple of "gotcha" questions by the developer, who I understand has no use for SEO people. I noticed that his solution for searchability was to place each page's Flash based text (no text in the source code, as for example, in <noscript> tags), in one separate .html page.

That separate, stand-alone HTML page contains, paragraph by paragraph, the text from every flash page. There's a notation on that page that says "this is for the search engines" and a link to the Flash home page.

When searching Google for that .html page's URL, Google does not return a result. But when I search a unique phrase on that page Google does return the page. And the page URL appears in site: search.

I saw the WebmasterWorld post on July 1, 2008 regarding Adobe's claim that they are going to allow search engines' reading and indexing of .swf files, as is, and retroactively. But is this really working?
See [webmasterworld.com...]

My question is, what is the best fix to get text that's in Flash indexed-- and on the page it belongs on?

Is it still to place each page's text into <noscript> tags in the HTML source code for that particular page?

I think this guy's method is essentially worthless. Yes, it does get the textual content into the search engines, but not on the pages where it belongs. For example, this method would prevent getting backlinks to internal pages, when you needed to do so.

1:36 pm on Oct 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

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It's possible to optimise all-Flash websites, but expect to expend significantly more effort and achieve less. If a client's competitors have "proper" HTML websites - as they almost certainly will - then the Flash website probably won't be able to compete (imho, others may have some experience with this).

See Best uses of Flash [googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com] on the Google webmaster blog (I don't think this has changed with their recent announcement):

Flash is inherently a visual medium, and Googlebot doesn't have eyes. Googlebot can typically read Flash files and extract the text and links in them, but the structure and context are missing.

[Limit] Flash to on-page accents and rich media, not content and navigation.

An all-Flash website causes SEO, usability and accessibility problems. It's possible to avoid some of these problems with more work. Or you/they can avoid all of these problems by using HTML.

the developer, who I understand has no use for SEO people.

He's (rightly) worried about his own standing within the company. But this company knows they've got a problem or they wouldn't have approached you. Ask yourself: have you got the diplomatic skills required to bring this guy around? Could you work with him? The danger is he/they'll be reluctant to change anything - and at the same time they'll expect unrealistic results. Is it worth the hassle?

Pitch them training and a complete change to their design process at a correspondingly high price - you'll be providing valuable information to them as they clearly don't "get it" at the moment. Show them what can be done with HTML, CSS and Javascript (+ Flash) using progressive enhancement: eg jquery effects, source ordered content, with and without CSS etc.

But if they want to keep the all-flash approach, I'd walk away. Give them your card so they can contact you when they realise SEO isn't an optional bolt-on extra these days ;)

8:14 pm on Oct 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

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mattur, thanks for the comprehensive reply. I'd heard of sIFR but I just had to go to school on jquery and SOC.

Nope, I'm not in the least bit concerned with being an affront to the developer. As a former project manager I've been screwed with by real artists. LOL!

However married they are to their formulaic all-Flash sites, that one little quote from Google that you supplied, about limiting Flash to on-page accents and rich media-- not content and navigation-- carries the ultimate authority, doesn't it?