Every now and then a person come to me and nonchalantly ask “How can I make my website first in google?”. And she awaits a simple answer too, something like: change your website title to “best site in the world” and the background color to bluish grey. Well, not really, as you might know google optimization is a complete science.
I won’t go into details about page ranking in general, at least not in this post, but more about the Flash related ‘Search Engine Optimization’ buzzly known as SEO. There are few different methods to improve your flash indexing by se (search engines) and I’ll try to cover them all. First you need to understand that your flash .swf will be looked at, by the se, as an independent page. Which means that, if your flash rank high for some phrase then your flash .swf file will be linked directly. This is a problem because most swf files are’nt designed to be used as full individual page but as part of an html. It is possible to design your flash to look the same as a standalone page and as part of an html page with some limitations but this is also beyond the scop of this post. If you want se to link directly to your html holding the flash then use also the “alternative content” method described below.
Flash 8 supports Meta Tags – The simple way
It was a different century when html meta tags were considered important for seo. Search engines these days don’t really care about your MetaData (the info inside the meta tags). In the old days you could write some description about your site for ex: “best site in the world” and some power words or short descriptions about it too, for ex: “best”, “bluish”, “Flash”, “actionscript”, “best site”, etc’. And that was the main reason your site would have been categorized and rank. Clearly a faulty technic. But, it is possible to assume that the flash MetaData will be more influential since it’s hard to index flash anyway. Anyhow it’s still unclear how search engines look at these flash meta tags if at all they care about it. IMHO they do care now and they will care more in the futue. Since it’s so easy to insert MetaData into your flash there is no excuse for not doing it. Click on Modify -> Document enter your title and description. That it!, now when you publish your flash it’ll have MetaData.
Using Alternative Content
Alternative content means that, your html page, the one with the flash contetnt in it will also have some html content. S.e. love html it’s there mother tongue so the site get indexed and linked directly to the html and not to the swf. But whenÂ the user will come to the site as opposed to the se, they will see the flash and not the html. There are few ways you can use Alternative contetnt, here I’ll specify two, one I’ll recommend and the other I’ll recommend against.
The easiest but not the best way is to put some hidden html inside your page (for ex: in a non visible div). The user wont see the html but it’s there for the se to index it. The reason I recommendÂ against it is because se don’t like this way, they feel cheated. This method is widely used by spammers and cheater and you’ll be in a risk of counted as one,Â as so your site might get penalized.
- Html page – for Search engines and usersÂ without the right flash player.
- Flash page – for users that have flash.
He is also the author of this fine tool called flashObject that will help you to achieve this easily.
Alternative content – Reversed
ImagineÂ the se spiderÂ as heÂ crawls the web and he suddenly bump into your .SWF file. He then extract out his feelers and try to probe your flash file. If it was a few mothes ago (maybe years)Â the flash file would have look like nothing to him, a big chunk of nothing. These days the spider will probebly be able to extract some inforamtion from your Flash .SWF file (check the next topic for further info).
Since se love html so much why not give him html inside the flash. Put a TextField outside the visible stage with some html text, for ex:
The search engine will be able to see the html text allthough it isn’t on the visible stage as long as it has initial value assigned at author time.
*Macromedia’s Search Engine SDK – *See what you look like
Some time ago Macromedia released their ‘Search Engine SDK’. This tool provide search engines the ability to parse and index content (links and text) from inside a swf (flash) file. Google for their part said they’re already developed their own swf parser and they got better results then the macromedia SDK. I greatly hope so, coz the macromedia’s one has some issues. The main problem with it is that it’ll only extract text from a TextFiled with initial value assigned. Which means that search engines won’t know about your dynamiclly loaded content. But still it is good to know that your flash can be indexed in some way. You can downlod the ‘Search Engine SDK’ from macromedia and check your own swf so you’ll have a clue how it is seen by the search engines. This is an excerpt from the FAQ: “The SDK includes an application named â€˜swf2htmlâ€™. Swf2html extracts text and links from a Macromedia Flash .SWF file, and returns the data to an HTML document.”
To download and use this tool go here and enter your email address (you need to be registered, registretion is simple and free for everyone). After you sign with your email macromedia will send you the URL for downloading the tool. Extract the zip and look for the swf2html.exe in flashsearchsdkwindows. Now put any .swf you wanna check in the same directory with the swf2html.exe and run this line from a CMD prompt:
swf2html myMovie.swf -o myMovie.html
This will generate an HTML file named ‘myMovie.html’ with the extracted links and text from the flash movie ‘myMovie.swf’.
If the last step looks obscured to you, here a more explanatory step-by-step process:
- Download the ‘flashsearchsdk.zip’ from macromedia and extract it.
- Create a new directory on your hard drive for eample: “C:flash_check”
- Copy the file ‘swf2html.exe’ from the ‘extracted-locationflashsearchsdkwindows’ to the new directory (in this example: “C:flash_check”.
- Copy any .SWF file you want to check to the same directory (for ex: myMovie.swf).
- Click on “START” -> “Run” in the Run prompt type “CMD” without the quotes.
- When the CMD opens, it’s default value is probebly something like (on winXP): “C:Documents And Settinguser>”
- Just type this line without the quotes: “CD C:flash_check” and press ENTER.
- And this line also: swf2html myMovie.swf -o myMovie.html and ENTER again (duh)
- Look for myMovie.html in the same directory.
Easier way to see what you look like…
This siteÂ is probebly implementing the macromedia SDK or something similar. It gives an easy way**to check how your flash .swf online files are perceived by se. Paste in the path to your flash and get a look at yourself.
Search engines work hard to get an objective real view of the websites they crawl. As similar as they can to the way the user will see and use it. Since Flash is a big part of the intenet se can’t allow themself to ignore it. Se (mainly google for now) are already indexing flash content and their efficiency will improve in the future. Prepare your flash and html with the methodes described as there is no excuse anymore.