On Flash – SWF files can now be found and indexed

On Flash - SWF files can now be found and indexed - Whatwasithinking.co.ukUp until a few months ago flash files used to be an absolute nightmare when it came to SEO and indexing its content for search engines. The best solution was always to have alternative content available or to use as little information as possible within a flash file of a corporate site, and about 90% of the time designers would only use flash for non-important browsing routes or as visual treats (think flash image slideshows, think flash maps but with the ability to get to a destination without using it). What good is a website that looks great but can hardly be found?

Yesterday Google announced an update to their search engines with the help of Adobe Labs. Read more about this new development after the break.


So how does it work?

As part of their Open Screen Project Adobe has released a technology to both Google and Yahoo that enables the engines to crawl and index swf files.

Adobe Labs developed a Searchable SWF library for Google to develop an algorithm for search engines that explores swf files in the same way that a person would, by clicking buttons and entering input strings. The algorithm then remembers all of the text that it encounters while going through the file, and that text content is then listed and ready to be indexed.

In addition to that, any URL linked from the flash file will also be indexed in the same way as normal text-links would. Please note however that this only applies to static and dynamic text, text that was “broken down” in Flash to an outline will not be found and indexed.



A few limitations remain in Google’s ability to index SWF files:

  1. Google’s crawlers do not execute some types of JavaScript. So if a web page loads a Flash file via JavaScript, Google may not be aware of that Flash file, in which case it will not be indexed.
  2. Currently Google does not attach content from external resources that are loaded by your Flash files, meaning if a Flash file loads content via XML, HTML or another flash file then Google will separately index these resources, but it will not (yet) be considered part of the content of the Flash file.
  3. Flash files using bidirectional languages (such as Hebrew or Arabic language) are currently not indexed as it provides a difficulty for the algorithm at this point in time.

Having said that, Ron Adler and Janis Stipins (Google) already commented:

We’re already making progress on these issues, so stay tuned!


Good times for the flash designers and developers, however, making your Flash files visible is one thing, actually making a ranking difference is another. I would think we would have to wait a couple more months until Adobe’s library and Google’s algorithm improve indexability and deep-links, and then we’ll see how we go from here.


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