Photo thanks to Jan Tik.
If you haven’t heard already, Adobe made waves last week when it gave “flash player technology” know-how to Google and Yahoo, enabling both search engines to crawl links presented in a flash video object. (Microsoft opted out of the deal, citing competition issues with Adobe.)
Before this announcement web developers frowned upon using tons of flash technology on a website because the search engines had no way to follow flash links. And if search engines couldn’t see your content, chances were that users wouldn’t either. Flash SEO was, effectively, an oxymoron.
Adobe’s announcement brings up some interesting questions and concerns:
Does Flash SEO Really Work?
Thanks to some up-to-the-minute testing by Gary Moyle and Co. over at Guava, we can be assured that Google’s internet-crawling robots actually can follow links contained within in a flash movie. Adobe’s announcement was met with some initial skepticism but it appears that everything is working as planned.
Flash SEO = Great Rankings for Existing Flash Websites?
Because existing Flash websites couldn’t be crawled by search engines, designers had no motive to make them search engine friendly. They paid attention to aesthetics and pictures and colors, but not to things like keyword density, page titles, or internal linking structure. I.e., the things that search engines use to rank pages.
Most existing Flash sites are constructed so poorly that while Google’s ability to crawl them might boost their rankings initially, they will be no match for optimized sites in competitive search terms over the long run without drastic modifications.
Flash SEO vs. Regular SEO
The field is so new (less than a week old), that best practices for Flash SEO are completely unknown. Today’s SEO industry evolved over 15+ years of trial and error. Original SEO’s evolution involved optimizers finding easy loopholes to boost rankings, Google shutting them down, SEO’s finding more loopholes, Google shutting those down, etc.
Google consistently works to bring the best results to its searchers and has gotten pretty good at it: the easiest way to rank well today is to provide relevant, up to date content. And the best people to do that on today’s web are still proven SEO’s, not flash developers.
Flash SEO and “Flash Bombing”
One scary scenario Gary mentions is “flash bombing.” Because Google’s robots index all links in a Flash video (even the hidden ones), it is possible for deviant developers to hide hundreds of invisible links within flash videos to boost rankings. So the user doesn’t see them, but the Googlebot does and can’t know the difference.
In the early days of SEO practices like this caused a major headache for search engine algorithms. Search engine results pages were filled with spammy results that came from unethical linking practices. It took a lot of time an effort to write code that effectively sorted the wheat from the chaff, and kept the two separated.
It remains to be seen what impact Flash SEO will have on the future of search engine rankings. As a cutting edge Internet Marketing agency, we can’t wait to start experimenting.
For more info, visit our Flash SEO page.