Tag Archives: Flash

Adobe recently submitted a US Patent application that relates to SEO for Flash / Flex, titled "EXPOSING RICH INTERNET APPLICATION CONTENT TO SEARCH ENGINES." Believe it or not, this Patent application claims "shadowing" techniques like SWFObject and SOFA are at an "obvious disadvantage" for search. According to Adobe, shadowing textual content in rich Internet applications with textual content in (X)HTML results in duplication and other issues. For those not aware, duplicate content thins keyword relevancy, Google's secret sauce, PageRank and requires a "duplication of effort" in producing "the actual rich Internet application as well as the shadow HTML." This Patent claims site management time is also increased because "changes in the rich Internet application must also be made to the shadow HTML, if that HTML code is to remain consistent with the rich Internet application."

To address these and other issues, Adobe's application proposes an invention that returns different content to users and search engines. According to the Patent application, content will be "available through a rich Internet application to search engine queries" via a "translation module" that interfaces "between a Web crawler and a rich Internet application." It seems this application isn't intended to provide alternative textual "eye wash" for users, but instead descriptions of the state, content and identifying URLs that are "important to Web crawler and/or search engines." According to Adobe the "translation module may comprise pseudo HTML page code providing a description of the state which omits description of aspects of the state which are not useful to Web crawler and/or search engine. According to the invention application, "cached pages" will reflect a poorly formatted and quite likely partially humanly readable page.

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen recently sat down with the Wall Street Journal to discuss Steve Jobs's comments about Flash. I was shocked by what Narayen had to say and the spin was a little annoying.

According to Narayen, Adobe is "producing the world's best content," interesting considering Flash only supports a dozen or so languages. With more than 200 spoken languages world-wide, I'm not sure how Adobe can claim world domination. But then again, they also claim that "99% of Internet users have Flash," even though that's not what you'll find in web analytics. These results are probably because Adobe's survey only looks at PC users and PCs often come with Flash installed. In addition, the survey only focuses on 4,500 users in 13 countries and U.S. users are represented nearly two to one. These numbers are available at http://www.adobe.com/products/player_census/methodology so, please have a look for yourself before emailing.

According to Narayen, important Flash security issues are nothing more than a "smoke screen" but, according to SANS "Adobe Flash has similar problems with the applications of its updates (TH) there are four Flash vulnerabilities in our Top 30 list that date back as far as 2007." I'm not sure how you can claim customers are important but not address issues like these.

Narayen even claims that there are no performance issues with Flash and that Flash works fine on mobile devices. Adobe's recent report to the SEC indicates the opposite, “To the extent new releases of operating systems or other third-party products, platforms or devices, such as the Apple iPhone or iPad, make it more difficult for our products to perform, and our customers are persuaded to use alternative technologies, our business could be harmed.” My favorite part of the interview is where Narayen claims Flash isn't 100% proprietary and goes on to either confuse software specifications with web standards or TOTALLY spin out of answering the question being asked. If you've ever waited for Flash to load or been told you needed Flash to view Flash content, you know there are performance issues and that Flash is proprietary.

Narayen himself actually said, "We've evaluated the SDK. We can now start to develop the Flash player ourselves…" referring to the iPhone SDK and Flash for iPhone but, now for some reason it's all Apple's fault? To be clear, I think Adobe is a great company, I've used their products on my Mac for over a decade now. That said, I commend Steve Jobs for having cajones, not drinking Adobe's Kool-Aid, keeping them honest and his long overdue feedback.

While I commend Adobe for its recent efforts to help engines index textual content locked in Flash, I have issues with the new "SEO Technology Center."

For example, the following video by one of Adobe's Senior Technology Evangelists states that tv.adobe.com "...rises to the top of the heap in the Google..." for [Duanes World] thanks to Adobe's new headless Flash player technology "Ichabod." According to Adobe's Evangelist, "Duane" could only be visible to Googlebot by having Ichabod change states in the Flash file, therefore exposing "Duane" as textual content. Unfortunately this is not correct as the cached version of the page from Google's SERP states "These terms only appear in links pointing to this page".

As shown in the Google SERP, "Duane" appears to Googlebot only in links pointing at tv.adobe.com and not in the Flash file as the video claims. Using the advanced "site:" operator to search for [Duane] within tv.adobe.com shows a number of pages with links pointing to AdobeTV using "Duane" as anchor text. Because these links use #anchors (fragment identifiers) which Googlebot ignores, in URLs, Google "credits" keyword relevancy to the root instead of the intended target URL.

As a result of this misallocation, tv.adobe.com ranks for [Duanes World]. Just as keyword relevancy is being misallocated in this case, so is PageRank as illustrated by the URL PR9 when compared with the Flash PR8. In fact, the SERP TITLE and snippet aren't from AdobeTV but rather DMOZ. To see this compare "Adobe TV" as seen in the SERP with "AdobeTV" seen on the page by users with Flash and JavaScript enabled. This is due to AdobeTV's use of dynamic JavaScript TITLE elements in (X)HTML.

With on page factors out of the way, as a side note it's also worth mentioning that the search engine results page in Adobe's video is based on the user's prior search history, while logged into a Google Account and Searchwiki appears to be activated. These personalization settings can all act to throw off the data in such an experiment.

This post isn't intended to bash Adobe but rather to point out some critical errors in their research. Please don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of Adobe and have been for years. I think they make great products and appreciate all of the hard work done by Adobe's team of Evangelists. I understand that Adobe Evangelists are experts at Flash but, when it comes to SEO for Flash and interpreting Google SERPs, wish people wouldn't take their opinions blindly as being fact.

For the handful of us with expertise in SEO for Flash, it's a little awkward having to tell clients that Adobe's information isn't entirely correct. Either way, it would be nice to see more research as well as accurate and up-to-date information in Adobe's SEO Technology Center. It would also be great to see some of these best practices implemented at tv.adobe.com.