In a rare multi-company multi-blog announcement, Google and Adobe have released their latest update which may help resolve the age old Flash / SEO question. For years, Google and other engines have had issues extracting information from Flash. That may be nearing an end with todays announcement and the public disclosure of Google's "Flash indexing algorithm".
According to Google they've greatly improved indexing for Flash and in particular SWF files ranging from gadgets, buttons and menus to entire websites. Basically, Google can now extract more text within Flash files and generate snippets for websites based on text they've extracted. The new Google algorithm for Flash also opens up the potential for Google discovering URLs contained within Flash and therefore possibly even extracting anchor text for links in Flash. Seems this anchor text could later be associate with links.
At the same time, Google's ability doesn't seem to have increased when it come to extracting images, text images and/or pseudo "text" within FLV files. Images are a major concern for search marketers as they're included as part of Google Universal search. In other words, text still can't be extracted from your favorite YouTube videos.
How is all of this possible? According to Adobe, "Adobe is providing optimized Adobe Flash Player technology to Google and Yahoo! to enhance search engine indexing of the Flash file format (SWF) and uncover information that is currently undiscoverable by search engines. “Until now it has been extremely challenging to search the millions of RIAs and dynamic content on the Web, so we are leading the charge in improving search of content that runs in Adobe Flash Player,” said David Wadhwani, general manager and vice president of the Platform Business Unit at Adobe.
“Google has been working hard to improve how we can read and discover SWF files,” said Bill Coughran, senior vice president of engineering at Google. “Through our recent collaboration with Adobe, we now help Web site owners that choose to design sites with Adobe Flash software by indexing this content better. Improving how we crawl dynamic content will ultimately enhance the search experience for our users.
“Designers and Web developers have long been frustrated that search engines couldn’t better access the information within their content created with Flash technology. It’s great to see Adobe and the search engines working directly together to improve the situation,” said Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief, SearchEngineLand.com.
Without going into to much detail, Google's new process for Flash works similar to the way users interact with Flash and no action is required for indexing. Either way, it's confirmed that Google can now see your content in Flash. Google ends their announcement by outlining the remaining limitations:
2. External XML content loading into HTML source pages won't be associated with the source URL which is a KEY factor for SEO.
3. Google can't translate Flash content into Hebrew or Arabic.