Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Google to index Flash - and why this is a non-announcement

There's a lot of buzz about today's announcement about Google's improved Flash indexing.

For those of you not obsessed with Flash or SEO, the reason this post is getting so much attention is simple: previously, Google's crawlers were unable to index text within Flash movies. Since quite a bit of content (on entertainment sites, especially) is locked up in Flash, a lot of stuff wasn't discoverable via search.

On the face of it, this is a huge boon for those sites that publish interesting content in Flash (like AOL's photo galleries). However, if you read deeper into the Google blog post, you'll see there are two deal breakers for most modern Flash sites.

The first: the crawler will not index Flash that is embedded in the page via Javascript. To avoid the IE ActiveX 'click to activate' security feature, the vast majority of Flash movies published by professional outfits are written into the page via Javascript. Thus, few of them will be indexed.

The second: The crawler will not index externally loaded SWFs or XML. The vast majority of Flash movies published by professional outfits load external information as SWFs or XML. The crawler will follow links to those items and index them separately, but that's fairly useless for the goal of increasing the relevance of the main page.

About all this will effect are designer and photographer portfolio websites, which generally have hardcoded text content. Not exactly an Earth-shattering move for the rest of the Flash-using web.