Damien Bianchi, Regional Director of Client Strategy, Global Strategies International
Gregory Markel, Founder/President, Infuse Creative
Jonathan Simon, Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google Inc.
Larry Sivitz, Founder/Editor/Search Strategist, Seattle24×7/SearchWrite.com
Shari Thurow, Founder and SEO Director, Omni Marketing Interactive
First up we have Larry Sivitz presenting “using your head about Flash SEO”.
He opens by taking a poll of the number of people using flash elements in their site, more than two thirds of the audience raise their hands. He then asks who is using 100% flash sites and very few people raised their hands.
Larry began by talking about the creator of SiFR (Scalable Inman Flash Replacement) and mentioned Picnik as a indicator of the direction that Flash technology is headed. His next slide covered a “subway map” of all of the different flash technologies and their relationships. Next we see a timeline of the various technologies (starting with the oldest first):
Flash Satay (Nov 2002)
Davidson Flash Headline Replacement – April 2003
InMan Flash replacement – April 2004
sIFR 1.0 – (Summer 2004)
Progressive Enhancement Principles
Unobtrusive Flash Objects – (July 2006)
sIFR 2.0 (spring 2005)
sIFR 3.0 (Feb 2008)
SWFobject 2.2 Apr 2009
Sadly Larry ran out of time, but his history of development of search engine friendly Flash was excellent and I highly recommend you work through that history and check out the latest Flash versions for SEO.
Shari Thurow – Flash and Search, how’s it going these days?
Shari takes a different perspective by talking about the “scent of information” – a concept taken from Information Foraging Theory, by Peter L. T. Pirolli.
“The scent of information: consists of textual and graphic cues that facilitate navigation, orientation, and assessment of content value.”
“Which button should I press for the Lobby?”
The scent of information issue described above is equally applicable to search engines. Users start by searching, seeing your site as a result, and people expect to land on a page where they see the information they expect. with flash, that’s not always the experience a user recieves.
Flash delays, diminishes and distracts from the scent of information. Whenever we design flash elements of sites we have to look out for these types of problem. Shari gives some examples of flash sites “delaying” the scent of information – issues covered:
- Loading screens / “skip intro” actually put users off significantly
- individual files (.SWF appearing in the search results)
- Hidden and Diminished flash usage meaning the content you see in the results may not be what the user actually gets when they click through
Search Usability issues with Flash sites
- Cached link leads searchers to different content
- In Shari’s testing, the impression that users have of a “loading” message in a flash introduction is very poor
- Too many things moving in the design creates noise – how can people navigate around a noisy site?
When you’re doing flash, minimise the loading and ideally, don’t put things on the page that will clash with each other. Users want to be able to control / initaie interaction on a site so be really careful with animated elements in a page. Be aware of “banner blindness” – homepage with large images presented as a banner can put users off and distract them from where you’d like them to click.
Use keyword focused text within Flash elements wherever possible, and use sIFR judiciously, it’s meant for short swaths of display text rather than replacing entire sections.
Damian Bianchi, Global Strategies International
“Flash and search don’t play well together, right?”
We know that dynamic content doesn’t index consitently well – Damian’s presentation is going to focus on indexing problems with SWF’s, and he starts by citing problems with deep links in the SWF becasue of hash tags. Flash historically gets labeled as the problem – but it’s an issue for other technologies too – Ajax, Silverlight etc.
“Deep linking is not there yet” – Mountaindew.com – the common solution for Flash navigation is to use a hash marked URL, so how do you get your site content indexed – what things can you do with your strategy to allow better Flash Search engine accessibility? Check out the hash tags in the Flash navigation in this screenshot (click to enlarge)
Flash SEO Tip: Make a site architecture decision – build 10 unique urls that are HTML based to target your top 10 keywords.
Damian recommends creating separate URLs and calling the same flash object using the “show state” variable. The indexable HTML content should be displayed in the <noscript> tags. Multiple SWF files are ok too. Few extra points raised:
1) Unique URLs = get indexed
2) Push out an XML sitemap to those URLS
3) Give the search engines some content to crawl
4) Allows you to maintain the Flash functionality
In house / organisational tips:
- In house flash developers or agencies – make sure they’re upto speed with the latest practises
- Search should ALWAYS be a part of the project scope
- Ensure your developers are part of the initial planning stages and avoid oversimplyfying the IA decisions
- Justify your strategy and outline the business objectives right at the begining.
Finally, Damian recommended the Adobe Flash Developer Centre – check it out.
Jonathan Simon announced that Google have improved their Flash indexing considerably. There’s a really solid post from Vanessa on Search Engine Land that covers this here. *Recommended reading!