Google crawls Flash, mostly… (now imporved!)

Today Google reported that they now have a new algorithm for indexing the textual content of Flash files. This has always been something businesses have been concerned with, how to do SEO (Search Engine Optimization) with Flash. Flash developers (and Flex) would have to place the content of the Flash into a page so that search engines could index it, now it looks like Google has stepped up and created a way to index the content of the Flash file itself, right down to the menu items. Take a look at the article on Google’s blog.

Google came out with another post today to answer questions around indexing Flash content. The question answer section of the post was great until you get to the very last question:

Q: What are the current technical limitations of Google’s ability to index Flash?
There are three main limitations at present, and we are already working on resolving them:

1. Googlebot does not execute some types of JavaScript. So if your web page loads a Flash file via JavaScript, Google may not be aware of that Flash file, in which case it will not be indexed.
2. We currently do not attach content from external resources that are loaded by your Flash files. If your Flash file loads an HTML file, an XML file, another SWF file, etc., Google will separately index that resource, but it will not yet be considered to be part of the content in your Flash file.
3. While we are able to index Flash in almost all of the languages found on the web, currently there are difficulties with Flash content written in bidirectional languages. Until this is fixed, we will be unable to index Hebrew language or Arabic language content from Flash files.

We’re already making progress on these issues, so stay tuned!

Hmm, if Google doesn’t index JavaScript and you use something like SWFObject to embed your Flash then you are pretty much back to where you were before Google made the improvements. For issue 1, this might not be a problem for smaller gadgets on 3rd party sites, but you don’t want your main application site to have that annoying click through problem caused by the patent law suit by EOLAS against Microsoft. Remember those times, before the issue was solved with JavaScript. For issue 2, your content will get indexed, but it won’t be considered part of your Flash content, this might effect some metrics or Omniture reporting (which means money).

Well, I guess its partial good news, at least they say they are working on those issues.

UPDATE:

Adobe announced at Max that it was working with Google to finally be able to track Flash applications. Google posted a new blog article on the subject here.

– Mr