Digital Web Magazine

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Search Engine Optimization and Non-HTML Sites : Comments

By Alan K'necht

June 16, 2004


Jennifer Geraci

June 17, 2004 7:33 AM

I use flash to build websites. I found your article on how that affects being found in a search engine very enlightening. I use dynamic content on many of my sites I build, such as text. You had mentioned that adding html links and text would help engines find you easier. Does the dynamic content in the sites I build serve the same perpose?

Alan K'necht

June 17, 2004 8:00 AM

When you reference dynamic content I’m not sure exactly what you mean as there are different types of dynamic content.

If you’re using something like PHP to look-up content from a database, then there is no problem, you’re putting words that are marked-up properly on a Web page. However, if you’re using another option that reads in real time content and then displays it (i.e. a Java applet), then it doesn’t help as a Java applet would be treated the same as a Flash file.

Keep your eyes on Digital Web as I have another article comming out in about 2 weeks on optimizing your HTML content.

Jennifer Geraci

June 17, 2004 9:36 AM

My dynamic content is usually a microsoft word or text document that is called up by an action script in the flash movie.

Alan K'necht

June 17, 2004 11:26 AM

Jennifer, it that case you’re out of luck. The use of an action script in a Flash movie means, the search engine spiders won’t get to the see the link.

While some search engines can and do index Word files, from a security point of view and for people (yes, there are some out there), you should save them as PDFs if you’re providing a whole document and not just a few words being read into your Flash.

I don’t want to turn the comments section for this article into a SEO form. There are plenty of those, so if you have any more questions, please contact me directly.

Phil Ledgerwood

June 17, 2004 2:41 PM

As to the accessibility issue per screen readers, Flash is much much better than it used to be. Flash MX, for example, has an Accessibility Panel that can gives labels and long descriptions to the animation as a whole or parts of the animation, and these get passed to (some) screen readers. (

Also, as to the searchability issue, many developers that know whassup are starting to use Flash as a front end for XML content, which is of course fully searchable and indexable.

Not to minimize the great points that you raise, but just to point out that some of those issues are not quite as bleak as Flash has made them in the past.

Alan K'necht

June 17, 2004 2:55 PM


Thanks for your comments. Yes things are getting better with Flash, there is no question. Unfortunately, very few people are doing what you are saying.

The SE for now still have problems to my knowledge even with the use of the Accesibility Panel. When using XML, yes you can configure it so the SE indexs the XML, but you need to be very on the ball to realize that someone clicking on a Search engine result will be taken to the XML and you need do a mod rewrite (or equivelent) to get them to your Flash page. I’m not a Flash expert so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. I’m just reporting what I’ve learnt from talking to the search engines and other experts in the field.


June 18, 2004 1:05 PM

No, all of that is quite right.

As I said, I think all of your points are 100% valid, but I just wanted to add that it’s not quite as bad as it used to be.

All of those issues are still issues and, to date, there’s not a great way to circumvent them. Even alternate content in the object tag has its little snags. In the past, I would simply have discouraged someone for using Flash for anything important. Nowadays, however, I think its a viable option even for an entire website if you know how to mitigate the drawbacks and are willing to live with the fact that you’ll still suffer from them to some extent.

We can only hope Macromedia will continue in a trajectory of accessibility. For now, as I tell my students, “When the people that made Flash don’t even make their entire website out of Flash, that should tell you something.”

Alan K'necht

June 19, 2004 10:21 AM

“When the people that made Flash don’t even make their entire website out of Flash, that should tell you something.”

What a great quote. I believe that Flash is a great product for certain things, Macromedia knows that and uses it accordingly. I know the Search Engines are working with Macromedia to help make it possible to index something. I’m sure that’s still years off. Until then, designers need to walk a tight rope.

What I find interesting, is all the Flash intros, where the only indexable words on a page are “skip intro”.

Makes you think, if you spent all that time and money on developing a Flash intro it must be important so why do you want people to skip it? How about displaying “Enter Company XYZ site where you’ll find product X and Product y” at least.


June 24, 2004 1:02 AM

I wish I bookmarked the news item, but I swore I read somewhere Google was starting to test reading text in Flash files, just as they do for PDFs. I assume the text must be text in the flash file, not as a graphic.

Alan K'necht

June 24, 2004 7:20 PM


That would be text in a Flash file. When I last talked with experts at Google back in May, they were still having problems with it.

My understanding is that Macromedia and Google are trying to work out the issues and create the appropriate API for reading the contents of a Flash file. So far now to my knowledge, it still a goal of Google’s and not yet a reality.

Bart N.

June 24, 2004 8:46 PM

Search engine optimization gets more important every day so flash-only websites are a waste of money.


June 26, 2004 8:46 AM

Loved your article! You hit the nail right on the head. As for me personally, after the whole flash and animation jingbang, I got so sick of it that I’m going to stay away from all of that from now on.

Content, Content and more content … and a picture or two here or there. Flash is a great tool, but only as a feature presentation to something. like someone said, look @ :-D


July 6, 2004 11:37 PM

This article has been translated into Russian and published at:

Alan K'necht

July 26, 2004 6:03 AM

Well things never remain still. It turns out that Google has now started to do some basic indexing of Flash pages.

You can now see a list of Flash content in their index by entering the following in the search box “index filetype:swf”.

What you’ll see is that Google appearse to be able to now follow links (or at least read links) from within the SWF file and some text as well.

It’s not clear yet if Google is putting any value on the pages themselves (allowing them to rank high) or just reading the links to find more pages.

This is something to keep your eyes on for the next while. It will be interesting to see what other search engines do.

Agent C4

September 14, 2004 11:33 AM

Im very new to web development, Ive never ceated my own application or played with XML and so on. I am a print art major and have limited experience with web. Infact the only reason I got into web development was to display my portfolio. I had tried learning html and found the experience something like walking through a swamp with a full suit of armor. It wasnt for me and I gave up. Then years later fooling around with flash I stuck a nerve. the program grooved with me and gave me the ability to apply my art to the web, communicate without the limitations of a static image. I enjoyed the thought of creating an internet experience rich with color motion, and video. For me, flash is making our internet much cooler to surf on. Thank MacroMedia -Agent C4


December 1, 2004 11:51 AM

Great article. Even better follow up.

Anthony Ina

February 3, 2005 8:23 AM

This article is NOT ENTIRELY ACCURATE, and could use some updating. Google can now index getURL statements from Flash (the equivalent of anchor tags), and can also index the text inside Flash files.

“Google has the ability to extract links from Flash files, said Matt Cutts, Software Engineer at Google. “In fact, in our own internal testing, we were able to extract more than 50% more links from Flash files than by using the standard Macromedia developer’s kit that some other search engines use.”


August 31, 2005 4:55 PM

I am currently studying multimedia and i am very new to flash html etc… so bear with me please….
Is this possible? once ive finished creating my flash movie and i am puting inside my html page (dreamweaver) can i add invisible text infront or behind the embeded flash movie so search engines will recognise this. Or am i better of haveing a html page as an “enter this site” with tags etc on it.

please dont laugh im a new user


August 31, 2005 4:57 PM

great article ive learnt more in the past 30 mins than a week with my tutor

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