Flash and Search Engine indexing

Adobe Flash IconAs many folks already know, Google can index Flash files (.swf) extracting text and links thus allowing the files to be included in search results. But does anyone really care? No, not really. If you Google Flash indexing you will find people that were angry that no one did this for such a long time, then euphorically announcing their undying allegiance when it finally came to turn, yada yada yada….

So why is it then, if you search just results where you are looking at the information indexed from the swf files (using filetype:swf), the results are generally unusable and provide poor information? Developers don’t care, and managers care even less. I bet most people figure that just having a meta description and keywords in the HTML is enough, but it’s really not, especially if your entire site is developed in Flash. Unless of course this looks like a good title to you:  loading loading . loading . . loading . . . loading . . loading . . . . .

Get the results you want

The solution? Simple: just place a couple of text fields in the first frame (or frames) of your main timeline (either in your main content file or preloader), and let Google do its indexing goodness. The same rules apply here as in web pages, the first text should be able to be read as a title, the following should be a description, and then maybe some keywords. Be careful not to duplicate the same word over and over though, one you will get the same penalty for spamming the index.

Keep in mind how you order the text on the page, and I don’t mean top to bottom, or left to right. Order can be determined by which text field is created or the pasted first. It doesn’t matter if you are creating new text fields or pasting the text text in from somewhere else in the movie, what you create first will show up first – so if you create the title last, it will show up last, even if you place it visually before the others. The easiest way around this is to simply paste the text in the order you want it. Place it off the stage, or make it transparent – whatever makes you happy.

I also noticed some strange results(text not being read by the SDK) when using text fields and embedded fonts, so just use device fonts – it will make your life easier, plus it adds no overhead to the file by embedding fonts that aren’t seen anyway.

Search Engine SDK

So by now you are wondering how to check your files. It’s easy, and Adobe makes it a pure joy. In fact, I personally guarantee that you will have so much fun checking your swf results, that you will want to go through all of the main Flash files for your projects and clean them all up – I know I did.

Adobe makes the Flash Search Engine SDK readily available on their site, and gives you the tools in a simple app that works well. The SDK code supports SWF files created for Flash Player 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, so you won’t have any issues checking, even all of your old stuff too. It spits out an HTML file so you can easily read your text results, and also gives you the ability to specify some other parameters. So there’s really no reason not to put at least a little time into getting it right.

If you are going to put the effort into developing a kick-arse Flash site or interactive content, take the 5 or 10 extra minutes to make sure your swf gets indexed the way it should. And if you really want a chuckle, do some searches in Google for something – be sure to place filetype:swf in there too – and let fun begin…..

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