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Re: Using Flash in Web sites
From CyberEye® at Web Promotion, Search Engines, Meta Tags on 2 August '00
replying to Using Flash in Web sites posted by Chris Cotty

>I am designing a site that is mostly in Flash. All of my links are Flash, and so they don't appear in the actual HTML page. I know that when you publish a Flash site, it gives you a list of URL's and text that you used in the movie in the way of a comment. Howver, I've noticed two things. First, it repeats the words literally dozens of times, over and over, so I'm worried that any search engine might think that I'm trying to spam. Second, because of what the program writes, the HTML file becomes huge (just running one Flash movie can make the HTML file 80-90K with just commented text and URL's). Because of this, I've taken out the comments that Flash puts in your HTML document. Unfortunately, there is now no way for Deep Submission since there aren't any URL's, and I assume that the page will never get anywhere in Search Engine Land because there is no relevant text. What do you recommend?

I had this on file: "Flash, by Macromedia, is perhaps one of the best of the new technologies being used by designers today. However, Flash is like any other tool, it has its good points and it has it bad points. Tools are designed for specific purposes. Flash is no different than an axe. And while that axe might be perfect for
chopping down a tree, its a poor tool for surgery. In order to make proper use of flash, one must understand its limitations in terms of the search engines. And learn to work within those limitations. Let us state at the outset, this document should be in no way construed as an attempt to knock Flash.

Flash is a fine product and a wonderful technology for the web. What we are about to embark on is an endeavor to highlight some of Flash's weaknesses so that you, in your capacity as designer, can be better able to use Flash and still make your website searchable by the search engines. Just as we've mentioned previously that a website that relies too heavily on images can result in poor search engine results, so can a website which has been designed entirely around flash. Lets start by examining the stock html generated by Macromedia's Flash, version 4. Below is the code which placed the flash mini-movie on this page (we've reformated it some for easier reading). <!-- URL's used in the movie--> <!-- text used in the movie--> <!--FLASH vs. The Search Engines FLASH vs. The Search Engines FLASH vs. The Search Engines FLASH vs. The Search Engines FLASH vs. The Search Engines FLASH vs. The Search Engines FLASH vs. The Search Engines FLASH vs. The Search Engines FLASH vs. The Search Engines FLASH vs. The Search Engines --> <OBJECT classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase=",0,0,0" ID=setmovie-1 WIDTH=320 HEIGHT=240> <PARAM NAME=movie VALUE="setmovie-1.swf"> <PARAM NAME=loop VALUE=false> <PARAM NAME=quality VALUE=high> <PARAM NAME=bgcolor VALUE=#FFFFFF> <EMBED src="images/setmovie-1.swf" loop=false quality=high bgcolor=#FFFFFF WIDTH=320 HEIGHT=240 TYPE="application/x-shockwave-flash" PLUGINSPAGE=""> </EMBED> </OBJECT>

The first thing you'll want to note is the commentary area in the published html shown above. This information is largely unneccessary for the operation of the Flash movie. Keeping the information, can result in being labeled a spammer by the search engines because of the repetitive nature of the text. Especially if you are animating text, which results in the published file containing one instance of the text for every frame in the movie. Its interesting to note that the "Northern Webs Flash Design Notes" did not get included in the comment field, but then that animation effect was a shape morph tween instead of the motion tween used for the "Flash vs. The Search Engines".

So the important tip here is motion tweening text can cause you headaches if you do not edit the commentary field. What we have here is an embedded binary object in the page. The HTML embed command allows designers to include special objects, most typically data of some sort which activates a plugin for the browser. The plugin processes the data accordingly and then in some way affects the browser output. Two of the most commonly used plugins allow for music within a webpage, and the other, animations such as the simple flash movie that was shown at the beginning of this page. Embedded binary data is not readable by any search engine. This is one of the reasons behind the switch over from server side imagemaps to client side imagemaps. The server side imagemaps were incapable of
being detected due to the fact that the spider needed to execute a server based cgi handler. The search engine spiders are basically going to perform in a similar manner here. Its important to remind oneself that the the spiders are primitive compared to todays standard web browser. They have neither
the ability to execute CGI, Java, Javascript or Flash. Flash adds considerable functionality beyond what can be achieved using GIF animations or adding music to a webpage. For example, with Flash you can program a region of your Flash movie to be hyperactive, that is to act as if a link had been pressed, thus allowing you to move from Flash movie to Flash movie, or from Flash movie to stock html page. Assuming we take our simple sample movie and add a "Click Here" to it, the Flash editor would add a blank hyperlink to the published file.

Like this; <!-- URL's used in the movie--> <A HREF=flash_notes.html></A> Now these links will be picked
up by the search engines, but just like the rest of the commentary area of the published file, they are unnecessary for the operation of the movie. We strongly suggest that even if you plan on deleting the rest of the commentary area, leave these links as they are. Without them, there will be nothing for the search engine spiders to grab in terms of urls (unless you plan on having a hybrid page containing both
html and Flash content). In general, what won't be picked up on an all Flash page will be the content of the page. If you include your content entirely as a Flash based content, you will give the search engines little data to work with. And you will result in nearly zero relevancy for your meta tags.

The idea of using "blank" links like the one above isn't a new one, it works fine, up to a point. If you're building a page with a lot of hyperlinks on it, you might want to resort to using html for your links. At least in that manner you won't artificially inflate the size of your page by having all these "invisible links" on the page. It is important to remember that pages designed entirely using Flash can fair poorly in the search engines. However a hybrid page, consisting of Flash and HTML elements will respond to the search engines without major difficulties. Thus it all boils down to a design philosphy issue. Do you wow your
visitors with Flashy content and live with the fact that the site can fare poorly in the search engines. Or do
you work within the limitations of the spiders? The choice is up to you, but having read this information,
now you are better armed to deal with the issues involved."

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