Industry News & Trends

Can your dealers Flash website now show in Google?

Flash_icon
Great news for DealerSkins and BZ Resuts (maybe).

Dealer websites built with Flash has always been a topic of conversation here on DealerRefresh. Having a dealer website designed in flash has been one of the biggest drawbacks for getting your dealer website properly indexed in the SERPS. Search engines can see the file, but they could never see what was in it. Maybe things are changing??

Apparently, Adobe has a way for the search engines to read SWF (Flash) files and now index the information within. This means any text or links in your dealership Flash website could now be indexed by Google and Yahoo.

Of course with some “gray hat” techniques some of the flash website vendors have been saying for years that they were able to get their websites indexed.

Google is already implementing the SWF-indexing technology, while Yahoo apparently still has some work to do. Will this solve all the problems with Flash content and websites showing up on search engines?

Getting your dealers Flash website indexed in Google and Yahoo is one thing, but actually ranking high for the right keywords is another.

“Until Adobe makes it easy for the average Webmaster or blogger to link deeply into those Flash files, they are not likely to appear at the top of many search results”.

Q. How does Google “see” the contents of a Flash file?

“We’ve developed an algorithm that explores Flash files in the same way that a person would, by clicking buttons, entering input, and so on. Our algorithm remembers all of the text that it encounters along the way, and that content is then available to be indexed. We can’t tell you all of the proprietary details, but we can tell you that the algorithm’s effectiveness was improved by utilizing Adobe’s new Searchable SWF library.” – Google

For more Q and A on Improved Flash indexing by Google, read the latest entry on Google’s Webmaster Central Blog.

I figured it was only a matter of time before this happened since Adobe made the pdf document indexable. However, there is more here than meets the eye. Even though Google and Yahoo are working to index Flash there are still many variables that come into stake. For example..”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”.

Here is an example from a DealerSkins website page source from of one of their “Featured Sites”

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://www.billjohnsonmotors.com//Includes/scripts/jquery.js” language=”javascript”></script>

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://www.billjohnsonmotors.com//Includes/swfobject.js” language=”javascript”></script>

<script type=’text/javascript’ src=’http://www.billjohnsonmotors.com//Includes/scripts/AC_RunActiveContent.js’></script>

Sorry to use DealerSkins as an example but it is what it is.

Eitherway, I say stay away from Flash websites for your dealership. What do you think?

E
Jeff -

Good question posed...dealers need to (continue to) stay away from excessive/obtrusive use of flash applications.

Keep the site simple, provide easy navigation & focus on converting visitors for the desired call to action.

Most website providers haven't been able to optimize organically using standard site platforms - don't expect your new "flash" based site to magically appear on page 1 of Google. (I'm sure someone will be told this)

Eric

J
On the flip side of this, Google now has a "Skip Intro" link to take googlers right to the content page and blow by the flash landing page.

Joe


references:
http://www.tacticaltechnique.com/search-engines/flash-intros-are-dead-and-dying/
http://blogoscoped.com/archive/2008-06-10-n16.html


C
There are some good tricks of the trade out there when handling Flash and SE bots. Without totally geeking out, the best way to load Flash is through JavaScript or AJAX, but it should load in such a way that it is replacing text and links that do exactly what the Flash does.

Of course, Flash should still be avoided where ever possible, and never used for navigation or content display. Google is going to be able to read your flash, but what good does that do if the content you want is burried in a Flash file that you will still have to manually navigate to from a SERP link.

Chip-
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Jeff,

Can you expound on your comment "some "gray hat" techniques some of the flash website vendors have been saying for years that they were able to get their websites indexed"

Wondering what exactly you meant by this...

O
I agree that Flash will still have lots of negatives including the problem of directly linking to the content you want. If you make a flash application that displays multiple content pages, you have to remember that Google and Yahoo will index the text, but throw it all together as one page. That means that simple HTML is still better since you can optimize each page for very specific keywords.

Now, I am thinking that since this is a new way of indexing, some webmasters are going to use the flash files for a way of optimizing their site. Just think for a minute how much text you can hide on a page without irritating your customer. Now with a flash app on that page you can hide a bunch of relevant text in there.

So I think I will make a little image rotater flash app, with tiny little buttons (1 pixel big or something) so no actual people will click it, but the bots will and thus read all the text. Kinf of what people already do with the noframes tags and text behind other content through iframes.

Anybody think it is worth a shot?

O
Jeff,

According to Adobe's website, SWF files were already being indexed it was simply the dynamic content not being indexed.

Read this:

"Although search engines already index static text and links within SWF files, RIAs and dynamic Web content have been generally difficult to fully expose to search engines because of their changing states — a problem also inherent in other RIA technologies."
P
----So I think I will make a little image rotater flash app, with tiny little buttons (1 pixel big or something) so no actual people will click it, but the bots will and thus read all the text. Kinf of what people already do with the noframes tags and text behind other content through iframes.---

The same theory as hidden pixels, doorway pages, hidden text and cookie stuffing. Not a novel idea and against acceptable standards.

Showing the search engines one thing and the surfer another is exactly what Jeff meant by "gray hat", I think, in his statement above.

Here is how the spiders see the site he referenced above:

http://tools.summitmedia.co.uk/spider/report9a1b5e40b6c78829049f01c61e99c2de.html

All of the hidden text on that page does not represent the actual flash content. It is keyword stuffed deception used only for SEO.

What is nice though is if the G were to every take notice of this the footprint left by the vendors that use these types of techniques will make it easy for them to deindex this stuff then they get to start over from square one.
O
Paul,

I have to agree and disagree with your statement. I agree that it is never a good idea to spam the search engines, however there is a place for this.

Google looks at whether content is relevant to your website and whether you use keywords excessively. When you start adding content to your page that is off topic just to get traffic you get in trouble. When you use keywords too much and you get in trouble. Both these are considered SPAM.

All I say is that you could use FLASH to assist in SEO. I can see it working great on a landing page where I do not want the visitors to drown in the text but I want them to convert with a form. You simply add Flash with relevant content and without spamming keywords and it will help getting you placement and Google will not ban you since people get to where they want to go.

The simple rule for Google is: Are visitors getting where they want to get. Isn't that what search engines are for? Don't dissappoint them and you will not fall out of grace. If all web designers would be honest, Google would be out of business.



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    CS
  • July 6, 2008
this development only distances google further from their competitors, and isn't a game changer for me or how i will do things this year or next year.

there are lots of computers out there that are still stuck on the default msn/live.com home page because their owners are none the wiser.

people in the know, like everyone reading this website, are searching far more often than joe schmoe with his default microsoft search engine. google's marketshare is flying high, but google users are searching far more often than live users.

i design sites for firefox and opera in mind, too. you can't just ignore a chunk of the pie because one avenue looks awesome and is easier compared to the alternatives.

ps thanks for the mention, joe.
R
Paul,

Regarding your comment "Showing the search engines one thing and the surfer another is exactly what Jeff meant by "gray hat", I think, in his statement above."

Depending on what you are showing them, it may be black hat or it may be gray hat. Some people may also construe white hat seo as gray hat or even black hat depending on their knowledge of SEO.

What I would like to know is what Jeff is referring to with his statement and why he deems the practices to be gray hat.

P
Richard,
In the example he gave have you looked at <a href="http://tools.summitmedia.co.uk/spider/report9a1b5e40b6c78829049f01c61e99c2de.html" rel="nofollow">this</a>?

It shows the search engine that the site contains information about GMC Dealers in Atlanta and Columbus when none of the content displayed on site is relevant to either location directly other than close proximity. I could not even find those terms used anywhere on the site.

If it were manually reviewed I would lay money at 5-1 it would be deindexed. That is an old school black hat technique.

They might as well have used Markov chain generated content. Just as unethical just a little easier to detect.

Anytime you show the search engine something different than what you are showing human eyes it is unethical in the eyes of many. It is cloaked content point blank.

Then again I am also of the opinion as soon as the search engines start worrying about my business model I will start worrying about theirs. -- From affiliate marketing

Long Live Google Bombing!!!!!

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    Jeff Kershner
  • July 7, 2008
Richard, you asked "What I would like to know is what Jeff is referring to with his statement and why he deems the practices to be gray hat. "

I was being general with the term that's all.

Paul answered the question for me. Showing the search engines one thing and the surfer another is what I was referring to. Everyone has their own opinion on where the lines cross on this subject. I'm neutral with it.
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    CS
  • July 7, 2008
i revisited this topic to correct some misinformation. the site used an example here, bill johnson motors, is not cloaking.

paul said

"Anytime you show the search engine something different than what you are showing human eyes it is unethical in the eyes of many."

true.

"It is cloaked content point blank."

not true if you're talking about this same site. the reason the words aren't visible on the page is because they are part of the meta information and not the body content.

"Here is how the spiders see the site he referenced above:"

and that is exactly how all users see the site through a text only browser.

"If it were manually reviewed I would lay money at 5-1 it would be deindexed."

if you want to make that bet i might know how to get the manual review :)

C
Search engines take the path of least resistance period. Flash currently isn't that path, and will not be for a while.
P
CS said :

---not true if you're talking about this same site. the reason the words aren't visible on the page is because they are part of the meta information and not the body content.---

Body Text From The Site discussed

----- Lagrange - Atlanta - Columbus | New, Used - Preowned Car, Truck and SUV Dealership | Bill Johnson Motors Pontiac Buick Cadillac GMC | Georgia -----


Verbatim of the the title tag and combination of the keyword stuffed meta tags, that coupled with a Google bomb link campaign may be all that is needed to get the site to rank.

CS said

----"If it were manually reviewed I would lay money at 5-1 it would be deindexed."

if you want to make that bet i might know how to get the manual review :)-----

Game on.. We can agree on the terms, just contact me from the link above.


P
ooops Link Below...
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    Pete
  • July 7, 2008
Hi,

NOT ALL FLASH FILES WILL BE INDEXED. SO DON'T GO CRAZY
LIKE A KID IN A CANDY STORE!!!

There might be some confusion so here is a link explaining;

http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/06/improved-flash-indexing.html

All the best,

Pete from Chicago
B
Indexing of Flash is great... but it doesn't change the overriding goal of the website... this is not an issue unique to auto... see what the heavyweights in other industries are saying are the true issues about Flash + websites as part of a total ecommerce execution.

http://www.grokdotcom.com/2008/07/01/flash-to-bring-more-traffic-but-is-that-what-you-need/
A
A website isn't just about ranking in search engines - it is a very personal thing that brands you and excites your customer base. It is a marketing tool, and indexing in search engines is only a small part of it....albeit an important part.

I'm a HUGE fan of flash! I love the creativity it inspires and the enhanced abilities it gives over GIF's. I think flashing headlight roll-overs are cool (don't need a full flash video for that though), and I even like the carousel Mr. Metter put on Mileone.com - it is cool looking.....what do you think Jeff? [haha].

On the other hand, Flash can be over-done and absolutely destroy your indexing if not used in small doses.

Someone made a good point about spiders taking the path of least resistance. I'm not sure how true that statement is, but it sure sounds like human nature to me and I think those spiders are still programmed by humans. Maybe that's just my weird logic.

I think it is great that there will be some flexibility in the future, but I will remain somewhat traditional with CSS, HTML, and the other indexable languages as long as I can still be creative with them. Flash will continue to play a small part in image slideshows and videos in the meantime.....and I'll still be learning how to use Flash CS3.
M
This change means very little to the sites in our industry... BZ and other vendors have been plugging keywords in (some legitimate, some not-so-legitimate) as alternative HTML for years, which works just as well as this will for them. They'll get as much mileage out of this new development as they've been getting out of their current tactics, which is to say, not much.

#1. Linearization. No web developer in this industry knows what that is, or what it means to Google. Flash has allowed these vendors to come up with some disgustingly non-linear content layouts, and now those developers will have even less reason to grasp the idea of linearization and the value it has for spiders AND users.

#2. What's on your page is the least important aspect of SEO. The biggest deciding factor in your site's search presence is how many inbound links you have, what level of quality the links are, and how those links describe your site. This is another aspect of SEO that no web developer understands in this business, as evidenced by the total ignorance of the canonicalization strategy when building a site. The only reason you see noticeable changes to the SERPs when you change your site's content is because our industry has little competition for most keywords. If you care about site content and how it relates to search presence, you ought to get busy writing content that people will link to rather than writing content you think spiders like to read.

#3. On second thought, someone should be paying me for this information. That's all you get. Spinning wheel animations and flashing headlights for everyone.
S
Did I miss out on some study proving that car shoppers/buyers prefer FLASH websites?

Hmm... on second thought, who cares! Those tachometer loading pages are so cool!

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    CS
  • July 9, 2008
mitch, don't be such a negative nancy. i follow everything you've said and even disagree with most of your second itemized tirade. let's engage in a dialog instead of characterizing and dividing each other.

"What's on your page is the least important aspect of SEO."
"If you care ... you ought to get busy writing content ..."

come on, i'm not going to let you get away with that.
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    Lau Shi
  • July 13, 2008
I hope this information from the source helps to process information and mis information found on this issue. While Adobe has created some new processes on Flash many of the existing flash sites will not work as they will need to be redone with the new program, I wonder who will pay for this?? BZ and others should provide this upgrade free of charge as they have been telling dealers they have found a solution for this issue for years which is misleading as it is only true on the splash or certain pages (maybe). The dealer actualy loses the effectiveness on their bulk of their site and additional pages.

MS has developed a great solution which I have posted a few months ago: Microsoft has developed a competitor to Flash called Silverlight, which (before today) was more search engine friendly than Flash.

While Microsoft’s apparent from first access will give more power to the guys and girls at Google, Adobe’s assistance may help bloggers seeking fancier layouts via flash, without having to sacrifice invisibility from the never sleeping web crawlers.

However with all this attention on Flash ETC why waste the time when Video Streaming is making hugh inroads and will allow the dealers to use existing video footage supplied by the manufacture's to promote the products and services??? at a fraction of the cost?? They spend millions of dollars to produce this footage and few dealers take advantage of this, they would rather spend $$$ money on Flash and other fancy toys / tools which makes little to no sense with todays economic climate.


http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/06/improved-flash-indexing.html

http://www.blogherald.com/2008/07/01/adobe-makes-flash-sites-visible-to-google-yahoo-but-not-microsoft/

http://brajeshwar.com/2008/google-yahoo-and-other-search-engines-will-index-flash-files/

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    Jeff Kershner
  • July 13, 2008
Lau,

You said "However with all this attention on Flash ETC why waste the time when Video Streaming is making hugh inroads and will allow the dealers to use existing video footage supplied by the manufacture's to promote the products and services??? at a fraction of the cost??"

OMG so true!! This is something I have been focusing on over the last several weeks. Obtaining much of the running footage from the OEM can be a pain in the butt at times but if you're aware of the right sources, it's usually out there.

The wonders you can work with these assets.

Gotta Video CD and DVD ripping software!!

Jeff
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    Lau Shi
  • July 13, 2008

Much of what many of these companies IE BZ and others, with their expensive solutions, offer is soon to be outdated and old school.

Many times the answer to video is with the OEM's and the regional managers asking them for a resource and contact person.

Many times a mistake is going to the Ad Agency which views this whole process as a threat to their business or (like dogs) they are terrorital about things.

Another beauty of this process is we are becoming the solution to finding our own way to success in what we do, selling service and product. It is more cost effective, more personalized for our company and sales department, most important it allows us to be more visable to the potential client, developing the relationship with them.



O
Regarding Mitch' comment:
"#2. What's on your page is the least important aspect of SEO. The biggest deciding factor in your site's search presence is how many inbound links you have, what level of quality the links are, and how those links describe your site. This is another aspect of SEO that no web developer understands in this business, as evidenced by the total ignorance of the canonicalization strategy when building a site."

Wow. That hurts! "No web developer understands in this business" I think most people on this forum understand, but most of us are limited by third party websites, time, and what our managers want.

I do want to point out though that "what is on your page" actually is the biggest factor in ranking well. I agree that keyword relevant links has the biggest influence, but with no relevant content on your pages, your rankings will quickly tumble.

"If you care about site content and how it relates to search presence, you ought to get busy writing content that people will link to rather than writing content you think spiders like to read."

Seems like this is a contradiction to "What's on your page is the least important aspect of SEO"

Just a thought!

I do totally agree with the fact that dealership SEO is very very easy since the competition is very limited. That is probably the only reason I have not created my own website over using a automotvie specific vendor. It's not worth the investment or time for me.


O
One more thing regarding Mitch' comment:

Since Mitch wants to get paid to share his ideas or knowledge. Here are some links on what Linearization means. Second link goes into more details.

http://searchangle.com/seo-sem/fractal-semantics-linearization-powerful-seo-concepts/

http://www.miislita.com/fractals/keyword-density-optimization.html

I really wish we could use this forum more for sharing ideas instead of shooting each other down or bragginig about what we know. What a concept! Google never charged for using their search engines. Youtube never charged for using their video search. Keyword here is FREE. You did not come up with any of your knowledge yourself, you read it elsewhere or copied techniques from others. It's free. So can't we make these discussions about what we can learn from eachother so we all get better?
D
One thing that I have had a problem with is customers that are viewing flash websites from work. Many cooperate firewalls are set up to strip all flash files from their employee's web browsing. The result can be devastating if you have a 100% flash solution. You should always at least have a phone number and address in a text footer for such a moment as this.
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