Google Says, “Please Flash Me”

Don’t pull your hair out. Before you re-write your entire site, here’s good news from Google.

Adobe Flash continues to become more and more of a factor on the Internet. Surf the web without it and you’ll land on page-after-page with big rectangular “black holes.” Though Microsoft, Apple and Real will wince when I type this, Flash has become the “universal donor” for web video. That’s part of the reason Adobe can claim a 97% penetration for Flash V9!

For webmasters there’s a secondary problem. Because of the way Flash files are compiled, search engines haven’t been able to consistently index them properly. If you’re running a website, looking pretty but not being Google friendly is worthless.

Don’t pull your hair out. Before you re-write your entire site, here’s good news from Google:

“Google has been developing a new algorithm for indexing textual content in Flash files of all kinds, from Flash menus, buttons and banners, to self-contained Flash websites. Recently, we’ve improved the performance of this Flash indexing algorithm by integrating Adobe’s Flash Player technology.”

The text contained within Flash elements is finally being read. This is huge! Until now, the only way to guarantee Flash content meant something was to replicate it in-the-clear. The same goes for links. List a URL in a flash element and Google will now understand what it is and crawl it.

There are still shortcomings and they’re very important to note. Images and FLV (video) files are still invisible at the Googleplex. The same goes for any content that is enabled with javascript. There are some Internet Explorer/Flash hacks that use javascript as a workaround, so take note (on this website for instance).

No doubt, this change will accelerate the explosion of Flash content. Some ‘old school’ webmasters will be sad. Most users will stay happy.