Flash File Optimization:
Flash gets a bad rap, undeserved in my opinion, for harming search engine visibility. Why are search engine optimization (SEO) practitioners concerned about Flash, and how can we SEO Flash content? The main problem with Flash is that search engines don't yet understand it, and probably won't in the near future. Flash includes logic and can take input from the visitor, but search engines are designed to handle static content. Flash is actually a running program, so it's much harder to analyze than plain HTML code.
The leading web development tool, Adobe Dreamweaver, embeds Flash in web pages with code that fails to provide accessibility for visitors or search spiders who cannot handle Flash. Instead of using the default code, my recommendation is to hand code Flash pages with primary HTML content, and a method of automatically testing for Flash support before attempting to insert the movie. The primary HTML content can be search optimized as if the Flash wasn't there, while the Flash provides an enhanced user experience for those visitors who have the necessary Flash player.
The April 11, 2006 release of Microsoft's popular Internet Explorer (IE) browser includes an update ("Eolas") that prevents ActiveX-based Flash controls from working properly. When the user attempts to interact with the Flash, a tool tip appears, stating, "Click to activate and use this control." That extra click is an annoyance. Fortunately, the programming technique described in this article solves the Flash Eolas problem.
Requirements for Successful Use of Flash:
Flash animation is a great way to present complex content because it allows the designer to put more content in a finite space, without wrecking page design. For technology sites, Flash is an ideal way to present a slide show or movie explaining a complex product. At the other end of the spectrum, art and entertainment sites have a real need for multimedia, and Flash is the perfect solution.
When using Flash, we'd like to satisfy each of these objectives:
Search Engine Optimization
Accessibility for a wide variety of browsers, including screen readers and mobile phones
Code validation and standards compliance
Correct functionality with IE
SEO Flash Programming:
Flash accessibility programming isn't spamming, as long as the primary content and the visible movie are essentially the same. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) specifically states that multimedia content should have an alternative representation available. Accessibility programming creates the benefit of presenting visual information without losing the visitors and search engines who depend upon textual content.
As of July 2007, I discussed this method with Dan Crow of Google. He warned that this programming method could draw attention because of the possibility for abuse. If you use this method, make sure the alternative content is a faithful representation of the Flash content, and avoid combining this with other coding methods that could be abused. While this SEO method is not abusive, it is aggressive because there is a small risk that the search engines could mistakenly decide that the primary content is a form of cloaking.
SWFObject and UFO:
* Pages sent as text/html, not application/xhtml+xml.