Weekly SEO news: 05 August 2008
Welcome to the latest issue of the Search Engine Facts newsletter.

This week, we're taking a look at Google's new way to index Flash files. Can you now get high rankings with pure Flash websites?

In the news: paid search market share numbers, a major Yahoo ranking algorithm change and more.

Table of contents:

We hope that you enjoy this newsletter and that it helps you to get more out of your website. Please pass this newsletter on to your friends.

Best regards,
Andre Voget, Johannes Selbach, Axandra CEO

1. What Google's improved Flash indexing means for your website

A month ago, Google announced that they had improved the way it indexes Flash files. Has something changed in Google's search results in the meantime? Is this change good news for you if you have a Flash site?

What has changed?

FlashGoogle can now index the textual content in SWF files of all kinds, including buttons, menus and self-contained Flash websites.

Google can also discover URLs that appear in Flash files and it adds these URLs to the crawling pipeline.

What has not changed?

Google still doesn't recognize the text that appears on images. FLV files, such as YouTube videos also won't be indexed because they don't contain text.

As many Flash websites consist of images and other multimedia elements, the only text that Google finds on these websites might be "Loading", "Please wait" or "Copyright".

Google also cannot execute some JavaScript types. If your website loads a Flash file via JavaScript, Google might not be able to find your Flash file.

In addition, Google cannot attach content from external sources that are loaded by Flash files. If your Flash page loads an HTML or XML file then these files will be treated as separate documents.

Why is Flash still a problem for search engines?

Flash content and regular HTML pages are fundamentally different. Just because Google can now index some text from Flash files doesn't mean that Flash files are now search engine friendly. Here's why:

  • It's hard to divide the text into meaningful sections. Flash doesn't use <h1> or <p> tags to separate different sections of text. It's hard to tell what's important and what's not. Even worse, Flash designers often break down words into their individual letters to create "cool" text effects. That means that search engines cannot index these texts.

  • Usually, the complete content of a website is presented on the same URL. You cannot link to a special part of a Flash website. That means that it is also difficult for search engines to find the relevant section of the Flash site.

    In addition, this means that Flash websites don't get good inbound links to the right pages. Most Flash websites only get links to their home page.

  • The structure of Flash websites makes it difficult to get high rankings. Many Flash files are linked from other Flash files and no other websites link to these internal Flash elements. The lack of links from other websites makes it very difficult to get high rankings for these elements.

  • Flash doesn't use the basic SEO methods. You won't find proper link texts, headline tags or even properly optimized title tags in most Flash sites. That makes it very difficult to get good rankings.

  • Most Flash content is still not crawlable. As mentioned above, Google won't index content in images and it has problems with JavaScript calls.

What can you do to improve your rankings if you have a Flash site?

If possible, avoid pure Flash websites and use Flash elements only when needed. If you must use Flash on your website, the following tips will help you to get better rankings:

  1. Include the text and the links from the Flash file in an HTML version on the same page.

  2. Use JavaScript and CSS to find out if the website visitor can parse Flash and then present the CSS DIVs that contain the corresponding content. Regular website users will see the Flash file, visitors who cannot parse Flash (for example search engines) will see the HTML version.

  3. Use CSS and create a layer with your regular HTML content and then position another layer with the Flash content above the HTML layer so that your website visitors only see the Flash content.

    Note that search engines might misinterpret this method as a spamming attempt.

  4. Use different URLs for different sections of your website. Each set of content should have its own unique URL.

Flash has not been designed for search engines and it is extremely difficult to get high rankings with pure Flash sites. Using regular optimized web pages is the best way to get in Google's top 10 results.

If you have a pure Flash website, you should make sure that your website has as many good inbound links as possible.

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2. Search engine news and articles of the week

July 2008 search engine share: Google, Yahoo, MSN

market share"Over all our clients in aggregate, in July 2008 Google received 80% of our clients’ ad dollars. Yahoo received 15%. Microsoft received 5%.

Put another way, Google continues to control over five times the paid search market share of Yahoo."

It seems that Yahoo released a major algorithm update

Webmasters in an online forum reported major changes in Yahoo's search results: "Sites having the keyword in the urls are gaining positions. Internal anchor text links have more weight than ever. [...] Definitely something going on.. I've been tracking keywords daily for the last few weeks and have been noticing yoyo's, updates and rollbacks."

John Battelle on how to beat Google

John Battelle "Since publishing his groundbreaking book 'The Search' three years ago, John Battelle has shifted his attention to his new company, Federated Media, which aggregates blogs into a conversational media platform where brands can advertise."

Google: a picture isn't always worth a thousand words

"The maxim about the Internet is that content is king. [...] There’s one important caveat: if it’s not text-based content, our crawler might not notice. [...]

Use text in addition to images when possible. Please note that the crawler can't read text contained within images. If you use images, be sure to title them appropriately and provide descriptive ALT tags."

Google lowers the bar on customer service yet again

"If we were discussing deep complicated technical questions then I could understand a bit of confusion here and there. However, in my experience the reps at Google AdSense and AdWords seem to have problems with some of the most basic concepts of communication."

Search engine newslets

  • Cuil stats - the early numbers.
  • Yahoo is still searching for, well, Yahoo.
  • Why Microsoft will try again for Yahoo in 2009.
  • Time Warner is ready to deal AOL components.
  • With automated tagging, Web links can surprise.
  • Yahoo CEO faces shareholders.
  • Google Translation Center, a new human translations service.
  • Privacy watchdog hoists Google by its own petard.
  • Did Google kill journalism?
  • Yahoo! Maps gets a summer-time refresh.
  • Can we please kill the Google killer talk?
  • Email spammers be warned - you are hurting your SEO.

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3. Success stories

"IBP helps me keep my clients happy."

Amy McCoy"I first learned about SEO techniques about a year ago and after much research into the best tools for achieving top rank for keywords, I settled upon IBP and bought the full version after experimenting with the trail download. [...]

Within 6 months, I was on page 1 of Google for my most important keyword and even in the top 3 on page 1! IBP works!

Now, a year later, I am so impressed with how up-to-date IBP continues to be, keeping pace with all of the search engine updates and changes in their ranking algorithms. IBP is worth every penny and has increased my sales exponentially, no joke! Thanks IBP :o)"
Amy McCoy, Doodlebuckets Family Gift Store

Share your success story with us

Let us know how IBP has helped you to improve your website and we might publish your success story with a link to your website in this newsletter. The more detailed your story is, the better.

Is your website down? Does everything work as expected?

If your have a business website, every single minute will cost you money if your website is down.

Monitor your website and get notifications by email, instant messenger or SMS when your website is down.

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4. Previous articles

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