Q and A: Are Flex (Flash) based websites search engine friendly?

QuestionHi Kalena,

I am planning to build a website completely in Flex. What type of SEO can be done on it? Is it crawlable?

Shailendra Sial.

Dear Shailendra

Building a Flex (Flash) based website has always been the bone of contention between website designers and SEO professionals. While website designers argue that it provides great interactivity and a chance to explore the boundaries of creativity (which is quite true), SEO professionals contend that it is not search engine friendly. This scenario was greatly altered when Adobe announced that it is working with Google and Yahoo to enhance indexing of Flash file formats (SWF). This information was echoed in a post made on Google Webmaster Central Blog; a major shift in how search engine treated Flash based websites.

But the picture is not as ‘rosy’ as it may seem. While search engine spiders, especially Googlebot, are capable of indexing flash (SWF) files, it is far from perfect. Jill Whalen made a perfect case out of it – Are The Search Engines Really Indexing Flash?

So “Is it crawlable?” – I would have to say both Yes and No for an answer. It would depend on how you would place content within Flash (SWF) files. Anything that is static will be indexed by search engines whereas anything that is fetched dynamically will not be indexed.

Search engine spiders are interested in data that is present on the webpage and do not care much about the surrounding markup. In case of Flex, the primary source of content is XML (dynamic content) and therefore ‘may’ not be indexed. The common workaround to this issue is XSLT, which can be used to transform XML data into various formats like HTML that can be readily indexed by crawlers. This is how far I can take you with my technical ‘know how’. I would recommend you read Flash & Search Engines : Indexed in a Flash, a mega post that deals with all aspects related to Flash websites.

Once you have digested all the information provide above, I am sure you would have a fair bit of idea on where your website would stand from an SEO perspective. Personally, I would recommend that you use Flash in moderation; search engine spiders are still best at crawling (X)HTML architecture. It would ensure that you website has enough ‘food’ for crawlers. For parts of website built in Flash, I would recommend you refer to this detailed post on beu blog, to make it as search engine friendly as possible.

Good luck!


Q and A: What is the semantic web and how will it change SEO?

QuestionHi Kalena,

What are your thoughts on the Semantic Web and how it will change SEO as we know it? Thanks so much!

P.S. Love your SEO101 class and I can’t wait to continue on with the others!


Dear Kasi

“If HTML and the Web made all the online documents look like one huge book, RDF, schema, and inference languages will make all the data in the world look like one huge databaseTim Berners-Lee, Weaving the Web, 1999

Semantic web may mean different things to different people but basically semantic web is a mesh of structured information; data organized so perfectly that machines will be able to fully comprehend each and every bit of information contained within. This is in contrast to the present World Wide Web.

Since machines (search engines included) will be able to understand and interpret data, they would be in a better position to give us the most relevant information. In essence, semantic web will be a web with a meaning for machines.

Semantic web is still in its infancy and progress is being made to introduce technologies and global standards that will help us build a semantic web. You may notice instances of semantic web in the form of semantic search engines and webpages that make use of semantic technologies like RDF, Microformats, OWL, etc. However, there is a long journey to be made before we have a truly semantic web.

Semantic web will solve a very basic issue with search engines – relevancy. As humans, we ask questions to get information and search engines will be better equipped at answering those questions in the era of semantic web. There is no doubt that today’s search engines have come a long way in answering our queries based on solely matching text patterns to recognizing contextual relevance. But there is a lot of room of improvement and semantic web will play a pivotal role in bridging the relevancy gap.

Will there be a need for search engine optimization when semantic web comes into being? Well, I cannot answer that in a definite “Yes” or a “No”, not without studying the ramifications of semantic web on search engines. Nobody can I believe.

What do SEO professionals do today? They study, test, and implement hypothesis learned by closely following heuristics of search engine ranking algorithms. I believe we would still be doing the same when semantic web becomes a reality, only at a different level.

Good luck!