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The Ultimate Fast Guide to SEO + Flash

Superb digital presentation is the synergy between art and technology. Nowhere is the fluidity of this precept more evident than in SEO work, where digital marketers have a constant goal of high visibility to complement the concomitant objectives of effective messaging and stunning visuals-none of which can trample the impact of the others.

Balancing Art & Technology for Results
The best search-engine optimization requires a mercury-quick understanding of the digital landscape. What's happening in any given market at any given time? What words describe that market snapshot in an informative and creative way, and what technology delivers the information in compelling design?

These are big questions from which we parse highly tailored and unique insights for our clients' SEO strategies. When we think about digital presentation from a holistic perspective, though, we know that search crawlers are our first audience, but not our primary audience. Our primary audience comprises people, who make decisions based on reactions to our holistic presentation.

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A major breakthrough for us is Google's increased ability to index Flash. Flash, when it broke into mainstream consciousness, was the pretty new girl in school. Everyone was a little bit in love and wanted to take her for a ride, but there was a rumbling contingent that warned about the correlative probability that good looks can mean less substance.

This turned out to be true-Flash didn't offer much in the way of text that search-engine spiders could index; the crawlers couldn't link back to anything, because the browser didn't reload after interactivity. Even pages that spiders indexed were useless in search results, because users landed on Flash home pages instead of product pages.

Flash was . . . well, at least it was pretty.

Pretty Is as Pretty Does
But, then, last year, Google dedicated the resources to figure out how to index text in Flash sites.

" . . . [We] 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." The trick is to put the text that you want indexed "along the way" the algorithm travels. After all, the prettiest site in the world is useless if no one visits it.

Do This, Watch That
1. Mix Flash and HTML: Some businesses have mostly Flash sites and still rank for extremely competitive search terms. For instance, Starbucks appears just under the Wikipedia entry for "coffee"-very generally, that's because Google cares about relevance more than the optimization skills of marketers, but, unless a business offers obvious, global relevance, SEO is a top priority. Smart digital marketers build HTML sites with Flash components and place interactive content away from the prime HTML real estate.

2. Create Two Versions: Design and develop a home page with links to a Flash version for artistic or visual users and an HTML version or HTML and Flash version for more didactic users. Submit the HTML version to search engines.

3. Use Optimization Tools: Macromedia designers can use Macromedia Flash SDK. Shockwave Object 2.0 (SWF) displays content to crawlers the same way as it does to users. The caveats are that display does not equal digestion, and these tools don't apply to all Flash content across the board. External JavaScript calls and external files called by Flash are still invisible to spiders.

4. Start a PPC Campaign: Pay-per-click campaigns may seem counterintuitive to the objective of organic optimization, but PPC is an important part of the natural evolution of a brand or business' digital presence. Search algorithms factor the hits a website receives as part of its relevance to selected keywords. PPC lets digital marketers control a keyword strategy and generate traffic-both of which are SEO pillars, too.

5. Remember SEO Basics: Create strategic URLs. Frontload page titles with the best keywords possible. Weight header tags. Frontload the copy and balance keyword density. Embolden and italicize where appropriate. Link deeply as often as is valuable to the user. Remember that unique URLs attach to HTML pages and Flash is less likely to attract links from o2ther sites.

Essentially, as Google becomes more and more ubiquitous, making nearly everything about the digital space more inclusive and included in a more intuitive way, we can expect to allow our artistic strengths to shine in happy equilibrium with our market goals and technological requirements-until then, creative thinking gets the job done, too.

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