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  SEO & Your Multimedia Files


Since the World Wide Web was “invented” (you can debate the actual “inventor” some place else, thank you) I’ve somehow been magically drawn to the idea of animation, moving graphics and multimedia in general. Sure, the ability to learn just about anything whenever you want is pretty empowering, but to enhance that material with learning aids like Flash animations, recorded video and presentations is just awesome. However for all the extra value-added benefits that multimedia content can bring to your web page the question has always remained, “Can the search engines index my Flash/multimedia content and files?”

The short answer is, “they’re working on it. And have been for some time.”

If you're a web author the general rule of thumb is to turn off javascript in your browser, then view your web page. Most of us will likely gasp at the graphical destruction of our web content, but the search engines don’t really care about that. What you want to see is what they can see, and at the top of that list is your site structure and available links. If you have a linking mechanism that is solely restricted to a Flash file (Flash menus) then you’ll need to jump through some hoops to make that content available and viewable to the search engines. This is really important to SEO; regardless of your glitzy-Javascript-Flash-applet menu systems that glow and shout or do whatever when a user interacts with them your web pages. You need a simple linking mechanism that allows users (namely a search engine spider) to link into the page and then onto the next web page in your site. And no orphans! Try to avoid those one-off pages where, perhaps you have a video file that you display as a low resolution sample on one of your web pages but contains a link to a pop up window with only the video playing in it. No good. If your web page has valuable content on it then you'll want to give that page all of the dressings of any other important web page on your site - namely adequate navigation.  This holds true with just about any other kind of multimedia file(s) you may want to use on your web page content, .avi, .mpg, and just about most all of the available plug-ins out there today.

Adobe and Google were working on a version of the Flash player that was considerably more search engine friendly but finding any recent progress on this endeavor has proven futile (it got started back in 2008-2009 and seems to have just fallen off...) The main limitation with Flash and other rich internet applications (RIA) is that clicking and navigating around the application doesn't get tracked in the browser's history object. As a matter of fact most interaction between the RIA and the browser is usually very limited but as web browsers (and RIA) continue to evolve they appear to at least be growing aware of the limitations of RIA and the browser. A few tools have emerged to help remedy the situation, try visiting and check out swfaddress.

So how do you get any sort of SEO mileage, let alone NOT get penalized for having multimedia content on your web pages?

Think of “Value Added”
When I implement a multimedia presentation onto a web page it's usually an extra; the main idea and copy of the page still persist and even though most folks will be able to see and enjoy the multimedia presentation I still think of it from the search bot's perspective. The copy and text should be present and perfect FIRST, then the multimedia piece serves as the value added reinforcement to the main idea of the page.

Make it Worth Viewing
Think of your multimedia file as a sidebar to your overall presentation. Augment or add additional talking points to the copy content on your page with your multimedia presentation. Try to expand and elaborate, don't be redundant.

Enhance Your Presence
Communication, without a physical effort to do so is one of the most powerful means in effect today. One of the easiest mediums to recognize this in action is a movie - a horror movie for example. The background music of a scene gives you a pretty good idea of what's about to happen to the poor girl standing in the dimly lit stairwell. Use your multimedia presentation in ways you haven't considered and you may just surprise yourself!



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