Richly interactive websites are an integral part of the automotive industry. To sell a product as complex and as nuanced as an automobile, requires the use of engaging web technologies such as Flash, DHTML and AJAX. In the past, this would mean sacrificing organic search indexing of the dynamic content presented in these interactive experiences. Due to technical constrains by the search engines they could not see the dynamic content in these experiences and thus not have the ability to affect search ranking by indexing that content. (See Figure 1 at right, which illustrates how typical Flash sites are indexed, showing the exclusion of xml and media content.) The only other option then was paid search to compensate.
This sacrifice is no longer necessary. The Flash development community has taken differing approaches in recent years to solve this problem. Two of the most influential approaches to overcoming this challenge have been Geoff Stearns’ SWFObject and Asual DZZD’s SWFAddress. Over the past three years Avenue A | Razorfish has incorporated these approaches and additionally developed a Search Optimized Flash Architecture (SOFA) for managed content that exposes content within the interactive experience, thus allowing it to be indexed and deeply linked. (See Figure 2 at right, which illustrates how SOFA facilitates the indexing of all content on a single-page Flash site, and Figure 3, below, which illustrates how SOFA facilitates the indexing of all content on a multi-page Flash site.) A similar approach can also be applied to DHTML and AJAX sites.
In addition to exposing the content to be indexed, attention must also be given to how users then experience that content. Because rich and dynamic websites can have volumes of content, and produce many different views into the content, it is important to implement a mechanism in the SEO solution to deep link to the content and allow users to maintain context. When users find the desired content in a search engine result — and deep linking is not implemented — they are dropped on the doorstep of the experience. With deep linking implemented, users do not need to search again for that content within the experience, thus allowing them to maintain context and achieve their goals.
The SOFA approach, as implemented by Avenue A | Razorfish, has helped Ford Motor Company retain high rankings for the automaker’s immersive Flash experiences, including its Global Auto Shows and Sync sites.
In early July 2008 Adobe announced that it has been working with Google and Yahoo to index dynamic content within Flash applications. This work is looking promising. Now the search engine’s biggest challenge is identifying the context of the content they are indexing in a rich experience and enabling users to deep link to that relevant content. At this point, AARF is recommending that clients continue to develop search solutions for their dynamic content until all the major search engines have integrated Adobe’s Flash search application and those search engines have the ability to deeply link to the appropriate content.
- Ford Motor Company’s Global Auto Shows and Sync sites
- Adobe Flash technology enhances search results for dynamic content and Rich Internet Applications; Adobe press release; 07.01.08