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July 24, 2008

Knol: Great for Google or Bad?

I thoroughly enjoy Wikipedia and use it frequently. I love to read information and facts, and Wikipedia makes doing so all too easy. The information is of course provided by users, so there is a lot of info on Wikipedia that is wrong, but overall it is still informative.

Google liked the idea so much that they decided to take the same idea and monetize it. Now, users can create informational articles on ‘Knol’ (www.Knol.Google.com) and create an ad to go along with the article. The articles default to allow Adsense ads to which the writer will share some of the revenue. Google says that there is very little oversight to the veracity of the ads except that users can leave reviews.

This sounds easy to take advantage of for profit. One of the problems with the idea comes down to the fact that Google is the one that gets the rest of the profit. They are also the one that controls the rankings. While, I really do believe that Google will operate with integrity and avoid unfair practices, I still think that Google is opening up a can of worms they may not be prepared for.

The other problem is directly on Google.com search results. Most search results pages are littered with at least one Wikipedia link or more. It stands to reason that Knol will do the same as long as the information within the articles is significantly different. This will create another challenge for the SEO community. Luckily, I’m just a PPC specialist. More Adsense space creates more Content Network real estate for my clients. Heck, creating an article designed for a client’s ad seems to be……..ummm…forget I said that.

Anyways, despite the way it sounds, I really do like the idea of another open source encyclopedia. I love the offerings that Google brings to the web. I think Google would have been well advised to walk away from this one. As questionable as the idea sounds for Google, Knol is going in my fav’s anyways.

July 22, 2008

Search Engine Friendly Flash

Recently Adobe, the software provider of Flash, announced it is providing optimized Adobe Flash Player technology to Google and Yahoo! The new development is said to improve search results for Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) in the Flash file format.

Adobe explained on their website:
"This will provide more relevant automatic search rankings of the millions of RIAs and other dynamic content that run in Adobe Flash Player. Moving forward, RIA developers and rich web content producers won't need to amend existing and future content to make it searchable—they can now be confident that it can be found by users around the globe."

That all sounds great, but I wouldn't go and redesign your CSS and HTML developed site for an all Flash experience just yet.

There are still many issues to consider that can prevent the search engines from treating your Flash content as regular HTML text. Back when Al Gore created the internet ;-) it started as primarily text based pages. The search engine algorithms were built around analyzing that text. And that has not changed.

Search engines may now be able to access the text within a Flash file but they cannot quite process it as they do HTML text. They still look in the HTML for important meta data used to structure the HTML. This information can include the title tag, the formatting code as in H1, bolded text and lists as well as image alt tags.

In addition to the limits of processing text in Flash, the search engines will have problems with the lack of unique URLs found in Flash sites. Many times a Flash site is all contained within the homepage URL. As you navigate through the site the URL never changes. This means all of the text processed by the search engines will have to be indexed as one single page. It also means that they may not process all of the text in the site as they will not execute all of the actions within the Flash.

The indexing of Flash text may also cause less than ideal user experiences. As the search engines find text within the Flash site not contained in the first level a visitor may discover the site in the search results only to find once they click through that the text they're searching for is not there. Rather than trying to navigate though the site to find what they're looking for they'll likely click the back button to find a page that has that info right away.

Now I'm not saying all Flash is bad. We create Flash animations on many of our web site designs. And since we are also search engine optimization company our designers typically limit the Flash portion to a small animated banner at the top of a page that has images and text. The text not being that important for search engines as we make sure the sites and pages all have plenty of unique indexable HTML text content to feed to the search engines. This type of Flash use has never been a big concern for us and still isn't. The concerns would be for those sites whose entire development was done in Flash. I'm not betting on those sites magically ranking for competitive terms suddenly.