Flash and SEO using the SOFA Method: Is it Deceptive?

Jul 3, 2007 • 10:15 am | comments (4) by | Filed Under SEO - Search Engine Optimization

Last week, Chris Boggs wrote a column on Search Engine Watch about the use of Flash in web design. He alludes to SOFA (search optimized flash architecture - Search Engine Watch Forums thread, a member discovered that this technique is using hidden DIVs to show content to the spider but not to the user. Thus, users are wondering if it will be just as effective if used for a small business of they will be penalized. Chris had his developers look into the issue and they released a written statement:

After the original launch of the syncmyride.com site in January a content addition in the May release slightly deviated from the SOFA technique. Though the May release did not contain different content than what was in the flash presentation some of the tags and css classes used to handle content were not as semantic as they could have been. We have corrected the markup to more accurately represent the content. Due to the nature of the Flash check we are not displaying the “get flash” check until the check fails. This content is initially not displayed in order to prevent a flicker for the user that has Flash. A user that does not have flash will see this content immediately. Also this site has not styled all the content for the non flash user though it could be. The experience is intended for an immersive flash experience.

Much of the content that you do not see on the home page is in the subsequent pages. You will need to turn off JavaScript in order to see this content. Users with JavaScript are redirected to the home page and then deep linked in the flash experience back to the content that they originally expected. The user is always presented with the expected content and is not deceived at any time, which is the main concern of Google and other search engines.

Though this technique could be used to deceive the end user it is not the technique that would be in question, but the site and implementers of the technique that we should be suspicious of. An individual evaluation of any questionable site would definitely be necessary if a site was presenting content to be indexed that was not intended to be presented to the end user. You will notice that all content except for the get flash and no script content is presented in the Flash experience on the syncmyride.com site.

Therefore, the markup has been corrected, and Chris clarifies that the intention of the SOFA method is not to deceive the user and it creates a pleasurable viewing experience for those who may not have browsers that support Flash or Javascript.

Forum discussion continues at Search Engine Watch Forums.

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