Weekly SEO news: 30 August 2011

Welcome to the latest issue of the Search Engine Facts newsletter.

Some webmasters prefer to have a pure Flash website because they can look very impressive. Although Google can index Flash content to some extend, it is very unlikely that a Flash page will get high rankings on Google. Even the noscript tag won't help you.

Also in the news: A new Google algorithm update might be on the way, Google introduces a new snippet design, Bing still uses the meta keywords tag, Matt Cutts talks about the value of DMOZ links and more.

Table of contents:

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Andre Voget, Johannes Selbach, Axandra CEO

1. Flash pages still won't get high rankings on Google

Some webmasters prefer to have a pure Flash website because they can look very impressive. Although Google can index Flash content to some extend, it is very unlikely that a Flash page will get high rankings on Google.

What's the problem with Flash pages?

Flash content cannot be indexed by search engines. If your website is a pure Flash site, then you can be sure that search engines won't be able to see 95% of your website content.

Google has several official statements regarding Flash content:

"Search engines are text based. This means that in order to be crawled and indexed, your content needs to be in text format. [...] Any content you embed in these files should also be available in text format or it won't be accessible to search engines. [...]

We recommend that you use rich-media technologies like Flash primarily for decorative purposes, and instead use HTML for content and navigation."

"Make sure that your site has a reasonable, seamless experience for visitors without Flash.

This may involve creating HTML-only equivalents for your Flash-based content that will automatically be shown to visitors who can't view Flash."

Adding your content in the noscript tag won't help

Theoretically, adding your web page content in the noscript tag on your web pages should make sure that search engines get the right content. Unfortunately, Google's John Mueller indicates that this doesn't work anymore:

"One of the problems with noscript is - as others have mentioned - that it's been abused quite a bit by spammers, so search engines might treat it with some suspicion.

So if this is really important content, then I wouldn't rely on all search engines treating your noscript elements in the same way as normal, visible, static content on your pages. If this is 'just' for comments, then that might be worth considering."

What does this mean to your website

If you want to get a reasonable amount of visitors through search engines, don't use Flash and other multimedia elements for the main contents of your web pages:

  • Only use Flash for decorative purposes.
  • The navigation of your website should use regular HTML a href links. Do not use fancy JavaScript or Flash navigation menus. Most search engines cannot parse them.
  • The main content of your web pages should be available as simple text.

Use the free search engine spider simulator in IBP to find out how search engines see your website. If the spider simulator does not show the content of your web pages, it might be time to redesign your website.

Use the Top 10 Optimizer in IBP to make sure that Google finds your website relevant to the right keywords. IBP is a popular SEO software tool that helps you to get first page rankings on Google and other search engines for your keywords.


2. Search engine news and articles of the week

Matt Cutts indicates that a new algorithm update may be on the way

Google's Matt Cutts posted the following on Twitter:

"Scrapers getting you down? Tell us about blog scrapers you see: http://goo.gl/S2hIh We need datapoints for testing."

Although Google's Panda update eliminated many low quality sites from Google's search results, many scraper sites still get high rankings on Google. It seems that this might change with Google's next algorithm update.

Google introduces a new search result snippet for some pages

"This week we started rolling out snippet improvements for pages that contain lists; results for these pages will now reflect the structure of the page, rather than just showing two lines of text.

If a search result consists mostly of a structured list, like a table or series of bullets, we’ll show a list of three relevant rows or items underneath the result in a bulleted format. The snippet will also show an approximate count of the total number of rows or items on the page."

GoogleGoogle News now crawling with Googlebot

"Google News recently updated our infrastructure to crawl with Google’s primary user-agent, Googlebot. [...]

Any news organizations that wish to opt out of Google News can continue to do so: Google News will still respect the robots.txt entry for Googlebot-News, our former user-agent, if it is more restrictive than the robots.txt entry for Googlebot."

Bing still uses meta keywords

Bing's Senior Product Manager Duane Forrester contributed to an online discussion:

"I'll make this statement: meta keywords is a signal. One of roughly a thousand we analyze. Getting it right is a nice perk for us, but won't rock your world. Abusing meta keywords can hurt you."

Editor's note: if you want to get a detailed analysis of all factors that influence the position of your website on Bing, Google and other search engines, analyze your pages with IBP's Top 10 Optimizer.

Matt CuttsVideo: If I don't need to block crawlers, should I create a robots.txt file?

Google's Matt Cutts says that it's okay not to have a robots.txt file. Some web hosts will show a 404 page when Google requests the robots.txt file which might cause problems.

For that reason, he recommends to create a robots.txt file that contains instructions for search engine robots.

Video: what role does being in DMOZ play in rankings?

"There are two or three updates I can give you on how Google treats the Open Directory Project (DMOZ). [...] Not many people used Google's version of the Open Directory Project. [...]

Google uses DMOZ to create snippets for websites. It can be helpful to rely on the information found on DMOZ. [...]

There is no special boost if a website is listed on DMOZ. A link from DMOZ might carry a little more PageRank but it's not more important than a link from another site (for example a newspaper site)."

Search engine newslets

  • Early Google Panda patents.
  • Miami has the highest online ad revenue, well above New York City and Los Angeles.
  • Top Internet properties 2004 – 2011.
  • Facebook seeks acquisitions to fend off Google competition.
  • Google hiring spam fighters in Dublin.
  • Google tests new instant previews and moves Google +1 button.
  • Google patent: possible new Google search result annotations.

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3. Success stories

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