Google is not indexing your dynamic content in Flex or Flash

It’s a pretty shocking title with all the fuss about the new flash player for Google and Yahoo, but I will try to explain why I came to this conclusion. I suggest you read about the seven test cases I did because that’s mostly what my reasoning is built on. I am going to explain point by point what happened in the experiment.

My first test case was simply to put static text right on the first frame of the swf file. That’s all this flash file contained. If you search in Google for the unique expression contained in that static text, you will find the specific html embedding the swf, meaning that the content was indexed.

The second test case was similar to the first one except that instead of being a static textfield on the stage, it’s a prefilled dynamic textfield (meaning the text in the textfield was added using the Flash IDE not ActionScript). Again for this case if you search the unique expression, the good html page will come up (As for the first case, you see in the description in Google for that link the extract of text containing the expression furthermore proving that the content was indexed).

The third test case was also a dynamic textfield, but the text in it was added using ActionScript. The page is indexed in Google (do a search for ‘ “fleximagically searchable”‘ and click “repeat the search with the omitted results included” at the bottom of the page to see all test case indexed) but the content doesn’t show in the description of the link. Also if you did a search for the unique expression nothing relevant would come up.

The fourth test case, the last done in Flash, was a static textfield inside a Sprite added to the stage using ActionScript. Again for this case the html page is indexed, but none of the Flash content is.

The fifth test case, as all of the next test cases, was done in Flex, it’s a TextArea component in mxml filled with the text attribute in the mxml, so no ActionScript involved. In this case, if you search for the unique expression you will see that the content inside the swf is indexed, proof that some content in Flex can be indexed.

The sixth test case is a Label component in mxml filled with the text attribute int the mxml. In this case, the content didn’t show up on Google, so I guess not all components are indexable.

Lastly, the seventh test case is a Text component in mxml filled with content using the text attribute in the mxml. I think this case is really similar to the second test case; a dynamic textfield in Flash prefilled with content. In this case, the content showed up on Google, so the swf was indexed.

My conclusion

From this SEO experiment, we see that static textfields on the timeline, prefilled dynamic textfields and some basic Flex components (TextArea, Text) in mxml are indexed by Google. It seems to me that as soon as there is ActionScript involved to change the content, that content will not be indexed. If you look back a bit, you kinda see that Google doesn’t use any new Flash player to index swf files, it does what it always was doing; nothing new. If somebody has a proof of dynamic content being indexed by the new player I’d be glad to see it, but for now I am assuming that Google is not using the new player given by Adobe.

This brings us to the Flex Seo contest, where my Fleximagically Searchable entry is performing well, but my content is not indexed. My take is that this contest will be pretty hard to win. There might still be possibilities to make this work but I think they are a bit too far fetched. Here is what I think might still have some chances: I did all my experiments with ActionScript 3 and I believe from the results that you cannot win using ActionScript 3. Where there could still be some opportunities would be if the swf generated would be using ActionScript 2 (which would use the flash player virtual machine 1), so in order to win the contest, you would have to build your Flex application in Flex 1.5 or even before. This would mean that the new special flash player for Google would only work for Flash 8 and below. I really hope it is not the case and that it is just that Google is not using the special player yet.

Another way to win would be that Google roll out the new player before September which is the ending date of the contest. Let’s hope they do so!

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  1. #1 by John Dowdell - July 24th, 2008 at 11:15

    We don’t yet know what percentage of SWF sites Google spiders with Ichabod (the Headless Player), which lets them evaluate ActionScript.

    At the announcement we knew they already had evaluated some sites this way, but I got the impression it would take awhile to do the whole web. Indeterminate.


  2. #2 by Theo - July 24th, 2008 at 17:02

    I’ve done some searching and come to more or less the same conclusion as you: Google isn’t indexing any dynamically loaded content yet.

    The announcement from three weeks ago was pretty clear on that they had already started indexing using the new method, so I think we should be seeing some results now. Your content on is all newer than three weeks (obviously) and it seems unlikely that Google would index it using their old methods, but either that is what they’ve done, or the new method is not quite what it’s made up to be.

  3. #3 by Nicholas Hauselman - July 25th, 2008 at 11:25

    Have you tried text inside a movie clip on the stage? Or a movie clip within a movie clip? I haven’t gotten any results with static text inside a MC at all for any of my sites…
    Thanks for posting. Great stuff.

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