U.K.-based women’s apparel retailer Awear knows shoppers like viewing sequences featuring vivid sequences of models sporting the clothes it sells. It also knows that the technology that makes such images rich and captivating, Adobe Flash, doesn’t jive well with search engine crawlers, which were designed to index text-based HTML pages. Recently, however, the retailer found a way to incorporate Flash without dimming search results.
The technology, called Venda Flash Merchandising from e-commerce platform provider Venda Inc. produces Flash content, which has a .swf , or "ShockWave Flash" file extension, but is driven by an XML infrastructure built into the pages of sites on Venda’s platform. XML, unlike .swf files, is easy for search engines to crawl. Retailers can add copy to Flash sequences that is visible to both search engines and visitors-such as text describing the product-and they can add text only for search engines, similar to the page titles and metadata such as keywords and descriptions they create for standard web pages. Because all this information is held in XML, it is easier for search engines to index.
Samantha Bain, head of e-commerce for Awear, says the feature enables her to give consumers what they want-lots of rich images-while keeping the site optimized for search. “People want to see pictures,” Bain says. “They like online catalogs and lots of imagery, but those were doing nothing for us in terms of SEO,” Bain says. “Now we can have dense keywords as part of our Flash sequences.”
Awear moved to the Venda Flash merchandising program in late summer from using an outside firm for its Flash sequences. Bain says it’s too soon to measure improvements in natural search rankings, but she says the system is saving Awear time and money. For example, Awear previously added to the bottom of pages with Flash a significant amount of text so search engines would index the pages. Now, Awear doesn’t have to add such content, she says.