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To better illustrate how this might look, we enlisted help of Web designer Dave Barry of SmartCertify Direct -- http://www.smartcertify.com/. Dave was kind enough to create an example site employing a transparent FLASH movie to help us visualize effect. As Dave explains...
"This flash movie was made transparent so you may see effects of putting text behind flash. Using Dynamic HTML, you can absolutely position a flash object right over top of your existing html code. Search engines see copy and text while visitors see your dynamic flash movie."
To see Dave's example, visit complete article found at below URL, and look for "Flash Sample." Once there, click anywhere in browser window, hold down CTRL and hit "A" on your keyboard (Ctrl+A = highlight all) to see how this sample FLASH movie would otherwise "hide" text were FLASH not transparent.
(To view Flash Sample, visit this article online at http://www.academywebspecialists.com/newsletters/0702.html)
Dave was kind enough to share with us source code he used to create effect, which can also be found above URL.
It should be noted this effect works only in browsers that support HTML version 4.0 or greater. This is only a minor concern, however, as vast majority of browsers that are being used today are compatible.
Yes, but will Search Engines tolerate "trick"?
Obviously most pressing question is whether or not search engines will accept, or reject, pages that make use of this strategy. After all, possibility of layering irrelevant content under, or even entirely off page (by assigning minus positioning coordinates) is a distinct possibility.
To anticipate how search engines might view this strategy, once again, we consider issues of "intention" and "relevancy."
Perhaps Stephen Baker, Director of Business Development and Marketing at FAST, said it best when he remarked, "Our position is pretty straight forward...it's not technique that we are concerned about, it's intention. If we index text in Z- Order and CSS and it's relevant to content, then we're all happy. But, as you know, we do have internal systems that trip wires all of time. If a particular technique becomes heavily abused over time, we'll definitely stop indexing information through said technique."
As we've said countless times before, certain legitimate Web site enhancements, like FLASH, frames, dynamic content, etc., are a nightmare for engines to index. They simply have never done a very good job on complicated HTML page, and FLASH poses, perhaps, greatest indexing challenge of them all.
Regardless, sites that use these upscale tools have as much right to be found as any others within their selected keyword categories. Projecting a professional image to your potential customers is important, and using Z Order within your CSS gives enables you to obtain that professional image without sacrificing search engine findability.
Copyright 2002 Robin Nobles. All rights reserved.
Robin Nobles, Director of Training, Academy of Web Specialists, has trained several thousand people in her online search engine marketing (http://www.academywebspecialists.com) training programs. She also teaches 3-day hands-on search engine marketing workshops in locations across the globe with Search Engine Workshops (http://www.searchengineworkshops.com).