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Silverlight Optimization, Interview with Jonathan Hochman

Jonathan Hochman kicks off the first SEO Expert Series interview from SMX Advanced in Seattle, arguably the place to be for the greatest SEO expert to attendee ratio.

I first met Jonathan, Founder of Hochman Consultants at SES Chicago 2006 and we’ve remained close contacts since, fighting side by side to oppose the SEO trademark by Jason Gambert. Jonathan is perhaps best known for his flash optimization techniques and championing the SEO article on Wikipedia. A few weeks prior to the conference Jonathan and I had a conversation about Silverlight. He was presenting a session on diagnosing and fixing websites with a focus on Flash, AJAX, JavaScript and Silverlight and my previous employer had toyed with the latter as a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. So, when I approached him about the SEO Expert Series, optimizing Silverlight was a no-brainer.

What is Silverlight?

Jonathan: The simplest way to think of it, Silverlight is Microsoft’s flavor of Flash.

Microsoft Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform, and cross-device plug-in for delivering the next generation of .NET based media experiences and rich interactive applications for the Web.

- Silverlight.net

What is Google? Google is about automated analysis of web pages. When you give Google Flash, JavaScript or Silverlight, it’s not like they’re going to be able to read this in a few years. It’s like trying to outrun the speed of light: physically impossible given our current knowledge of science and math. Google can’t keep up with an infinite number of possible things that people can type into an interactive script that may reveal content. Google is NOT going to figure out how to index these languages, in the general case. If your strategy is to build this really cool Flash site and hope Google that will figure it out, you need to rethink your approach and provide another way for search engines to get that content.

Google is crawling forms, but this is still in its infancy and only with very simple forms, and only for really large sites. It’s the hidden web! There’s this huge amount of content locked behind forms and rich media.

What strategies can developers use to expose the deep web?

Write the site using server side scripts and generate pages linked together via hrefs. You can also have some kind of logic for users to switch between an HTML and a rich media site. Some people think this is cloaking, but it’s really not. It’s solving a Google problem and accounting for usability. Presenting the same content in different formats isn’t spam.

Take Gillette.com, it’s a beautiful flash site and attempt at optimization. They did use SWFObject and plain HTML, but it’s unattractive for a user and won’t have much traction. They’re still missing basic SEO rules for titles, descriptions, etc. Consider that users that search the web with JavaScript disabled tend to be advanced users, technophiles, etc., Gillette is missing out on opportunities.

In January 2008, 5% of users had JavaScript turned off or their browsers don’t support scripting.
- W3Schools.com

Possible ways to solve the problem:

  • Use the noscript tag with related HTML.
  • Generate a feed that can be read by search engines.
  • Deploy a progressive enhancement script, like SWFObject() that will replace plain HTML content with rich media.

Tool vendors need to build work-arounds in their tools. Developers want images or boxes with scroll bars so it doesn’t break the layout, but some people will be running JavaScript without Silverlight installed. Microsoft needs to create a script that detects if Silverlight is installed and offer an alternative like SWFObject does for Flash. If Silverlight built this insertion script, it would be ideal for usability and SEO.

Who is currently using Silverlight?

High-end developers with Mircosoft architecture currently in place or Microsoft partners.

Do you see Silverlight gaining greater market share for rich media development?

It’s coming and people are using it, but no client has specifically asked me to use it, yet.

What’s on your wish list for Silverlight?

  • Easier method for encouraging progressive enhancement
  • Create insertion script equivalent of SWFObject
  • Make Silverlight more search engine friendly
b4841d1bd072621c66a3f68f5d09db12 64 Silverlight Optimization, Interview with Jonathan Hochman
Rhea Drysdale is Co-founder and CEO of Outspoken Media, which specializes in SEO consulting, link building, reputation management and social media. With more than seven years experiences, Rhea has spoken at SMX, SES, Web 2.0 Expo, Pubcon, Blog World Expo and BlueGlass. She has also been featured on CNN.com, in the Wall Street Journal and in SEO: The Search Engine Optimization Bible as an industry insider.
b4841d1bd072621c66a3f68f5d09db12 64 Silverlight Optimization, Interview with Jonathan Hochman

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