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I run a site that has some of the site pages accessible through the site's main navigation. Then, there are 50+ "state" pages that are accessible to a user if they click on a specific state on a flash map on our home page.

What are the SEO implications of having the site set up so that a significant portion of the pages are not accessible via the main navigation of the site? I know that Google has indexed these "state" pages previously, as they will pull up in organic rankings occasionally. But, would they rank significantly better if we organized the site differently?

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Any mention of "Soft 404s" in Google webmaster tools? –  Tim Post Jul 29 '10 at 17:35
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3 Answers 3

In general it's best to have ordinary text links to those pages somewhere on the site, if not for SEO then for accessibility reasons. A portion of users will not have Flash or have it disabled through FlashBlock etc.

For a site I completed recently we did something similar with a map of the UK. I put links to the cities (only 5 at the moment) underneath the Flash map. For 50+ links, I'd recommend either:

  1. Creating a separate page with the links, then linking to that with one small link next to the Flash map.
  2. Adding the links within the <object> tag, as browsers will show that as alternative content and I believe search engines will read that content.
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"Accessibility" here also applies to any potential users using Apple devices that don't currently run Flash. Not sure if this matters to your target audience. –  anonymous coward Jul 29 '10 at 20:27
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first off, @DigruntledGoat's idea of using the <object> tag is also fantastic as it allows users who don't have flash, like iPhone/iPad users to have easy access to those pages.

The implication of only including those links in Flash is those pages will not be index by Google. So Google won't know they exist.

Putting the pages in your sitemap.xml is a good start. I would also add them to your Site Map page in your site so Google finds them that way as well.

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You can try your luck with the <link> tag and a sitemap.

For the <link> tag you could try:

<link charset="utf-8"
      href="/somewhere"
      media="all"
      rel="subsection"
      rev="glossary"
      target="_top"
      type="text/html" />

The bottom line is that the effect will be site specific and only trial and error will determine whether it is a good idea for your site or not. The <link> tags may become more acceptable to search engines in the future i.e. it took until 2009 for a public announcement from Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! on canonical.

You may want to review the use of Flash for a map and look at Google Charts which, with some clever JavaScript can turn a list of linked locations into a chart on demand. If you add Flash detection into the mix you can cater to the JavaScript disabled, the Flash disabled and the Flash enriched all at the same time. This is regardless of whether you use the <link> tags or not. Doubt any search engine can miss that lot.

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Minor point: can you use both rel and rev in the same link tag? It was my understanding that rel is for a forward-pointing link (e.g. the next page of something) while rev is for backward-pointing links (previous page, home page, etc). –  DisgruntledGoat Jul 29 '10 at 23:10
    
Could be wrong but I always thought at rel is relationship with the linked document from the perspective of the current document and rev is the perspective from the linked document to the current one. Its how it seems to be on W3 Schools, so both can be listed at once (would love to know if that is not the case). –  Metalshark Jul 30 '10 at 5:20
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