Rich Internet applications (RIAs) can dramatically enhance UX, increase website conversions, and improve employee productivity. In consumer settings, where companies rely on their websites to generate leads or direct sales, driving qualified traffic from search engines often plays a critical role in their marketing plan.

Business leaders and marketing managers considering whether to upgrade their Web presence with dynamic, rich experiences like an RIA seem to face a hard sacrifice: giving up search marketing capabilities because content in RIAs cannot be indexed by search engine spiders. But although RIAs do add a bit of complexity to search optimization, executing a successful search marketing campaign for a RIA is well within reach.

A Blended Approach

RIA technology is commonly used to build self-contained components or functionality like product configurators or shopping carts. These RIA elements are only part of your website and can be easily contained within HTML pages that Google, Yahoo! and other search engines can index and your paid search ads can target.

If search marketing is an important part of your business, building your entire website as an RIA is not a good idea. However, you can still reap the benefits RIAs offer without sacrificing search if you take the time to carefully plan to include a combination of rich elements and content rich HTML pages.

Divide and Conquer

If you want to build an entire website or a large portion of a site using RIA technologies and don't believe a blended approach will work, you can separate your rich content from your HTML content by using multiple domains. Build an HTML site that ranks well and leads users to RIAs that live at separate domains. You can link various sites and applications together to provide a seamless UX without sacrificing the ability to optimize for search engines.

The Word on Rich Client Indexing

Google’s 2008 announcement regarding its improved ability to index Flash is a step in the right direction. However, if search marketing is an important part of your marketing mix, due to lingering limitations I recommend staying away from websites built completely in Flash. Use one of the techniques described above and you’ll increase your chances for search engine success.

Silverlight applications are not currently indexable by Google. You can get all the answers you need about Google indexing of RIA technologies directly from the horse's mouth:

Plan for Successful RIA Deployment

When it comes to RIAs and search, you can have your cake and eat it too. By taking the time to clarify your goals, map user interactions and integrate search marketing strategy into your development plans—the earlier in the process the better—you will accomplish your search marketing goals and meet the needs of your users.

This article was originally published on the User Interface Resource Center (UIRC). For more info, please see