For Webhelp SEO, Madcap Flare 11’s Top-Nav Targets Look Promising

Flare 11 Top Navigation

Four years ago, when I was working on the technical documentation site for Bomgar, we wanted a Madcap Flare target that was search engine friendly. All the Flare webhelp outputs used iFrames, which are pretty horrible for SEO.

Then Flare introduced the Webhelp Mobile output. It didn’t use iFrames. So I spent a few months concocting a custom build of the Webhelp Mobile target. Google loved it, and we were lucky that was the case. The year after we published that webhelp site, organic traffic to our corporate website fell drastically. During that time, marketing was speaking more abstractly about our product. Since our prospects used more concrete, feature/function phrases in their search queries, they weren’t finding our corporate website. The webhelp, which did talk concretely about our product, offset the drop in organic traffic. Even after the corporate site recovered, the webhelp has continued to bring in more than 15% of our organic traffic!

Now it seems that, with the Top Navigation targets, Flare 11 has baked in much of what Flarestrap attempts to accomplish when it comes to webhelp SEO.

  • The Top Nav targets don’t put the topic content in iframes
  • The output is crawlable (For example, I ran a xml-sitemap and exceeded 500 pages on crawl. That means the topics were crawled. Previously, only the skin was crawled.)
  • The template can be customized. (For example, the new Flare 11 webhelp uses Foundation Framework for the css/layout. Flarestrap uses Bootstrap, by the way.)
  • Mini-Tocs are used as section navigation. (This is a challenge I was going to attempt to overcome with the next version of Flarestrap.)

There are so many other capabilities, of course, so check out the webinar. I’m just primarily concerned about SEO for Flare, and the Top Navigation targets in Flare 11 look really promising in that regard. I know I’m not the only one who’s asked, but it looks like they’ve implemented every SEO-related feature request I’ve made over the past four years.

If you’re interested in Flare SEO, I recommend trying out Flare 11 and watching the webinar.

I was planning on doing an update to Flarestrap this spring. I’m putting that on hold while I spend some time with Flare 11.


7 comments for “For Webhelp SEO, Madcap Flare 11’s Top-Nav Targets Look Promising

  1. Paul Collins
    March 19, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Flare 11 looks like very good news indeed. The Madcap webinar coverage on this was a bit brief given how radical this feature appears to be, at least when compared to the other (albeit useful) new features. I’m also looking forward to checking out the section navigation mini-tocs, as cascading submenus are a bit awkward with bootstrap. I wouldn’t be surprised if Madcap set up another webinar very soon just dedicated to this feature.

  2. March 19, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Yeah, I was hungry for more info on the Top Nav outputs, too. I was doing a group chat with the techcom team during the webinar, and a lot of the new capabilities induced excitement. My SEO lens is myopic, of course. It certainly seems Madcap has hit a huge milestone with this release. I’m really excited for them. Maybe they’ll let me upgrade for free since I provided a template of sorts. :-) Probably too much to ask …

  3. Chris Eden
    April 1, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    This is great stuff. I’ve got Flare 11 installed now, and am ready to go. Although I enjoyed the eye-opening Flarestrap experience and the hacking around with everything Bootstrap allows us to accomplish, getting something *close* out of the box will mean less work. Thank you, Justin, for whatever role Flarestrap might have played (and for helping me improve my docs long before Flare 11 came along).

  4. Patricia D'Ambrosio
    May 1, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Agreed this is a compelling improvement along w/added and refined search capabilities.
    For the Pros and Cons you might want to access the MadWorld presentations by Paul S at MadCap and Neil Perlin. Both are presenting free webinars on these topics….

  5. Linda Cast
    May 1, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Hi, I’m a Robohelp 11 user and was researching Bootstrap when I found the Flarestrap discussions. The April 2015 Madworld presentation descriptions by Paul and Neil don’t use the word “strap”, and no articles are posted in the Madworld 2014 presentation site. What’s New doesn’t mention it. Was Flarestrap implemented in any way in Flare 11? Thank you

    • May 1, 2015 at 3:17 pm

      Hi Linda! Thanks for visiting.

      No, Madcap Software doesn’t use Bootstrap in Madcap Flare. However, a few years ago, I made a frameless, SEO-friendly output using Flare and Bootstrap. After using it on our website for a number of years, I packaged up a slimmed-down version, called it “Flarestrap“, and put it up here for others to hack around with.

      Now, we’re all stoked because in Flare 11, Madcap has implemented a ton of suggestions from me and others, giving us the ability to do a frameless output natively.

      Flare 11 uses Foundation by Zurb, though … which is still pretty great.

  6. May 2, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Congrats on being years ahead of the curve Justin. Madcap really needs to pay you for your concepts.