Websites developed using Flash Technology

Google may be better at crawling and indexing Flash content today, but it might still be a good idea to limit the amount you use and choose HTML5 instead
6 Aug, 2005

A prospective client of mine commented that he was considering a pay-per-click campaign to promote his website as he had been told that it would be difficult to gain a good ranking in the organic search engine listings (SERPS) for his Flash site.

Under a pier with Google Crawl textIt’s true that Flash is not particularly friendly as far as search engines are concerned. Search engines prefer simple and quick-to-follow web pages and not a complex and difficult to navigate web site. If it is important for you to have a Flash website (for example to show off your artistic or design skills), then a pay-per-click (ppc) campaign may be the best way to drive large numbers of visitors to your site. Even then you will need to pay close attention to your site structure. Visitors who click through an advert to arrive at a website will want to see very swift evidence that they have arrived at a relevant site, otherwise, they will click away again very quickly. So it is important to land them on a page on your website that gives them the information they are looking for – they may not want to wait for a movie to run, or to try to guess which particular graphic they need to click to take them to the area they need.

If you have to use Flash and still want a crack at reasonable SEO, then make sure you still make good use of the title and meta tags and try to include as much ‘real’ text in the website as possible.

Hint: To get a good idea of what a search engine spider will see when it visits your site, try using a Text-mode browser (e.g. Lynx) to view the site, try searching for a search engine simulator, or use the ‘Fetch as Google’ tool in Webmaster Tools to see how Google renders your site!

You may want to consider running an HTML equivalent of your Flash website. You can target your adword clicks to the HTML site whilst giving visitors the option to jump to your flash site once they are there. The HTML site will also be better ranked in the organic search listings as well. The downside is the extra cost of maintaining two sites and keeping them in step, although it does give you the best of both worlds – you can also see which one generates the most interest, the best comments, and of course the most business.

Update: This post was originally written in 2005, but as of 2014 Google says that they may warn search engine users that sites contain technology that may not work on their devices. Although Google has improved the crawling and indexing of some Flash elements, a site built entirely using Adobe Flash may not run on a mobile device, and searchers will get the message… “Uses Flash. May not work on your device. Try anyway | Learn more.”. Google recommends that site owners whose websites are built using Flash now consider building in HTML5, which is supported more widely.
Update: July 2015 – Mozilla blocks all versions of Adobe Flash in Firefox, so you now have even more reason to convert your Flash content into HTML5.


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