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Search Engine Friendly Design - Flash

In This Section
  Is Flash good or bad?
  Flash and search engines
  Optimising a flash site
  Workarounds for flash sites
  SEO for flash: links

Flash itself is not bad and for some target markets it can be a great feature to have as part of your site. Unfortunately, flash isn't the best format for high search engine placement. It also seems that a lot of designers do not know how to make the best use of flash.

Up until recently the most common use of flash seems to have been the flash movie on a splash page. Besides the fact that studies have shown that almost everyone presses the "skip intro" button meaning the flash intro is not an attention grabber or means of enhancing brand awareness, the flash splash page will kill your site's search engine listings - or ensure you never get any if it's a new site.

Flash text can only be read by FAST Alltheweb.com. None of the other engines can currently read flash text or follow flash links. Although FAST Alltheweb.com is now indexing flash this does not make flash search engine friendly. Flash MX is supposed to move flash design away from "useless" and "fancy" and into "content" and "usability". It is meant to go some way towards making flash more accessible to disabled users and possibly search engines, but the designer needs to know how to use it correctly in order for it to be effective in this way. It will be some time before flash can be considered either truely accessible or indexable.

So if flash itself horrid? No. The judicial and purposeful use of flash on websites whose target audience will appreciate it is a good thing and can help to increase the site's "stickiness". Games, quizzes, surveys, online forms, multi media streaming, and other interactive features are all good uses for flash. And since the rest of the site does not need to be designed in flash, using flash technology in these ways will enhance your web presence without taking anything away from the engines or disabled users who will still able to read and navigate the rest of your html site.

But it goes without saying that sites composed entirely in flash are not going to achieve high search engine placement, even on FAST Alltheweb.com. The problem with flash and search engines is primarily with:

  • Flash Based Sites: If the site is composed entirely in flash you will ideally design an accessible html site as well. If you do this, provide a link to the other option on each site rather than a splash page giving the options.
  • Flash Navigation Systems: Flash navigation systems should be complemented by text links either throughout the body copy or as an alternative set of links at the bottom, top or left hand side of the pages.
  • Flash Splash Pages Flash based splash pages are covered in the splash pages section.
  • Marketing Sherpa Article on Flash and Search Engines
    Northern Webs Flash Design Notes
    Macromedia Flash

    NEXT Step: Search Engines and Splash Pages

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