SEO and Full Flash Websites

Posted on Jan 20, 2010
Flash is a type of media originally created by Macromedia, a company that was acquired by Adobe Systems Incorporated in April of 2005. The technology takes media to the next level adding the ability to integrate video, navigation elements, audio, and animation. Among the many drawbacks the use of Flash are load time implications, browser incompatibility issue, and concerns about search engine-friendliness.

Sample of An All-Flash Website:

Flash SEO Solutions

Hybrid Flash/HTML Solution

The best solution to using Flash is having a hybrid of both elements. Flash should be used for application integration, integrated streaming video, and to provide an amazing experience to the user. However, it should not replace traditional HTML or the use of taxonomy/categorization of content. Your header should contain an image for your logo and possibly a top navigation scripted with standard anchor tags using ASCII, webcrawler-readable, text. Okay, argue all you want about Bruce Clay’s navigation. Check his footer, he simply replicated the navigation in text as to provide the pretty experience in the header; this is an option, but consider how it will appear on a mobile device. Below your log and navigation is the perfect place to slap on that Flash object, which can occupy the rest of the user’s window if you really don’t want them to see plain text. The object should be focused on experience and presentation and not be text-heavy. The text that will be rendered in Flash, should also be rendered in HTML within the Flash object for the best results. Below the Flash object is where you will be adding your H1, H2, paragraphs, H3, lists, and static imagery. You don’t need a font size of 12pt, however, you should not under any circumstance blend the font with background color or use a font smaller than 9pt. This appears deceptive and can get a website penalized from the search results. The end result is an HTML page enhanced by Flash, rather than replaced by it.

All-Flash Website Solution

So the boss, who paid $20k for the all-Flash based website, turned down your case to go hybrid? It happens, don’t take it personally. There is another solution but there is risk involved and the technique should be orchestrated with a representative from Google for best results. By creating an HTML version of your Flash-based website, you not only provide the users on mobile browsers the ability to navigate your website, but you’re also allowing the search engines to read and understand your content in a format that Flash just can’t compare to. The challenge with this technique is that you are providing a different result to the search engine than you are to user (see Cloaking and SEO), or it may appear that way to Googlebot, Slurp and MSNbot. DO NOT use a “splash page” in lieu of a standard homepage. Instead, you’ll have to redirect the user and the web crawlers using User-agent HTTP. This is not recommended, and again, should be coordinated with someone from Google to prevent being penalized. Keep in mind that went to all-Flash in 2007 and was able sustain traffic volumes from search results. So the technique is possible, but there is definitely a level of difficulty involved in the implementation. If SEO Standards truly did exist, not using full-Flash websites should definitely be considered a standard practice. However, if you are without options, here are a few great resources you can use if you’re considering using all or mostly Flash and still want provide a great experience to the search engines. If you’re still not convinced, just do a Google search for “SEO and full-Flash based websites” to see the amount of content advocating against the practice.

Got a Better Solution for Flash & SEO?

Definitely share your feedback if you have a workaround that invokes SEO best practices while still providing a 100% Flash-based website.