SEO & Flash Web Design – Should You Design Your Web Site With Flash?

With recent changes in the way Google reads Flash files, is that still good SEO advice?

SEO consultants have long cautioned against designing your site purely in Flash, a software solution that can create graphically very appealing web designs that are almost invisible to Search Engines. With recent changes in the way Google reads Flash files, is that still good SEO advice?

SEO in Flash…does it exist? Should you avoid using Flash to build your web site?

Google recently announced that they were now able to index Flash files. If you built your site entirely in Flash this would seem to be good news, but has there been a change in Google’s search results for Flash sites?

Google say they can now index text and links contained within SWF files including Flash web sites. However, they still can’t recognize text which appears in an image. That includes FLV files such as videos. As a pure Flash website only contains images and other multimedia the only text Google’s indexing bot is likely to find are text strings such as “loading”. That’s hardly likely to give any real indication of what content the site contains.

Also, Google still has trouble with some Javascript files, which means if your Flash site loads via a Javascript they may still have trouble finding and indexing your site.

SEO in Flash is still difficult to achieve. It’s OK…maybe even desirable… to use Flash elements in your design e.g. banners, but you should continue to avoid self-contained Flash web sites. Here’s why…

it’s difficult to separate the textural content into defined sections

Flash doesn’t use regular HTML tags to format sections of text. How would a search engine know what’s important and what’s not? Sometimes Flash designers use “cool” text effects such as animating individual letters in a word. Search engines can only understand words, not a bunch of individual letters.

a flash web site usually contains the whole content for the site on one URL…

That makes it difficult to target specific keywords on specific pages, unlike regular HTML pages. That also means Flash sites can not get inbound links to specific sections of the site, only to the home page.

lack of deep links

Flash websites are comprised of files which are linked from other Flash files, rather than other websites. This lack of inbound deep links makes it difficult to get high rankings for content within the site.

seo in flash is much harder than html…

Flash websites are unable to utilize basic SEO such as optimized title tags, heading tags or keyword-focused text links. This means they must heavily rely on inbound links to lift rankings.

With all these restrictions it is still preferable to avoid pure Flash websites and only use Flash elements when required. If you must use Flash make sure you use the text and links from the Flash file in an HTML version.

Flash was never designed with search engines in mind and despite improvements in how the engines read the files will always put you at a disadvantage in the search engine wars.