What is Flash?
Flash is a software that lets you create animation and movies. Because the file size of animations and movies created using Flash is smaller, flash is most commonly used for the web. It is common knowledge that video, demos, and movement help create dynamism and engagement on a website. The use of Flash allows web designers and developers to do this without creating huge video files that would take forever to download. Since Flash is different from HTML on a webpage URL, many feel that Flash based websites and or Flashed embedded content just won’t work with SEO fundamentals.
Flash and SEO concerns
Here are reasons why many feel that SEO and Flash don’t mix well:
- With Flash, different content is not on different URL’s
You could have unique frames, or movies within movies, or similar things of this nature that seem to be unique of the Flash site, but there is no way to link to the elements
- Breakdown of Text
Google can index the output files in the SWF to see words and phrases, but with Flash most of the text is not clean, tags are or can be mixed up into half phrases for graphic effects that are often put out incorrectly. Many times this also causes words to break apart into individual letters and causes them to animate.
- Embedded Flash
Flash content is only linked to other Flash content wrapped inside shell Flash pages — if no other internal or external URL’s are referenced by the interior content, it could mean a low Page Rank.
- Crawlability Testing
- Flash does not earn External Links like HTML
Interior pages may suffer if an all Flash site has a large number of links to a homepage. Search engines like it when incoming links are distributed among the home page and inner pages in a website. With an all-Flash website, this can pose a challenge.
- Basic SEO is often missing on Flash sites
Anchor text, headings, strong text, image, alt tags, and tile tags are not always simple to include in Flash. As a result, Flash websites often get built incorrectly without basic SEO in place.
Flash SEO Best Practices
Since one of the most common issues for web sites is Google not being able to crawl and index a site’s content, web sites that are made strictly in Flash can prove to be problem children so to speak. This is because there are no links for search engines to crawl or follow as well as no HTML text to copy and index.
In 2008, Google announced it had improved indexing of Adobe Flash Files, and many Flash developers as well as SEO gurus were able to use Text in Flash because it was now crawl-able. Over the years, a number of best practices have emerged for optimizing Flash content on websites.
Flash SEO with Google in mind
- Google can crawl and index text content in Flash
This allows SEO for Flash to treat Flash files like HTML text or PDF files. However, if identical content is used for both Flash and HTML, Google will see it as duplicate content. By adding meta information to a Flash file embedded in HTML the content can be indexed as a single item.
- Google can discover links in Flash Files
If a Flash file includes links in a website page, the odds increase that Google will find and crawl more of the site. This is also true with links that appear in HTML and other file formats.
- Google can index external content and associate it with a Flash file
This now allows external content to appear in search results if the Flash file was designed with external text content that was loaded using HTML or XML files
- ActionScript is now indexed by Google
Including AS1, AS2 and AS3. While indexing, Google does not de-compile Flash files or expose ActionScript code if it is not visible to users.
As is evident, a lot of progress has been made since Flash first made its appearance. It is no longer an SEO roadblock. However, it needs to be handled correctly if you wanted your website to perform in organic search results — particularly in Google results.
Ten Flash SEO Tips
Since Google is still learning to crawl to Flash files, building a site entirely in Flash is not recommended. Here are ten SEO tips or best practices for implantation of Flash files:
- Don’t use Flash as the navigation.
- Embed Flash files into HTML pages.
- Use descriptive page titles and meta descriptions.
- Don’t include an entire site in one Flash file. Instead, break the content into multiple Flash files with different HTML pages.
- Use Flash for design elements and less-important content, and use HTML for the most important page elements.
- Enhance web fonts in Flash files by using slfr, because the Flash styles enhance the HTML content rather than replace it, the engines can still read titles.
- Pay attention to the file naming. Use simple and descriptive words to name Flash files
- Pay attention to surrounding text. If you embed Flash on an HTML page, try and include relevant text around the flash file. This will help search engines associate the flash file with words, phrases and keywords present in the surrounding text.
- Call external text. Where possible, load text into a flash file from an external XML file.
- Use Flash for what you DON’T want crawled. Flash can be an effective way of guiding the search crawlers towards what you want and do not want crawled. Using animated Flash links where you do not want search engines to crawl can allow you to manage which links search engine do and do not crawl from a page.
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CEO, Flying Cow Design
Attended University of Auckland
Lives in San Francisco Bay Area