Now that Adobe has released some new technology to Google and Yahoo!, search engine crawlers can crawl Flash files. That means now, after years of being incompatible, there's a set of Flash SEO best practices you can use to stay ahead of the competition.
SEO for Flash websites is now a reality.
The Old Days of Flash
Interactive web sites usually included one HTML page, with an embedded Flash file which doubled as the entire website. The navigation and all "pages" of the website were located within this one Flash file.
Search engines had a couple problems with this model. The websites lacked site structure, links, and unique page titles—all the things that are important to SEO.
Flash hid all the most important elements from search engine crawling, such as text, alt image tags, links, navigation structure, and more. Until recently, "Flash SEO" was an oxymoron.
We had been advising clients not to include too much "searchable" content within a Flash file. We blatantly refused to create an all Flash based web site, since, as an SEO company, this was a cardinal sin.
There was no way to make the information contained in a Flash file available to search engines, which essentially made each completely Flash website completely invisible.
Although Adobe's tweaks to their software has finally made crawling Flash sites possible, there are still some unanswered questions.
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Does Flash SEO Mean Great Rankings for Existing Flash Websites?
All-Flash websites that were designed before July 2008 had no reason to be search-engine friendly. Because search engines could not index their content, there was no reason to factor searchability into the design process.
Even now, best practices for Flash SEO aren't completely established. It will take some time to establish this new set of standards, but existing all-Flash websites are notoriously unfriendly to traditional SEO techniques. Simply said, Flash websites and SEO still don't mesh perfectly.
Most existing all-Flash websites are a hodgepodge of links and dead-ends with no pre-determined navigation structure. Search engines HATE this type of construction, which is why we predict that traditional SEO websites will continue to dominate search engine results pages, even as SEO for Flash websites becomes more common.
Does Flash SEO Mean Prettier Websites?
Although Flash SEO is still in its infancy, you can look forward to much prettier websites. The Flash SEO problem hindered talented designers who could have made beautiful pages with Flash, but hesitated because of the search engine impediments. Basically, SEO and Flash websites just couldn't work together.
Also, even though a completely all-Flash website is still a risky move until some Flash SEO standards are established, the ability to follow links makes Flash technology much more useful. As Flash develops more, SEO for flash based websites will become more common.
Will Flash SEO Improve Search Engine Results for the Average User?
Some early research has found a few potentially troubling problems.
One problem is "Flash bombing." Because Google’s robots index all links in a Flash video (even the hidden ones), it is possible for deviant developers to hide hundreds of invisible links. Search engines determine rankings based heavily on links, so the opportunity for spamming is tremendous.
In the late nineties, linking problems like this caused a major headache for search engines. The SERPs were filled with spam from unethical linking practices. It took a few years for Google to find a solution to the problem.
Until something is done, Google's ability to follow Flash links opens up Pandora's box for spammers without addressing the legitimate methods on how to SEO Flash websites. SEO for Flash sites may not be completely feasible until this issue is properly addressed.
It remains to be seen what impact Flash SEO will have on the future of search engine rankings. As a cutting edge Internet Marketing agency, we can’t wait to start experimenting.
Should I Use Flash on My Website?
While we don't necessarily recommend implementing Flash on every page of your website just because the text can now be optimized, you can use Flash elements sparingly to further special effects on your site.
For Flash website SEO, we recommend balancing other elements of your site, like text, images, and interactive elements (including sliders and HTML5) with Flash. If you do feel the need to include Flash animation, you should work with an SEO company, like WebFX, to ensure it's fully optimized and indexed. Contact us for a free quote and to find out how we can do this for you.