Flash is awesome! Wait a second… You just heard Flash was awful somewhere else? What is it? Is it something awesome or a horrible curse to your site? Web designers and SEO professionals often clash over the use of Flash in websites. For web designers, Flash allows them to expand on their creativity but for an SEO professional, Flash severely limits the online performance of the website and the search engine performance. It looks great when used properly, but the previous statement cannot be denied.
Google suggests that Flash be used sparingly because Googlebot can index only the links and text. They are trying to index Flash, but so far it hasn’t worked out all that great. The actual structure and context can’t be deciphered by the Googlebot, which makes the page useless when it comes to search engine performance. Google also tells webmasters to use Flash content only for certain aspects of the website such as for rich media and to rely on the HTML content for the site’s navigation and content. ( A perfect example of this is YouTube which has undoubtedly done it better than anyone on a large scale. Their model which allows the web designers to show their creativity is spectacular.) The aim is to keep your SEO professionals from complaining, while giving your site the best look possible. It is the best of both worlds.
The problem, for some, is that although Googlebot is at least able to index the content partially and extract the links, other search engine bots will not even be able to understand Flash content at all. Google has actually come a long way in being able to crawl sites with lots of images and Flash, and is very transparent about how to make your site more Search Engine friendly. Still, it is far from perfect. You need to rely on HTML for best ranking if you are serious about
being found on the web. Don’t use black hat tricks to balance the effects of Flash content by turning to cloaking, hidden text and doorway pages. You’ll always get caught sooner or later. It goes without saying that all webmasters should avoid these black hat tricks. The best advice you can get on Flash is to simply limit Flash to headers and use the search engine friendly HTML for rest of the pages. That is what seems to work the best and Google concurs with.
Flash websites take a long time to load which irritates the users with low speed internet connection AND now causes a penalty in PageRank for slow loading speed. This is not a small problem like it was several years ago. Some webmasters create two versions – one on Flash and another on HTML. Flash can be overrated – you could spend the additional time and money required for Flash making your HTML website so professional you don’t need gimmicks. Highly professional looking websites can be created using HTML and still be heavily SEO conscious. This is nothing more than a matter of using the right people to do the job. The first question you should ask your website designer and SEO team ask is, “Will the website you design perform well in the search engines?” If they can’t immediately say yes and tell you why – you have the wrong designer. Move on to the next candidate.
Relying on Flash can make you miss out on all the keywords that are found in the content; but if you make your website search engine friendly by avoiding unnecessary Flash content, you will be able to benefit in more ways than just search engine availability. You will make your website more easily accessible for visitors using some non-standard browsers that do not support your latest Flash formats, or what viewers experience when they have low speed internet connection. When internet users view your website through non PC format, such as PDAs and mobiles or smaller devices, using Flash content extensively can reduce the accessibility factor Bottom line – use Flash sparingly, if at all! Yes it looks great, but it also comes with the cost of being potentially anonymous.