Flash-based sites have problems with SEO or “Skip This Intro”

Update: I laughed out loud after reading this post theGoogleCache.com. View the Should I Make a Flash Site Flowchart?

Using Flash is a slippery slope, even Adobe’s Flash page is light on the Flash. I hesitate to bring up this topic as it can be very heated. Why, I myself used to be an avid Flash developer about 8 years ago. But back then not many people understood the concept of SEO or Internet Marketing and Google was just a twinkle in the Internet’s watchful eye.

Well, now SEO has become one of the fasting growing industries on the Internet and Flash has lost some of it’s…well, Flash. In other words, more often than not, we search frantically for the “Skip This Intro” button when we see animation start flying around the screen. If not the first time then definitely the second time. We don’t have time for Flash intros and tedious downloads in today’s world. We want information and we want it fast. Flash is contrary to this in many cases.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Flash, and think it can be helpful and entertaining of sites for entertainment, gaming and site’s that have inherit brand popularity such as Coca-Cola. Most of us running a business on the web need visitors, customers, users and clients coming to our sites. Truth is though, it is hard to find a Flash website vs. a non-Flash website. Yes, I know that Flash can be indexed, I also know that an HTML site will beat a Flash site every time when all things are equal.

Of course, using Flash in a traditional website can be fine and dandy. When used efficiently, Flash can enhance a website without damaging it’s search engine rankings. But Flash must be used with caution.

If all of your content and menus are in Flash, search engines will have a harder time following the links. If you feel strongly about using Flash, be sure to create an HTML version of the page as well. Your users will thank you as they will now be able to find your site with the help of the search engines. You may wish to block the Flash version of your pages from the crawlers with a robots.txt file, since you don’t want your pages indexed twice. If your website contains Flash, be sure put the navigation outside of the Flash content or the search engine spiders won’t be able to navigate your site. Your content should also reside outside of Flash’s influence.

Think of Flash as accent material for you site. Use it for graphical call outs, product images, interactive portions of your site and anywhere you can enhance the user experience without causing problems for the spiders or confusion for the user. Remember, never use Flash as your entire site if you want any search engine visibility. This is important because you can optimize the page title, meta tags and other content placed on individual pages making sure each web page is unique.

Finally, give your users a Flash and a HTML version of your site. Watch the visitor stats and I’m betting you see a much higher number of visitors view the low-bandwidth verision of your website. In any case you will have given the spiders something to follow and the search engines something to index and searchers something find. It may seem like extra work, but the traffic you will acquire from it will be worth it.