All Flash Websites - Just Say No

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: by Dante Monteverde :

Google now indexes Flash… but should you create an all flash site?

Last month Google rolled out a new algorithm that allows them to index flash pages. Google Search Spider, Googlebot, can now navigate flash pages and index the text it finds. It’s now possible for your flash pages to come up in the Google Search Engine Result Pages (SERP’s). But before you or your web designer convinces you that now is the time you should create an all flash web site. Here are a few things you should consider before creating an all Flash web site.

From a Search Engine Optimization Perspective (SEO):

1.    On-Page SEO is effective when you pay attention to detail. Placing the correct keywords in the correct HTML tags is essential. So you want make sure your titles, meta descriptions, header tags, internal link text, alt tags, etc are all optimized with your keywords in mind. However when Googlebot visits an all flash site all it indexes is text. The Google spider doesn’t see any of the tags within your site and to make things worse the loading message on your flash site is often displayed as your title on the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Often times your description displayed on the Google SERP’s isn’t something relevant as well. So even if you do get indexed and ranked high your title and description is not going to attract people to click on it.

2.    Most Flash sites are just one big file. What that means is each internal page does not have its own unique URL. So when people link to your site they are just linking to your home page or index page. This means that your internal pages will never get any incoming links. It’s going to be very difficult to achieve and significant Search Engine Rankings when you only have on page to work with.
 So having an all Flash web site presents both On-Page and Off-Page SEO problems.

From a Usability and Accessibility Perspective:

They days of the all flash site or flash intro page are dwindling. Now Search Engines are even creating options to skip the flash intro and go straight to the web site. In addition, flash navigation is often done incorrectly and leaves your web site visitors frustrated and leads to a high abandonment rate.  While there are still viable reasons for creating flash elements. It’s best to embed these elements into HTML so the Search Engines can correctly spider and index your website. I’m not advocated that you avoid Flash altogether, Flash can be a very powerful tool if used correctly. The challenge is to find the proper mix of Flash and HTML that best allows you to convey your message to your web site visitors and still be Search Engine Friendly.

Happy SEOing.

SEO Corner

About the Author:

Dante A. Monteverde is a Search Strategist specializing in Search Engine Optimization.
He founded Spider Bait SEO in 1996 and has over 10 years of SEO experience.

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BrettG 09-05-2008 4:34 PM

I am actually very disappointed in the blanket recommendations of this article.  Like many technologies, flash can easily be used incorrectly when it comes to SEO. This article made no attempt at providing recommendations for good flash SEO practices like: Unique page titles, unique deep linking url methods, the use of XML and proper page content that search engines CAN index correctly.  

All of these are possible and highly recommended best practices when developing Flash sites to ensure proper SEO.     swfAddress helps address many of the above techniques for both Flash and AJAX.

Nike, Mazda, Rolex, and Wilson are prime examples of leveraging Flash sites to create strong visually engaging sites that are also user and search engine friendly.

Id love to see a follow up article talking about the promotion / recommendations / best practice techniques for ensuring your Flash sites get indexed correctly and the benefits of a Flash HTML hybrid site.

MikeH 09-05-2008 7:21 PM

To see a site with incredible SEO and extensive use of flash take a look at

BrentD 09-08-2008 2:06 PM

Good article and very valid points that almost every flash developer wlll try to argue no doubt, it kind of puts them on a back burner and not as "in demand" obviously. Every professional web designer/developer should be 100% aware of these facts and understand their limitations with Flash.

To Brett, I partially agree with what you are saying however the original point in the article was that an ALL flash website is where the problems are. And you are preaching hybrid with HTML, obviously a different story altogether.

To Mike, nice site and somewhat SEO but not completely (google "suv shreveport" and you will see), also way too much busy animation going on, the landing page is functional but distracting and somewhat confusing for an everyday user.

JamieV 09-10-2008 12:34 PM

I agree with BrentD.  

Flash is just the wrong way to build sites these days with the way things are going.  It isn't a bad idea to use them for targeted landing pages in direct marketing campaigns to give the consumer some "WOW effect", but outside of this, a true HTML page is hard to beat.

I think the only reason that Google and others develop the technology to read flash sites is so that they can try to catalog more sites, to better themselves, not so that flash developers and can start using them more. It’s a workaround for a big problem that is out there because a lot of people have misused and abused flash.

Plus if the website needs to be changed (price, phone number, email, personnel change), the flash developer needs to do it, the user/owner can’t edit it easily.

As far as the example given by MikeH, that page is somewhat SEO'ed, but the internal pages have no rank, and a lot of the info included on the homepage is repeated on all the internal pages, instead of unique, different meaningful content, that would help it's PR and SEO.

Just my two cents...

Spider Bait SEO 10-02-2008 8:24 AM

Yes the article was intended to address the dangers of an ALL Flash site. Just b/c Google is indexing flash sites it doesn't necessarily mean they are going to rank high on the SERP's.

Brett, excellent point. SWFaddress is a step in the right direction. But until this becomes more mainstream HTML pages will continue to rank better on the search engines. But I like where we are going with this.

Brent and Jamie, excellent rebuttals. The bottom line is use Flash when necessary and not just because you think it looks "Cool". Flash should have a purpose on a website, to be used to drive home a message when normal HTML just won't suffice.

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