Flash Search Engine Optimization
Our first tip for optimizing with Flash is: don’t. If you just create your site in HTML, you’ll know your design will be search engine friendly because HTML is what search engines are best at. All search engines can spider basic HTML documents. In order for a search engine to spider a Flash document, its developers have to download and install the Macromedia SDK kit. And why make search engines go out of their way to get to your files?
Creating a whole website in Flash is just a bad idea. Although they look “flashy”–pardon the pun–they are not search engine friendly. On top of that–in our humble opinion–90% of Flash websites are not user-friendly either. And on top of that, you usually need special software to make minor changes. So, every time you want to put up a news article or change a misspelling, you have to hire an expert to do it.
Flash Optimization Tips
If you really, really feel that you can’t live without building a website in Flash, there are a few things you can do to make your website more search engine friendly:
- The best thing to do is to place your Flash files inside of regular HTML files. This way you can at least include the META information. Even better, put some HTML above or below the Flash element to provide some spider-able content for search engines.
- Include plenty of text in your Flash files. Search engines that can read Flash files (with the Macromedia SDK) will still only see the text. So, make sure that it is relevant and keyword rich.
- Make sure the text in your Flash files is something that you want the search engines to see. “Click Here to Enter” is not very good spider-food.
- Google follows links in Flash files. So use keyword-rich anchor text, just like you would with regular HTML.
- Provide a non-Flash version of the site for spiders. This is also good for those without the Flash player plugin and those with slow connections.
- Name files correctly. That is, include keywords in the file names separated by dashes. For example, flash-optimization.html
The following methods are legit, but have great potential for abuse:
- You may consider putting your Flash website into frames and placing an HTML version of the website in the NOFRAMES tag. Of course, search engines don’t particularly like frames either, but this is certainly preferable to having a pure flash page. See more on search engine optimization for frames.
- The Macromedia Flash Accessibility Kit allows you to export the text from your Flash file to a NOSCRIPT tag. Do this. This tag is read by screen-reader users and those without Flash players. The contents of this tag can also be read by search engines.
If you use either of the above methods. Please, do not abuse these tags. These tags are there for a reason: to make the Internet more accessible to all. They are not created for you to use them as keyword dumps. Place valid content in these tags. If you use the NOFRAMES tag, create an actual HTML document that you would want users to see if they did not support frames. If you use the NOSCRIPT tag make sure that it contains information that you would like those with accessibility issues to see (or hear). For the sake of everyone involved in optimization and to preserve the integrity of search results for users–do not stuff keywords in these tags.
If SEO’s begin to abuse these tags as SEO’s and webmasters abused the keyword tags–they will make the tags useless for all. Search engines will be forced to ignore the content within the tags. And the legit use for the tags will be ruined for everyone.
What not to do in Flash
There are scripts out there that will detect the presence of a human vs. a search engine visitor, and will deliver “appropriate” content to each. That is, it will deliver the Flash pages to a visitor, and search-engine-friendly HTML pages to search engines.
This practice, however, is exactly what search engines DON’T want you to do. They want to see exactly what a real visitor is seeing. Such cloaking of pages holds a huge potential for abuse. And it is our opinion that directing search engines to a set of non-Flash web pages is spam.
What Search Engines See Using SDK
SDK is the software provided by Macromedia that search engine developers must download and integrate into their search engine if they wish to see Flash files.
If you know the full URL of the flash movie, there is a useful Flash Viewer at SearchGuild. It displays how search engines using Macromedia’s SDK will see your Flash web pages. This does not work if you do not know the FULL path, including the name of the .swf file.