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Dispelling the Myths About SEO in Flash Web Design

Aug 6, 2008
The common belief is that because search engines don't index the content within a Flash website properly, the technology doesn't mix with SEO. The 'content is king' message is everywhere you look. Anyone with little knowledge would assume that your website needs to be HTML, with lots of keyword optimised text on each page and many pages, to do well with the search engines. But is this really true, or is it just a fallacy which IT based web 'developers' would have you believe in order to sell you their product and stifle creative design on the web?

Admittedly it's a no-brainer that some websites are much better suited to HTML, usually e-commerce sites and other large database driven sites, or sites with large amounts of text based content to display. But on the other hand some applications really benefit from the multimedia capabilities which Flash offers. Movie websites and many other arts based applications work much better as an audio visual experience and just wouldn't have the desired effect as a HTML site. But not everyone has the multi million dollar Hollywood budgets for marketing which can include advertising a website, so what if we have to rely heavily on search engines to drive traffic to the site?

It's not actually anywhere near as bad as you would think. In fact it's possible to achieve equal search engine ranking for your main keywords with an entirely Flash based site, compared to it's HTML counterpart.

The key to good search engine rankings is good, keyword targeted inbound links and meta tag optimization for those main keywords, not content. We recently tested a Flash website with good keyword targeted inbound links and optimized meta tags, both with keyword optimized HTML content on the page and without any HTML content at all on the page. As we suspected, in Google SERPs both versions produced identical results, the keyword rich content did nothing to improve the sites ranking for the main keywords.

Using special Flash version detection scripts to embed your Flash file is recommended, as it removes the need for an undesirable 'Download Flash Player here' link. Some of the better scripts also allow alternate HTML content (which is only displayed when the wrong or no version of Flash player is installed). This is in fact the content that search engines index, so it's a good opportunity to target low competition keywords and phrases in addition to your main keywords.

The fact of the matter is, these days it's impossible to get anywhere near a worthwhile positioning in search engine result with content alone. Keyword rich inbound links, along with optimized meta tags are becoming THE only way to get these top rankings. It's even possible to get a good ranking with keywords in inbound links alone, even if the site is not optimized for those keywords.

Flash based websites definitely have their place on the web. Admittedly, some sites lend themselves to HTML content based design, but on the other hand, a Flash based multimedia website is more beneficial to other applications. Generally, arts based and creative industries would be foolish to ignore the advantages of Flash and listen to the bogus claims of many SEO experts.
About the Author
Simon Walklate is a partner in Online Internet Marketing, Flash Web Designer and Developer The Motion Monkey, who specialise in Custom Branded Viral Flash Online Web Game Design and Development, based in Bristol, UK.
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