Search Engine Optimization For Your Flash Site
There was as question over at DigitalPoint asking whether or not it’s possible to optimize a Web site that is entirely Flash. The answer is yes, I just wouldn’t recommend it.
The search engines have made some pretty impressive strides when it comes to indexing Flash elements, the problem is they’re still not perfect. While they can pick out links and text, they can’t yet put it into context. It’s a bit like having a conversation with your 3-year-old nephew, or trying to engage Susan. They hear the words; they just don’t know how to process them. But search engine optimization issues aside, designing your site entirely in Flash isn’t even good from a user perspective.
Think about the sites you visit and how you interact with them. Do you enjoy landing on sites solely constructed in Flash? Sites that often make you sit through a 2 minutes video before entering, sites with "clever" navigation that only a 3-year-old can use, sites with lots of things floating around? I don’t. It takes away from the content, and that’s the last thing you want to do. I’m definitely the type that unless I’m really invested in your content, I’m not going to waste my time trying to click on the funny button at the precise angle needed just to get to a new screen. I’m going to go somewhere else.
When it comes to Flash, it’s best to think of it as a complement and not a replacement to a good HTML site. Incorporate Flash elements, but save your need to dazzle people with bullshit for your offline relationships.
If you are going to use Flash on your site, realize that you’ll also have to create HTML elements for everything you’re representing in Flash. Typically, we recommend designing your navigation, home page and important site pages in HTML. These are the mainstays that must be easily accessible both from a user and a search engine optimization standpoint. I should point out the obvious and say, yes, I realize that the Bruce Clay site uses Flash navigation. However, if you’ll notice, we also include text links at the bottom for each of our silos. And even though we have a Flash site map that I think is pretty sweet, we’ve also included a basic HTML version that is easily spiderable. Being somewhat well-versed in search engine optimization, we’ve decided to cover things from every angle.
If you are going to create a Flash version of your Web site, make sure that the content you’re rendering in Flash also appears within a noscript tag, otherwise the search engines won’t be able to spider it. Doing this gives both the search engines and your users access to content and will either show the Flash version or the non-Flash version based on whose visiting. If you would like to have Flash, and add content that is visible to the user, you can do that too. Generally, the population of noscript sections of the site have been done by reading the XML that also populates the content into the Flash. This is the preferred way as it guarantees that what is rendered in the noscript tags is the same as what is being rendered in Flash.
While you’re playing with your nonscript tags, don’t forget to include keyword-rich Meta and Title tags. And we shouldn’t even have to say this, but please don’t try and show the engines content that isn’t actually presented in the Flash files. This is bad and a great way to get yourself into a bunch of trouble.
The most important thing to remember when designing your site is that your visitors are there because they want to learn about you. Often too much Flash turns people off and will send them elsewhere.
Moral of the story: Flash elements, not a Flash site. Got it?
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