SEO Comments from a Flash Developer

The Flash Developer in question presented at a local Meet-up this week. A topic that was brought up repeatedly was Flash and it’s impact on SEO. The developer, who appeared (to me) to promote Flash sites stated that the lack of “on page” elements to optimize was countered by eventual links into the sites.

I’d like to offer a counter opinion. I’ll limit my soapbox to SEO, and not touch upon usability.

Flash was deemed 99% bad by Jakob Nielsen in 2000. Since then, the design & developer community has reigned in the wild, excessive, and non-standard use of Flash. It has now become an effective tool used by the web community.

I’d still like to counter the Flash developer’s remarks that on page optimization is not important, links are enough. The developer also stated that his work gets ranked.

So I perform a very brief test on his statement (the developer might know something I don’t). One of the sites in his portfolio is reytracer.com. I searched on the term “Ray Tracer.” The site was ranked; #20 (page 2). Here is how the search result appears in Google:

raytracer.com
GET FLASH
www.raytracer.com/ – 3k CachedSimilar pagesNote this

The site appears to be for an artist (paintings, sculptures). The only way to find this site is to know the artist’s name and to be persistent to look on page 2 of the search results. Once there, the results provide no information about the site (GET FLASH is non-descriptive). And since the site itself is embedded into the HTML page, every page, view, or Flash screen has the same page <title>. So returning results from sections of the site is impossible.

So yes, obtaining links into the site (or HTML container) can get you ranked. However, with 1,640,000 results returned, is this an effective way to rank appropriately?

Bottom line: Flash can be used effectively to enhance a site and still support SEO.

Here’s my take on optimizing for sites with Flash:

  • Use Flash to embellish content (text) on the site.
  • The primary content should not be embedded in a Flash movie, unless the content is not important for providing the search engines information (example: a transactional application with a Flash UI)
  • Flash sites (sites entirely embedded in Flash movies) are fine for portfolio work

Some other resources I’ve found:

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