Avoid Search Engine Roadblocks in Macromedia Flash MX
By Andrew Gerhart, 5/1/2002
The Internet has grown over the past years in exponential amounts, which has
had both positive and negative effects. The Internet in essence, should be a
network of websites that contain valuable information and services that cater
to one person or another. There is no law that says that a website must be flat.
Although this is true, the use of Flash in current times has deemed some important
websites that contain good information un-findable via the search engines.
When a search engine indexes a website it will send a spider or robot to crawl
through the HTML documents of a website, and it will decipher depending on the
HTML content whether or not it will index the site in their database. It also
deciphers from this process which search terms or keywords the website will
appear in the search engines under.
The problem is that the search engines are not currently indexing Flash, and
can't read the information contained within the Flash. This means that all of
the important information, or an entire category of your site that is built
with Flash is not readable by the search engines and therefore not able to be
I visit a certain website every so often that posts links to other sites with
exceptional designs. I followed a link from this site recently to this site:
http://www.ecko.com/. This website has an excellent design, but utilizes Flash
for the navigation, content, links, and everything else. After navigating through
the site for a few minutes I noticed that they sell shoes and other apparel.
I then went to Google and performed a search for shoes and then for apparel... nowhere
to be found. I then went to Overture's
target=_blank>keyword suggestion tool, and performed a search for apparel
and then for shoes. In the month of August, the keyword “apparel” was searched
for 33,124 times and “shoes” was searched for 196,733 times. This is the amount
of potential customers that Ecko is missing out on, mainly because they use
Flash and more importantly because they do not use it correctly.
There is a proper way to use Flash on a website and a very bad way to use Flash.
If you are going to use Flash, there are a few things to remember when designing
or building your site:
Do not use Flash for the navigational structure
Do not have all of your important content contained in the
- Do not use huge Flash objects that make the pages too large in size
You must remember the users on dial-up connections that will
not wait 5 minutes to see your Flash movie
Do not make the site too complicated or too confusing, as
this will deter potential customers
From the few things above, you might think that there is no actual use for
Flash, and you are partially right. Think of the negative effects that your
website will see as a result of having the whole site built in Flash:
Losing potential customers
Beaten by competitors
Losing traffic to the website
Missing out on exposure on the Internet
Customers leaving website as a result of download times
Missing out on important branding possibilities
The one way to use Flash on your website that will not hinder your capabilities
of visibility and success on the Internet is to have Flash as an option. There
are many sites on the Internet that have the Index page with the option of entering
the Flash version or the HTML version. The problem with this is that they cannot
optimize this page, and will have to optimize the HTML version of the website.
If the HTML version is optimized, then the users will not be as easily able
to reach the Flash version if it is desired.
What is the alternative? Build your website in HTML, and then build another
version in Flash. On every page of the HTML version have a button or link somewhere
prominent on the page that will give the visitor the option of entering the
Flash version. If this is done, then the website will not miss out on the things
mentioned above, and the visitor is less likely to be frustrated with the website.
Andrew Gerhart is the Director of Search Engine Optimization at Top Site
Listings, a subdivision of Orbidex Incorporated. Gerhart is also the
moderator of the Search Engine Promotion forum at WebMasterWorld.com, a
leading SEO forum.
More articles from Andrew can be found here.