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Yes it’s true… and just when we got developers to start understanding why using Flash to build entire web sites wasn’t cool – we have to start the discussion all over again. How annoying is that?

Yes, Google can index Flash – meaning they can extract text & links when implemented correctly. But this isn’t exactly new. They’ve been able to do this for a while now, but the results have pretty much sucked. This announcement just made it official and talked about some of the ‘improvements’ they’ve made in indexing Flash.

Now that Google can officially index Flash – that doesn’t mean you should build your entire site in Flash and expect to knock it out of the park when it comes to search. There are still lots of problems with building in Flash – not the least of which is usability (Have you ever tried to send someone a link from a page within an all Flash site or access a Flash website through your mobile device?). When it comes to SEO though, where we’re at now is a little step above a “your site is Flash – it won’t get indexed”.

Straight from Google – what they can & can’t do with Flash files:

Google Webmaster Central Blog: Improved Flash Indexing

Google Webmaster Central Help: Creating a Google Friendly Site: Flash, images & other non-text files

  • They still can’t deal with JavaScript and a lot of Flash is executed via JavaScript… that means it won’t get indexed anyway
  • They still can’t index images within your Flash file
  • They don’t get anchor text from Flash buttons
  • Just ’cause Google can extract text & links from Flash files, that doesn’t mean other search engines can

Other reasons to avoid Flash development:
If your number 1 competition for a search phrase is wikipedia, your Flash site ain’t gonna cut it

Like Google says above, they can’t index images within your Flash file… Most Flash files aren’t very heavy on words – so your ranking probably isn’t going to change as a result

Many Flash based applications require user input to render content. According to the announcement, Googlebot may interact with the application and get to a result that it publishes in the search results, but if a user clicks on that result, they’ll still have to interact with the application to get to the content. Can you say ‘bounce rate’?

Most Flash based sites don’t generate distinct URLs for each page, so if a user clicks through on a result, they may have to click around before finding the content that they want. Again, can you say ‘bounce rate’? On top of that – users who visit your Flash based site and want to send a friend a link to a particular page aren’t going to be able to do it. That’s frustrating.

Conclusion

Am I against Flash across the board? No. There are ways to correctly introduce Flash into web site design and it can be an excellent way to communicate or illustrate information, but it has to be implemented correctly. Hint: your site should still have pages with HTML content on them and Flash should only be a part of the page. But if getting found in search engines is critical to your business, I would not recommend building your site in Flash.


Updates & Links:

Ben Lloyd

About Ben Lloyd

Ben Lloyd serves as Principal at Add3 and manages the agency’s Portland office.  Ben got his start in SEM way back in 1999 – when there was like, 15 search engines and Google was barely a thing. Prior to Add3, Ben had founded Amplify Interactive in 2003 (which was acquired by Add3 in 2013), and hasn’t looked back since. Ben likes lots of stuff like golf, pinball, food(ie), booze/beer/wine – in that order, etc. Mostly – he likes doing that stuff with his friends. Ben is also co-founder of SEMpdx. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn

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