Search Engine Optimization

Is Flash Good for SEO?

By March 9, 2010 December 3rd, 2012 31 Comments

As of right now, it’s still not a great idea to mix Flash and SEO unless you really know what you’re doing. If you’re trying to rank higher on search engines, it’s probably a good idea to not overload your site with Flash.  While there have been strides by the search engines to parse Flash files and grab the readable text, unless you set this up properly, chances are the Flash will end up hurting your rankings.

When to use Flash

Flash is a great tool if you have a complicated product that needs more explanation or if you need entertainment value on the website.  Secondly, with the increase in mobile internet use, Flash is still not visible on the latest iPhone and Blackberry, so it’s likely those visitors will be bouncing.  At Pear, we’re getting about 20% of our visitors from mobile devices, so you could be losing out on those visitors with a Flash landing page.

Alternative solutions to Flash

But now we can use AJAX and other javascript techniques, like sliders and expanders, to uniquely display content without bombarding the visitor with content, and yet it’s all still readable by the search engine.  Check out how ServerBeach, a dedicated hosting company, uses javascript sliders instead of Flash to nicely organize lots of information.

Setting up proper use of Flash

If you or your developer still insist on using Flash, there are some ways that you can set up your code to optimize it for SEO, and it has to do with accessibility programming.  This blog post by Jonathan Hochman is a great overview of the multiple ways you can set this up using SWFObject 2.0, or even SIFR in some cases, although I understand SIFR is more used for typography enhancements, where you would like to use a non-standard web font, but get credit for the text in an H1 tag for example.

The SWFObject method provides a way to include alternate HTML content on the page which is visible in your source code, and all it uses is a tiny javascript file.  This stems from the Web Accessibility Initiative which says all multimedia content should have an alternative way of accessing the content.

Ryan Kelly

Ryan Kelly

Ryan is the founder and CEO of Pear Analytics and has helped hundreds of customers with their Internet marketing since 2003. He has spoken on various topics of SEO, Analytics and other marketing at conferences in New York, Chicago and Vancouver. Clients he has consulted include Sears, KMart, CareerBuilder and PEER 1 Hosting. Ryan currently teaches two Internet marketing classes at Trinity University in San Antonio.

31 Comments

  • Goalranks says:

    More seo business now, and also more competition. thanks for sharing

  • Lovers says:

    Itlook like you take a lot time to update your blog, cos I found your blog is very useful to me.

  • I found your article very thought provoking. The way it was written made me look at things from a different angle and think about what I originaly thought, why not visit us :-).I will definately be back again.

  • Very good primer on the subject and should help many businesses better understand SEO. I will be recommending it.

  • Tony Hulls says:

    I think flash isn’t bad for websites, what’s bad is the lack of anything else. Flash is perfect for integration into a website, I just wouldn’t want to have one purely based on flash…at least not if SEO is important for that site.

  • Ryan Kelly says:

    Good point, Tony. We still see a lot of sites that use Flash improperly by not having alternate content, or having little or no HTML on the page as well. Advanced site owners and developers can use Flash properly and still maintain good SEO value.

  • Yeah, it is hard to make a flash website and mantain good SEO value in the same time

  • Ryan Kelly says:

    @Rudolph I think if the developer sticks to the standards for handicap accessibility, you can generally make Flash more SEO friendly.

  • alter ego says:

    Nice article Ryan! I found another one –> http://www.wow.gr/acceleratesuccess/2010/07/seo-flash/ that explains how you can make Flash sites Google friendly. Do you think that the solution they describe works?

  • csp says:

    Thank you very much .

  • R.B.Roberts says:

    Just had 2 of my sites checked by you,I have flash on one of them and the page load time is over 8 seconds-not good.Whats worst is that they have no page rank under 100,000.Time for SEO work but not sure where to get the best deal for a reasonable price?

  • Ryan Kelly says:

    R.B.,

    You can do a lot of the work yourself, believe it or not. We can help you through some of the technical weeds….just catch us on chat during the day 🙂

  • Shalon says:

    Great!! Thanks for sharing

  • Steve says:

    Absolutely in total agreement with you.

  • designbyarm says:

    Thanks you for share your article useful for my new flash website ^^.

  • At this moment Google is reading inside the flash and there is options to build website in Flash with deep-linking. The Flash website can be also be SEO like any other website. There is difference of amnount of content indexed. Sure you can’t compete (yet) with html content, but is getting there. Anyhow, good article with options. Thank you.

  • pinigines says:

    Search engines can’t interpret the objects like flash. In another hand you can add a small part of website with flash and get better keyword density with text and links. Whole page with flash is bad choice.

  • I think flash isn’t bad for websites, what’s bad is the lack of anything else. Flash is perfect for integration into a website, I just wouldn’t want to have one purely based on flash…at least not if SEO is important for that site.

  • Ryan Kelly says:

    Flash isn’t bad, however, most site owners are not using it in a search-friendly way. Plus they lack the alternate images/text for mobile versions of their site, so the usability is terrible on hardware like the iPhone.

  • Colin Hall says:

    As far as I can see Google has spent the past 12 months incorporating a deep understanding for blogs into it’s algo. Any flash within a blog will be welcomed as a positive thing at the moment, personal site flash is a different matter altogether.

  • Ryan Kelly says:

    Hi Colin,

    can you share any specific examples?

  • sosbuys says:

    Thanks you for share your article useful for my new flash website

  • There is difference of amnount of content indexed.?

  • Steve says:

    I think another point to raise in regards to Flash is that it’s not only a pain in the neck to optimize for SEO, but also problematic from a usability standpoint. AJAX oriented technologies and the advent of HTML5 are creating better solutions that can be deployed in SEO friendly manners that won’t drive users away.

    One of my biggest pet peeves with Flash are taking away user choices, such as pre-load screens, static timed transitions, navigation through Flash, etc. This just ticks a user off and makes them want to leave, on top of being hard to manage from an SEO perspective.

  • Ryan Kelly says:

    Thanks for the comment Steve. You might find this recent article from the Google Webmaster blog on how they are getting much better at indexing SWF: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2010/11/what-feeling-even-better-indexing-of.html

  • Simon says:

    If we are talking about SEO, I think that html is the way to go for bots to track down and index, flash does not really have any SEO value. My friend (who’s an SEO expert) advised me not to use flash in my webpages, but using pictures are great as long as I use alternate text. Do you think that his advice is accurate? I guess flash is ok if you are an expert and you know how to use them appropriately.

  • Ryan Kelly says:

    Hi Simon,

    I still feel HTML is the best way to go. You can do a lot with AJAX and javascript now, and even HTML5, where the need for Flash just isn’t really justified in most cases. But on the other hand, Google is getting much better at indexing Flash content (see the link in my previous comment).

  • Is not secret what plane HTML page ir best for seo 🙂

  • Papildai says:

    Thanks for the new idea. Great post, hope you won’t stop 🙂

  • aistejaLT says:

    good article. good idea. needs to be exploited and offer them to friends.thank you

  • In my own experience flash is total..s… I have 10 websites for eg.:  http://www.greitasreisas.lt
    None of websites with flash design doesnt have good rankings in Google. But if website with no flash and with less in formation… Rankings are always better,
    So, i think, Flash is going down…

Leave a Reply