SEO for Flash Websites

Flash Websites Need Superhero SEO Help

Even this Flash superhero has trouble with SEO.

Does your website use Adobe Flash or is it built entirely in Flash? (Not sure? Visit your site and right click – is “About Adobe Flash Player” one of the menu options? You have a Flash site.)

Although it might *look* cool (especially for portfolio sites), Flash is not the best format for search engines to read (and thus get your site to rank higher). Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz gets into the details of why Flash and SEO don’t play well together in this post (a few years old but still relevant).

SEO isn’t the only problem for Flash, Flash sites often:

  • have slower load times
  • are incompatible with mobile or tablet devices
  • crash (sad but true)
  • ultimately see higher bounce rates (due to all of the above)

Should you have a Flash website? The answer: probably not.

It’s true that if you’re just building your site or are redesigning, I’d recommend avoiding Flash.

Still stuck on a Flash site? or just don’t have the budget for a full redesign right now? Here are a few ideas on how to get the most SEO compatibility out of them – some of which will probably still require some web guy/gal support:

(listed in order of money/time involved)

1 – Start putting money away for a non-Flash site redesign. Even if you have a portfolio site, there are a lot of visually engaging but still SEO-friendly formats available – like these WordPress themes.

2 – Split your site up into multiple Flash files and keep your site’s navigation in HTML. One of the problems with Flash sites is that your entire site (About Us, Services, Contact, etc.) is viewed on one page according to search engines – (as opposed to or /services).  Splitting up your site lets Google index your site’s architecture (the layout/map of your site), giving it an idea of how important each page is.

3 – Build an identical (content-wise) site in HTML. This HTML version has to be the same content as your Flash site and not keyword or otherwise-stuffed – that would be seen as “black hat” and you could be penalized by Google. This version should also be served up anytime a visitor without Flash installed visits your site.

4 – Build a new site without Flash. HTML5 is slowly replacing Flash as a crawlable alternative but with the right web person, you can probably get a similar feel with CSS and other languages (or the right WordPress theme).

If all of your business comes from offline, word-of-mouth referrals and you have no interest in your site being anything more than a portfolio hub you send along to already-found prospects, by all means, keep your Flash site. However, if you plan on using your site as a means for online lead generation, you should make converting your site into something non-Flash an important item on your to-do list.

What about you? Do you have a Flash site? Have you been able to get a lot of your site seen by Google or other search engines? Did you find this useful? Let me know in the comments!

Looking for more on SEO? Check out my Pocket-Size Checklist for On-Site SEO or Signs You May Be Signing Up for an SEO Scam.

photo credit: JD Hancock via photo pin cc

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4 Responses so far.

  1. not sure if I know anyone with a flash based site (anymore)… and now I know why. If they want to be found, anyway.

    Great tips on transitioning from flash to html.

    • Liz Lockard says:

      Thanks Joyce! Flash is definitely not as popular as it used to be but you’ll see it used a bit more among portfolio sites – photographers, graphic designers, etc. One day those will all be HTML5 – here’s hoping this post becomes obsolete soon! ha.

  2. My fiancée and I have been wrapping up our August wedding plans and a major part of that has been finding vendors to help us—food, balloons, invitations, photographers, etc. It’s amazing to see such an untapped market for web design! A majority of people we tried to contact had Flash-based sites. A lot of our final choices have been based on their presentation up-front and those Flash sites don’t help.

    The problem is that they see Flash-based sites as an easy—and cheap—way to get a website made and online. They think the final result looks “cool”, they save money to make it (which sets a negative standard for pricing in our industry), and they mostly never use mobile to check their own site to find out why it doesn’t load. Within the past weeks, my fiancée was trying out different hair stylists and found two different people who had the exact same Flash website design. Turns out they both bought the same pre-made Flash template.

    WordPress is ridiculously awesome for these types of business owners, and I agree with you that if they are going to just buy a theme anyway, it might as well be a premium WordPress theme optimized for ease of use and SEO (although WP has *many* plugins to assist as well).

    I grew up learning Flash since from Macromedia Flash 2 when I was in middle school. I still use Flash, but now I use it to create cartoons and experiment with mobile gaming. Flash had a place on the web once, but I don’t see it being very useful with mobile being the future. The challenge is getting clients to see the benefits of ditching Flash and investing a couple more dollars in a professional site.

    We can say all we want that we don’t judge a book by its cover, but for me, if your website doesn’t load on my iPad/iPhone, you’ve lost me as a customer.

    Great post! Definitely happy I subscribed to the blog updates. Looking forward to reading more!

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