Why doesn’t my site show up in Google? If I had a nickle for every time I heard that question. A typical answer a couple of years ago would have been “well, of course it doesn’t show up, you built it in Flash!” But then Google started indexing Flash, and has since continued to improve their Flash search algorithms, recently adding the capability to index external Flash resources.
So Google can index Flash (.swf) files, that’s great you say. But does that mean if you build your site in Flash you can really get objectively good SEO results? Well, the answer is not that simple, although in theory it should be possible.
Of course, techniques have existed for quite some time to allow Google to index alternative content in the object tag for Flash. And a least one such technique, utilizing SWFObject to load the Flash and the alternative content, specifically an image with ALT text, is officially endorsed by Adobe.
I recently came across an interesting set of Flash SEO experiments, which show how Flash does get picked up by Google.
It is nice to see that indeed, if you build your Flash site correctly, you can show up in search engine results. Embedded text in Flash files is indexed, even if that content is loaded with SWFObject, or if it is pulled in from an external source.
The fact that Google is now indexing Flash content is an important step forward for those who want to use the technology for a rich multimedia experience. However, I am still not entirely convinced about sites that are purely built in Flash. In fact, even Adobe themselves suggest that at least the main navigation of your site be in HTML.
If SEO is a serious concern, my general recommendation to clients is that if they want to incorporate rich media in their sites, they use a hybrid of HTML for the text based content, and Flash for the multimedia aspect of the site, if possible. Hybrid layouts offer a lot of benefits over purely Flash based sites.
The problem with 100% Flash sites is in order to get your site to really do well on the SEO front, you are still essentially going to have to build two versions of your site, a Flash version and an HTML version. And depending on your budget, this could be too costly to develop. Smartly built hybrid HTML/Flash sites can offer the same multimedia experience while still providing excellent SEO results.