Can Flash Animation and SEO Live Together in Harmony?

There is an interesting debate going on over at Small Business Ideas Forum where forum member, Dale King, starts a thread entitled “The Truth About Flash Websites” where Dale lays out his arguments as to why Flash and SEO together are not a good idea. He summarizes by stating that while Flash may look fantastic and can admittedly add a lot to any presentation from an accessibility and SEO standpoint, it should be used very sparingly and only for non-crucial content.

He provides five reasons why a mix of Flash and SEO are a bad idea. I’ll summarize below.

  1. Search engines are not able to index text or content within a Flash file.
  2. Flash sites are very limited regarding the amount of content you can have because the text has to fit within the size of the file that’s been created.
  3. Flash sites can take a long time to load all of their elements meaning that you run the risk of losing prospects who won’t wait for your site to open.
  4. Visitors are required to have the correct Flash player installed in order to view your site. Visitors may have to wait for an updated version to download before they can actually use your site.
  5. Flash is not very cost effective in that Flash files are hard to update. If you change your website regularly, it can get quite expensive.

Another forum member, Russell who goes by Crimson Fox, comes in to defend Flash’s integrity. Russell is a Flash designer by profession and also happens to has SEO savvy as well. He makes the following arguments regarding Dale’s five reasons why Flash is a bad idea.

  1. While Dale’s first argument is true if you have an all-Flash site, There are ways to accommodate the search engines. By using html and JavaScript, you can load your flash site as long as the visitors browser meets certain requirements. If the visitor does not have Java or Flash running then a standard html page styled with CSS can be loaded in it’s place. Because search engines can’t respond to JavaScript or have Flash plug-ins, they will be served the html version of your site.
  2. The content that you load into your flash site is dependent on design. If you allow room or the ability to scroll a flash site there is no reason you can’t have the same amount of text content.
  3. Flash files are actually one of the most optimized formats on the web. The vector graphic options alone enable you to do more by using less bandwidth than pixel based options. If you site is huge, there is also no reason to load it all at once. There should be no reason that flash takes longer to load. Most holder SWF files that I create these days are less than 20k.
  4. If visitors don’t have Flash then then can see the html equivalent. Resulting in no loss of information.
  5. Flash is not hard to update for a professional Flash designer. Text information can populate a flash web site the same way as any content management system.

In conclusion to the argument, Dale is correct on item number 1, however Russell provides a work-around. Dale is wrong on items number 2 and 3. Dale is correct on item number 4 but having to wait for an updated version of Flash is a minor inconvenience in my opinion. And finally on number 5, Dale is both right and wrong. It really all depends on how the site was constructed (like any site) and the skill level of the Flash designer.

Flash animation is very cool for a lot of good reasons. However, one has to plan ahead if they want to attract search engine traffic. The same is true with content management systems, using Ajax and/or dynamic functions and even general site design.

David Wallace

David Wallace, co-founder and CEO of SearchRank, is a recognized expert in the industry of search and social media marketing. Since 1997, David has been involved in developing successful search engine and social media marketing campaigns for large and small businesses. Follow +David Wallace on Google + as well as Twitter.

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