September 20, 2001
How To

WARNING: Search Engines Often Ignore Sites Using Flash -- What You Need to Tell Your Web Designer

SUMMARY: Lots of marketers are allowing their Web designers to add Flash to make their sites look more exciting and compelling. Unfortunately search engines are not currently indexing Flash, and can't read the information contained within the Flash. This means every element of your site (and sometimes your entire site itself) that's built with Flash, will be ignored by search engines. And that's a problem because an estimated 85% of your site's potential visitors are looking for you via search engines. Here's what you need to tell your Flash-happy Web designer.
We asked site optimization expert Andrew Gerhart, Director of SEO Operations at Orbidex, to explain in his own words how this could affect your site, and how you should instruct your Web designer to overcome it:

"I visited recently. They sell shoes and other apparel online. This website has an excellent design, but utilizes Flash for the navigation, content, links, and everything else.

Then I went to Google and performed a search for 'shoes' and then for 'apparel'. Ecko was nowhere to be found. Next I went to GoTo’s keyword suggestion tool (see link below) and performed a search for apparel and then for shoes. In the month of August, the keyword “apparel” was searched for 33,124 times and “shoes” was searched for 196,733 times. This is the amount of potential customers that Ecko is missing out on, mainly because they use Flash and more importantly because they do not use it correctly.

There is a proper way to use Flash on a website and a very bad way to use Flash. If you are going to use Flash, there are a few things to remember when designing or building your site:

-> Do not use Flash for the navigational structure

-> Do not have all of your important content contained in the Flash movies

-> Do not use huge Flash objects that make the pages to large in size

-> You must remember the users on dial-up connections that will not wait 5 minutes to see your Flash movie

-> Do not make the site too complicated or too confusing, as this will deter potential customers

From the few things above, you might think that there is no actual use for Flash, and you are partially right. Think of the negative effects that your website will see as a result of having the whole site built in Flash:

- Losing potential customers
- Beaten by competitors
- Losing traffic to the website
- Missing out on exposure on the Internet
- Customers leaving website as a result of download times
- Missing out on important branding possibilities

The one way to use Flash on your website that will not hinder your capabilities of visibility and success on the Internet is to have Flash as an option.

There are many sites on the Internet that have the Index page with the option of entering the Flash version or the HTML version. The problem with this is that they cannot optimize this page, and will have to optimize the HTML version of the website. If the HTML version is optimized, then the users will not be as easily able to reach the Flash version if it is desired.

What is the alternative? Build your website in HTML, and then build another version in Flash. On every page of the HTML version have a button or link somewhere prominent on the page that will give the visitor the option of entering the Flash version. If this is done, then the website will not miss out on the things mentioned above, and the visitor is less likely to be frustrated with the website."

If your designer has any questions, he or she can reach Gerhart at:

Useful links related to this article:

Orbidex's Optimization Site:

GoTo's keyword suggestion tool:

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