SEO Kryptonite Showdown Part 1: Flash

SEO Kryptonite

What Makes for SEO Kryptonite?

Any type of site code technology that is difficult for Google to read may be considered SEO Kryptonite.  Google is getting better at reading all kinds of sloppy code and file types, but as an SEO it’s always better to take a more straight forward approach when creating websites or features within websites. The three candidates for most powerful Google Kryptonite would have to be Flash, JavaScript and Frames. Let’s take a look at each and see why Google can’t read them, or at least not effectively- making them a web element that should be avoided when possible and worked around when absolutely necessary. Part 1, below, introduces Flash and the SEO problems it creates.

Flash Kryptonite

adobe flashWhat is Flash? I started using Macromedia Flash almost a decade ago- mostly for the creation of education material and fun little web animations. A rich multimedia platform, Macromedia was later purchased by Adobe, used for creating interactive animations and really engaging modules. Often used for advertising, video and game creation, Flash is a really fun program to develop in. The foundation of the user interface is the timeline. A user simply adds shapes, video, text and audio on different layers within the timeline, then they can easily create animated ‘tweens’, syncing them with audio, making a self playing movie type file. Additionally, developers can add interactive elements, button and quiz questions utilizing ActionScript, the language used within the interface. All this happens within the Flash (.fla) file.

All this is well and good, but the SEO problems arise after the animated piece is completed and its rendered and compiled. When this happens, the ActionScript, text, code and animations are compressed into a self-playing, self-contained .swf file. The .swf file is then often embedded in a website with the following code:

<object width=”575″ height=”400″>
<param name=”movie” value=”coolanimation.swf“>
<embed src=”coolanimation.swf” width=”575″ height=”400″>

Google has becoming increasingly sophisticated with their reading and indexing of Flash, but it still causes major problems. For one, the code above is embed code, that means that a file is referenced on the page- but not accessible to the search engine spiders. The ‘coolanimation.swf‘ file often contains links to other content within the file itself. Likewise, any interactive navigation is hidden from view. The only thing search engines can read and index above is the name ‘coolanimation‘- that doesn’t give Google a lot to go by.  There are ways to add some text within the embed code, but you have to be careful here as it may send a spam signal to Google.

What’s an SEO to Do?

Let’s say you can’t avoid some Flash uses within your site. instead of making the entire page Flash, try just embedding a small header or banner. Then within the content of the page include that content in an index friendly way (complete with formatting tags and readable links). Also, their are several ways to help make flash content or pages more search engine friendly, here are a few:

How to SEO the flash site

Experiment with SEO friendly Flash techniques

HTML 5 Instead of Flash– get the best of both worlds

Feedback: What are the worst uses you’ve seen of Flash? What are the best? How can they be used effectively, and still get some SEO benefits? Let us know what you think.