How to Optimise Flash for Search Engines

Website owners often employ multimedia and artistic design elements to stand out. Flash movies, animation and graphics improve aesthetics and functionality, resulting in an enhanced user experience. Professional website designers often employ flash in their designs, which results in beautiful, memorable sites. But, if you want to improve your search engine rankings, you need to know how to deal with Flash in your search engine optimisation strategy. If you're reading our SEO article series in order, you've just learned some insider tips for page optimisation. This article gives you an in-depth view of the issues surrounding Flash and provides practical advice for taking advantage of the value of Flash as well as attracting excellent search rankings.

All-flash sites are common for big budget movies or well established brands. Entertainment companies will create an all-flash site to promote a new movie. The flash provides splashy graphics and interactivity. Well-established brands also resort to flash for its design features. These types of sites aren't relying on search engines to drive traffic. There is little need for the new Indiana Jones movie or Coca Cola to optimise for long tail keywords.

An all-flash website makes a beautiful statement but it's not search engine friendly. If the search engines are a primary source of your web traffic, the conflict becomes a major issue. Is it possible to have form and function or are you forced to choose between design and optimisation?

Why Flash and Search Engines don't Play Well Together

In today’s web 2.0 world content can be video, audio, text or a mix of all of the above. So, what's the big deal about flash and search engines? Search engines use bots (spiders, crawlers) to read your web pages. The bots read the HTML text and follow the links to other pages within your site. The spidered or crawled information is indexed or catalogued which makes it available to search engine users.

The search engines rely on a combination of page content, HTML code elements and link popularity. Flash pages are deficient in all containing only TITLE and META tags, which can be indexed by the spiders. This leaves you very little to leverage for optimisation, jeopardising your ability to achieve a top ranking position. Additionally, flash files are .swf, which is a proprietary format. Search engines can't access and index the contents of a flash file without a little assistance. Even then, only portions of the content will be indexed.

Flash Optimisation Tips

You don't have to completely abandon flash in favour or search engine rankings. The following tips will help you achieve design satisfaction and search engine optimisation.

Use multiple pages. A website that's all flash on a single page is difficult to optimise. Adding additional pages provides an opportunity for content that can be optimised for search engines. Remember to develop relevant content that's optimised first for visitors and not simply as search engine bait. Optimise each movie or flash insert with content and appropriate titles.

Employ flash strategically. Rather than making the entire site flash, mix flash with other elements. You can use a flash movie on an HTML page that contains text optimised for your keywords or key phrases. In this way, you combine artistic elements with optimisation.

Create two versions of your site. Create an HTML version of your site and allow visitors to select which version they want to view. You'll want to insure that the home page isn't a splash page and contains optimised keywords. With two versions of your site, the search engines can index the HMTL site and you're providing your site visitors with a choice of viewing options.

Use a frame. Typically, SEO experts discourage the use of frames but a frame can be useful with flash sites. Use a frame page with one frame and place your flash page in the frame. Use the NOFRAMES tag to include content optimised for your keywords that describes your site. The spiders can then index and rank your pages.

Use the NOSCRIPT element. You can employ NOSCRIPT to create a search friendly HTML version of your flash site. This enables you to employ SEO tactics to your content without sacrificing flash.

Summary

Before designing your site, consider your traffic strategies. Your use of flash shouldn't hinder your ability to be found in search engine results. If you've a well-established brand or don't rely on search engines for traffic, you can be more liberal in your use of flash. However, if rankings are important, use flash strategically.

* Consider usability first. Optimise your site for your visitors. Use web analytics to track the preferences of your visitors and make changes accordingly.

* Avoid making your entire site flash. Employ it as a strategic design element.

* Optimise your content, meta and title tags for your keywords.

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