Life is full of tough choices: Mac or PC? Mastercard or Visa? Bud Lite or Miller Lite? And choosing between two good options is never easy, as each has its own merits. Similarly, marketers have been faced with the same kind of tough choice when choosing their website design strategy: Enhance the website’s appearance with Flash or optimize for search with crawlable content? Fortunately, recent innovations in Flash accessibility programming have begun to demonstrate that Flash vs. SEO is a tough choice no more.
When it comes to establishing a website design strategy, most brand marketers tend to place the greatest emphasis on shaping and enriching the brand’s image. For them, aesthetics supersede organic search concerns. Naturally, they tend to be big fans of Flash as it allows them to incorporate interactive, visually-stimulating features into their website that can convey their brand’s messages in ways that simple HTML-based text cannot.
But their search marketing counterparts have traditionally looked at website design from a different angle. Over the years, they have placed focus on website crawlability and optimizing content for top search results. To them, Flash is an impediment as it can have a negative impact on website performance in the search engines.
Not surprisingly, choosing between SEO and Flash has at times been a tough decision for brand marketers. However, thanks to recent search engine innovations in Flash recognition and improvements in Flash content replacement methods, marketers now have an effective means of incorporating Flash into their website without fear of compromising search engine visibility.
Using flash to your SEO advantage
Flash accessibility programming allows marketers to create two versions of a website: One interactive, Flash-based version for users, and one HTML, text-based version for search engine crawlers. The design tactic has become widely accepted among Web developers and even recommended by Google as a means of getting your Flash content recognized by crawlers. And while textual content is the best means to get your website ranked, the adoption of Flash accessibility programming has helped to bridge the gap between SEO and Flash so marketers don’t have to sacrifice brand image and website aesthetics for search engine visibility.
Even so, many marketers have yet to fully embrace Flash accessibility for the additional SEO advantage it offers. Because engines can now “see” Flash content by way of replacement content, marketers now have the opportunity to optimize Flash content (and replacement content) with messages containing highly searched keyword terms. Given that, if you’re going to include Flash on your website, make sure to design it in a manner that is advantageous to SEO: Use Flash content containing keyword-rich messages that can be “replaced” in text form for search engine spiders to crawl.
The recommended method for Flash accessibility programming is Shockwave Object 2.0 (SWF). It has become the industry standard and is gaining popularity with Web designers as endorsements by major search engines continue to emerge. Considered to be the successor of Unobtrusive Flash Objects, SWFObject 2.0 is an open source project that detects whether or not a browser supports Flash and then serves the appropriate version (Flash or HTML text) of the website based on its detection. According to Google, “It offers one solution for everybody and promotes the use of Web standards and alternative content.”
The potential benefits of using SWFObject 2.0 are clear: It allows search engines to see and digest the same important Flash content as users, and as a result, websites may experience increases in search engine visibility on keywords contained in the Flash replacement content. However, marketers should also be aware that SWFObject 2.0 can bolster their website’s keyword density and search engine value by incorporating keyword-targeted messages into their website’s Flash content that can also be replaced, crawled, and indexed in text form.
Five tips for creating SEO friendly Flash
Ready to optimize Flash content using SWFObject 2.0? Here are five tips to help you get started. But before you jump ahead, remember that while Flash accessibility programming has become the best means to get your Flash content recognized by spiders, the fact still remains that when it comes to website design for search engine performance, textual content still reigns supreme.
Include traffic-driving, keyword-based messages. Understand the keywords your target market is searching for, and feature them in the messages within your Flash content. If replicated in Flash replacement content, these keywords have the potential to drive traffic to your website.
Emphasize language over images. When deciding on your Flash design scheme, remember that while language can be replicated in replacement content, the same cannot be done for images. Therefore, whenever possible, leave your images out of your Flash content (you can optimize image files separately) and focus on content that can be replaced and recognized by engines.
Use videos that contain content that can be “replaced.” Customer-engaging video content with keyword-rich messages can now actually help stimulate search engine visibility if it is replicated in text form. Just remember that if your video primarily consists of dialogue, the “spoken words” must also be available in readable form to qualify to be “replaced” in text form.
Include links in replacement content, If your Flash content features links to other important parts of your website, make sure to include them in the Flash replacement content, making them visibile search engine crawlers.
Avoid spam tactics. Make sure the replacement content made available for search engines is an accurate representation of the Flash content that is made available for users.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.