Until recently I had never really considered optimising a flash website as a great way to get top search engine rankings, but needless to say I was asked to give advice for a website that had to be built in Flash. Now normally I’d always advise clients against Flash and instead go with a HTML alternative as its more search engine friendly. But let’s face it there are instances, particularly in the design and games sectors when designing a website in Flash is the only way to meet the design and functionality specs.
Ok, so I’ve been a bit negative about Flash thus far, but in actual fact where design is vital building a site in Flash its actually very beneficial because with the correct SEO strategy the design won’t have to be compromised to make the site SEO friendly. In fact the designer can just run wild as long as they stick to a few rules.
Types of Flash Website
There are essentially three types of Flash website:
- Flash site embedded into a single HTML file and running on a single URL
- Flash site spilt across multiple HTML files/URLs
- Site is part HTML with a large portion of Flash content
Depending upon which of the three categories your site falls into will very much affect the steps needed to make your website search engine friendly.
Optimising a Flash site embedded into a single HTML file and running on a single URL
- Split the Flash up so that it can be spread across multiple html files i.e. a file for each section of the website
- Create search engine friendly URLs such as http://www.mysite.com/category/sub-cat/ noting that hyphens should be used in the URLs and not underscores
- Implement page titles that are keyword orientated. The Homepage should follow the format: “Brand – Primary keyword, Secondary keyword, Tertiary keyword”. The internal pages should follow the format: “Primary keyword, Secondary keyword, Tertiary keyword – Brand”
- Write highly targeted meta descriptions that convey a strong marketing message and a call to action to improve the CTR of your organic listing
- Primary option for serving optimised content: write a script to detect if user agent/bot accepts cookies and checks for flash or use the deconcept script. If the user agent/bot doesn’t except cookies or have flash installed then serve the optimised HTML content, otherwise serve the flash content. It is important to avoid IP based cloaking as this could lead to a ban/penalty. This needs to be done on each and every webpage. It is also vital that within the HTML content there is a full navigation so that the search engines are able to follow the links to the other pages in the site thus ensuring that all the pages are indexed.
- Secondary option for serving optimised content: This option is not quite as effective as the primary solution but still achieves good results. For each individual URL ensure a noembed tag is utilised and placing the optimised HTML content and navigation in it
When producing the optimised HTML content it is important that the content matches as close as possible to that in the flash, if you include irrelevant or way too much content then you run the risk of a penalty. It’s also important to consider that the optimised content is still for the users and not just the search engines, so well constructed and well written content will help lead to visitor retention and good conversion rates.
Content should contain all HTML mark-up such as h1 and h2 headings that you would expect in a well optimised HTML website.
Essentially what you are doing here is creating two websites, one in Flash and one in HTML, then based on a script which checks whether the user has the ability to display Flash you display the most appropriate version of your website.
Optimising a Flash site split across multiple URLs
Follow all the steps in the previous part of the guide, just ignoring the initial steps on splitting your Flash up into multiple files.
Optimising a HTML site with a majority of Flash based content
My solution here would be to carry out all the standard best practice SEO for the HTML elements of each page and then place a textual representation of the Flash content into a noembed tag for each of the Flash elements. If you want to create headings that use fonts outside of the standard web fonts use SIFr.
Is it this straightforward?
Not entirely, although the above techniques will give your website the optimum structure, its ability to rank and convert will very much depend on you keyword selection – if you optimise for the wrong keywords then your site just won’t convert your traffic. Assuming your keyword targeting is spot on you’ll then need a link generation strategy to drive quality links to your site and make it an authority source in the sector.
For a further reading on SEO for Flash, the following two sites provide a good viewpoint: