Flash movies are a popular way to make web sites more compelling. They are useful if you want to impress your web site visitors or if you offer web design services.
Unfortunately, if you use Flash movies, or if you even design your complete web site based on the Flash technology, your odds of getting listed in the search engines are greatly reduced.
Search engines can only "see" pure text. They are not able to recognize text on an image or text that appears as a graphic in a Flash movie.
Google advises on its webmaster guidelines page: "If fancy features such as [...] Flash keep you from seeing all of your site in a text browser, then search engine spiders may have trouble crawling your site.".
So how can you achieve high search engine rankings in spite of Flash contents?
First of all, you should re-consider using Flash on your web site. Keep in mind that many visitors still use slow dial-up connections to access web pages. They don't like to wait 1-2 minutes only to see your company logo fancy animated. Your Flash movies must carry invaluable information to the visitors, otherwise they will be disappointed.
Entry pages that only show your company logo are becoming more and more annoying to users. Using web pages like company brochures only show that your company didn't get the whole Internet idea.
Keep in mind that not everyone has installed the Flash player. Always add a link to a web page that contains the same important information as found in the Flash movie in plain text.
For these reasons, not using Flash or building a duplicate site without Flash are the easiest ways to make sure that your web site visitors and the search engines can access your web site.
If you really must use Flash on your web site, the following tips can help you getting your Flash contents indexed by the search engines:
- Provide links to alternate pages that contain a lot of text and some keywords that the search engines can index.
- Place some text above and below your Flash movie that contain your keywords. Along with your title and maybe your meta tags, this gives the search engines some contents to index.
- If you embed the Flash movie in your HTML code, use your most important keywords in the movie filename using the HTML tags <param name="movie" value="movie-filename.swf"> and <param name="src" value="movie-filename.swf>.
- You can use the <object standby="your message to show while loading"> attribute to include some text that is displayed while the Flash movie is being loaded. In addition, you can use the <object title="your movie title"> attribute to include a keyword-rich movie title.
- Use the <noembed> tag to provide text for web browsers which don't support the Flash plugin. Use it to describe the contents of the Flash movie as search engines can index that description.
- You may want make your Flash movie transparent and place it "over" your web page using CSS layers. However, some search engines might consider this spamming.
- Some search engines offer pay for inclusion programs that guarantee the inclusion of your web page regardless of the contents. Note that these search engines still need text to index.
- You could provide an alternative, "pure text" web page solely to search engine crawler programs. However, this technique is called "cloaking" and search engines don't like it (click here for details).
- Link from other pages of your web site to your Flash page with a keyword-rich link text.
- Use the Macromedia Flash Search Engine SDK to convert a Flash file's text and links into HTML for search engine indexing.
Macromedia, the developers of the Flash technology, have recognized the difficulties in getting Flash contents indexed. For this reason, they have developed an accessibility kit that helps you to embed pure text and links in the movie file.
Macromedia hopes that search engines will learn over time to read the embedded text.
Flash is a trade mark of Macromedia Corp. You can find out more about Flash here.