How To Optimize a Flash Website

You are reading this article probably because you have a flash website and you need it to be ranked well. 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 (Such people are becoming less and less but still, we can’t rule out the chances. Who knows, maybe they would be your possible customers) 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.

Consider this case. You have a company providing broadband services. One advantage you can put the flash website to is to make the viewer feel the PAIN for having to wait for long, for the website to load on the person’s pathetic dial up connection. Yes, “IF” they come over to your main page they would surely be interested in your service. Don’t neglect the stress on the point “IF” they make it your website home page at all. Why? Well, ask yourself whether you will wait 3-5 minutes just to enter a website you didn’t even know existed? Personally I wouldn’t. So aside from the business part, let us focus on more important aspects. 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. Try to get your coder to wrap up a code which automatically detects the flash player version installed and if it is not installed or is an outdated version which wont probably run your website properly , direct the user to install one. It is not always a wise idea to embed the text like “Flash player needed to view the website properly. Download here.” People would end up downloading it even if it is already installed in their system. Some people skip the website just because they feel lazy to download the software and install it.

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.

Giving a visual introduction of a site is loved a lot by a majority of users. But even an interested visitor if not given a proper option of moving out would feel irritated (Remember to include the skip introduction button in case you have a long video or something which will help re visiting users not get bored by being forced to view your videos again and again each time they visit). Same is the case for the web crawlers. Web crawlers or spiders in more familiar words, somewhat behave like living users and expertise in static websites or being clear, for HTML sites. 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.”

Indexing a flash site that is creating a rank for the sites with flash movies was a big question quite some time before, thanks to the advancement in technologies which has now made it well within the capabilities of the web spiders to index the flash websites. Search engines can now see the flash websites by way of replacement contents. In more clear words or for better understanding the flash sites are not ranked but their static contents are ranked which are more readable by the crawlers. The design trick has become quite famous and accepted by the web developers which is even accepted by the Google and recommended.

The designers can now leverage the opportunity to optimize the flash site for better rankings on the engine by using the replacement method in which, messages containing highly searched and tagged key words get an edge. Anyone planning to use flash in the website for greater attraction should make it a point to construct it in a manner which is readable to the web spider and going one step further, not just readable to web spider but should have content relativity with the searched subjects. The replacement content for the flash site should have links which have been provided in the flash content for the better readability and credibility in the search .To explain better ,if the flash content of the site has links to some parts of the site then that should also be featured in the replacement text of the site also.

It’s a brilliant approach to impure the Flash content with keyword rich messages that can be replaced in the text form by the smart crawlers.

Industry wise recommendations are for SWFObject 2 for flash programming, as it detects whether or not the browser supports flash objects and then serves accordingly with the appropriate version of the site (Flash or HTML).The major advantage of SWFObject 2 is that it quenches the thirst of the crawlers as the users. SWFObject 2 bolsters a site’s keyword density and crawler’s value by introducing keyword-targeted messages into the site’s flash content which can be replaced, crawled and indexed in text form. Keyword-based messages which drive the traffic are a must for the seo optimization of a site. To supplement the site with targeted keywords, which the consumer market is searching for is a primary way to obtain a better rank in the search page.

Language emphasis should get a priority over images and videos. It should be borne in mind that an image cannot be transformed into a text message which is the primary foundation for the crawlers to initiate the search for the query placed. Minimize the use of images in the flash content and main focus should be kept on contents in text form which can be replaced as well as recognized by crawlers. Flash videos with textual content which can be replaced as text gets an added edge when judged by the crawlers. Videos with dialogue must also have a readable means to qualify for a better ranking on a search site.

Spamming should be avoided in the text replacement as the former reduces the credibility of the flash website .As far as Google’s technology is concerned it can easily break .swf files and extract its contents to find whether it’s a spam linking.

The text in the anchored link is also among the key factors which decides the placement of one’s site on the search page, so utmost care should be taken to optimize the links with better explanation about the destination page and it’s materials .The keyword within the <a>are important and targeted keywords, so if a link is applied to the flash content or a flash file, care should be taken so that the targeted keywords are read by the crawlers. For images alt attributes are used and is a good practice to provide explanation there too. The use of sIFR for designer text is also a good idea for attractive look and at the same time it being easily crawl able by the spider gains extra point for ranking on the site. The advantage of using sIFR is that it is easily searched by the spider as it’s a text and on the other hand also give beautiful look to the text .sIFR happens to be light weight and acceptance is also wider in the search engines like Google and same types.

The flash content of the site should be optimized by matching the name and description in the accessibility panel with that of the HTML title and Meta description in the HTML page. Avoiding vector graphics and bit maps in the flash contents help making the deal better; replacing the same with text is the best option for superior optimization. Applying accessibility panel to the clips or buttons after converting all the photo images and videos into movie clips or buttons is another appreciated way of generating a better ranking for the search pages. Each of which should have a unique description and descriptive name. The search engine robots or the crawlers do not select from pull down menus or fill forms, so reaching that corner is tough for the agent. To answer this concern a standard <a href > type link can be provided to the entire flash movie page.

Another helpful option is to add all these standard links to the site map which defines the total layout and placing of the site. If a developer faces constraints in creating or providing static HTML links to all the pages of the sites then a better and efficient way is to provide an XML site map which tells the crawlers about the location of all the pages of the site. One can give the users a link to the flash intro from the HTML site .The primary content for any flash site should be links, headings, styled text, images–anything which can be provided in an HTML page .The SEO copy editing and indexing skills are applied to the primary content, flash is a non issue. The best way to optimize a flash site is to create an ad hoc HTML site which will have a presence along with the flash site and would work as a feeder for the search engine crawlers to help optimization for the master site.

With almost everything said, even if SEO optimization is done from top to bottom of the page there stands no guarantee of staying number one in the search results. But if the requirement of the audience are met, then one can go full flash site with PPC and still have extraordinary results. The ground reality behind the success of a site is the content it offers to its users.

Some Other Tips

So how can you achieve high search engine rankings in spite of Flash contents?
If you 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 file name 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 <no embed> tag to provide text for web browsers which don’t support the Flash plug-in. 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 your site.
  • 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.
  • Read another articles by by Jonathan Hochman which will give you more knowledge

Adarsh is an expert in SEO and internet marketing. He is currently the webmaster and SEO in charge of The Health and wellness blog, HealthRuns.com.


60 thoughts on “How To Optimize a Flash Website”

  1. nathan says:

    I want to learn to create flash objects before but it makes the site load more slower. Maybe if there would be a compressed version of flash objects then I would be interested again about it.

    1. nathan says:

      Maybe if your readers really love animation then that’s the time to use flash objects. I go to some flash sites to have ideas on designs and animation because they’re really good at it.

      1. Blogging says:

        Readers don’t love flash animation, they get annoyed by it. SY

        1. Yeah, Flash can sometimes be cool, but I usually Flash sites aren’t as user friendly or functional as sites that don’t use flash.

          1. Benjamin Cip says:

            depending on the flash site, I don’t try to open the site because it loads slowly. I noticed most of video games site are using flash…especially in Japanese sites.

          2. I’m with you Benjamin. Doen here in South Africa our “broadband” is slow, hence flash is more of an irritant than a stimulant. The “Skip Intro” link is the one I look for when encountering flash pages, and if it is isn’t there, I’m out of there!

    2. Ben Pei says:

      Good that you take loading speed into consideration. A slow website can easily its conversion rate.

  2. Diabetis says:

    I never have use any flash website before. IN fact I never used any website before, I am just using a blog since it is easier to start one and to compile some articles for it.

    1. nathan says:

      I see a lot of those sites which my brother always visit. He is willing to wait for it to load since it’s full of games and stuffs.

      1. And i really hate to waiting like that.

        1. Sahil Kotak says:

          Same here, i also hate to wait for them to load.

      2. Lee Ka Hoong says:

        If the site is loading slow, it may piss the visitor off by waiting for minutes. I used to play online games at miniclip but their site loads quite well.

        1. Benjamin Cip says:

          Flash website are loading too slowly that I generaly leave the site before it finishes loading

          1. Sahil Kotak says:

            Yeah, most of the sites loads after half hour, LOL 😀

        2. Ben Pei says:

          Absolutely Lee!

  3. Englishland says:

    I use a lot of flash in my website to serve people who are learning English. Flash is very powerful animation software.

    1. This is one case where i can see the value of flash. It is very powerful for sites with heavy user interaction. For sites that are just for viewing and reading, flash is a waste of bandwidth and resources.

      1. Everything has its place in the world of the internet, and flash is indeed “very powerful animation software” that is extremely useful when the application requires what flash offers.

        I went to have a look at your website, Englishland. I find that it is very “busy” and strongly suggest that you look at streamlining it just a wee bit. You’ll find that the extra investment will help your visitor statistics a lot.

  4. Jami says:

    This article is going to rank like a mofo in Google. This is what I’d call a “pillar post”. Bravo to the guest post who wrote this for you, JC.

  5. I am not really into flash website. Actually i hate flash website because my internet bandwidth is limited.

    1. Sahil Kotak says:

      Yeah, many internet users do not like flash website and I also do not like it.

  6. Oh yeh, web dev guys always get whipped up in to a frenzy over this topic.

  7. I agree that there are quite a bit of challenges in traffic generation & visits, technical issues & SEO as well.
    Your suggestions would add value to all those, who wanna build value though flash animation representation of their complex content. I am certain that more research would be needed but these are definitely great & clear landmarks for it.

  8. I’ve got two sites in Flash I’ve built couple of years ago and didn’t published because of Google awareness on such sites. Now I have to reconciler and publish them. Who knows.
    “place it “over” your web page using CSS layers.” This is my main concern. Because IE still exist and layering is just nightmare in it.

    1. Sahil Kotak says:

      Yeah, IE has a big problem with this things and I never like to use IE.

      1. Paul B says:

        It doesn’t matter what you choose to use it’s what your visitors are using that’s the problem!

  9. One of my friend do not want to add flash … I think I should show the link of this to him …

    1. Sahil Kotak says:

      Yeah, this is a good article if any one wants knowledge on Flash.

  10. Sahil Kotak says:

    Good on there, but really I do not like flash because it takes some time to load on your site and until that time your visitor might be gone.a

  11. Blogging says:

    I don’t get any advantages a flash site might have, most users, me included, hate them, they increase the bounce rate and search engines have difficulties in indexing them, so why does anybody uses them? Web designer ego? Can do, must do? Fashion? SY

  12. gasnier says:

    John, your guest poster put up the same article on Carl Ocab’s blog!

    1. That is no good, as it will lead to duplicate content issues with the searche ngine spiders. Is the article an exact duplicate? What is the URL for that blog?

    2. Ben Pei says:

      My god..serious! Bad boy..

  13. An excellent post, its a great challenge getting a flash website to rank well as most of it is embedded content that the search engine spiders cannot read. Flash also has other problems such as browser compatibility and load times, I usually try and steer clear from it myself.

  14. Vladan says:

    It can helps having just Some elements made with flash (1 r 2), not a full page. It would not rank well in google otherwise…

    But target your affiliate programs with Flash designed Ads could grow your income.

  15. There are so many challenges when developing in Flash, especially usability, that many webmasters skimp on the SEO part. Great job on providing these tips.

  16. Awesome article.

    I have always stayed away from using flash on my site and have never built a flash site, although the idea has always appealed to me. I like the aesthetic of a flash site.

    If your demographic that you sell too has the ability to watch flash, then why not. And using the info in this post, I can’t see how you’d go wrong.

    1. Flash takes longer to load and frequently has clunky navigation. The only real advantage of using flash is for sites where the user interacts with the page frequently.
      For sites with mostly static content for reading and require minimal user input, a non-flash page is usually much faster and easier to navigate. (there is nothing more annoying that hitting the back button and realizing you have to wait for the flash to load again because you didn’t navigate the right way.

  17. flyingstyle says:

    It is so hard to build a flash web in my opinion blog may be the easiset way to make money

    1. Let’s face it, flash animation requires skillful developers, whereas with a blog you can use an off the shelf template with great results. The intended applications for flash vs say WordPress are worlds apart. Horses for courses, that’s what we’re looking at here.

  18. aansa says:

    Flash website are not the good options for locations where still majority of people use dial up internet connection as it takes ages to load the site.

    1. Benjamin Cip says:

      I totally agree with you. Even with high speed connection, it still takes a lifetime to load certain flash site, and I’m not patient enought to way untill it finishes to load.

  19. fas says:

    Some cool tips, very important to follow for clean indexing.

  20. gaban says:

    i think this article is pointed to them who have broadband access and not for blogger :):)
    many countries have very limited bandwidth capacity
    it is a big problem when they want to optimize flash website

  21. Money-Era says:

    Come on! How many people are still using dial-up?? Those days are long gone, especially when any mobile device offers much better speed than old 56k!
    Don’t you think this old content should get updated?
    Recently I was translating a book on computers (Dummies series) in which they were whole paragraphs on diskette drivers, CRT monitors and RAM sizes, where 512MB was considered plenty.
    I do not understand publishers or bloggers who provide obsolete information.

    1. Adarsh says:

      you are wrong. I am from India and I know at least a dozen people who have dial up internet. What about poorer countries? Just because your friends and people who blog have broadband,, it doesn’t mean everyone is on that

      1. Money-Era says:

        Well, you are right with India (even though for a country specializing in IT outsourcing this might be surprising) but when I read John Chow’s blog I always think of Northern America. This is where vast majority of John’s target readers are located. In that respect, dial-up is totally obsolete.

  22. Keldorn says:

    I never came across a flash website that I enjoyed to browse, I find them to be annoying.

  23. It all depends on the purpose of the flash element used. If you are a web designer, flash is a great way to show your skills. But using flash just for some “bling” can certainly be a hindrance if it’s slow to load.

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    1. EarningStep says:

      flash is beauty but too heave for some country that still dominating with dial up internet connection…

  24. EarningStep says:

    nice tips.. honestly i hate flash site.. that’s way i don’t have any flash image on my blog.. but this post may change my mind

  25. I will just stick with basic html sites. Google seems to like those the best. They are fast to load as well which is important for high volume sites.

  26. Ben Pei says:

    Nice.. I am sure alot of flash sites webmaster didn’t think about all these..

  27. Ben Pei says:

    How come John doesn’t seem to be replying comments anymore?

  28. I also read an article in the web which said that the search engine now-a-days can read the flash objects as well.

  29. Richard says:

    Great post John… I have long been advocating staying away from flash websites. 3-5 years ago, this would have been seen as “not going with what is cool”.

    I remember, arguing with a client heavily about creating his website out of pure html as compared to him wanting it done in flash, and I gave him an alternative after much talking of a standard html website just in case a machine does not have flash player installed.

    Way to go!

  30. Flash websites seem to be the “THING” now, but as graphics increase, it takes a LOT longer to load. I have seen a flash site that takes almost a minute to load!

    -Mike

  31. great article. I’d tell to Jacob Nilsen that flash nowadays become 99% Good. back and forward functions are working, google successfully crawl flash website content. Flash is attractive solution for website. So flash is way more better now for website then HTML.

  32. Hey John,

    I don’t have any flash website and this idea never occurred to me ever to have a flash website. However from the reading that I have done about such websites is that they are hard to be indexed and also along with that the page load time is long and slow, which increases the probability of bounce rate on the site pages.

    But you have given some cool tips, which will surely benefit the people who have flash sites.

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