Thursday, October 18, 2007/
Stuck with a Flash website? Don’t panic! There are ways to optimise.
Flash with dash
No two ways about it: Flash-only websites can be delightful, engaging, dynamic and creative. That’s provided they’re done right. Often there are downsides.
Problem 1: Like you, usually what I see is a flash home page, with the standard loading bar at 10%, then 20% then 30%… Even with broadband, some of those pages can take longer to load than actually play!
See, some developers use tricks to speed things up; they play the finished site to the client from their laptop’s hard drive – it’s much quicker than an internet connection! The client loves it, but when the site goes online, web users just hit the back button. That’s if they can find the website in the first place. Which leads us to:
Problem 2: Developers rarely tell their clients about the almost complete lack of Search Engine friendliness of flash websites. It’s extremely rare to see a flash-only website ranking first at Google. At the moment, Google isn’t able to read the content of flash files.
So if you’re stuck, what can you do the get your flash-only website ranking strongly?
Here are four tips for improving your flash-only website search engine ranking.
1: The cheapest, easiest and safest option is to make sure your title tag, meta content description and keyword tags are optimised for key phrases you’re trying to target.
2: If you’re comfortable with risk, you may consider loading up your title tag with lots of key words and phrases so you cover all the content in your flash-only Web site.
One I saw a few years ago was www.buy-n-shoot.com.au – it’s not a flash site, but it’s got some of the longest title tags I’ve ever seen! It also ranks really, really well for competitive key phrases like “second-hand digital camera”, and has done for years.
It’s a risky move. Personally I’d never try it on with a client’s website as it’s a bit overdone (a bit too over optimised) and could see you penalised in the long term. It only takes one small algorithm change and you’re out!
But if you’re tanking in the search results anyway, you might as well give it a go! If you did get penalised, you mightn’t necessarily be completely removed from the index, you might just cop a ranking penalty instead (so you’re probably no worse off). Still, Google’s Google, and I (obviously) can’t speak on their behalf as to how they might respond.
3: More technically, you can create div tag on your home page containing your entire site’s content, which humans won’t be able to see but Google’s robot can. Make sure you don’t go overboard.
You can create HTML copies of your Flash pages for the Google Bot. If you create HTML copies, include a robots.txt file that disallows the Flash pages in order to ensure that the Google Bot doesn’t recognise those pages as duplicate content.
4: Finally, one solution I’ve seen which is really cool is to get your developer to set up a form of cloaking, where if a human comes to your site (using a browser), the human is sent to a flash version of your website. If the “user” is a robot, then it’s directed to an HTML version for proper indexing.
One such example successfully using this system is www.rothelowman.com.au.
Cloaking is generally frowned upon by search engines, but if it’s done ethically you’ll be OK. Bruce Clay (SEO guru) recently mentioned at the Search Engine Boot Camp that he had spoken to the good people at Google about this solution and was given the nod that it was OK. However, it was only OK provided the content of your HTML version was exactly the same as the content of your Flash-only website.
If you need more information about how to search engine optimise for Flash websites, you can read the following article from Jonathan Hochman: http://www.jehochman.com/articles/seo-friendly-flash.shtml
Chris Thomas heads Reseo a search engine optimisation company which specialises in setting up and maintaining Google AdWords campaigns, Affiliate Programs and Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a range of corporate clients.
To read more Chris Thomas blogs, click here.