Snap! SEO: Why don't I want a Flash website?

Alexis Wilke's picture

Clock from the SSWF Project

I've seen many users creating really nice Flash websites. This is not a bad idea, especially if you work with Flash or you somehow have many animations/videos to present to your users in a seamless manner. However, for a regular website, such as a Snap! website, it has one major drawback: it is not SEO friendly.

Flash animations are binary files (.swf) and as such they often do not contain any readable text. Actually, if you want to make sure that the font works right, you will be using an internal font and that may prevent any readable text from appearing in the file (properly optimized text does not use standard encoding for strings of character such as ASCII or Unicode.) In any event, if the search engines do not have the necessary tools to read Flash animations and find your text, it simply won't be indexed.

Adobe offers some tools to work on those files, but it is not widely used.

Since 2008, Google is capable of reading Flash files and discovering the text in them. This works well for paragraphs, menus and buttons. However, it is hardly perfect. In comparison to a standard HTML website, you will lose a lot. Plus, quite often, Flash animations include unwanted text such as error messages and text that should otherwise be hidden.

Note also that since Flash 6 people have been using sub-Flash animations (one Flash animation that loads another.) That is definitively not supported by Google or other search engines. They will not execute the Flash animation to determine what gets loaded when and how... So all the text found in those sub-Flash animations is not going to be included in your website keywords.

The fact is, if you want a real SEO website, Snap! (or any other HTML solution) is just better than Flash. At least, for a while. Now don't get me wrong. Adding some Flash animations to your website is a great idea, and you are more than welcome to do so. Just make sure to repeat the title of your pages in a visible H1 tag1 and you're all set.

  • 1. In effect, your pages have two titles: the <title> tag in the header that appears on the Tab or your window titlebar; and the H1 tag which appears in the page. Note that Google only uses the first H1 tag as the page title.