By:Mark Angeletti, Published:2004-4-21

Question: “How do you get an all Flash website to rank well?”

Answer: “The exact same way you get a non-Flash website to rank well!”

I often get asked the question, “How can I optimize my Flash website?” It may surprise you to realize that your problem doesn’t lie with Flash. While it’s true that search engines still lack the ability to extract content from within a Flash file (swf), this problem can be easily rectified and, as you will see in this article, is not at the heart of your problems anyway.

Most articles in the past have simply said to avoid Flash without giving adequate details why or pointed out that FAST via means of the Macromedia SDK and Google through use of its own technology can now extract text and follow links but go on to point out that neither of these do a sufficient job. This article may surprise you when you see the real issues you face by using an all Flash website.

I should point out that we’re talking about a site done entirely in Flash. If you have simply dropped a Flash animation into a page, that has about as much significance as an image.

The Perceived Problem and Solution

Oftentimes when you talk about Flash and search engines you hear about how the search spiders are incapable of reading the content within the Flash file and thus your site will likely not rank well within the results of a search. This of course is true and since it is widely known I will only briefly touch on this subject and its remedies. I will later point out that this is not the root of your problems anyway.

Because search engine crawlers were designed to index HTML and still have difficulties reading content from within a Flash file, one must take alternative steps in getting their content on the page. Below is a list of some steps that can be taken to get your content on the page.

– Place your content within <noscript> tags
– Place your content within <object> tags
– Use keyword descriptive <title> tags
– Use keyword descriptive <meta> tags
– You could also place your content in a <div> and set the visibility to “hidden” in your external CSS file that has been placed off limits via a robots.txt file. I wouldn’t consider this method spamming because you’re not misrepresenting your site in any way; you are simply making the content that’s already on the screen available to the spider. However, just because I don’t consider it spamming doesn’t mean I can speak for the search engines.

So now that we have our content on the page, life is good and we can expect our website to show up in the results of a search, right? Not quite, you still have a major problem. One that often gets overlooked – that is until now.

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