June of 2008 Google announced they had improved their ability to index the contents of Flash files. As I shared the news with my clients; I did so with a word of caution so they wouldn’t react with overwhelming joy too quickly. And I also explained that although Google also announced the ability to OCR readable characters superimposed on images that the written word was still the best way to go for reaching visitors, visually impaired visitors and search engines alike. Now, nearly one year later, Flash elements are still posing problems for the best of the search engines and are unsurprisingly still not SEO Friendly.
Not ‘new’ News
For years I have been advising my clients to use Flash sparingly and to this day I will not design a Flash Site” where Flash is the only or primary design element on the page. Why? Because Search Engines cannot read within Flash; I tell my clients it is analogous to:
building the coolest looking brick & mortar store ever created and then putting it in a location so remote that no one can find it.
Or; my personal favorite, building a brand new store and getting an unlisted business phone number.
The reason Flash is not easily indexed:
Search Engines cannot read the contents of an SWF file
Since every text and graphics used to compile (create) a Flash file is contained within that SWF file it is essentially invisible to the search engines. NOTE: Google is making great strides to read the text elements within an SWF file – but I still wouldn’t get too excited just yet.
Another reason to be cautious:
Not all visitors have Flash plugins installed on their browsers
If the Flash plugins have not been installed in the user’s browser – they will not be able to see what you have created.
For now; it is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to Flash elements on your pages. It’s nice to be cool looking, but it won’t impress the people at the un-employment line.