Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Should you drop Flash due to SEO?

I have had a few interesting discussions lately with marketers who were arguing that they would not use Flash due to its lack of support with SEO. Granted, they do have a point that Flash lacks in the SEO category, even taking the new SEO capabilities into consideration. However, what Flash lacks in SEO it makes up 10 fold in user experience, which in my opinion is much more important.

You can put all the time you want into optimizing your site for search engines, but if users do not have a good experience then you've gained nothing. I would much rather put that time and effort into creating an interactive and satisfying user experience that will draw viewers in and keep them there. With any luck, that experience will stick with them and may even get passed to their friends, starting a viral frenzy.

Viral frenzies aside, I realize that you may take a hit on the total number of people reaching your site if you use Flash instead of focusing on SEO. However, the highest total number of visits should not be your goal. If thats what you want, you might as well just buy a list of e-mail address and spam everyone with crap. Sure they will see it, but they won't remember it and they will move on. On the flip side, if you reach fewer people, but give them a lasting experience then you will be more likely to convert them into loyal customers. This is where Flash shines and this is why it should not be overlooked.

8 comments:

Tim said...

"You can put all the time you want into optimizing your site for search engines, but if users do not have a good experience then you've gained nothing."

Excellent point! I think people (especially the uneducated in SEO) are obsessed with SEO. But the user experience is the most important aspect of any site/application.

mija said...

I disagree. It's not just about SEO as a marketing tool. It's about making your content visible to Google.
Assume that you have an authoritative website on Monty Python. People will not be searching for 'authoritative website on Monty Python' but on sketch names, quotes, trivia, etc. Even if you make an amazing animated experience it will be very hard to get your content indexed. Google is how people look for information.
I do think that if content is your strenght HTML is the best way to go. For the sake of searchability (not SEO) and also user experience - deep links, bookmarkability, text search in the page, print etc.

Ickydime said...

mija, I appreciate the comment and the opposing view... a view that is shared by many marketers.

However, I feel the view is short sighted. Fighting words? yes. But hear me out.

If you want people to come to your site to find a random quote and then leave, then sure, slap some html together. This way, every time you want to add some content you need to make more pages. And this way you will be constantly trying to stay king of the SEO hill because as soon as you drop off that first page then no one is going to remember your site.

Make an experience on the other hand and you can create a following/community. I am not talking animated splash screen, I am talking a full fledge RIA experience. If done correctly you could become the site that everyone goes to for movie quotes. You will be remembered and bookmarked and then google is out of the picture. All your content would be in a DB so you won't have to manage hundreds of HTML pages. You can search the DB directly via Flash and have more control over the results. You can even use swfAddress to maintain deep links and bookmarking.

In the short term, sure its easier and cheaper to slap some HTML together and use google as your life source. However, in the long term I think you would be much wiser to create an experience that people remember and return to on their own accord.

Short attention span? said...

Let's make this simple...Hell no.

SiamJai said...

Ickydime, I think your arguments are based on fundamentally false premise, that only Flash can create a memorable user experience. Not so. A well-designed HTML site that makes good use of CSS, JavaScript, php - perhaps with a sprinkle of Flash - can result in an equally good user impression, and retain high visibility due to SEO.

Thus the real reason why many people prefer non-Flash media is not SEO-obsession, but rather the realization that there are alternatives that give them the best of both worlds.

Ickydime said...

@siamjai
I agree, Flash is not the only tool that can create experiences. I have seen some very cool sites created in AJAX and PHP as you mentioned. However, Google skips over Javascript just as it skips over Flash. And anything pulled from PHP would be overlooked just in the same manner as it would be overlooked when Flash pulls from a backend script.

Therefore the only thing you have remaining that benefits from SEO is clean HTML with a good use of CSS. There are many sites that this is all they need. But at the end of the day these sites at their very best will just be considered as "good sites"... not experiences. Simple static pages, no matter how pretty or how well laid out, do not qualify as experiences.

Anonymous said...

Hi guys,

I just wonder why nobody clarifies that Flash sites *CAN* in fact do all of this:
SEO, deep links, bookmarkability, text search in the page, print ..
and whatnot.

Please do some googling for Flash and SEO.

All these funny prejudices about Flash are so 2003... ;-)


Regards, Dan

Ickydime said...

@Dan

I did cover those side items (deeplinking, searching, etc) in my reply to mija. But Flash is still not there when it comes to SEO, even in the year 2008.

1. It skips over any embeded swf that use Javascript [which happens to be the standard way of embedding flash].
2. It only works with static text in its current state. Most sites I work with pull text dynamically.

You can read more here.