Flash is NOT SEO Friendly, no matter what Adobe & Google say

I need to write about flash and SEO, even if every SEO in the blogosphere has already talked about it.
The reason: Every non-SEO people who work in the digital world think flash is now SEO friendly thanks to Google.
Google has been able to read flash for years now and each year they talk about it on their blog during summer time.
They did that in June 2009June 2008July 2007, it’s Google’s summer topic!

Here’s my thought on that: Flash is NOT SEO Friendly

Let me explain why:

Improved Flash indexing
The word that confuses people is “indexing”.
In the SEO World, indexing content is the ability to read and archive content.
As stated above, Google is able to read text content in flash files if they have been correctly generated (See the Adobe SEO Technology Center for more info on that).
When Google has finished reading the text content of the flash animation, it saves it in its database with all the other information about the page like the URL, title, incoming and outgoing links and 100 other factors.
Now Google knows that page and has lots of information about it but for the page to show up in SERPs, Google needs to “rank” it amongst other pages.

Flash content does not rank as well as HTML content
The main problem search engines have with flash content is determining how the f*** will that content appear in a browser.
I’m not a developer but I’ve been in the SEO industry for long enough and know enough great flash developers to know that there are hundreds of possibilities to make text content in flash file visible for search engines and hide it for users without the search engines noticing anything.
That’s something we did in the past with HTML: Hiding content in the meta keywords, descriptions, comments, white text on white background and all that stuff that search engines can now easily detect and consider as spam.
But with flash, it’s more difficult for search engines to detect it because the content may be hidden for a good reason, like being part of the second “page” of a single flash file, or it may just be spam.

When to use flash and still rank well?
The only time you could use text content in a flash file without taking too much risk for your SERPs is for keywords you are the only one competing for.
Seriously, just take Google’s example in their last blog post about their capability to index flash content: “2002 VW Transporter 888” ??? Are you kidding me?
The flash website they show us is the only one competing for that query!
What kind of example is that ?

Google will always prefer HTML websites
There are two main reasons to that:
1/ As I explained, Google knows what you do with your HTML content and trust it more than flash content.
2/ People tend to link to HTML content because they can get a direct URL to the page they want, therefore passing link juice that Google loves. Most of the time, you can’t get a direct link to the content you’re interested in with a flash website and don’t link to it.

Use technologies for what they were created for:
HTML is for content
Flash is for decoration and creative enhancement

About the Author

Gaetan Bertin, Digital Media Strategist evolving in the web industry since 2000. Expert in Media, Search Marketing and Web Analytics