Why Flash is still a problem in 2009

Flash is less of a problem for search engines, but there are still caveats. Flash’s problems can be easily mitigated by offering footer links, and regular html text content on any pages with flash. It’s only an issue when no alternative content or navigation is offered. Here’s the longer story:
Flash’s problems depend on the implementation:

  1. If developers do not implement Flash detection, pages can appear broken to visitors. They leave the site and/or do not convert to prospects/leads/sales.
  2. If flash detection is done poorly, it can be seen as cloaking to search engines – which is returning different content for search engines than for visitors. This is rare, but possible.
  3. If flash is the sole navigation for search engines and human visitors to follow, search engines cannot spider the site. This is the kiss of death you’ve probably heard about.

Some claim it isn’t a problem any more because:

Adobe has implemented better accessibility in the last few versions. But these links are still hard to follow and rarely rank well in the engines. MSN/LIVE has enough problems with HTML links, and probably will not find the content. Also, the landing page where visitors would land sometimes doesn’t show properly – it could be a part of a flash animation that doesn’t load, etc.

Google made a deal with flash that allows flash to be crawled more easily. But again, these links are still hard to follow and rarely rank well in the engines. Google seems to be looking more for hidden redirects and other black hat techniques with their Adobe API deal.

So what can you do to make sure your content is accessible to search engines, and seen as a valuable landing page for organic search visitors? Nothing beats good old fashioned HTML: Links that can be followed, and relevant keywords marking the content from it’s anchor text and title tags down to it’s keyword density.