How do Flash Sites Rank Well?

SEO Question: As a long time SEO myself, there is one thing that has me mystified. If you do a search in Google under "chocolate", Godiva comes up #1, Hershey comes up #2. Yet, if you look at their home pages, they have almost no text there. In fact, Godiva has no real text at all. Yes, they have PR6, but still, how is it that these "big boys" come up on top with a home page devoid of any SEO or real text? Is it all links?

SEO Answer: For competitive queries Google's relevancy algorithms are probably about 99% linkage data. Those brands are so strong that their linkage data means they do not need page copy to rank for general relevant terms. Should Starbucks rank for coffee? Few sites are more relevant.

Google does not aim to show the most optimized content. They want to list the most relevant content.

By having limited page copy they may end up missing out on ranking for longer related queries since it is a bit hard for search engines to make documents relevant for long multi word phrases that don't occur in the anchor text or page copy, but for general queries they can still do great.

This is not 100% bright here, but about a year ago I moved the host for one of my sites prior to fully uploading the site at the new location. The files were rather slow to upload and Google cached the home page while the site was not there and the site still ranked #6 for search engine marketing.

Sometimes you will hear some SEOs whine about the updates and others claim that their techniques are more effective because the clients see more stable results. In hyper competitive markets many times the result stability of a particular site has as much to do with client selection as the skill level of the SEO. The result stability in competitive markets has a lot to do with how strong the brand and traditional marketing a company has. Ultimately the search engines aim to emulate end users. Those brands that have significant mindshare in the real world should rank well in the search results as well unless the relevancy algorithms are crap.

A few tips for using flash (if you must use it):

  • Create descriptive useful page titles and meta descriptions.

  • Embed the flash into HTML pages and use regular text links on the page if possible.
  • If it does not screw up the design too bad add HTML text to the page.
  • Create textual representations of what is in the flash using noembed tags.
  • Instead of including everything in one flash file it may make sense to break the content into different flash files so you can create different HTML pages around the different ideas contained in it.
  • Macromedia has a search engine SDK, although I think most sites are still best off using texual representations of the flash files on the HTML content of pages
  • Mike Knott also recommended this JavaScript plugin for flash detection. It is XHTML compliant, and, so long as you use it properly, it is better than the Noembed tag.
Published: January 4, 2006 by Aaron Wall in Q & A


June 12, 2007 - 6:29pm

Hello, I am searching information to design a web site in Flash, would you help me please?

Thank you.

February 6, 2006 - 1:11pm

If I want to design my site, I will prefer to add Flash designs only for the home page with two to three paragraphs text. Rest all page I will keep as normal HTML Page. What you guys thinking

ujwal kiran
February 6, 2006 - 1:59pm

I have gone through your article and learnt good things but got one doubt that we can use java beans for animations instead of flash. can google bot crawl the text in the bean animation?

January 4, 2006 - 8:56pm

On some flash sites I've seen tags used instead of noembed. Do you know if there is any difference in the eyes of the SEs or are they seen as equivalents?

January 4, 2006 - 10:06pm

A couple years ago, I used to do quite a bit of Flash site SEO. It was a pretty healthly little niche but most designers these days know how difficult it will be to attract natural search traffic for an emerging brand with Flash.

This is a good summary of the reality of link reputation and why some Flash sites rank in spite of themselves. The only other thing I would add would be that many Flash sites cloak content to the engines via user agent or IP delivery (something I do not specialize in but did point the occasional client towards an expert in that field).

January 4, 2006 - 10:51pm

For some reason the "no script" was left out of my previous comment. So use of "no script" versus "no embed" tags.

January 5, 2006 - 7:17am

I know that many of these site use IP cloaking as do many other well ranking flash site. The combination of cloaking and the power of backlinks is enough to push these sites to the top.

January 5, 2006 - 8:11am

True, branding is key in hyper-competitive markets - but particularly related to keywords in the brand name. It was easy to get number one for 'Wine' when I consulted for a few years ago. I was brilliant - I rewrote the title!

June 3, 2007 - 8:01pm

SWFObject is great and far superior to Adobe's own active-content-activation workaround within Flash, but SWFAddress should be mentioned should be mentioned here also:

"SWFAddress is a small script that sits on top of SWFObject and provides deep linking for Flash websites and applications. In other words it enables the Back, Forward and Reload buttons of the browser and creates unique URLs with page titles that can be sent over email or IM. SWFAddress uses the ExternalInterface functionality introduced in Flash Player 8 and comes with a technique that enables search engine indexing for deep Flash links."

July 27, 2008 - 3:29am

SWFAddress is a great tool for Flas SEO. Take a look at our Googlw results for our all Flash site:

September 2, 2009 - 3:24am

Recently I've heard a lot of hype about optimizing websites with flash. These seem to be pushing alternate content for the search engines. While standards bodies support the use of these methods I tend to think that search engines what to give people what they want not based on what a website says it's about but what the search will actually find when they get there. The alternate techniques smack a little of black hat SEO techniques. Yes some flash websites will rank well from other methods and Google is starting to dig into the flash, but I think the battle is still raging between flash and text.

May 30, 2010 - 10:16pm

Breaking the Myth: Flash Doesn’t Show up in Web Searches! is an interesting article that explain you some really important things for your website, now,SEO for Flash website is not a problem anymore.

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