Normal wisdom says that if you use Flash in a web site it will hurt your search engine placement. This is due primarily to search engines having a hard time to index Flash content. But with a little ingenuity we can use that very problem to our advantage.
Let’s first take a look at how search engine indexing can cause you problems on your web site.
Most web sites are built up of menus and context areas. The menus are frequently text based, making them easy to update or change. The content is dependent on our writing creativity. Both of these can lead to search engine indexing trouble.
Search Engines look through the text on your pages, menus as well as content and they create their index on what they find. So far so good. But just how do the search engines do this? They can’t look at your page and decide which is the main content area visually, so they simply start at the top of the code and work down.
If your site follows the standard pattern of a navigation bar on either the top or down the left side of the page and uses a table structure to achieve this, then your whole nav bar will be read and indexed before your main content area. If your site has a lot of variation then this shouldn’t be a problem. But what if your site is focused on one subject and your navigation bar tends to repeat words? As an example you may have a site that sells watches and your nav bar may read like this: Men’s Watches, Ladies Watches, Sport Watches, etc. You can see how easy it is to repeat that word Watches.
Search engines like to give points to sites that contain valuable content that is easily categorized and recognizable to visitors, but they also take away points for keyword spamming. In the above Watch example, the nav bar could easily cause your page to be listed as a keyword spammer.
Here is the first Flash Trick to improve your ranking. Create the navigation bar in Flash. This way all those repeating words are now hidden from the search engine spiders. As an added benefit the code taken up by the Flash will probably be less than the code used in the text based nav bar. This will help the search engine spiders to focus on the main content area of your page.
Let’s now look at another common problem with search engine indexing. In this example consider a shopping site selling the same watches as in our previous example. Each watch page will have a description of the individual watch, and that is fine. But each page may also have “boiler plate” text as well. There may possibly be a standard description for a particular watch brand, or possibly warranty or shipping information included on the page.
Another red flag that goes up for the search engine spiders is text repeating from page to page. The more distinct each page is the more likely the search engines will consider the text as relevant. If there is too much repeated text, the search engines may even drop all the pages that they believe have duplicated text. Not a good situation, especially if you don’t want to be forced into creating completely original text for every page on your site.
Here is Flash Trick number two. Keep all the distinct content on your pages as html text and convert any repeating text areas into Flash files that are placed into the pages. This way, only the distinct text is visible to the search engines and your repeating text is hidden in the Flash file. Any text that you tend to repeat from page to page is a prime candidate for the Flash treatment.
So take a look through your web site. Do you have text menus that use repetitive words? Do you use boiler plate text, or have repeated text areas on several pages? If so you should let Flash’s disadvantage of being search engine unfriendly become your advantage on making a search engine friendly site.
By John Hester