This has been on ongoing issue since the late 90s. Traditional graphic designers love to push Flash because it allows them more creative flexibility. Flash doesn’t have the same technical limits as HTML.

Sites that are built in all flash can still rank well in search engines but not as well as a similar page built in HTML. The reason? Google has over 250 parameters they take into account when indexing and ranking websites. Flash can still accommodate some of these parameters but not most of them. Even with the Google/Adobe announcement that Google would begin indexing flash files, they don’t behave the same way that HTML files do and are still treated differently.

Industry Leader Rand Fishkin (who loves flash) has come up with a great list of 7 reasons why you shouldn’t have a site created in ALL flash. (http://www.seomoz.org/blog/flash-and-seo-compelling-reasons-why-search-engines-flash-still-dont-mix)

  1. Different content is NOT on different URLs
  2. The breakdown of text (not formatted by importance like HTML)
  3. Flash gets embedded
  4. Lack of testability for flash optimization
  5. Flash doesn’t earn external links like HTML pages do
  6. SEO basics are missing
  7. A lot of flash still isn’t crawlable

Vanessa Fox of Nine By Blue has given the following reasons to be cautious when considering Flash:

  1. Search engines are still based on text, not Flash
  2. Even using XML to populate your Flash, you miss most of the SEO benefits of HTML
  3. Google can’t index javascript called from Flash (a common practice)

There are also many opinions about the correct way to use flash. Some say not at all, some say Search Engines don’t really matter. The general consensus is that flash is best used as a page element in an HTML based site. Even if you will have the bulk of the content be Flash. This is the best way to accommodate the edgy designers and the search engine sceintsts.

The big issue here is what really matters to companies concerned with reputation management.

To these companies, Search Engines do matter but not for the same reasons that one might expect. The main SEO push at these companies is to get good positive content on the 1st page of Google. They probably already have the top position, but also want the big detractors to not appear on page one. That will be accomplished by building SEO value in other web properties. Building the new company site(s) all in Flash will not help that endeavor, it will hinder it. Here’s why.

Links are widely accepted as the most heavily weighted factors in search rankings. Google doesn’t do well finding links from flash to other sites. The company needs to get its secondary properties to rank on the 1st page of Google for the main keyword (the company name). For example if MonaVie.com had a flash link to monaviemall.com, it wouldn’t get picked up by Google and MonaVie would be losing one of the most valuable links for that secondary domain. By putting the content and links in HTML, they gain those ever important links from MonaVie.com to their other properties AND they also gain latent semantic keyword value by having the page text associated with the links on the page. Both of those benefits are lost in the use of an all Flash website.

How companies should use flash

Companies definitely need to keep flash, but done right. Flash isn’t the only way to accomplish the premium look and feel that they need on the website but it is very effective from a design perspective. What needs to be done is to use flash as a page element that is embedded into HTML. They also need to make sure to incorporate content into the design. Every page – especially the homepage needs to have textual content.