6 Ways a Flash Website Can Hurt Your Business

Flash related side effects actually discourage search engine pick-up. The bottom line: Flash can hurt a website’s performance.

Search engines are the top tools that people use to find websites on the Internet. If you want your website to be successful in pulling in visitors and engaging them with your business, you must have a solid strategy for working with search engines.  Unfortunately, many companies build their web sites without putting enough thought into how potential customers will find their sites, and how they will use those sites to drive business.  The “build it and they will come” philosophy just doesn’t work in the web world.  The most popular search engine, Google, currently indexes over 10 billion sites, and the number grows daily. But, only a few dozen sites in any given category can appear on the first few pages of Google and other search engine listings.  How do you make sure your website is one of those? There are lots of elements to consider, but this article focuses on how Flash technology impacts how likely search engines are to zoom in on your website.

Put simply, Flash is a particular format used to place animated graphics into a website. When it comes to putting Flash to work for your website, the trick is to balance those Flash images with text and other elements that play into how search engines  respond to your site.
 
When Flash is “done right” it looks great and can make your site pop on the visual side. At Infomedia we often recommend incorporating Flash on your site to enhance the site’s appearance and contribute to a polished, professional look. Some other companies get carried away with Flash, and an unknowing customer can end up with a bargain priced site that looks great, but is  riddled with unseen  negative “ Flash related side effects”  that actually discourage search engine pick-up. The bottom line- Flash can hurt a website’s performance.
 
Here’s what happens:

Search engines  view your website as one big page:– Search engines  do not read images, so even a great looking graphic is a turn-off to a search engine, it simply doesn’t exist for search purposes, and if the search engines  can’t find you, customers can’t either!  Search engines  do read words, so it’s important to have crisp copy and text right up front, where the Search engines  can see it. When it comes to attracting search engine attention your keywords matter, your pictures don’t.

The copy on your site that the search engine can read is going to be limited to the very brief copy we can include  in your home page title, description, and keyword meta tags. Since most search engines ignore the keywords metatags now, that doesn’t help you at all. The description tag is for the visitor to read to decide if they want to click on your listing and not for the search engine so that doesn’t help you either. That means the title tag of your web site is where the action is as far as search engines are concerned. . When a search engines crawls your site, it only sees the one or two sentences that you can squeeze into your title and that is it. That means your prime real estate for search engine purposes is your up-front text. You don’t want to hand that property over to Flash that the search engines will not read.

So Long, Dial-Up Traffic –A lot of companies assume that since they are surfing the web on a high speed connection, everyone must be. As hard as it is to believe, around 40% of people using the Internet are still using a dial up connection. If you are not using a dial up connection, think back to when you did. The waiting and waiting would make you eventually leave a site if it didn’t load quickly. The load time of even a small Flash site or Flash intro can push even the most patient site visitor to hit their back button and go to your competitor.

See ya later, PDA and Phone Traffic – We know people are looking at your web site on their portable device or phone. I probably view 50% of the sites I visit on my cell phone. I am always looking up web sites when I am away from my office or home. My phone doesn’t support Flash and actually very few do. Even the holy grail of phones, the iphone has an application that will allow you to watch some Flash videos, but will not allow you to see Flash websites. This will change over time as devices start to support Flash, but today the Flash elements aren’t helpful to PDA users.

Your site is seen as small – Since Flash web sites are seen as one big picture and the little copy in the title tag, the search engines see it as a very small site. Search engines want to point people to large web sites that are rich in content. You are not going to get a lot of search engine traffic for anything but your company name with one page, one picture, and one or two sentences.

Your link relevancy is discounted – Just a few years ago, if you had lot of links to your web site from other people’s web site, you would do well in the search engines. Now the relevancy of the link is what matters, not the number. The search engines can’t say if a link is really relevant to your business or not if they can only read a sentence or two of copy on your site.  This will seriously dilute any of the good will you would normally get from your links.

You will pay more for Pay-per-click advertising – Pay-per-click costs are not the same for every business. The Search engines give you a quality score based on the copy of your site and its relevancy to the keywords you are bidding on. This is just one way they keep companies from bidding on keywords that are not really relevant to their business. Why would people do this? Not long ago, companies would hire or set up undercover companies to buy traffic that would normally go to their competitors. They would then have the top few rankings and their own ad would be the only one that was going to a good or relevant site. Also, some companies would buy any term that was cheap because they assumed that any traffic was good traffic.

Now they have refined the pay-per-click model.  They want to make sure they are sending their searchers to good and relevant companies and web sites. If you only have one or two sentences on your site, it is hard for the search engine to determine if your site is relevant to the searcher.  This means that you will not even be able to bid on a lot of the keywords that are actually relevant to your business, it also means that you will have to pay more for the words you are allowed to bid on. On top of all of that, people trust your pay-per-click ad less than an organic search result. If they get to your site through pay-per-click and they are on dial-up, they are not going to wait for fancy Flash features to download and your ad money is wasted.
 
The bottom line– Flash looks cool, and it can definitely enhance your site’s appearance, but in the business mix, the value is not in the Flash, it is in the content and text. Words matter. At Infomedia, we have developed proven strategies to help our customers balance the use of Flash with other critically important elements that maximize website value and performance.  E-mail us at sales@infomedia.com or give us a call at 205-823-4440 to discuss your web site's search ability. We would love to talk with you about how we can help your web site perform better, drive more traffic and make more sales.

Jerry is not afraid of a good fight. Not with other people mind you, but with your competition. He loves to help our clients get web traffic and high search engine rankings for terms that are usually dominated by big box retailers and Fortune 500 companies. This doesn't happen overnight, but when it does, it will transform your business. He is one of the pioneers (he hates that term) of Web Marketing in Alabama and is scary good in his understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), pay-per-click advertising, analytics, and online user behavior. You definitely want him in your corner.
See more articles from Jerry Brown