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Q: Why does using Flash reduce my traffic?
by Mike Slocombe

Q: I'm responsible for updating our company's website. Last time we updated it, three years ago, we went over to frames. It went down like a lead balloon - traffic to the site dropped and we fell in search engine listings. We had to revert back to the old site.

Now I'd like to recreate the site using Flash, as it can be much better for navigation, and quicker. Before I do, can you tell me if I'm likely to put off users and how many people have Flash switched on in their browsers?
James Briggs

A: Although Macromedia's put a great deal of work into making Flash more search engine friendly, the bottom line is that a well-designed, search engine-optimised HTML page is always likely to rank higher than its Flash equivalent.

What search engines love is simple, plain text that they can index and rank for keywords, accompanied by plain HTML links so they can 'spider' a site.

Users also appreciate the simplicity and speed of pure HTML. I strongly advise against having important content contained in your Flash creations, or making bandwidth-groaning movies which will deter potential customers. Keep it simple!

If your heart's set on building a site entirely in Flash, I recommend building an accompanying HTML site to ensure maximum accessibility and the highest possible rankings on search engines.

I'd seriously question your claim that Flash navigation is 'quicker' or 'better' than HTML equivalents. Be sure to provide an alternative set of HTML text links placed consistently on your pages, and whatever you do, don't make the navigation needlessly complicated or confusing - and spare users from those funk-eee sound effects! For more info: Search Engine Placement Tips

January 2003

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