Last week I had a discussion with someone about the redesign of their website. Their current corporate site is in HTML and very well SEO’d, but they are looking for something more interactive…they want to build the site in Flash. I am totally against Flash-based corporate sites (not RIAs), not because I think flash sites aren’t cool, but because the SEO and usability tradeoffs are just too great.

Yes, Google can index Flash, but in a very limited fashion:

  • Google can’t process javascript
  • They can’t index images inside of a flash file
  • The don’t get anchor text from flash buttons

What page was that?

All the above aside the biggest problem with Flash-based sites is they typically don’t have the concept of a “page”. The entire experience in wrapped in a Flash file, pulling in assets as needed. The URL of the content does not change, making difficult it if not impossible to deep link in a Flash based site (though I have seen some duct tape work-arounds). It’s hard to develop links and gain rankings when people can’t point to what they want to.

Ever try selling a client over the phone with a Flash based site? It goes something like this:

  1. Ok. Wait for the loader bar to finish? Is it loaded? Great.
  2. Wait for a second while the intro animation runs.
  3. Click on the pulsing green button.
  4. See the dancing donkey in the corner? Click that.
  5. Click on the donkey’s right eye.
  6. One second… the donkey is going to say something. Funny right?
  7. Ok. We are one the case studies interactive visualizer. Slide the scroller. Kewl huh? It bounces.
  8. Pick a client. One sec, loading.
  9. Alright. Here is the case study I was taking about.

I prefer this:

  1. Go to

Inaccurate Search Results

Google experiences the same issues as human users do with Flash. While the Google bot may interact with a flash app to retrieve a search result, clicking on that search result may not lead a search user to the content they thought they were getting. The user may need to click on buttons within the application, recreating the bots clicks to find the content they actually want. This is a terrible user experience.

Where’s the Beef?

Designers love Flash because they can create a very rich interactive experience, but those experiences are typically designed to have little text content. That’s all good for a RIA, but when it comes to a corporate website you need some beef (read text content). Even if Google could index every part of a Flash site properly the site would still have less content than a traditional HTML site. Text content rules when in comes to SEO.

The Proof is in the SERPs

Don’t believe me? Go ahead and search for any keyword you can think of. I can guarantee that 9/10 results are HTML sites. Do 100 searches for every day terms and I would be surprised if you found more than 1-2 flash sites occupying the top 5 results for those terms.

If you are considering development of an all Flash corporate website in do yourself a favor and don’t.

Ted Murphy

Ted Murphy

Ted Murphy is an American entrepreneur. He is currently the Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of IZEA, a technology company that provides software for influencer marketing.


  • dove charmer says:

    Ted, stick to what you know… your breakdown of Flash reads like someone who stopped paying attention years ago. The sense of a “page” has been doable for a few versions now and deep-linking, unique page URLs, and browser button control are all pretty easy for folks who are up to date on best practices. Love your blog, but before you break down why flash sucks you might want to do your home
    work 😉

  • Ted Murphy says:

    I didn’t say that deep linking isn’t doable. It is as I said above. However, most flash sites don’t do it because they aren’t set up in a page-like framework and it adds a bunch of extra work to create URLs.

    Go ahead and check this site out.

    Please post the link to the Baracardi Mobile project page. You can’t. There is no link. There is no “page”. I would say these guys know what they are doing, but as you see there are no URLs. What’s worse is this whole site only has 8 pages indexed in Google.

    Have you ever asked yourself why isn’t done in Flash? Flash does not lend itself to corporate sites or large amount of textual information. It’s great for games, video and RIAs.

  • Adam Fortuna says:

    I’d definitely agree — putting together a full website in flash is an uphil battle. Search engines aren’t used to it, users won’t be able to interact with it the same way (urls, bookmarks, back button, etc). Even when SEO isn’t an issue, like for the innards of a banking system for example, I wouldn’t put an all flash solution up either. I’ve heard people say use html for web sites, flash for web applications — meaning utilities rather than the entire app. Give it an image upload form, graphs, anything with audio/video and flash will probably outshine anything you can do without it.

    If you want a really weird flash example, check out . It’s an ok site and the intro page is regular html, but the entire site used to be flash. Most of the links on there go to the flash version. It looks like they’re converting the entire site from flash to html.

  • Sam B says:

    Ted, its isnt about flash sites vs non flash sites – it is about the 2 working together. Personally, i find the whole “Flash Sucks” argument somewhat played out. Just because “most sites” don’t do a good job optimizing flash doesn’t mean we need to throw the baby out with the bath water. Is what you are basing your opinion of flash on? Just because they haven’t figured it out doesn’t mean the rest of us haven’t either. It isn’t and all or nothing argument it is about using today’s best practices to leverage flash in the best possible way and to use it in concert with other languages to get the best possible result.

    Flash isn’t as great at SEO, but it isnt as archaic as you describe either.

  • Ted Murphy says:

    @Sam B:
    I don’t think flash sucks all together, I think all flash sites suck for SEO. I am all for a Flash/HTML hybrid (like, I think that offers the best of both worlds.

  • SRS says:

    I think just a little flash here and there is fine for embellishments, but that’s all.

    Total flash sites, I pass right by.

  • Gert says:

    no offence, but if you do i test to see how many flash sites come out on top in google youre not keeping all arguments/facts in count.

    1. there still more html or html/flash sites then full flash only
    2. SEO for flash has only beeing finetuned technacly since a few years..
    3. much has to do with the developer willing or better – beeing able to do SEO for flash.

    I have seen plenty enough of terrible HTML sites, with bloated animated GIF, irritating marquee’s or buggy java applets.

    sticking your tongue out on every foto doesn’t looks very creative to me.

    even your view ‘what page was that’ is the one of a narrowminded anti-flash person.
    such a flash site is build either +4y ago or by a 15y old gamer that has build a clansite.

    grow up

  • Scotty says:

    Correct flash is bad for SEO, but uh…. what about meta tags?, cant we still use them? Your giving the impression that we should not use flash to make sites.
    This is misleading.

    PS, you know you can SEO in side XML rite …. Lol

    Any cool site. 

  • […] corporate identity that I personally love. Leave it to the MindComet team to debunk my post about flash websites sucking for SEO. Their new site is search engine friendly and allows you to deep link to whatever you […]

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