The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Too Slick for Search?

First, a disclaimer: I am a huge advocate of using Rich Media to sell products and services, I love developing flash-based, interactive solutions for my clients, and I have even developed my own Rich Media products, heck, I'm Mr. Rich Media! That said, I have spent an enormous amount of time over the past two years working on search marketing initiatives (in conjunction with my Rich Media solutions). I know the power of Rich Media Marketing, but I also know the power of Search Engine Optimization. Now that I've got that off my chest, let's move on to my post!

When you need to build an interactive and engaging environment on the web, there is nothing better than flash. I started using flash 9 years ago, when it was a fledgling vector button program for Director, so I've had the ability to watch flash grow, and grow, and grow into the Object Oriented environment it is now... The problem with flash is that it cannot be indexed by the search engines. Go ahead and run a cache command in Google on a full flash site, and then click "click here for cached text only", and you will probably see a blank screen. Needless to say, this isn't good if you want people to find you via search. So, what can you do if there is definitely a need for using flash, but you also want the site to rank in the search engines? The answer lies in creating a hybrid site that uses flash elements, but within an html structure.

Here's an example...One of my clients absolutely needed a slick, eye-grabbing site that promoted their consumer goods product. The site needed to be engaging, but it also needed the ability to educate visitors and provide value added content that would help them understand the core benefits of the product. This was a perfect situation for developing a hybrid website. The core site is an html layout, that provides areas for html text. There is also a text navigation (which provides links to each webpage on the site using descriptive text.) The focus area of each section was developed in flash and provides highly interactive ways to get at more information. For example, you can roll over the product images to trigger a description, testimonials, and research from the industry. Forward to a friend was also built into each section. So, I used flash and html where both would be most powerful. The end-result is a highly engaging hybrid site that also ranks well in the search engines.

I'm all for creating ultra-creative solutions that engage your visitors, but you better believe that I want those same visitors to be able to find you on Google... In my experience, creating a hybrid website using both Flash and html works extremely well.

So, if you want to use Flash, but still rank in the engines, keep these pointers in mind:

* Don't develop full flash sites (without areas for html) If you need the power of flash, create a hybrid site so you can still add html content
* Don't use a flash navigation...always use a text navigation and use descriptive text
* And definitely do not develop a flash site that mimics an html site...then you are completely losing out on the benefits of both methods...

My final words...go ahead and craft highly engaging flash environments, but make sure you leave ample space for html text. Your clients will appreciate it, especially when they get thousands of incremental visitors each month from Google!

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