One of the longest-standing issues between web designers and search engine marketers has been the question of Flash. Flash, an animation program from Macromedia, can be very versatile and exciting in the hands of a good programmer. Flash can be used to animate banners, create movies, or create an entire website. When done well, in an appropriate industry, a Flash site can really get a great response from its visitors.
Marketers, however, hate them, and with good reason. We search engine marketers don't have the luxury of looking at a site for aesthetic appeal; we are forced to look at it from the inside out, with the eye of a computer program wtih absolutely no appreciation for artistry. In order for a site to perform well across the broadest possible range of search engines, it needs to supply the kind of information that excites computer programs. This information includes text, text, and more text. With maybe a little extra text thrown in, just for good measure.
So the problem is, you've just spent several thousand dollars on your Flash site, it's beautiful, your test group raves over it, and your marketer tells you it's useless. Can't rank. Waste of money. Flash is a graphical programming language, and while the visitor sees exciting pictures that usually incorporate plenty of text content, the search engine sees a call to a Flash file, and that's about it. Flash sites, historically, rank poorly if at all.
Recently it was discovered that Google was finding a way to rank some Flash sites, apparently reading the actual program files and picking out text words (see our post on "Flash Websites, Internet Marketing, and Conversions"), giving hope to Flash programmers that their hard work would finally gain some recognition on the internet.
Now there's even more good news: Macromedia has announced that they have an entire division which is devoting itself to coming up with an SEO-friendly version of Flash. If they succeed, it will be a godsend to marketers and designers alike, and business owners won't be caught in the middle of the war anymore. It promises a new era of cooperation between Flash and the search engines.
Let's hope that they succeed, because there are no losers in that scenario!