Saturday, July 29, 2017

Good SEO News: Flash is Dead

This Tuesday Adobe announced the end of Flash. By 2020, the company will completely stop "updating and distributing," the once famed, and now notorious, freeware software.

The end of Flash will come as no surprise to many in the tech industry. The writing has been on the wall since at least 2010, when Apple eliminated Flash from the iPhone.

"It was too insecure," Wired recently wrote, referring to Steve Job's assessment of the technology, "too proprietary, too resource-intensive, too unaccommodating."

This has been the assessment of developers (and savvy end-users) for years; yet all of these factors had other, indirect effects on website performance--and, consequently, website SEO.

Looking at the history of Flash and it's demise, in fact, is perfect way to explore some key SEO themes.

Read Wired's Article: Adobe Finally Kills Flash 

Flash: A Brief History

In the early 2000s, at the dawn of the Internet, most websites relied on simple codes to produce simple designs. Both HTML and CSS, the most popular early coding languages, produced workable sites without much, well, flash.

When Flash was introduced, around this time, designers had access to a new range of content, including the animated graphics many associate with Flash (in positive and negative ways). Soon Flash was installed on most desktop computers. People used the software to access online games, videos, and audio. YouTube, which was founded in 2005, initially used Flash to display its videos.

The problems with Flash, however, which Steve Jobs noted in his "Thoughts on Flash," and which included the fact that the software was not open-source, nor reliable or secure, soon outweighed the benefits. Websites with Flash often took forever to load; and many crashed routinely.

Over time, better codes offered better means of presenting dynamic content. The prominence of touch screens and mobile phones, too, highlighted a crucial Flash flaw, which Jobs noted in 2010:

"Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers."

The development of HTML5, a coding language that supports the same dynamic content as Flash, made Flash essentially useless. In 2011, even Adobe announced it would stop developing Flash to meet touch screen standards--and would, instead, develop HTML5-based products.

Flash and SEO: Website Usability 

The reason Flash is so bad for SEO is partly about usability. Flash makes websites run slower; it also makes sites harder to navigate. Slow, hard to navigate sites do not impress the search engines.

Usability may be of a "second order influence," as Moz notes, but it certainly effects how browsers perceive a site--and consequently, how search engines interpret a site's popularity:

"Usability and user experience are second order influences on search engine ranking success,"  Moz notes. "They provide an indirect but measurable benefit to a site's external popularity, which the engines can then interpret as a signal of higher quality. This is called the 'no one likes to link to a crummy site' phenomenon."

Read: "How Usability, User Experience, and Content Effect Search Engine Rankings"

Flash and SEO: Website Visibility 

Another reason Flash is so bad for SEO is website visibility. Writing for the online marketing firm, Custard, Sam Allock itemizes the reasons Flash is essentially incognito to search engines like Google:

"Since Flash content doesn’t have any URLs, isn’t able to be searched or indexed, uses unreadable text content and doesn’t provide any way of monitoring outbound links, it’s a nightmare for Google’s search bots."

A nightmare indeed. We know URL optimization helps a search engine find a specific page. We also know content is the cornerstone of any digital marketing campaign. And, of course, we know that backlinks are one of Google's top three "ranking factors." For Flash pages, however, these elements are invisible to search engines.

Read: SEO 101: How to Optimize URLs

Read: What is Content Marketing

Read: Google's Top Three Ranking Factors

No wonder Google warns mobile users about Flash websites.

Flash Website? What Can You Do?

As Allock notes, the best way to optimize a site with Flash is to "make sure the Flash content is not critical." The best option, however, is to hire a design and development firm who understands SEO to refresh your website--or, if needed, to build a new website.

An SEO Company That Understands Website Design: Stempan's SEO

To build an effective, fully-optimized website, you need a web design and development company that understands SEO. Stepman's PC is the rare company that offers a host of SEO and marketing professionals to optimize your website. Contact Stepman's PC today to learn how you can improve your website's performance: 215-900-9398.