Dealer Websites Built in Flash are Pretty… Invisible

When an auto dealership is considering a new website, one of their first considerations is typically the look and feel of the site. Dealerships pride themselves on the image they project to their customers, so it’s natural that they are drawn to great looking websites.

One trend in the auto web design industry is the “flash” website. You’ve seen these sites—they take a while to load, they move very fluidly and have great graphics and navigation, and usually they play some sort of movie upon loading.

But don’t be fooled: Flash sites will kill your search engine traffic.

Flash sites look good, and they’re an easy sell to dealers who don’t understand the downsides of using flash as the basis for an entire website. Flash has been the demise of many unsuspecting sites, so let me explain a few facts before you get fooled by flash.

Flash websites started out as an easy way to integrate video and animation onto a website, most commonly used for the introduction page of a site (you’ve probably seen this, unless you’re like most people and immediately click “skip intro”). Now that the use of flash is becoming more commonplace, entire websites are being built in flash.

So why is this bad? To put it simply, flash websites are essentially a huge movie file instead of a traditional website (that’s why when you visit a flash site, you first must install a plug-in to view Flash if you don’t already have one, and then kick back and wait for it to load). When a search engine robot arrives at your homepage, they just see a movie file, not a page full of good text and links to read and analyze.

This doesn’t work out very well for the friendly little search engine robot, because he can’t download flash movies. Even if he could, there’s no way for him to read anything in the movie to figure out what the page is all about and what it should rank for—it’s just images (even the text in a flash movie is really an image).

So what does he see? Just an empty page. Instead of your big, beautiful, flashy site, Google just sees an empty page. If Google can’t read and analyze the text on your site, Google is certainly never going to rank you for anything.

This leads us to another problem: the rest of your site.

If your whole site is built in flash, and the Google robot can’t even see flash, then he can’t see that you have any pages besides your homepage. This makes a lot more sense when you visit a flash site like http://www.automaxhyundaibrokenarrow.com/. Just click on a few of the pages up in the navigation bar, and look at your URL. It never changes because you’re not actually going to a different page, just a different part of a big movie file (like skipping to a scene on a DVD.) This website is just one page, and one page websites rarely get ranked.

Getting ranked by the search engines for your target terms is vitally important to online businesses—and it’s becoming increasingly important for offline businesses just because so many consumers begin their buying process online. If they find your dealership first, you are ahead right out of the gate. Flash websites are an immediate handicap—the search engines just can’t read them, so they generally ignore them altogether.

Flash can be a great technology, when it’s used like it should be: as a movie. A nice embedded flash movie within your html web page can be a great way to show off a new vehicle, advertise a special, or just get your customer’s attention. But when your whole website is created as one big flash movie you’re essentially invisible to Google, rendering you invisible to your potential online customers.

Don’t be fooled by flash. Do the research before buying a website, and be sure to make search engine visibility a priority. You wouldn’t build a new dealership in the middle of nowhere—you want to be where the traffic is. Internet traffic is on the search engines: if you’re not ranked, you might as well be invisible. Just like a website built in flash.

Jamie Wilson
Search Engine Marketing Specialist
DealerImpact.com

And, on a related note, check out this post from Blogpro Automotive:
http://blogproautomotive.com/2007/07/13/search-engine-basics-an-introductory-lesson-to-basic-internet-search-and-how-it-is-evolving/

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