|What have you heard about using Flash on your Web site? That it’s a death sentence for search engine placement? That it takes too long to load? That it’s going to get your site blacklisted on search engines? I’ve heard it all. Even now, several years later and after all the adaptations and evolutions of software, Web sites and search engines, I am still forced, on occasion, to defend the use of Flash on dealer Web sites.|
Early in the Internet game, search engine placement was only as good as the text you had on the homepage and the meta tags you had built into the Web site title and description. Early on, Flash was only used for animation to make the homepage more attractive. However, Flash took longer to load on dial-up computers, and anything within the Flash animation was not visible to search engines. These reasons were valid … five years ago. This is where the negative reputation comes from.
However, Web site technologies have evolved by leaps and bounds, thus the search engines also had to evolve to be able to index and serve up these new sites to the public. Now that dial-up users are considered ancient and search engines can read Flash content, both major objections have been eliminated.
Ironically, Flash was voted in Wired magazine as the best software for building Web sites because of all its benefits. It makes home pages much more attractive and captivating, and in a world where there are literally millions of Web sites, something has to make one Web site stand out above another. Visual captivation is critical in such a crowded marketplace where you have about one second to capture the attention of an online shopper. Flat, HTML sites were not doing the trick to attract eyeballs. Imagine removing all lighting from your dealership and never again using balloons, streamers and window paint.
Flash also allows for animated navigation elements that minimize the number of clicks it takes to find the information consumers seek. One click access to all pages within a Web site is a critical feature for lower bail-out rates and higher lead-to-visitor ratios.
Because Flash is so beneficial in Web development, search engines now “crawl” or “spider” Flash elements for content. This means that Web sites with Flash are no longer invisible to search engines. Anyone telling you otherwise is wrong and is doing you a disservice by trying to talk you out of using it. In fact, Web sites with Flash on them can be indexed just as effectively as ones without.
Furthermore, Flash is and will continue to be critical in product display and demonstration for dealer Web sites. Flash allows us to provide the 360-spin pictures, multi-picture slide shows, animated vehicle color changers and video walk-arounds that are essential for online vehicle research. Without Flash, we would be back to using heavy .jpg images and spotty QuickTime movies for vehicle display.
So for homework, research a new car, TV (CircuitCity.com, BestBuy.com and ElectronicExpress.com all use Flash), boat, motorcycle or RV. Go check the latest scores on ESPN.com or set your fantasy football roster on NFL.com. Then imagine if none of these sites used Flash. What would your online experience have been like? Now explain to me why you would not want to use Flash on your own site to gain competitive advantage.
Dealers seeking a harmonious online-to-instore experience should start by taking advantage of the advanced digital marketing tools, assets, and services your manufacturers are offering for free.