October 30, 2009, 12:00 AM

Found in a Flash

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Since switching to Ajax for much of his site, Tisdale says ShoppersChoice has improved its search engine rankings by between 10% and 15%. “Ajax has allowed us to keep pages fancy for the customers, but still make them search engine-friendly,” Tisdale says. What’s more, he says visitors don’t need to download a plug-in to view the Ajax applications as they do for Flash.

However, Ajax doesn’t do everything Flash does, says Tisdale, who still uses Flash sparingly for videos on his web sites. For example, an apparel retailer that wants to show a model strutting across its site would likely need to use Flash to make it happen. “Flash has some amazing capabilities. I just don’t need most of them,” he says.

And there are other downsides to Ajax. For example, Ajax, sequences can look inconsistent across browsers, he says.

“With a Flash file, you know that the sequence will look the same for anyone who has Flash installed, and you also get the benefit of Adobe web support and customer service,” Tisdale says. “Ajax can be a little more time-consuming to develop. You have to see if it works and then troubleshoot and tweak it for each browser to see that it will look the same across the board. That certainly doesn’t happen overnight.”

As rich media becomes a staple on the Internet, search engines are working to better crawl content in applications like Flash and Sliverlight. But until then, e-retailers may want to explore new advancements that let them add rich media without lowering their search rankings.


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