Google Webmaster Tools says No to Flash

Every day I make it a point to go through the Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools data of this blog. The reason I do this is because daily monitoring the site’s data helps me quickly spot interesting usage behaviors in the site.

For e.g today I noticed that there was spike to the Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies post that I had done. On closer inspection, I realized that people are coming to this post via image search – keywords being: elvish army, dwarf phalanx and so on. Hurrah for a separate Image sitemap!

Google as an evolving Ecosystem

Another reason to do regular monitoring is that the Google ecosystem is always evolving. So the analytics reports you used to find in one section would suddenly be rationalized into other. Some of the features would simply be removed – case in point – Google Authorship and Authorship stats.

Similarly, the world of Search revolves around Google (for now). Yes, there are many vertical search engines, but Google still rules the roost. So announcements they make on how search is going to change are taken very seriously.

So, which announcement has me worried? Well, it’s the 21st April deadline for webmasters to start being mobile first and have their sites mobile friendly. Folks who are in SEO or are tracking search would know that this change has already rolled out!

When you are searching on the mobile, one small text in the Rich Snippets area tells you whether the site is mobile friendly or not.

How do I check for mobile friendliness?

You could always use Pagespeed Insights or GWMT to check this. In GWMT, in the Search Traffic section, there is a Mobile Usability report.

Since I am on the famous 2015 WordPress theme, I know that my site’s template is mobile friendly. However when I ran this report, I realized that some of the content on my site is flash based.

Mobile usability GWMT Flash

Mobile usability report in GWMT

This is interesting, since Flash does not run on most mobiles, the user experience for this page on a mobile is destroyed. Since Google is now focusing on the user experience alongwith relevance, this has become a mandate (well almost one if you care about your organic traffic) for webmasters.

In my defense, this is a fairly old post and back then the default embed that YouTube was offering was based in flash.

After seeing this, I quickly took action. I edited the post, went to the relevant YouTube video, got the updated html code and updated the post.

21st April is the D-Day

Keep in mind folks, right now is the best time to check for mobile friendliness. After 21st April, it is said that non-mobile friendly pages will be penalized on mobile search.

If you take a look at your site’s Google Analytics data, you can realize how much of an impact this is. 30-40% of all site’s traffic is via mobiles and this is seen to grow when the site is further optimized for mobiles.

So run, this report and work towards being mobile friendly.

So what happens to Flash?

With Apple first going against Flash, and now with Google saying a firm no to Flash based content, most webmasters will start weeding out those silly flash based animations from their sites (if you are using one, you can quickly replace that using a HTML5 based slider!).

Without support on the web, Flash will most likely be left to die. Like IE. For desktops, there is the better structured Adobe Air, and for platform independence there is Unity. Flash and Action script will see a huge dip and perhaps a year down the line I might have to write a tribute to Flash.