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AJAX and SEO: Hazards of AJAX to a Website's Search Engine Ranking

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Raja Sekharan
May 09, 2007

Raja Sekharan
The author is a web developer for 6 years and develops web based applications on a freelancer basis. Click here to view the author's site
Raja Sekharan has written 1 articles for JavaScriptSearch.
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Remember when users called the Internet the "world wide wait"? You load a website, click on a link or press a button and wait, the whole page disappears and reappears all over again and the only difference between the two pages is an error message. Then you correct the mistake and click, and wait, wait and finally done!

Websites need to be more responsive and more user-friendly. Website visitors are used to seeing instantaneous responses to actions in standalone applications like microsoft office etc., and it is only natural that they expect the same behavior from web pages too. Recently, quite a few websites, such as GMail and Google Maps, have addressed these issues by developing AJAX type websites where the page mostly never unloads as a result of user action, but only a particular section of the website is changed. Since the whole contents of the page are not unloaded and downloaded again, this type of development accounts for faster and more interactive user experience.

One can expect a few unexpected results from an AJAX driven website too. Such as a particular URL may over time display different content as a result of user action. Bookmarking and navigating the browser history will turn up unexpected results as the URL never changes but only the content. This is a major problem for search engine indexing of such a page because the pages that a particular link will lead to will never be indexed by Search engines because javascript code is used to fetch the content of that page at the same URL. Search engines cannot follow such links and therefore will just skip such content.

There are work-arounds for this particular problem, but may not be compatible across multiple browsers or may not suit the particular application. Thus AJAX may be thought of as a Double edged sword in the hands of a developer. One must keep SEO considerations at higher priority while designing websites in AJAX.

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