Overuse of AJAX may have Negative SEO Implications

- July 17, 2008

The constant buzz about Web 2.0 technologies, might lead one to believe that all Web 2.0 technologies are well suited for ideal search engine optimization. That’s not entirely true. One such technology that comes to mind is AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML). As you browse the web these days, you will no doubt encounter many web sites implementing AJAX technologies. AJAX is basically a set of web technologies, based on JavaScript, that allow parts of a web page to communicate with the web server without refreshing the entire webpage as a whole. The end goal is to allow web applications to behave more like traditional desktop applications. Although AJAX can be used for many other things, that is what is was designed for, and in my opinion, what it is best at.

Since AJAX is based on JavaScript, you should be aware that like JavaScript, AJAX and most search engines don’t play well together. This means that you need to consider whether or not AJAX is the right solution for your needs. Consider this issue that we faced not too long ago. We have a client who wanted to display tabular data. When you clicked on a tab, corresponding information would be loaded into the panel below. There are many common ways to achieve this using AJAX, but the thing is, the search engines are only seeing whichever panel of information is displayed when the web page is initially loaded. With this kind of solution, when a tab is clicked, a request is made to the server and the data is returned just to that panel, without refreshing the entire webpage. So if you have 5 tabs, only the first one will be indexed, and the other 4 will not. A spider will not execute the JavaScript call that loads the information for the other tabs, so, that content you wanted to get indexed, well, just won’t.

We realized that AJAX was not the best solution for displaying tabular data and explored another search engine friendly alternative, JQuery, which proved to have better SEO results. I am by no means slamming AJAX. I actually love and use it all the time, but I don’t think it’s applicable in every situation. You should not choose to implement a technology because it is a buzzword. But rather, make sure you are using the right tool for the job.

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