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Article Archive by Lee Zoumas

July 17 2008

Overuse of AJAX may have Negative SEO Implications

by Lee Zoumas

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.

June 6 2008

SEO and ASP.NET – An Introduction to URL Rewriting

by Lee Zoumas

A very important part of implementing an SEO strategy into a website is URL rewriting. Basically, URL rewriting transforms an incoming URL (usually a non-existent one) to a different URL (an existing one). Not only can URL rewriting achieve keyword rich URLs for dynamic, database driven sites, but it can also help the transition from an older site to a newer one, as well as alleviate duplicate content issues (by ensuring that spiders do not index multiple sub-domains of the same domain all with the same content or index the same page under different old URLs).

That being said, ASP.NET provides little native support for URL rewriting. The built-in functionality only boils down to one single method. The good news is that the functionality they do provide is quite extendable and there are several third party products that will help you achieve all of your SEO related goals.

The first and most flexible way to approach URL rewriting is to use an ISAPI (Internet Server Application Program Interface) filter, which does not rely on .NET and its currently-limited rewriting support. The major benefit of using an ISAPI filter is that the URL gets rewritten when the initial page request hits the web server, before the page is even passed along to the ASP.NET extension. Because ISAPI filters work at the web server level, you do not have to add any special code in your ASP.NET application. All your rewriting rules are handled in a separate configuration file. Another advantage of using an ISAPI filter is that you can write requests for any type of resource and not just a webpage, such as an image or PDF.

If your webhost has a URL rewriting ISAPI filter available to use, I strongly suggest taking advantage of it, as they’re easy to implement and perform a lot faster than the alternatives. There are several products that have been created using ISAPI filters, one most notable is Helicon’s ISAPI_Rewrite, which as of now costs $99 for a one server license. In my next post, I will explain other ways to implement URL rewriting into your web applications.

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