Updates May Be Required For Websites Using AJAX

Priti Shah - November 25, 2015

Up until the past two years, Google had difficulty deciphering or rendering webpages that rely heavily on JavaScript. This often lead to content that was unreadable by search engines and users. Due to this, in 2009 Google proposed webmaster guidelines so that AJAX based applications would be visible and properly indexed by search engines and appear in search results for users.

It is important to understand that websites that are entirely built in AJAX (or rely heavily upon the technology) are usually more difficult for search engines to crawl and index correctly. However, Google has been making many strides in this realm indicating that there may be light at the end of the tunnel for websites that want to make stronger use of AJAX. Read on to learn more about how you can ensure that an AJAX application is up to date with Googles latest guidelines.


Google has now gotten much better at crawling AJAX applications and has stated that they do not need the AJAX crawling guidelines anymore! Google has stated that they are capable of “reading” and “understanding” AJAX sites without the scheme (HTML snapshots on “escaped fragment” URLs), so Google can access AJAX sites and decipher SEO related information directly. Keep in mind though, this applies only if you are not blocking Googlebot from crawling your site’s JavaScript or CSS files within the robots.txt file.

What does this mean for webmasters or web developers?

Immediate change is not required by webmasters or web developers, but a change to progressive enhancement is recommended. Progressive enhancement principles are related to a method in web design which focuses on accessibility for a wider range of browsers and devices, scripting technologies, and semantic HTML markup. The purpose of progressive enhancement is to ensure that your site’s most important content can be accessed by users regardless of how they are consuming it. Additionally,

  • If you are using pre-rendered pages, it is vital to ensure that they provide the same experience for the user and Google. Content served to the user should be the exact same as what is served to Google.
  • If you are considering a site redesign or re-structuring an existing site, then we recommend (if possible) to avoid using “escaped fragment” URLs .

Here is a quick snapshot of some of the main principles of progressive enhancement:

  • User web browser preferences should be taken into consideration
  • Primary content regions should be available and viewable on all web browsers (some content may be hidden on mobile when compared to desktop)
  • Functionality on all web browsers should be available and viewable
  • CSS should be externalized

Above all, we recommend checking in with your web development team to ensure they are aligned with progressive enhancement principles on your company’s website in order to maximize user experience for users and crawlability for search engines.

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