When people start talking about websites, there’s always that one question that comes up at some point no one can avoid if noobs are around – “What about AJAX?” Rookie website owners jump right into the concept of adding some splash to their site with AJAX applications. Fine, but how does AJAX work? Well, when you press the submit button on a webpage or make a selection and click ‘go’ or ‘send’, normally the page will have to refresh and reload based on the selections that were made or the information that was requested. When AJAX is onboard, actions the website can quickly display results for the user without having to refresh the page. Basically, visitors don’t wait as long to get returns. They receive the information or move to the next step more quickly.
While that SOUNDS great, many website owners have no idea that the AJAX applications they use can actually damage the SEO value of their site. AJAX uses Java Script – and search engines cannot read Java script. That is a huge problem in and of itself. Search engines ignore content delivered through AJAX. Can you say pwned? If you use AJAX, you certainly can.
If you think that your navigation menu would look better using AJAX, stop for a moment and consider the fact that it will not be seen or crawled by search engine spiders. If that doesn’t send warning flares up all around you, maybe you should use AJAX. Your site’s navigation menu is a massive part of your site. It is immensely important for SEO. If complete crawling of such an important element is not possible, you are going to be working against yourself in terms of SEO for your website. You will basically be throwing your whole SEO budget into a black hole in which there is not and never will be any win.
Don’t be a fool – make your website search engine friendly. Ensure that every page of your website shows up in HTML. Check whether your website is serving HTML pages by switching off the Java Script in your web browser. If you don’t get any error messages even when the Java Script is switched off, then you are seeing what the search engines see and all is well – your full content is being crawled.
AJAX uses an intermediary engine and does not refresh the page – which means the content delivered through AJAX does not correspond to the URL displayed, since it is snagged from a secondary engine to save time. This means that such a page cannot be reached by search engines, and that no browser history will be found for web pages delivered through AJAX.
Does all of this mean that you cannot use AJAX for your website? Of course not. It’s like Flash – you simply have to know how to deal with the complexities, and make sure you have crawlable content. AJAX is perfectly fine if you want people to look at your site and shake their head wondering what programmer from the 90’s made it. AJAX has purpose, and if rankings mean nothing to you at all, AJAX delivers a great user experience.