AJAX-driven web applications are becoming increasingly popular on commercial websites. AJAX has an ability to enrich, yet simplify a userâ??s experience when used properly. AJAX can also provide a highly user-friendly interface that works smoothly, quickly, and often better than traditional programming.
The primary benefit of developing a site with AJAX is the ability to work invisibly in the background of a site. AJAX is used to supply data to the client browser that renders up as a relatively seamless “application” instead of the click-and-wait-to-load functionality associated with more conventional web page constructs.
How seamless is the user experience with AJAX? Check out Google Maps or Google Suggest to see world-class AJAX applications in motion. You can find what you want, when you want it, with relative ease and accuracy when AJAX is in use. What you can’t find is a unique URL or navigational links for search engine spiders to crawl and index, which brings us to our first SEO barrier to overcome — the “J” in AJAX.
The comparative shopping engine Become.com overcomes this barrier by creating and linking together static URLs of search results pages. A quick [site:www.become.com] search in Google reveals how well this AJAX-workaround in indexed.
Meanwhile, sites like Scion.com fail to make the same programmatic leap to provide a similar search experience. Imagine how the carmaker could promote celebrity built custom automobiles in the search engines if only static pages of a punked-out Ashton Kutcher or a blinged-out Usher-mobile were rendered and linked to throughout the site.
Progressive enhancement is a web design strategy that emphasizes accessibility, semantic markup, external style sheet, and scripting technologies. By layering designs in a concatenated progressive enhancement allows all users â?? and search engine spiders â?? to access the basic content and functionality of any web page.
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To produce these particular SEO elements, server side scripts and .htaccess rewrite modules are required. (If site is not Apache server-based then the rewrite module may not be an option, but there are always solutions.)
When optimizing AJAX it’s important to remember three things: Search engine results are affected by on-the-page, behind-the-page and off-the-page factors. It’s essential to provide an alternate way for users and spiders to navigate their way through to all of your great content without sacrificing usability, accessibility and linkability.