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SEO-Friendly AJAX

How to use AJAX and get indexed by search engines

AJAX, Web2.0... whatever it's called, is fundamentally a problem for accessibility from a users point of view but from a business point of view, it's immediately less search engine friendly and this gives us major problems in the marketing department.

AJAX, for those that haven't heard the term, is a new age way of bringing software like usability to the web. It uses existing technologies but usefully pulls them together to create powerful online applications. The most famous examples of AJAX, or Web 2.0 is Googles Suggest feature and Googles Maps tool.

In a nutshell, its a means of using asynchronous JavaScript and XML to query a remote data source and render the content without refreshing or reloading the page.

The danger of this, from a search engine optimisation point of view is that we are doing away with unique URL's and we have few options to manipulate TITLE tags and page headers, the main requirement for an effective SEO campaign.

As much as SEO is dismissed as secondary to design, a website is a tool for business and should fundamentally reach its market first and foremost.

How to search engine optimise Ajax

The technique I wish to propose contains two main rules and will fundamentally change the way the AJAX application is constructed.

Rule #1

The initial load of the AJAX application must contain the optimised elements such as TITLE and headers and also must be reachable from a fixed address.

Rule #1 is all about using the following two techniques.

  • Server side script
  • .htaccess mod_rewrite

If you're not based on the Apache server when it comes to hosting then mod_rewrite may not be an option but there are always solutions. Check out your hosting platforms options with regards to URL rewriting.

The following links offer an example of rewriting an URL to form a fixed address that a search engine can index safely and rank.

  • http://www.samplesite.com/ajax_seo/company/1/
  • http://www.samplesite.com/ajax_seo/company/2/
  • http://www.samplesite.com/ajax_seo/company/3/

The above URL's are a rewritten version of:

  • http://www.samplesite.com/ajax_seo/index.php?company=1
  • http://www.samplesite.com/ajax_seo/index.php?company=2
  • http://www.samplesite.com/ajax_seo/index.php?company=3

The mod_rewrite instructions that allow for this are as follows:

Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ajax_seo/(.*)/(.*)/$
    /ajax_seo/index.php?$1=$2

Although the real URL is a dynamically generated single page, the mod_rewrite instruction gives the appearance (to a search engine) that there is a directory with different and more importantly unique content at the destination.

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