SEO versus Ajax/JavaScript

As we all know, Google is a wonderfully sophisticated search engine that keeps evolving. However, the web crawler that Google uses – Googlebot (currently version 2.1) has always struggled to cope with certain dynamically loaded content on a web page. Flash, Ajax & Javascript have always tripped it up. This usually results in Google just ignoring the content and links that are sometimes embedded in the code. Unfortunately, it is these programming languages that often give a website its look, feel, personality and functionality if used well. Traditionally, SEO and dynamic content have not good bedfellows made until now…

Matt Cutts of Google Tweeted yesterday that “Google can now execute AJAX/JavaScript to index some dynamic comments.” which means its web crawlers can now ‘read’ some dynamically generated content previously hidden. Exactly how much of this content is unclear. However, he does specifically mention the word comments rather than all Ajax/JavaScript. This is still fantastic news for our developers who love nothing more than to include complex functionality into their web design whilst maintaining search engine friendliness.

HTML is much easier for Google to index and the HTML to dynamic content ratio is believed to be one of many ranking factors that Google will take into account when deciding where to rank your site in the search engine results pages (SERPS).

So how will this affect me and my website?

Well you know all those lovely key-phrase rich comments via Facebook integration or Disqus on your site or blog? – like this one for example. Assuming crawlers haven’t been blocked from indexing JS at robot level, these can now be read by Google and will, in theory, count toward the thematic content on the page or blog post. This is generally good for SEO.

One way a website publisher may benefit from this is lets say, for example, you write an amazing blog post about Clown Fish. People get so excited about your unparalleled breadth of knowledge and passion for your subject matter that they feel compelled to complement you. These comments are likely to contain key phrases relating to your subject matter. These would have previously had little impact as far as organic SEO is concerned because they were hidden inside a Javascript plug-in. Since Google can now apparently read these, they should reinforce the relevancy of your blog post or web page.

Also, comments left using Javascript widgets on reviews sites may now also contribute toward thematic content of that page. This has massive implications for people that already include this functionality. Will these comments effect search engine placement? Obviously, there are many other factors that Google will take into account but it will be interesting to see what happens to comment heavy sites.

As Matt Cutts stated in his Tweet – ‘Google is Getting Smarter’. An upshot of this is that it is also getting more ‘social’.