SEO & Web Best Practices
J.P. Berry
by J.P. Berry
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SEO and lazy loading website content

05/21/2013
SEO and lazy loading website content

The link below is a good read for ajax-y websites, especially if you’re going to lazy load content. Lazy loading is a design pattern commonly used in website programming to defer initialization of an object until the point at which it is needed. Lazy loading can significantly enhance efficiency in a site's performance if properly and appropriately used. The opposite of lazy loading is eager loading. Lazy loading has some SEO implications.

Ajax (also AJAX: Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) is a group of interrelated web development techniques used on the client-side or the browser to create asynchronous web applications. With AJAX, web applications can send data to, and retrieve data from, a server in the background without interfering with the display and behavior of the existing page.

We generally try to only lazy load content that wouldn’t really matter if it was crawled by the search engine bots (or not)—large background images, iframes, or external images that have no SEO value. However, sometimes we need to AJAX-in content or wish to lazy load sections of content that have high SEO value. This need is increasing as we tack to more responsive techniques (e.g. for Smartphones). Lazy loading of content that can be paginated should always have a non-JavaScript fall back to pagination. Mission-critical content should always have a non-JavaScript way to access it.

If you lazy load content that also exists as a separate page, your content will get indexed if a link is available to the crawler (e.g. a link in sitemap.xml). For example, in DirigoEdge we could create a ‘NewPage’ and link to that page from the home page and the sitemap.xml. When someone clicks on the NewPage link we can override that click event and show the content in a modal or do something fancy instead of taking the user directly to that page. Since that link exists on the page, and that page also exists as its own separate entity, it will get crawled.

Now if you load content that does not exist separately, the link will show you how to provide hints to Google on how to crawl a URL that is ajaxed and technically a part of the current page. The world is going to become pretty ajax-y in the future; features like endless scrolling pages and sliding content in place is already the norm. Do yourself a favor and read this article: https://developers.google.com/webmasters/ajax-crawling .

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