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Google Says, Have Your AJAX and SEO, Too

Google's proposing a new standard for making AJAX-based Web sites search-engine friendly. If adopted, the standard could mean developers no longer have to choose between site optimization and dynamic pages.

It's been common knowledge for years that Web sites created using Asynchronous JavaScript and XML would not be crawled and indexed by search engines, often forcing Web developers to choose between search engine visibility and the dynamic features offered by AJAX.

While AJAX-based Web sites are popular with users, search engines traditionally are not able to access any of the content on them.

That could change under a new proposal by Google (NASDAQ: GOOG). "Today we're excited to propose a new standard for making AJAX-based Web sites crawlable. This will benefit Webmasters and users by making content from rich and interactive AJAX-based Web sites universally accessible through search results on any search engine that chooses to take part. We believe that making this content available for crawling and indexing could significantly improve the Web," writes John Mueller, Webmaster trends analyst, at the Google Webmaster blog.

The proposal, issued by a team of Google staffers, is detailed at the blog post, but its goals are summarized as follows: Minimal changes are required as the Web site grows; users and search engines see the same content (no cloaking); search engines can send users directly to the AJAX URL (not to a static copy); and site owners have a way of verifying that their AJAX Web site is rendered correctly and thus that the crawler has access to all the content.

"The last time we checked, almost 70 percent of the Web sites we know about use JavaScript in some form or another. Of course, most of that JavaScript is not AJAX, but the better that search engines could crawl and index AJAX, the more that developers could add richer features to their Web sites and still show up in search engines," says Mueller.

The Internet giant also rolled out fitlered search options for smartphones powered by Android and Palm's webOS operating systems, as well as for iPhones. Now mobile users can narrow searches using several critieria, including date ranges, forum posts and so on. Google also just added the ability to view .PDF files as originally formatted from within the Web browser, according to a post by Krista Davis, software engineer, and Raj Krishnan, product manager, at the Google blog.

The news of an AJAX standard and more mobile search options comes on the heels of several tweaks Google made to its search functionality in the past week.

The No. 1 search player now offers nine more Search Options filters -- including date ranges and options for more or fewer e-commerce sites. Search Options are found in the "show options" link, in the lightly shaded blue bar above the search results.

As a result, Google now enables users to choose among the following: past hour, specific date range, more shopping sites, fewer shopping sites, visited pages, not yet visited, books, blogs and news.

Google also recently integrated trends and forum posts into search results and unveiled a revamped local search and desktop search history sync for mobile.