3 Ways to Commit SEO Suicide

Ian Lurie

The following are the three most common forms of SEO suicide:

Excessive AJAX

AJAX lets your web browser load new content into a page without loading a new page. It’s a great way to add interactivity and speed to your site.

Unfortunately, it also stops search engine spiders in their tracks. Spiders crawl your site like a really dumb web browser: They can’t execute javascript. AJAX depends on javascript to make everything work.

So, if you use AJAX as a navigation device, you’re doomed in the search engines:

Stumble Video

A human says: Oooh, neat!…

Source Code

…A search engine says: Doh! I can’t read any of this!

While search engines see a few links on this page, the links go back to the same content again and again. So StumbleUpon’s video page is invisible to search.

Solution: Use AJAX for things like your shopping cart, checkout process or other things requiring interactivity. Don’t use it as a navigational tool. You can, of course. But if you do, count the natural search results (which generate about 75% of all search traffic) out of your marketing plan.

100% Pure Flash

Search engines can’t interpret Flash. They just can’t, OK? Sure, they can crawl a link or two, but that’s it. See AJAX, above. You’ll have the exact same problems, only worse.

Flash Site

This site won a Webby Award. Woo hoo!!!!…

Flash Site: What Google Sees

…Too bad search engines can’t see a thing.

Solution: Exercise common sense. Sorry, but I can’t even find a way to be polite about this. Flash has been around for a long time. There are lots of ways to get the same look you see above, without making it 100% Flash. But the agency involved did it anyway. It’s a brilliant piece of visual design that permanently limits this site’s ability to get found. Which is even more tragic when you realize that the site’s goal is to make us aware of child homelessness. How many more people would get this message if the site were search-friendly?


Lots of drop shippers and other online stores simply cut-and-paste product descriptions from the manufacturer’s site. It’s easy, and the manufacturer gives them permission, so why not?

Because search engines will ignore all of the content you copy. That’s why. Search engines work hard to remove duplicate content from their listings. They don’t hate you. But they will ignore or remove any pages on your site that are a copy, or a near copy, of another page on the internet.

Solution: Write original content. Or write great product descriptions. Thoroughly.

Check For Yourself

I used a text-only web browser called Lynx to test the sites in this article. You can download Lynx from lynx.browser.org.

Just… Don’t. OK?

All three of the problems I’ve described are easy to avoid. There’s almost always an alternative. So just don’t commit SEO suicide, OK?

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

Start call to action

See how Portent can help you own your piece of the web.

End call to action


  1. Although I’m a Flash developer, normally I advise against all-Flash sites. Flash is a great tool but it can be used in the wrong ways.
    However, contrary to your point that an all-Flash site can’t be indexed by search engines, there are ways to work around this limitation. Check out the site for Blitz Agency — http://www.blitzagency.com. While the user sees an all-Flash site, each section can be indexed by search engines.
    In case you doubt this, try a Google search for the text “Ken visualizes finish-line solutions” taken from the Blitz Agency “Leadership” page. Try it with text from the other sections — you’ll see it works. If you look under the hood, I think you can figure out how they do it.

  2. I’ve always found Ajax so over rated. Great for social sites, terrible for sites planning to Rank Organically. 🙂 I’ve also found Ajax programs tend to be lazy and like to reduce the total number of pages as much as possible.

  3. I have always steered away from all-flash sites for the simple reason as you say that they are difficult for search engines to index.
    Flash can be used creatively within an overall site/domain strategy that helps the robots index the site.

  4. As soon as I saw that URL I reserved asdrwerquisodfiua.com, as well as nsadfhaweroiuawerawyertaowieura.com
    The latter is Klingon for “huh?”…

  5. Ummm… not so quick, the originator of copy doesn’t always get into the results, in fact both may show up depending on IBLs to the page and the PR of the page the copy may place higher than the original. Widely distributed articles may result in the original not even being found in the top ten. I can show you duplicate pages hosted on another website that actually get the PR from the original! This depends on many factors and is far from as cut and dry as you think or indicate in your example. People that syndicate articles will tell you this is a big headache!

Comments are closed.

Close search overlay