Google Can Read Dynamic FAQs

If you’ve heard about dynamic URLs and dynamic web pages not being a good thing for SEO, it’s only natural to wonder whether dynamic frequently asked questions pages are a bad idea. Keep reading; if you’re thinking about using one on your website, we have good news.

This question came up in an SEO Chat forums thread recently. Dynamic FAQ pages list all of the questions in their default state, but none of the answers. When a user clicks on the question, the page “opens up” at that point, and the answer to the question scrolls down neatly. It’s a nice feature for users. It means they aren’t confronted with a wall of text. Because of this, it’s easier for them to find the answer to their one question without having to hunt through a lot of other questions and answers.

So from a human usability perspective, dynamic FAQs are a great idea. But what about from a search engine and SEO perspective? Does Google understand and appreciate this kind of page? Will it see the answers, or just the questions?

As it turns out, Google’s a lot smarter now than a lot of people give it credit for. It scans the code, not the design or the interface. One of the working SEOs on SEO Chat noted that he’s used this type of FAQ on hundreds of his clients’ sites with no issues at all.

If you’re worried or skeptical, however, here’s a blog post from someone who performed an experiment. Actually, he performed several experiments to see what kinds of JavaScript documents Google could read, since there are a number of ways you can structure things.

What did he find? Google can indeed access and index content within JavaScript, but it had some issues when trying to access and index content in AJAX tabs. He noted that “the AJAX tabs script spreads the content over different files even though it looks like the content exists on one file when viewed in the browser…Google was not able to understand that the AJAX tabs meant all that content should be associated onto a single page.”

Google did NOT have this problem with jQuery tabs, however. “Because the jQuery tab approach has the content on one page, Google was able to index all of that content. More importantly, Google associated all of that content with the same page. This is critical if you are relying on that content for optimization.”

What does this mean for webmasters? If you want to use a dynamic FAQ page but feel leery about Google being able to index it, use jQuery tabs and you should be just fine.

I’ll address one last point that might make some of you wonder, and that’s the question of “hidden content.” Isn’t hiding the answers to questions and then revealing them a form of “hidden content,” and therefore against Google’s Terms of Service? Not in this case. As respected forum member Dr.Marie explains, “When Google tells us not to have hidden content on the page they’re talking about content that is hidden in order to trick search engines (such as having white keywords on a white background or keywords that are hidden beyond the margins of the page).” The techniques used for dynamic FAQ pages owe nothing to this black hat approach, so you should have no problems at all. Good luck!

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