I have a "smart" template for my website. For human users, the server renders the page content on the initial hit, but subsequent pages are loaded like an SPA. For a crawler, every page is rendered at the server as in a "normal" site. For both, the final result looks the same. Since this might have some SEO consequence, is it considered cheating?


What I'm doing is almost like this https://github.com/spikebrehm/isomorphic-tutorial

  • I think it would depend on how you are doing this. If what you present to the search engine can be seen by an ordinary user, then you may be okay. You see, Google at least, checks you site externally from it's network as a normal user. If you show them exactly the same site as you did when the crawled your site, then you should be okay. Typically speaking, single page sites are terrible from an SEO perspective. However, it is possible that the site use parameters or another mechanism that allows the pages to look like pages to the search engine. Then it would be fine.
    – closetnoc
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 0:57
  • Yes, an ordinary user and a crawler will see the same thing, much as the visual and the same html.
    – Alexandre
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 1:09
  • It cannot just be content. For example, you say that a search engine will see a "normal" site. You have to assume that somewhere along the line the search engine will try and access your site exactly the way you presented it to them. They will test your site as a normal user. So if you present example.com/products.html to the search engine, they will request it from outside of their network without identifying itself as a search engine bot. If you pass this test, I imagine you should be fine.
    – closetnoc
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 2:10
  • Yeah even a request from outside without identity will see exactly what a user will see
    – Alexandre
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 3:32
  • Sounds like your okay then.
    – closetnoc
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 4:26

2 Answers 2


Treating Google and other bots as users

You should always treat Google exactly the same as your users, I can understand the benefits of having a seamless experience by not having to leave the current page but still having the SEO benefits of having multiple pages. There are many methods of having a website operate this way without having to detect crawlers and treat them any different.

The most biggest problem is backlinks

The biggest problem your face is backlink SEO when users are only being served one page, that means a user may not be able to copy the link of the page they are currently are on affecting both user experience and SEO.

Various methods

There are various methods that are compatible with Google from page loading JS scripts that will load the page the user wants to go to first and then serving it with a loader which can give the impression of being seemless, the other method accepted by Google is hashbang using Googles Ajax Scheme. It should be noted that users on the site using the Google Ajax compatible method should be able to backlink to what they are looking at. So serving a pretty url using hashbang and a ugly url for Google, but importantly but pages should be accessible by Google! So if you want urls without hashbang being indexed then you would use canonical which would look something like this on your hashbang urls: <link rel="canonical" href="http://example.com/not-hash-bang-url" />

  • Yeah, this is my biggest fear. I don't want to treat the Google bot as a different person, they will be treat like an user without js. If you are an user and the first page that you visited is http://example.com/about it will be rendered in the server-side. If the JS see you like a person with JS enable, when you go to http://example.com/page they will load only the partial of that page and change the tags and etc to be the same result of that page for a user with JS disable or a first-time of an user in the site. the hash for both case will be the same in the end.
    – Alexandre
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 1:58
  • Keep in mind that Google bot does have JavaScript capability now even though it is somewhat limited. Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 3:02

It is against Google's guidelines to serve different pages to users. Former head of webspam Matt Cutts has went on record about this as well in an old webmaster video.

  • I found this video, but isn't be a different page to the crawler, I be the exactly the same page, the difference that it will be always rendered at server side
    – Alexandre
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 14:03

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