5 Javascript and SEO Myths

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Craig Smith  |  Founder & CEO

Javascript SEO

Javascript tends to be a sore spot for SEO experts and web developers. While Javascript might be the best language to execute a client’s UX vision, it’s often negatively viewed by search teams as it is seen as potentially making content harder to index or slowing down the website until it hurts mobile SEO.

New Google changes make it easier to incorporate Javascript into your websites and apps for a better experience. Here are five common Javascript and SEO myths that we’re busting to help you execute your ideal development vision.

Myth #1: Google Can’t Crawl Javascript 

While Google might have struggled to crawl Javascript code in the past, improvements to its algorithm have made crawling the language easier, opening the door for developers. As early as 2015, SEO experts were testing Google’s algorithm and finding its Javascript readability more effective than they thought.  

While Google is the best search engine when it comes to reading Javascript, other websites still need to catch up.  For example, if your website has more of the Bing market share than your competitors, then it might be in your best interest to focus on a non-Javascript-based development plan in the short run.  

See below for how a recent client experiment at Trinity, in which we deployed a code modification to correct HREF LANG issues using JS and Google Tag Manager, validates that JS can deliver code customization at scale. 

In this test, the new code that was deployed in December via Google Tag Manager was reflected over a period of time in Search Console, showing the accurate modification within Google’s index and reduced errors in Search Console.

Myth #2: Webmasters Should Block Crawlers From Reading JS

The first step to using Javascript to drive traffic is making it accessible. The team at Moz admits that some people block search engines from crawling Javascript code accidentaly and others try to do it strategically to make the site easier to read.

In theory, if Google’s crawlers focus primarily on the HTML, they should have a general idea about the content and site layout to help rank the pages properly.  However, this may be not true. There are multiple reasons Google needs to access Javascript, including:

  • Crawlers have to render the page completely to make sure it’s mobile-friendly.
  • The advertising element of the algorithm needs to make sure the content is placed above the fold instead of buried under disruptive ads.
  • The spam elements of the algorithm checks for black hat practices, keyword stuffing, and link stuffing hidden in CSS and Javascript code. Some hackers even hide links in Javascript code without the knowledge of webmasters.

Along with these three main reasons, there are additional signals in Google’s algorithm that likely check Javascript and CSS when crawling your site. You might think you’re doing your SEO team a favor by blocking Javascript, but you’re actually frustrating the crawlers and violating Google’s search terms.

Myth #3:  Javascript Needs to Be Placed at the Bottom of the Page

As web developers started to use Javascript in web design, a debate began to heat up on how to place the code effectively. Some SEO experts claim the best place to add Javascript is at the bottom of the page. In theory, if crawlers read your HTML first, then they can get a feel for your website before they start to read the JS code.

“Even if you do not have any information at the bottom of the page the search engines do spider the whole page,” the team at Web Content Art writes. “They don’t have any idea whatsoever whether you have included some content at the bottom of your page or not.”

Essentially, it doesn’t matter where you place the Javascript, search engine crawlers will end up reading your whole page.

Myth #4: The Best Mobile Sites Banish Javascript

While developers who are trying to increase mobile speed or create a mobile-friendly website on the fly might try to cut bulky Javascript code, it’s possible to include this information in your website without hurting your mobile-SEO prospects. For example, the developers at Google provided three configuration types brands can use to serve Javascript code to users on mobile devices:

  • JavaScript-adaptive configurations are recommended by Google. The same HTML, CSS, and JavaScript content is served, but the rendering is altered based on device.
  • Combined detection configurations use Javascript, but also have server-side detections of devices to serve content differently on each option.
  • Dynamically-served JavaScript configurations serve the same HTML, but the Javascript is altered based on a URL that identifies the device.

JavaScript-adaptive configurations take a “whole content,” view of your website, but the other options might be better for your needs. If Google is giving you the tools to add Javascript to your mobile device, then you can bet it’s SEO-friendly.  

Myth #5: Only Advanced Developers Can Balance JS and SEO Successfully

You don’t have to be an expert in both Javascript and SEO to develop a website that’s effective and engaging for users. In fact, successfully adding readable Javascript is easier than you might think.  

When you look at some of the biggest problems developers have with Javascript and SEO, their mistakes are fairly elementary and easy to fix. Some of the most common errors include pages lacking clear, indexable URLs, missing page requirements (like meta descriptions and title tags), creating multiple versions of the same page, and ignoring a href attributes.

These mistakes often surface when developers get confused by Javascript limitations. Pages still need titles and tags, not matter how much Javascript is used.

Most of these myths surrounding Javascript and SEO are outdated practices that developers haven’t changed despite the updates to Google’s algorithm. They followed a set of rules five years ago and failed to modernize to help their clients.

If your website is struggling with platform limitations that are impacting SEO prospects, please contact us to schedule a confidential technology assessment.  Within the assessment we will review JS delivery opportunities within your domain in efforts to drive SEO performance.

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