SEO and Javascript: DO’s and DON’Ts

In previous years, many of the major search engines were not fully equipped to read anything on a page aside from the text within the tags. Most of the “spiders” that “crawled” through web pages only viewed information at the most basic level. As technologies such as Javascript took over the web site design field, the search engine programmers found that their creepy-crawlies had to evolve in order to extract the most pertinent information from the sites they visited.

Here are some DO’s and DON’Ts to ensure that pages that utilize Javascript are still designed with SEO principles in mind.

DO keep it simple.

Although search engine spiders are now equipped to read Javascript code, they still cannot perform many of the major tasks that a full-service browser can when implementing that code.

<script language=”Javascript”>
document.write(“<h1>Here is the SEO content.</h1>”);

The spider can now read the contents of simple Javascript methods as HTML.

<script language=”Javascript”>“”);

The spider will execute the method and follow the link. However, the spiders tend to slow down when methods introduce multiple parameters.

DON’T put lots of Javascript code on a page.

From an application development standpoint, any heavy Javascript code sections should be placed in a separate file for easier management. From an SEO standpoint, the separation of code-heavy Javascript files from the page undergoing the indexing process will save the search spider time and prevent it from indexing keywords that are not relevant to your page. The harder the spider has to work, the lower your potential search engine rank.

DO replace Javascript menus with CSS menus where possible.

One of the most prevalent uses for Javascript has been the creation of dynamic navigation menus. As we saw in an earlier article, CSS can accomplish many of the same dynamic menu displays as Javascript, while CSS is also much more search-engine friendly than Javascript.

DON’T sacrifice Javascript functionality for page rank.

On the one hand, a client may offer a Javascript calculator that they wish to use as a marketing tool to draw visitors and convert them to customers. On the other hand, the spiders won’t read a lot of complicated calculation routines, and they certainly won’t index most of these routines into their search databases. The solution is to create the marketing content within the page that describes the calculator’s functionality, while placing the code in an external file.

DO turn off Javascript when testing pages.

If the developer is not sure if their Javascript content is crawlable, the best option is to remove as much of the searchable content from the Javascript methods as possible. Barring that, the testers can turn off Javascript in their browsers and view the results. The Javascript shutdown will give users a true insight into what the spiders see (as opposed to what users see).

DON’T forget the spiders.

Many developers and site designers get caught up in the various technologies (Javascript, AJAX, Flash) that can produce fast results and spectacular visual effects. They want to give the audience a memorable experience with each visit. Developers must cooperate with SEO experts to insure that their beautiful and efficient creation attracts the audience that it deserves.

Gerald Hanks has been involved in web development applications since 1996. He has designed applications with JavaScript, ASP.NET and PHP, as well as building databases in MS SQL Server and MySQL. He lives in Houston, Texas. More articles by Gerald Hanks
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