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JavaScript SEO 101: How to Crawl JavaScript

Auditing your site with JavaScript rendering is critical to your SEO strategy. Let’s take a step back and look at the basics.

Your website is your virtual storefront, and every marketer wants to create a dynamic experience on their site to showcase their brand, products, and services. JavaScript is a key tool that helps marketers to create rich, interactive web experiences that delight users. But alas, like most things in this life, there’s a catch.

JavaScript content can cause unforeseen SEO issues if Google isn’t crawling, indexing, and ranking it properly, so auditing your site with JavaScript rendering is critical to your SEO strategy. Let’s take a step back and look at the basics.

What is JavaScript?

From a technical standpoint, JavaScript code makes changes to a webpage’s HTML to create interactive effects within web browsers.

Historically, Google wasn’t great at crawling and rendering JavaScript, but now Google and Ask are the only search engines to properly index JavaScript-generated content. No offense to Jeeves, but you’re probably not optimizing for Ask, so we’re going to keep the focus on Google.

How Does Google Index JavaScript?

Google leverages “headless browsing” when crawling your site to understand a user’s experience and page content. That means it’s fetching webpages without the user interface.

So Google will come to your site, crawl the content, and in an instant do its first wave of indexing based on your HTML. Then as rendering resources become available, it will do a second wave of indexing based on the JavaScript cues it detects.

How does Google Index JavaScript?

How Can JavaScript Affect SEO?

It’s incredibly important to know if Google is able to crawl and index the Javascript rendered version of pages as well as the HTML version.

JavaScript affects:

  1. Crawlability: If content and links are loaded into pages via JavaScript, Google needs to render the pages with JavaScript in order to see that content. In some cases, a web page may have no content at all until the JavaScript runs. If your code isn’t properly implemented, there’s a good chance Google will see a blank page and move on. Google may see a version of a website that you didn’t intend for it to see, featuring such common issues as:
    1. “Thin/Duplicate” content
    2. “Missing” links
    3. “Misplaced” tags
    4. Confusing site architecture and link authority signals
  2. Site Speed: JavaScript can also affect site speed, which is another important ranking factor. If the JavaScript load event takes over 5 seconds, this can negatively impact your content’s ability to be indexed.

Can Conductor Searchlight Crawl JavaScript?

Our partners at Lumar have you covered. Lumar’s technology is integrated in Conductor Searchlight, and they’ve enhanced their crawler to help our customers understand the technical health of pages that use JavaScript. Lumar downloads pages with a headless browser like a bot would, then renders the pages using JavaScript before analyzing to extract the content. That means you can see the content on the page with and without rendering.

By enabling this latest feature in Conductor Searchlight, you’ll be able to:

  • Find out if content and links modified by JavaScript are rendered correctly for Google to index.
  • Find out how crawlable your pages are with and without JavaScript rendering enabled.
  • Detect JavaScript URL changes including redirects, meta redirects, JavaScript location.
  • Cache resources found in a crawl so that your server is not overloaded.

And There’s a Bonus! The Bulk Website Speed Test

This feature can benefit marketers who have little to no JavaScript as well because it also collects a variety of site speed metrics at scale. Long gone are the days of testing site speed page by page. Now you can get the following statistics for any page you crawl:

  • Time to First Byte
  • First Paint (FP)
  • First Contentful Paint (FCP)
  • Document Content Loaded (DCL)
  • Total Page Load Time

So What Does It All Mean?

Ensuring your site is properly deploying JavaScript can really make or break overall site performance, for humans and bots alike. With these new tools from Lumar, you’ll be fully prepared to identify these issues and make sure that beautiful site of yours is working at peak performance. Happy crawling.

Ready to roll up your JavaScript sleeves and try out Conductor Searchlight for yourself? Let a platform-certified specialist take you out for a test drive.

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