Javascript Rendering : Simplified

Javascript Rendering - more than SEO

Often, SEO’s will roll their eyes at the first mention of a Javascript rendered website. Or even specific elements. 

But why?

Can Google crawl Javascript?

The simple answer is yes. 

Although, historically, Google has crawled and indexed websites using HTML only. But, following the development of websites in 2020, and in recent years, Google is now able to read and understand Javascript specific elements. And even entire websites.

But how does Googlebot process JavaScript?

With Javascript vastly becoming a preferred way of development when it comes to websites and other applications, Google has since released a range of resources on Googlebot’s processes.

As we know, with a HTML only site, Google is able to crawl the site, understand and index it. In simple terms, anyway.

But for Javascript, the crawlers are required to crawl the initial wave of content (HTML) and indexing, before continuing to crawl Javascript elements, to re-crawl, render and index.

Making the whole process a little more complicated.

But when you have a large website or platform for example, we start facing a range for 301 redirect chains, a range of temporary redirects and even a large amount of 404s. 

So when we mix this all up with Javascript rendering, and trying to protect our crawl budgets, you can see where we will start to face issues.

Does Javascript impact rankings?

For many years, marketing experts weren’t fully aware of the impacts of using Javascript on site. With Google discovering websites with missing content, or those with missing elements entirely, it’s thought that rankings would have been impacted. 

Which is highly likely to have been the case. 

Although, if you’re testing web pages of your site continuously, any issues discovered could be easily identified and ironed out pre-live. 

Or if you are seeing ranking impacts due to any recent changes on site, it’s always worth testing your site and asking a developer to take a look, if you’re concerned.  

Testing your Javascript elements for SEO

Testing Javascript rendering is essential, whether you’re using one element or hundreds. 

Using Google Search Console, you’re able to fetch and render certain webpages of your site, in the eyes of Google. This can be accessed through the mobile friendly test or the URL inspection tool within GSC.

Ideally, by doing so, you will have no differences between what you can see live on site vs what the crawler is able to understand through crawling your site. 

Some of the issues you may find during testing include:

  • Thin on-page content
  • Missing content
  • Missing links
  • Missing images

Although these will depend on the sections of your site, where Javascript is present.

If there are any differences, then it’s worth checking for any troubleshooting issues before raising these issues with your development team.

To summarise, if you’re using Javascript on your website, try to keep your site as technically healthy as possible. Whether you’re fixing links at the source, reducing on site redirects or testing through GSC. By doing so, you’ll be sure to understand your site as Google does, as well as reducing your crawl bloat in the process.

Hopefully, this has given a simplified overview of Javascript rendering and what this can mean for SEO. For more information on the differences between server-side and client-side rendering, Ian Lurie has produced a great article.
Feel free to get in touch or leave a comment below!

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