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Can Over-reliance on JavaScript Put Off Google? Hear it from Google.

3 min read

In Google’s Office-hours Hangout recorded on 6 May 2022, Google’s John Mueller discussed whether or not a website’s over-reliance on JavaScript would negative impact how the site is crawled or indexed. John acknowledged that doing so is probably just fine but also suggested that the user, who submitted the question, should test it nevertheless using the many tools at users’ disposal today. The viewer asked the question purely in terms of user-friendliness and SEO-friendliness and disclosed that a lot of his site’s functionalities depended on JS and wondered if it was the right way to go. Here’s a look at the full discussion, and response from the Google stalwart.

JavaScript and Site-friendliness

Here’s what the viewer asked.

“Our website is not very user friendly if JavaScript is turned off. Most of the images are not loaded. Out flyout menu can’t be opened. However the Chrome Inspect feature, in there all menu links are there in the source code. Might our dependence on JavaScript still be a problem for Googlebot?”

To which John replied.

“And, from my point of view …I would test it. So probably everything will be okay. And probably, I would assume if you’re using JavaScript in a reasonable way, if you’re not doing anything special to block the JavaScript on your pages, then probably it will just work.”

What wasn’t said but was implied was that most sites rely on JS for their functionality and that it is, in all likelihood, okay to use it. However, Muller still suggested the user to perform a few tests to see if everything is the way it is supposed to be.

Get it Tested

He further added that the user should double-check Google’s guides on JavaScript and SEO to ensure everything is in order before trying to improve the overall website. He said and we quote.

“But you’re much better off not just believing me, but rather using a testing tool to try it out. And the testing tools that we have available are quite well documented. There are lots of …variations on things that we recommend with regards to improving things if you run into problems.

So I would double-check our guides on JavaScript and SEO and think about maybe, …trying things out, making sure that they actually work the way that you want and then taking that to improve your website overall.”

JavaScript and User-friendliness go hand in hand

Mueller concluded his answer.

“And you mentioned user-friendly with regards to JavaScript, so from our point of view, the guidance that we have is essentially very technical in the sense that we need to make sure that Googlebot can see the content from a technical point of view, and that it can see the links on your pages from a technical point of view.

It doesn’t primarily care about user-friendliness. But of course your users care about user-friendliness. And that’s something where maybe it makes sense to do a little bit more so that your users are really for sure having a good experience on your pages.

And this is often something that isn’t just a matter of a simple testing tool. But rather something where maybe you have to do a small user study or kind of interview some users or at least do a survey on your website to understand where do they get stuck, what kind of problems are they facing.

Is it because of these …you mentioned the fly-out menus. Or is it something maybe completely different where they’re seeing problems, that maybe the text is too small, or they can’t click the buttons properly, those kinds of things which don’t really align with technical problems but are more, kind of, user-side things that if you can improve those and if you can make your users happier, they’ll stick around and they’ll come back and they’ll invite more people to visit your website as well.”

While John didn’t mention any particular tool that users can use for double-checking, Google Search Console is the first that comes to mind for being reliable and competent. With the key takeaway being, JS only becomes a problem only if it forces itself upon the site users, hampering their overall user-experience. Otherwise, you are quite good to go, but still get everything tested nevertheless. Watch John Mueller’s full response to question at the 10:23 minute mark and may be also stick around for the rest of the discussion for some other valuable insights.

Source: Search Engine Journal