Optimizing JavaScript and its Impact on SEO

One of the most important factors for SEO (search engine optimization) is page optimization, or the measures that can be taken directly within a website to improve its position in search rankings. If search engines can’t crawl a site or can’t parse and understand the content, then nothing is going to get indexed and the site is not going to rank.

Knowing the basics of the programming language JavaScript has become a vital skill for today’s SEO and digital marketing professional. So that brings us to the dilemma of how to optimize JavaScript in order to help web developers write responsible code for their webpages and avoid some common pitfalls that could be hindering SEO capabilities.

JavaScript 101

Before looking into how to optimize JavaScript for SEO and some best practices, let’s first get a brief 101 on what JavaScript is.

In its most basic definition, JavaScript is a programming language used to make web pages dynamic and interactive. You can place JavaScript into an HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) document or make a link or reference to it.

You could say JavaScript gives the direction to the browser to do the “dirty work”. If you command an image to be replaced by another one, JavaScript tells the browser to go do it. Because the browser actually does the work, the developer only needs to write some relatively easy lines of code. That’s what makes JavaScript an easy language to start with.

JavaScript is now a fundamental building block of web development. Almost every browser supports it - and almost every website uses it. Mobile and app development are entwined with JavaScript as well. There are a plethora of JavaScript libraries and frameworks, including jQuery, AngularJS, ReactJS, EmberJS, etc.

Google is able to crawl and understand many forms of JavaScript. However, nothing is ever 100% perfect and you can’t just make assumptions that your content will be seen and analyzed properly for SEO. It’s always recommended to conduct a quick manual check of your content and fetch it with Google to see if the content appears.

Best Practices with SEO and JavaScript

Search engines are constantly evolving, so they will no doubt interpret your JavaScript better and faster in the future. At the absolute basic level, it’s important to make sure your existing content is crawlable and obtainable, with proper site latency. But there are also a number of things you can do to optimize JavaScript for SEO and get even more use out of this popular programming language to help you rank higher and be seen by a wider audience.

Compress Your JavaScript Files

JavaScript is text based and like everything delivered through text on the web, you’ll want to compress it. JavaScript features string concatenation, which combines multiple JavaScript files into as few files as possible. The short of it is: the less files your site has to load the better.

JavaScript code can be compressed in one or more of the following ways:

  • By removing white spaces and indentation.
  • By shortening variable names to single characters.
  • By removing new line characters.
  • By joining closely placed variable declarations.
  • By trying to turn arrays to objects wherever it is possible.
  • By optimizing conditional statements.
  • By finding answers to simple constant expressions.
  • By removing comments.

When it comes to compressing JavaScript files, there are multiple tools you can use. GULP is one that is used frequently by the team at Code Authority and is well-recognized and supported by the JavaScript community as a whole. Gulp is a cross-platform, streaming task runner that lets developers automate many development tasks. Gulp reads files as streams and pipes the streams to different tasks. These tasks are code-based and use plugins.

Pick the Right Framework

One of JavaScript’s (many) benefits is its huge library of frameworks that can make productivity easier. However, some frameworks have patterns without elements you might need, such as a form element on your website.

The framework depends on the situation/scenario. For a single page application, it used to be that if you were a developer working with JavaScript, you had a choice between two frameworks: Angular and React. Developers are seeing the rise of another set of tools that are proving to be more accessible than its predecessor – Vue.js. This new entry has a lot of developers very curious about the possibilities and how it could potentially change the game when it comes to new frameworks and developments in the world of coding and software engineering.

Beyond these options, for a multi-page application, you can use Typescript. Another option is to use open-source libraries.

Bottom line... if you don’t have the right elements for the corresponding functions on your website, then your website is going to look like you swept a mountain of dust under the rug and called it a day.

Managing Performance Issues

The growth in use of JavaScript on web pages is directly linked to an increase in the weight of web content. The average webpage is 13 times heavier than it was in 2002, and nearly 20% of that average page is composed of JavaScript. While JavaScript offers users the ability to collect important data and provide an engaging user experience, the performance cost is often overlooked and should be one of the first places to evaluate when looking to optimize and speed up your website.

When it comes to JavaScript performance, here are 3 important points to take into consideration, ensuring that you are up-to-date on the latest performance best practices:

  • File size: The smaller the file the better. A lot of times, web developers might add a lot of JavaScript libraries to help speed up the development process but in some cases the performance can be affected because the file size on some of them might be a little bit too big.
  • Number of HTTP requests: This basically means, the less JavaScript files that are linked to a web page the better. The performance on this one may be more noticeable on mobile sites.
  • Quality of the code: This will depend on the developer. Having some experience can help make a difference - in some cases, a big difference. The other factor that is important is the time that has been giving to the developer to accomplish a specific task. In the age of mobile technology where application performance is so critical, it’s especially important to keep your JavaScript code as compact as possible to reduce latency and speed things up.

Thanks to JavaScript, businesses are able to collect valuable information on website visitors, engage visitors through social media, and offer dynamic web experiences instead of plain old text and images. If you aren’t familiar with this programming language and how it impacts your SEO and digital marketing activities, it’s time to look to Code Authority for assistance. Contact us today and schedule a free consultation with our expert team of in-house web developers.