The internet is packed full of a massive array of feature-rich websites. Looking at them based on their client-side behavior, you would think there are a ton of different technologies on the back end generating them. You're not entirely wrong to think so, but the truth is, it mostly boils down to the same few types of code.
- You have your HTML, generating static elements on your pages and, with the power of HTML5, even animations.
- You have your CSS, applying styles to the elements of the pages generated by the HTML.
- You have your back-end PHP and SQL to run databases and populate content, whether custom or a CMS like WordPress.
Here's a hint: few of the websites you visit will function properly.
Often, they aren't even affecting the appearance or functionality of your site, so should you bother tracking them down and fixing them?
Let's dig in!
Back in the day, a common way to test your website would be to disable scripts and see how your site looked. Google wouldn't necessarily care about how the site looked, just what the content contained and its function.
Since we're talking back in 2009 or earlier, here – well before the Panda algorithm update, let alone any of the more modern best practices – the web was very different. Google was also much less sophisticated than it is today. We're talking about the difference between one of those spring-powered toy cars you drag back and let go versus a supercar.
Since it's so complex, it's effortless for tiny errors to creep into your pages.
These generally fall into three categories.
- SEO Errors. Some errors don't affect how users can see and use your site but impact how search engines see it. These are "invisible" when looking at your site but devastating to your search engine optimization.
- Code Errors. These are errors that mean your code is broken. They hurt SEO and usability and can be thought of as a failure of the site to function at all.
As you can see, two out of three of these kinds of errors are bad for your SEO. Luckily for developers, most of the errors a functional site will see fall into the first category. They're prevalent and easily ignorable.
The second kind of error, the "invisible" error that affects Google's rendering but not user access, is the hardest to diagnose and fix. They can significantly impact your SEO if they prevent Google from indexing your web pages, but it can be hard to notice if users never see it and you don't see it in your testing.
When Google goes to render your site, and your page calls for that script, Google sees that the script file is noindexed and stops. They index your page without that code.
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Suppose the code is just simple analytics or something; that's okay. If it's critical to the internal link structure or function of your site, though, now it doesn't render at all. In this case, it could be just as bad as a complete noindex of your page, depending on the importance of that code. As far as Google is concerned, you just told them not to view your site as your users view it.
1. Check for Indexation
Of course, there are plenty of other things that can cause that problem, so you have some troubleshooting to do.
2. Use a Google Tool
3. Use Web Developer Tools
Another option is to load up your site on your browser and use the web developer tools built into the browser to view the script console and any errors.
If you want to do this, I recommend using a browser you don't typically use and disabling any add-ons, extensions, or other experience-altering code like ad blockers, script blockers, etc. You'll have script errors on your end if you're blocking scripts for yourself.
Do Your Errors Hurt SEO?
One of the most common errors is a reference error; a variable in your code isn't defined correctly. Most of the time, this isn't meaningful. Some of your code might error out in a fringe case where it tries to call on that variable, but usually, this tends to be code caused by scripts that aren't optimized or by deprecated code that hasn't been removed for other reasons. Fixing these issues is sometimes as easy as optimizing your code or using the latest version of your library.
On the other hand, if it's a simple warning that doesn't meaningfully impact your site's rendering, it will not hurt your SEO.
Two different programmers or developers will handle the same problem differently; as long as they both perform well enough, there's no reason either one should be considered worse than the other.
Plenty of syntax errors will prevent your code from executing as intended. Typically, though, it will be pretty obvious if your site has one of these because it won't fully load when you try to test it.
tags with URLs; you can add them based on keywords to your content in real-time. It's one way that dynamic linking, related post links, and some ad injectors work.