How Google’s Javascript Bot Can Kill Your Website

In recent years due to developers misguided attempts to make the web a more interesting place with things like JavaScript and Ajax, search engines have had to come up with new tools to make the content that’s hidden behind these technologies accessible. While I’m sure the people at the Googleplex have nothing but the best intentions behind developing these advanced crawling techniques, their over aggressive implementations can have serious negative consequences for publishers and website owners.

In the middle of January I noticed several of the website I am connected with, started showing a large number of 404 errors, sometimes enough errors to trigger a warning email from Google’s Webmaster Central .

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The real code from the page looks like this (actual domain redacted):


<a onclick="javascript:elcTrackPageview('/pybnxrq/jjj.pbfghzrqvfpbhagref.pbz/zraf-pbfghzrf/uhzbebhf/nqhyg-qryhkr-yrcerpunha-pbfghzr-FZ32426.ugzy?pbqr=PFRArkgnt&amp;pq=50serr&amp;ze:ersreenyVQ=29nqq1n7-290r-11r0-nq8r-001o2166p62q');" href="http://redacted-domain.com/page/">anchor text</a>

part of an SEO’s job is to remove as much guesswork from the process as possible and find solutions with predictable and dependable results… 

Basically the code is a bit of “link cloaking” with a JavaScript click tracking element. While the intent of “link cloaking” for affiliate URL’s may not be in alignment with Google’s “Give us all the data” goal, in reality link cloaking is no different from redirecting a link through an ad tracking URL, which is in compliance with Google’s recommended  link buying implementations.

While Google hasn’t officially said having a large number of 404 errors will lower your websites ranking, you can bet that if it’s important enough for Webmaster Central to send you a warning email about it, it’s not a plus for the quality of your site. As a publisher I was faced with three choices:

  • Remove the link cloaking and click tracking and hope Google doesn’t care about the affiliate links
  • Roll the dice and hope Google doesn’t count the large number of 404’s against me
  • Find a new solution that doesn’t trip up the JavaScript bot

In my opinion part of an SEO’s job is to remove as much guesswork from the process as possible and find solutions with predictable and dependable results. That’s why as a site owner, publisher, or online business it’s important you not use experimental or unpredictable technologies for anything along the mission critical path for your website.

In conclusion:

  • You need to be aware and monitor the number of errors your website is reporting
  • Take a proactive role in maintaining the health of your website BEFORE it becomes to late
  • Use bleeding edge technologies sparingly and never along a mission critical path or to serve up essential content
  • Be vigilant to the fact that Google can and will change the rules of the game without warning or notice and in complete disregard for your website

photo credit: BigStockPhoto/warrengoldswain

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