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I am working on a site that has neat clean/minimalistic design/layout. Menu items are "hidden" behind an icon, to see them, users need to click on that icon to get a javascript toggled overlay with the list of menu items.

Then there are blocks with photos and users need to click on a small icon/button on each of them to get a block of text shown for each of the photo.

While I don't like such "design" myself, making me click lots of time just to read, I also think that for SEO purpose this model is really wrong.

Is such model bad for SEO? Are there ways to keep design like this but have "safe" methods of displaying text content on click that will not hurt SEO?

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Javascript?.... no problem! kind off...

Google and other search engines have had the ability to make sense of JavaScript for some years, however depending on how complex your scripts are will determine how easily the search bots can make sense of it all.

No javaScript fall backs

Generally its always best practice to ensure your pages can some what viewed without any JavaScript, especially things such as navigation elements to other pages. It's become ever popular that sites are starting to use a minimalistic style site with only a menu name or icon that requires clicking to see the menu contents, there are many fallback systems and one of the best ones is using is by using modernizr that will help with such tasks.

How modernizr can help you

You can use modernizr to interment a fallback system that is not only helpful for search bots but also your users. Modernizr works by adding .no-js to the <body> when JavaScript is enabled it removes that class from the body meaning all elements will work with JavaScript enabled. For users and bots that don't have JavaScript the body class="no-js" will remain meaning that you can style your menu especially for those users and bots, like so:

JavaScript Menu

Nav ul {display:none;background:black}

No JavaScript Menu

.no-js Nav ul {display:block;background:blue}

You can also adapt the style of the menu anyway you want for those who don't have JS and bots.

  • Screaming Frog doesn't show pages that are listed by JS, 1000+ page crawl report in Raventools didn't list any of these pages either. Is this any sort of a signal that these pages get Google crawling troubles as well as they don't properly receive link juice to get more weight for relevancy and ranking? – CamSpy Aug 20 '14 at 12:42
  • Google and Bing are far more advanced than tools such as screaming frog and Raventool, I wouldn't worry. If the pages are found and indexed then your fine and juice will flow without problem. But again, you should look at a no-js solution. By the way, Google reads links even when they are display:none, it then looks for a trigger to ensure it's not cloaking links. – Simon Hayter Aug 20 '14 at 12:46
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It should be OK if you are using semantic HTML5 tags, like <nav> for menu, <article> for text, <figure> for images and so on.

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Not all web crawlers are capable of executing Javascript. Therefore, may not be able to access the menu items and the links within. The solution to this SEO issue is to add those links in a sitemap.

If the photo text is static and available on the page, web crawlers will be able to access it. If it is dynamic content loaded with Ajax (for example), then no. In this case, use the alt attribute on pictures and fill it with descriptive text. Then, crawlers will take it into account for SEO.

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