How Javascript Links & Dropdowns Negatively Affect SEO

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Unreadable links are one of the largest stumbling blocks to search engines in finding your content and allowing your site’s popularity to flow to all of your pages. I am continually surprised at how complicated some programmers make their code. Today I’d like to concentrate on JavaScript links.

Let me show you what I mean. Hover your mouse over the following links, and watch the bottom-left corner of your browser.

Compare me

And Me

You should notice how the top link shows you where it’s taking you. That is a plain HTML link. Search engines were programmed to be able to read plain HTML. The second link is a JavaScript link meant to trigger an action to happen on the page.  This is fine and good, but since the target of the second link is telling search engines that it is going to ‘JavaScript: void(0)’ instead of an actual page, it won’t be able to pass authority the same way through the link.


Most often we see JavaScript links in navigation elements to produce animation effects when elements are hovered over or clicked on. The fact of the matter is that the same effects can be produced by listing an actual address as the target of a link in HTML or even using just the a:hover statement in CSS.

Having navigation elements unreadable can be a huge problem for search engines finding your content because those same menus are normally on every page, and web designers often rely on the menu navigation as the primary way to link to the rest of the pages on the site. If your site has 300 pages, but the search engines can’t find 290 of them from unreadable links, that is a lot of missed opportunity for search engine traffic.

Why Use JavaScript Links?

I’m not a programmer, so I’m not sure why programmers link in non-HTML fashion, but I imagine that it is an element of creativity. Programmers are great at creatively solving problems, and making links in static HTML is dated and uncreative. I think without a knowledge of how search engines function, one shouldn’t be expected to cater to them. Hence, the point of this post.

I once had a client site where all the content on the page was in JavaScript. Web browsers are not equipped to style JavaScript text, so text was hanging off the page, and it was abnormally sized. The point is, rely on the K.I.S.S. principle.

The K.I.S.S. Principle

Keep It Simple, Stupid!  Search engine spiders were created to read very basic programming. The masses don’t have access to complex solutions, so search engines cater to the largest segment, and those are the ones who keep it simple. Don’t get complex by creating JavaScript or flash to do what PHP or HTML can do.



Man that’s old school…I don’t know anyone who does that. I haven’t seen a link like that since the 90s, for real.

BrainShakers Interactive

Quality Link building is all about posting links to your website at relevant sites. The sites could be anything from third party sites to blogs and reviews. A quality link building company can take care of this for you and it is found to be the best way of increasing the inflow of traffic into your website.

Thanks for sharing such a wonderful blog. Keep Posting. 🙂

Thanks & Regards

BrainShakers Interactive

AJ Wilcox

@Bratz – I agree, definitely a dated process, but I see it all the time unfortunately. JS can be used in so many SEO-friendly ways that it’s sad to see it used like this.

Aidan Beanland

It’s possible to have the best of both worlds – assuming you *have* to have a non-search engine friendly link of course, maybe for a click-tracking redirect.

Use a standard href link which is followed by non-JavaScript enabled browsers (such as search engine bots), then add a JS ‘onmousedown’ or ‘onclick’ handler that triggers the alternate link.

Naturally, a well optimised site will not need this hack, but it can dig you out of a hole if there’s no other solution.

AJ Wilcox

@Aidan – Thanks! Great input, and true. If you have the ability to become more search friendly, it’s the best option to do so. If you are limited in resources, modifying to make as friendly as possible is definitely the next best thing.


Setting post values on click and then submit, to make sure the Get size limit is never approached. Also my boss hates ugly urls….Hmmm I am old though…

Dan Garfield

Instead of using javascript links you can use javascript to put a listener on links that performs whatever tracking stuff you’d like before letting the link go through. That’s how Google Analytics works.


Hey bud thanks for sharing great article!! cheers from Colombia


dungeonmaster’s answer is icrronect!For three way linking to occur one of the link partners must be in control of two websites.For example the webmaster with two sites, lets call them Site A and Site B, requires a link to Site A from a webmaster with Site C.With three way linking Site C will link to Site A and site B will link to site C thus avoiding a direct reciprocal link.

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