Are your comments invisible? How about your website?

If your news organisation uses javascript for its comments, or for any other part of the site, you may well be advised to start doing some testing.

Malcolm Coles, the Editor of, has been highlighting some of the problems with the technology for search engine optimisation and accessibility (the two are often closely related) on his blog.

Coles first posted about the Guardian’s redesigned comments system, which, Coles says, breaks the newspaper’s own accessibility policy by relying purely on javascript and leaves them open to legal action:

“the Guardian is arguably in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act, which ‘makes it unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person by refusing to provide any service which it provides to members of the public’.”

The Guardian’s announcement of the changes, Coles’ comments, and their responses can all be seen here.

In a second post, Coles noted that Johnston Press Digital Publishing’s reliance on javascript meant that a search on Google News for their pages returned a result like this:

screengrab of identical search results 

And, following some discussion in the comments on a story here, in a third post Coles tackled third party commenting systems such as Disqus, IntenseDebate and Sezwho:

“Google doesn’t bother to run javascript when it indexes a page. And the problem with these commenting systems is that they use javascript to do their fancy functionality – but also the basic stuff like actually showing the comments … You can prove that Google isn’t indexing the comments for Disqus and IntenseDebate by searching for the name of the person with the first comment on the page – when you do, you get no hits. (EG this search returns a results for the disqus page, not the simpable one).”

And search engine rankings aren’t the only things to get hurt. Coles outlines several other side effects of using javascript for comments:

  • “Mobile devices can’t see it reliably (lots of mobile phone browsers don’t use javascript so the comments sections can’t be used).
  • “The pages take ages to load (all that unnecessary javascript).
  • “The comments are sloooow to appear Once the page has loaded, the JS runs and the comments are loaded into the page. This is slow. Really slow.”
A compelling list. 

5 thoughts on “Are your comments invisible? How about your website?

  1. hubs

    Indeed. Don't use javascript in your headers or navigation for the same reason. I see this hasn't stopped you from using Intense Debate though 😉 Thanks for the follow on Twitter.

  2. TheWorstofPerth

    So are you making a response re your blog and the recent intensedebate switch? I'm interested to know because wordpress grouphosted (.com) is going to go intense debate soon apparently. I get a lot of traffic through comment hits via google and will be interested to know how this will be handled. wordpress seems to be fairly seo sensitive so I assume it will be sorted.

  3. Paul Bradshaw

    See today's post – seriously considering dropping ID, depends how quickly they can do a javascript free version.

  4. Search Engine Analytics

    Just found your blog today. Really like it – keep up the good work.Domain info more important than you think :-)Domain information such as DNS, age of domain and even the expiration date are used to distinguish between illegitimate and legitimate domains.Why are google doing this? Simply to get all the factors they can to get an internal “trust score”.This “trust score” is used to eliminate “doorway” pages and spam in the search result.I’M not saying that it’s working perfectly – but they are doing a pretty good job.


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