Javascript SEO, Auditing Custom-Built Websites, and Core Web Vitals with Kristina Azarenko

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If technical SEO is your jam, then you’re going to love today’s podcast.

Kristina Azarenko is the owner of Marketing Syrup. She teaches an intensive technical SEO course that she’s definitely earned the expertise to be offering, given she’s helped clients like Carfax and the London School of Business and Finance grow their businesses through SEO.

She specializes in eCommerce SEO, website migrations, technical SEO, and Google analytics.

If you’ve ever felt just a little lost when things get technical, or if you just love hearing all about it, then this is a podcast you’ll want to catch.

The highlights:

  • [1:25] About Kristina’s course.
  • [4:55] Common issues with Javascript SEO.
  • [8:35] Why custom-built websites?
  • [9:45] Technical audits.
  • [12:09] Kristina’s favorite tools.
  • [15:05] Core Web Vitals.
  • [21:04] Kristina’s favorite parts of the job.
  • [24:48] Kristina’s favorite project management tools.
  • [25:34] Kristina’s cause.

The insights:

About Kristina's Course

Kristina says she was first educated as a teacher and a translator, so even though she’s never worked inside a classroom, she nevertheless has a real passion for education.

“I thought it would make sense for me to put everything together, to create a structure. Versus pieces of a puzzle here and there.”

She originally put the course together to help people that she was mentoring.

“We are all self-learners, but when you learn some piece from here, some piece from there, sometimes they just don’t come together as you’d love them to.

Basically what I hear most from my students is that the course helps them to fill in the gaps, feel comfortable and confident in their knowledge, so they can then lead teams, lead in general SEO in their company, or the agency they work for, or with clients.”

45 day SEO challenge course
She says the framework of the course is very organized.“It starts from the beginning and goes deeper and deeper, especially the technical part. I’m hugely technical. Many people join the course specifically because of this technical specialization. So this part is the hugest of the course. I started from the beginning just because I wanted to make sure everyone was on the same…landing page! So to speak.”She says her course doesn’t just attract SEO beginners.
“I have people who have many years of experience inside the course.”
One thing that helps, she says, is to hear different explanations on the same topics from different people. This information and those explanations can then be used in conversations with bosses, peers, and clients.
“It helps a lot.”

Common Issues with Javascript SEO

The conversation then turned naturally to what has proven to be the bane of many a technical SEO: Javascript.

“Sometimes clients will come to me and say: oh, we created a Javascript platform and our traffic tanked. What happened? The answer is already in their question!”

She had a client come to her and when she looked up their old site on she was able to explain that their old site was way better, because it was static.

“I feel that people have this misperception that if they use Javascript their website will be cool.”

There are specific actions that must be taken for Google to be able to interact with a Javascript website.

“Developers don’t usually think about SEO. You need to have different people on your team to advise different parts of a configuration.”

She says this issue usually doesn’t come up on common CMS platforms like Spotify or WordPress. Instead?

“These are usually not publicly known CMSes. These are custom build CMSes.”

If you’re going to custom-build a CMS, the right time to come to someone like Kristina is prior to building the website at all.

“I recently had a client who is migrating from their current custom system to a new custom system that’s going to be heavily Javascript based. I give them all the things they need to have in place in order to do this transition. This includes server-side rendering. You should make sure all the titles are right. All of these things.”

Why Custom-Built Websites?

Garrett asked a perfectly logical question. If these custom, Javascript-based sites cause so many problems, why use them at all? Turns out there are some excellent reasons for some companies to move forward with this type of website.

“They don’t want all the code load that comes with WordPress or Shopify. [These platforms] are configured to serve a really wide public. Sometimes, especially with Shopify, you can’t make all the customizations that would make your website faster or perform better.”

She says sometimes clients don’t really need all the features either of these platforms come with, either.

“So you want to start from scratch, so you will be able to easily change it. You don’t need to create some features you don’t need.”

Technical Audits

Last month, Kristina wrote a post on The Search Engine Journal called “Javascript SEO: Best Practices and Debugging Tools.

In the post, she discussed several of the reasons why JavaScript can be dangerous to SEO. She provided several examples that provide some insights into what she’s looking for when she gets “under the hood” of a website during an audit.

example 1 website is not crawlable

“First of all, I see performance in general. Traffic gets really high and then goes down to zero. I look for patterns to see the overall picture. Did it happen to some particular part of the website? Did it happen to the whole website in general? It’s about understanding the issues behind the drops.”
example 2 image search has decreased after improper lazy load implementation

For example, she had a client whose overall website was fine, but whose blog traffic tanked.

“They actually migrated from WordPress to Shopify because their shop is on Shopify. They wanted to have everything under one umbrella but didn’t think that transitioning templates would cause problems. They didn’t redirect the images, and no longer had traffic from images.”

In other words, Javascript isn’t the only thing that can go wrong with a website. There can be all sorts of technical issues, especially after any kind of migration from one CMS platform to the other.

Kristina's Favorite Tools

Some of Kristina’s favorite tools include:

She uses a combination of all of these tools to catch issues with technical SEO and Javascript.

Core Web Vitals

Garrett asked if Kristina expected core web vitals to become important to rankings.

“”What are core web vitals? They’re about speed and performance. Google has been talking about speed and performance for the past four or five years.”

She then proposes a theory.

“Every time Google wants to push something on people, for example, go to the secure https://, they say it’s a ranking factor.”

She says she doesn’t think this is necessarily to push SEOs but to push business adoption.

Despite agreeing that Google would like people to work on their core web vitals, she does not expect it to become a huge ranking factor.

“This is just part of the signals, right? Also, it’s in comparison with all the other players in the search results. So if, for example, your website doesn’t pass core web vitals, but the speed is still good enough, you might still rank higher. And if you have Javascript problems and Google can’t read your website, core vitals are not the thing you need to concentrate on right now.”

She says while you definitely need to think about site performance, it’s not the main thing that Google cares about.

“If that were the case, you could rank with an empty page.”

She also points out that switching to https:// was a quick fix for most web developers, whereas addressing core vitals is a much more challenging process that will be much harder for webmasters to adopt.

She says it’s not a huge thing.

She says while you definitely need to think about site performance, it’s not the main thing that Google cares about.

“It’s like writing title tags. It’s just one of the things.”

Kristina's Favorite Parts of the Job

Kristina says that her favorite parts of the job are working with eCommerce websites and migrations.

When it comes to eCommerce sites?

“Specifically, helping them to create more granular categories and subcategories, to target more longtail keywords. In general, driving growth through creating the right pages and managing the right user intents.”

And migrations?

“I think about structures all the time. For me, a migration is a structural thing. It follows basically the same steps. The steps can be different for different types of websites, different types of migrations.”

She says the structure puts her in an almost Zen-like state!

What's your right now cause?

Kristina is originally from Belarus, and she thinks about her homeland all the time.

“I moved to Canada three years ago. The political situation was one of the reasons why. Since the elections in August of last year, people are being oppressed, killed, and jailed.”
amnesty international statement on belarus

Amnesty International has prepared a report on human rights violations in Belarus. You can read it here.

Her passion for her home country is her right now cause. Support them here.

BY_help campaign for belarus

Connect with Kristina Azarenko

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