Robert Beerworth Team : Web Strategy Tags : Technology Web Development CSS User Experience Featured

How does ‘infinite scrolling’ affect SEO; and other issues

Robert Beerworth Team : Web Strategy Tags : Technology Web Development CSS User Experience Featured

How web development goes in waves!

A few years back, everyone in a web design firm knew something about and was always worried about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)… No matter whether you were a web designer, a web developer or a digital producer, you cared.

We could look at any piece of web design or the structure of a page and immediately have a view on its likely impact on SEO, the holy grail for any website. And we did something about it.

We copped SEO on the chin.

A few years later, nobody is particularly thinking about SEO except the SEO guys and girls.

SEO has given way to heavy designs, tricky page transitions and funky UIs (User Interfaces).

Certainly, as I look around my office at some of the beautiful websites we’re putting out, I have the strong feeling we’re firmly in the “not thinking about SEO” wave of web design.

Which is not necessarily an indictment on our designers and developers.

The web is ever evolving and the somewhat relaxed attitude to SEO by many designers and developers quite possibly reflects where the web is at generally, as well as the relative importance of SEO is in the lifecycle of a growing number of websites.

SEO is not the be-all and end-all it was a few years ago, especially given the many different things we are expected to focus on in a good website of today: data, personalisation, content, optimisation etc etc etc.

Indeed, knowing how busy a modern web designer is, the drop in SEO focus could equally be that web designers have just decided to shrug the SEO responsibility because at the end of the day… SEO is not , well, their responsibility.

(As I think about it, it could be that as designers and developers we know how important SEO is though after years of bending over backwards for SEO people, we're responding in some strange, passive-aggressive way and making life tough for SEO people... though for fear of losing some SEO friends, I'll assume this is not the case and just my imagination!)

As I write, it strikes me that this blog could open a whole bunch of interesting questions:

  • Is everyone in the entire agency responsible for SEO, bearing in mind that SEO guys rarely strongly protect and endorse the work of the other parts of the web design agency: the SEO people are measured by the ROI from search and that is their primary prerogative.

    SEO people take the higher ground and usually get the last say, such is my experience.

  • Should the UI and UX (User Experience) exclusively come before SEO?

    Certainly a growing and entirely valid question among content writers, designers, UX designers and plenty of other disciplines: after-all, not only does Google penalise websites that are clearly designed with SEO exclusively front-of-mind, so do users.

    Crap content leads to lower trust in users of a website and thus, lower rates of conversion.

    As a user, I want an awesome experience and will reward design and UX innovation, SEO be damned.

  • Is the importance of SEO wanning for many websites? I have argued for years and years the relative merit of SEO for many websites, despite many a client seeing SEO as the elixir of life.

    Traffic comes from many places and depending on what your website is, how long it will exist and so forth should tell you whether a long-haul SEO strategy is relevant and right for you.


All interesting questions, though not questions I am going to try and tackle in this blog.

Instead, the focus of this blog – based on an interesting though quite technical blog I read this morning – is about what is known as ‘infinite scrolling’ and how it affects the SEO of your website.

As well as three other issues you need to tackle when it comes to infinite scrolling.


What is ‘infinite scrolling’?

‘Infinite scrolling’ is where a web page continues to call new content and grow as you continue to scroll down the page.

Twitter and Facebook are good examples.

Not to be confused, there also exists ‘infinite pages’ which is where a page is very long – often trying to tell a story – but where the page does have a finite length and ending, and does not load new content from the server as you scroll.

Tesla Motors has a good example of an infinite page.

Back to infinite scrolling however, infinite scrolling offers a bunch of upsides to websites, largely around keeping your users on a page and reading longer, without the need to consciously click to the next page.

And the next.

And so on.


What’s the issue with ‘infinite scrolling’ and SEO?

In simple terms, search engines don’t scroll and read web pages like we do.

Subsequently, search engines can’t trigger the page they are crawling to load all of the content you and I see and so cannot index the content.

The downside of this should be very evident and indeed, I have met some people with the look of horror in their eyes when you explain why their new website is falling out of favour with Google.

Ouch, and all because of infinite scrolling.


Oh, and three other issues with infinite scrolling that are unrelated to SEO.

Unrelated to SEO, infinite scrolling has three other issues, all of which can and should be addressed:

  1. The first issue is to do with a number of browsers – I experience it in Chrome on the iPad – where certain websites eventually crash the browser, entirely likely due to memory issues; essentially, the browser can’t handle the amount of content and what is being required of it.

    At some point, the memory issue will affect all browsers, though it certainly affects some more and earlier than others.

  2. The second issue is to do with some older web browsers which struggle with infinite scrolling meaning that some users cannot access the content on your website.

  3. The third issue is the user experience when users click ‘back’ to a page that had content loaded through infinite scrolling; a frustrating experience most of us have been through, where the page has collapsed back to its original state and all the content we had scrolled to reveal is hidden again.



The good news!

The good news is that dealing with infinite scrolling for SEO is reasonably straightforward as well as providing an optimal experience for those users on an older browser (the second issue I raised above)r: a no-brainer, win-win situation.

The good new continues: the other issues with infinite scrolling are also addressable if you know what you’re doing.

I’ll leave the article I read this morning to do the heavy lifting in terms of how to code your website for SEO, though a few quick take-outs to consider:

  • Know how the clever UI tricks – including infinite scrolling and the like – are impacting your website in terms of SEO.

  • Get some tools to test how your website is looking to Google.

  • Find a reasonable balance between UI and UX and SEO remembering that users always come first – they are the ones buying from your website, not search engine crawlers. Depending on your website, they are both important and you don’t need to compromise. (And to that point, understand whether SEO is a relevant factor for your website in the first-place.)

  • Respect users with older browsers; provider tapered or layered access to your content and functionality so that everyone can enjoy your website.

    That is, introduce pagination where you can detect an older, less capable browser:

    << 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 >>

  • Test your website across a number of browsers including on lower-powered devices to make sure your pages are not exploding certain browsers.

    To address the memory issue, stop the page loading content at a certain point and require that the user loads a new, fresh page to keep reading and scrolling.

  • To deal with pages largely disappearing when a user clicks back, code your website in such a way that when users do click back, your page is smart enough to know how far the user had previously scrolled and therefore, to open the page to the point that the user left off.

    In the olden days, we used hash tags and other hacks, though HTML5 has technology baked in for dealing with the issue. Here is a nice demo.

    Which approach of course, requires that users have browsers that are compatible with HTML5, though if you know what I am talking about and know what you are doing, you’ll know how to get around this.

  • And finally, clock the next person that says infinite scrolling is automatically bad for SEO. They’re wrong and it’s a myth.


As a business owner, web producer, designer or whatever, don’t let the current wave of fancy UI and UX design scrub SEO entirely from your mind; SEO is important to most websites and needs to be considered right across the build.

Equally, experiment and play with the increasing UI and UX options available to us; it makes the web look and feel better, more animated and more engaging.

And never forget, these things move in waves. What is important to us today won’t be this time next year.