Search Engines and Rollover Navigation

    August 18, 2004

Hi Jill,

If our navigation buttons are rollovers, I understand that search engines can’t follow the links. Do you recommend repeating them as text links at the bottom of the page or is this unnecessary?

Best regards,


Hi Marla,

Some rollovers are search-engine-friendly, and some aren’t; it all depends on the code used to create them. There are many rollover scripts that are “crawler-friendly” and can be followed by the search engine spiders. Usually, if you view the source code and see that there are <a href> -type links in your code, the links can probably be followed.

However, not all JavaScript menus are created equal. Many do use certain coding that some search engine spiders still have a hard time following. Moreover, some rollover navigation menus are designed with a Java applet and not JavaScript. These may be even less crawler-friendly!

Regardless of the type of navigational menu you use, it never hurts to put the same links at the bottom of the page. Many users expect there to be links there and they look for them when navigating your site. Of course, if you have tons and tons of links in your rollovers, it will probably look silly to list them all at the bottom of the page. Definitely don’t do anything that looks silly to your human visitors.

Here are two alternatives you can try:

* Put the links from your rollover navigation into a <noscript> tag in the HTML code. (View the source on my site to see this in action.)

* Create a site map page that is accessible from all pages of your site via a text or image link which lists all the pages of your site.

Before going to any trouble or making any drastic changes to your site, do a search for your site’s pages at the major search engines such as Google and Yahoo to see if they are having any problems crawling your site. To do this in Google, type this command into the Google search box (substituting your own site for “yoursite”): One of the results that shows up should be a page from your site that also has a link with the option to click on “more results from this site.” Click that link and you should be presented with a nice list of all the pages from your site that Google has indexed.

At Yahoo type, and as with Google, you should then see some pages of your site and the option to view more results from your domain. Click that link and see which pages show up.

Many times we assume the engines won’t crawl certain pages or links, but they actually do crawl them fine. The search engine techies are always working on ways to improve their engines, and they’ve come a long way from the old days of following only simple text links. Sometimes, however, you will find that Google may crawl your site fine, but Yahoo doesn’t, or vice versa.

When in doubt (or even as a safety net) use the <noscript> tag and/or a site map. Redundancy never hurts in this type of situation!


Jill Whalen of High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and host of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter.

She specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations and seminars. Jill’s handbook, “The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines” teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines