Google can’t see the content behind captchas

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Google says websites can have problems if they hide content behind captchas because its web crawler will not be able to see it.

Googlebot does not interact with anything when it crawls web pages.

If it lands on a page with a captcha blocking the main content, it will assume that’s the only thing on the page.

There are ways around this, however. Although captchas are problematic, there is no reason to stop using them.

This was all stated by Google’s John Mueller during Search Central SEO office hours on September 24, 2021.

The owner of a directory site writes asking Mueller if the captchas he has put in place to prevent scraping can impact SEO.

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In short, yes, they can impact SEO.

But there is a way to use captchas that block content that does not interfere with crawling or indexing.

Here’s what Mueller advises.

Google’s John Mueller on captchas that block content

Mueller makes it clear that Googlebot does not complete captchas, even Google-based captchas.

If the captcha needs to be completed before accessing the content, the content will not be crawled.

Google will be able to index the page, but no content behind the captcha will be used for ranking.

“Googlebot doesn’t fill out any captchas. Even though they’re Google-based captchas, we don’t populate them. So this is something where if the captcha needs to be completed in order for the content to be visible, then we don’t would not have access to the content.

If, on the other hand, the content is available there without needing to do anything, and the captcha is just displayed at the top, then generally that would be fine.

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As Mueller says, you can safely use captchas if the main content is easily accessible.

To make sure that a captcha doesn’t block Google’s view, Mueller recommends using the Inspect URL tool in Search Console.

“What I would do to test is use the URL inspection tool in Search Console and grab those pages and see what comes up.

On the one hand [check] the visible page to ensure that it matches the visible content. And [then check] the HTML code rendered there to ensure that it includes the content you want to index. That’s the kind of approach I would take there.

This is one solution, but there is still another.

If you want to completely block content with a captcha while still keeping it compatible with Google, you can do that as well.

It involves a technique that you may think violates Google guidelines, but Mueller confirms that it does not violate any policies.

Serve Googlebot a different version of the page than normal users.

Googlebot can have a captchaless version of the page, while users must complete the captcha before viewing any content.

Then the content will be used for ranking, while you can still accomplish your goal with the captcha.

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“From a political point of view, we are fine with situations where you provide us with the full content and you need a captcha on the user side. If you need to do this slightly differently for Googlebot or maybe other search engines than you would for the average user from our perspective, that’s fine.

Listen to Mueller’s full response in the video below:


Featured Image: getronydesign / Shutterstock

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