How To Fix: ‘Googlebot cannot access CSS and JS files’

Google warns webmasters worldwide that blocking CSS or Javascript may cause suboptimal rankings

This morning in Australia, many prudent SEO webmasters woke to the news that Googlebot could not access CSS (custom style sheet) & JS (javascript) files on their site. It looked a little something like this:

Google has warned that left unattended, it could affect your rankings.

“Google systems have recently detected an issue with your homepage that affects how well our algorithms render and index your content. Specifically, Googlebot cannot access your JavaScript and/or CSS files because of restrictions in your robots.txt file. These files help Google understand that your website works properly, so blocking access to these assets can result in sub-optimal rankings.”

So how can you run a technical SEO audit and fix this to make Google happy again? Here are the three required steps necessary to identify the issues, troubleshoot them and resolve.

1. Identify the blocked resources

You need to isolate what exactly is causing the rendering issue. Within Google’s Search Console (the old Webmaster Tools) there is a “Fetch” and “Fetch & Render” function for desktop and mobile

Go into each and hit “fetch and render” for Googlebot to access your site and bring back how it looks to you and how it looks to Google, this is where you can spot discrepancies causing this error message to be sent.

Once you have fetched and rendered, click on the left page path denoted in blue to visit how the page looks to Google:

If you then scroll down, you will see a list of resources Google could not access:

There you have your culprits!

2. Modify robots.txt to allow access

So how do you allow access to them? Modify (or have your Web Developer modify) your robots.txt – check any plugins you may be using and ensure you have all the latest updates. Enabling access to all JS & CSS content may make your site more vulnerable, you may need to speak to an SEO professional to make sure this is done correctly.

You can test your robots.txt live in Search console to check the errors have been addressed:

3. Post your updated fixed website to Google’s index to validate the change

Make sure you fetch both your desktop and mobile version of your site, hit “submit to index” and if you receive a “complete” message, you are all good!

Confused?

It’s a lot to take in let alone attempt yourself. Contact White Chalk Road for help with your website in implanting these changes. When SEO rankings are at potential threat, it is wise to trust quality professionals to guide you through the right course of action to keep Google happy with your site – and you happy with your business!

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