How to Be Successful With Dynamic Rendering and SEO
SEO is one of the more technical fields within the digital marketing space. It’s like the popular circus act where the juggler spins three plates on poles.
It’s a tricky balancing act. Not only does your website need to be formatted in a way that makes it easy for search engines to process it, but it needs to perform better and load faster than your competitors’ websites.
However, it’s not entirely a lost cause. For all of its nuances and complexities, technical SEO is one of the few ranking factors that you have direct control over.
The solution can be contained in two words: Dynamic rendering.
We’ll break down what dynamic rendering is, why it’s important, why it’s beneficial for your website’s SEO health, and how to implement it.
What Happens When Google Visits Your Webpage
Google uses an automated program, known as a bot, to index and catalogue every web page on the Internet.
Google’s stated purpose is to provide the user with the best possible result for a given query. To accomplish this, it seeks to understand what content is on a given web page, and assess its relative importance to other web pages about the same topic.
Google processes HTML in two steps: crawl and index. First, Googlebot crawls the HTML on a page. It reads the text and outgoing links on a page, and parses out the keywords that help it determine what the web page is about. Then, Googlebot indexes the page.
Google, and other search engines, prefer content that’s rendered in static HTML.
This is important to understand. For your visitor to search for your website on Google, your web pages have to rank. For your pages to rank, they need to be indexed. For them to be indexed, they need to be rendered.
Here’s why that’s a problem for you.
HTML is considered standard in web development. Search engines can render HTML-based content easily.
How do you make a modern web experience that impresses the user while maintaining your website’s visibility so that people are able to find you?
Most developers accomplish this with server-side rendering.
What’s the Difference Between Client-side and Server-side Rendering?
Most web developers solve for the user, and don’t often consider search engines when building websites.
However, client-side rendering carries with it the chance of a poor user experience. It adds seconds of load time to your web pages, during which time users will likely get frustrated and bounce off the page.
That’s bad. You need Google to see that content if you want to rank higher than your competitors and to be found by your customers.
So, Why Doesn’t Everyone Just Use Server-Side Rendering?
SSR is expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to execute. You need a competent web development team to put it in place.
This is the case with Angular, which requires the Angular Universal Library to enable server-side rendering. Enabling SSR with Angular requires a lot of moving parts, and if just one is put out of place it could confuse web crawlers and lead to a drop in your search results.
Therein lies the problem: how do you make both your customer and search engines happy?
To give them both what they want, the solution is dynamic rendering.
What is Dynamic Rendering?
Solution, client-side rendering and server-side rendering are all less than ideal. Client-side rendering provides a better user experience but has massive SEO drawbacks. SSR is much better from an SEO standpoint, but it’s not a sustainable solution for startups or small businesses with limited resources.
There is a better alternative: dynamic rendering.
Dynamic rendering is the process of serving content based on the urgent agent requesting it.
How Do You Implement Dynamic Rendering?
Broadly speaking, implementing dynamic rendering is a three-step process.
First, you install a dynamic renderer (let’s say Prerender), to transform your dynamic content into static HTML that’s easy for crawlers to read and consume.
Then, you choose the user-agents you think should receive static content. In most cases, this includes search engine crawlers like Googlebot and Bingbot. There might be others, such as LinkedInbot, you wish to include as well.
When taking this step, if your prerendering service slows down your server or your HTTP requests go up, consider implementing a cache to store content.
Next, determine if your user-agents require desktop or mobile content. You can use dynamic serving to give them the appropriate solution.
Finally, configure your servers to deliver static HTML.
Verifying Your Configuration
Ok, so now your website implements dynamic rendering. All well and good, but now you need to make sure that it’s working properly.
A few things you may want to check for:
Mobile-Friendly Test: This is a function of Google Search Console’s suite of tools. Google made the switch to mobile-first indexing for all websites in September of 2020. That means that Google looks at the mobile version of your website first, before the desktop version, which means your website needs to be optimized for a mobile-first experience.
URL Inspection Tool: So far so good. But now, you need to make sure that your website is being properly crawled and indexed, and hopefully by now it should be. The URL Inspection Tool will tell you whether a URL on your website has been indexed.
Fetch as Google: This is what you will use to determine the effectiveness of your dynamic renderer. It allows you to make sure that individual URLs are properly submitted for indexing.
Structured Data Testing Tool: If you’re using schema markup in your website (about 31.3% of all websites do), then you’ll want to use this to make sure that your new dynamic renderer isn’t messing it up.
When Should You Use Dynamic Rendering?
It’s not perfect, though. Many marketers lack the technical SEO know-how to implement a dynamic rendering solution, and it requires an advanced web development team to be put into place.
So when should you use dynamic rendering?
Dynamic rendering is a good solution if your website is large and has lots of pages with content that changes frequently.
If that’s the case, then your website requires quick and frequent indexing. Dynamic rendering will make sure that all of your web pages get indexed and displayed properly in the SERPs.
It’s also a good solution if your website has rapidly-changing content (i.e., if your website is an eCommerce store with a constantly-revolving inventory).
Dynamic rendering is also good for websites that rely on social media sharing, like those with embeddable social media walls or widgets.
Is Dynamic Rendering Cloaking?
Short version: no.
Longer version: still no, and the reason for that is semantical.
Dynamic rendering effectively serves the same content to both search engines and human users. It’s just presented differently according to the format preferred by each.
Cloaking is the practice of serving markedly different content to search engine bots and humans. This is considered a black hat SEO tactic. While the short-term benefits of cloaking may be tempting, the potential risks are not worth it.
To reiterate: dynamic rendering is not cloaking, as long as it serves the same end content to both crawlers and human users. It’s only cloaking if you serve completely different content to each.
To summarize what we covered:
- Most web developers solve for this by using server-side rendering, but this is complicated, expensive, and isn’t a good solution for every online business.
- To implement dynamic rendering: install the appropriate middleware; determine which user-agents are served static, mobile or desktop content; and configure your servers to deliver static HTML.
Your website will load fast, get indexed reliably, and will attract more visitors in no time.Try Prerender today. Get Google to finally work with you rather than against you.