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Dynamic Rendering

Introducing Dynamic Rendering

Dynamic rendering is the process of serving a client-side version of your site for users and a separate, server-side version for Search Bots. On the server-side, javascript content is converted into a flat HTML version preferred by Search Bots. This allows them to fully access, crawl, and index webpage content. It’s one of the biggest changes Google has made in years. 

Google Dynamic Rendering Flow Chart

Dynamic rendering is one of the most important technical SEO initiatives that Google has rolled out in the last decade.

Geoff Atkinson, Founder-CEO of Huckabuy

Announcement From Google

In 2018, Google announced its support for dynamic rendering as a work-around solution for Search Bots to access, crawl, and index javascript content converted to static HTML. You can watch their presentation below:

Why It Matters For Marketers

You want your content to be highly visible so that your target audience can find it while they’re scrolling the Internet. But if you have a larger website with a lot of dynamic and Javascript-driven content, search engines have a difficult time crawling and indexing your site, meaning all those content marketing efforts don’t properly reach your customers. The solution? Dynamic rendering: it allows you to serve an SEO-friendly version of your site to Google’s Search Bots, so they have an improved experience and account for all of the content they might not have fully crawled and indexed previously. You’re effectively translating your website into the language that search bots know best.

When Should You Use Dynamic Rendering?

Google recommends incorporating dynamic rendering in at least three instances. First, it is recommended if you have a large site with rapidly changing content that requires quick indexing. Second, it is recommended if your website relies on modern javascript functionality. Third, it is recommended if your website relies on social media sharing and chat applications that require access to page content.

Is Dynamic Rendering Right for My Website?

When deciding whether dynamic rendering makes sense to implement for your website, it can be helpful to ask the following questions:

  • Is your website indexable?
  • Does your website use Javascript for some or all of your content?
  • Does your content change frequently?
  • Are you having crawl budget problems?
  • Does your team face time and/or budget constraints that would prevent them from implementing server-side rendering?

If you can answer “yes” to any of the questions, consider using dynamic rendering for your website. 

Rendering Javascript Content

Google prefers content written in flat HTML, but they are also interested in organizing search results that reflect the internet as it is. Dynamic rendering presents an opportunity to access, crawl, and index large websites and dynamic pages that rely on frequently changing heavy javascript content.

Historically, javascript-powered websites have not fared well in search — they are user-friendly but not bot-friendly. This is attributed to the limited crawl budget of the Google Search Bot and the resource-intensive nature of rendering javascript content. When Search Bots encounter heavy javascript content, they often have to index in multiple waves of crawling. This fractured process results in missed elements, like metadata and canonical tags, that are critical for proper indexing.

Dynamic rendering is essentially a javascript SEO solution. Normally, it is difficult for search engines to process these pages. They rely on static HTML elements instead of the graphical interfaces humans take for granted. But with dynamic rendering, client-side pages are translated, made fully accessible, and served to Search Bots in their preferred flat HTML format, so they can access, understand, and immediately index content to be found in search. 

 Watch Google talk about the importance of dynamic rendering for Javascript SEO:

Adoption of Dynamic Rendering

We are often asked why the SEO community and marketing community at large have been slow to adopt dynamic rendering. Part of the reason is the fact that these departments do not have a general skillset that includes subsets of technical SEO, like Javascript SEO. Furthermore, they don’t always have the assistance of development team members who could help solve the issues then implement the solution. As a result, it is an initiative that tends to fall by the wayside as more resources are devoted to less-technical tactics like content creation and link building instead.

Implementation Process

Implementing dynamic rendering on your own is difficult, time-consuming, and resource-intensive. A competent and experienced team of developers is required to set up a system that checks the identity of every agent visiting the website and determining which type of content to serve. It is a cumbersome process. Fortunately, Huckabuy has a software service, the SEO Cloud, that takes care of this entire process for your business. After a brief period of working with your developer team, the implementation process is complete. Furthermore, our service preserves your preferred development operations. In fact, you can use the latest technologies like Angular and React without worrying about negative SEO impacts. 

Dynamic Rendering Is Not Cloaking

Think about cloaking like a classic “bait and switch.” A website might serve a page to the Search Bot about cats, but the user sees content that is fundamentally different – for example, content about dogs instead. Google takes issue with these types of cases and penalizes accordingly. But dynamic rendering is not cloaking. It is about giving Google similar data about a page in a format that they can crawl and index quickly, easily, and cheaply as they desire. They acknowledge and support this methodology in their documentation here.

Googlebot generally doesn’t consider dynamic rendering as cloaking. As long as your dynamic rendering produces similar content, Googlebot won’t view dynamic rendering as cloaking.

Google Documentation on Dynamic Rendering

Huckabuy’s Perspective

It’s a pretty simple concept. Pages load dynamically based on what calls them. For example, if you go to a URL on your mobile phone, you’ll get one experience and if you go to the same URL on you desktop, you’ll get a slightly different experience. A site will be dynamically rendered to best fit the user experience for whatever device they’re using — mobile, tablet, desktop, and anything in-between.

Google made a huge change when they announced that you could provide an optimized version of your website, just for them. So why did they do that?

As JavaScript has taken off across the internet, Google’s job of crawling and indexing has become very difficult, and requires a lot of money, time, and resources. Because almost every page on the internet now has JavaScript on it, Google’s rendering costs just became way too high. And so they started asking webmasters to serve up a separate version of sites specifically for them, one without Javascript. 

That’s what our SEO Cloud software is for. It takes a complicated page that has 100 JavaScript tags and converts it into a flat HTML version that Google can read. You still need to have the same content and site; you can’t do any tricks like keyword stuffing or alter the page in any way. But now you can queue up what we call Google’s Perfect World of flat HTML, structured data markup, and fast page speed. 

Unsurprisingly, if you give Google what they want, they’ll send you a lot of traffic.

Huckabuy Founder-CEO Geoff Atkinson

Podcast Talk: Dynamic Rendering

Geoff Atkinson recently appeared on the Search Engine Journal Show to talk about the importance of dynamic rendering and how it can be incorporated into a 2020 SEO strategy. You can find the rest of the episode show notes here.

Here are some highlights of what he had to say:

Why You Need Dynamic Rendering

“I’d say the most famous JavaScript thing that really makes Google get caught up while crawling is actually chat boxes. So chat boxes, personalization, tracking tags that are dynamic. As soon as they hit JavaScript, they simply can’t crawl it with their HTML crawler. And so it goes to a rendering queue, and a rendering queue takes quite a bit more processing time. A rendering queue is literally the same technology as your Chrome browser. So it’s just, you know, executing a page fully allowing them to come in and actually crawl that dynamic content takes more processing time. 

So, you can strip that stuff out in a dynamically rendered version. So for our SEO Cloud, for example, if we were to take a customer that’s on our product and look at their actual page, in the SEO Cloud, or that dynamically rendered version of the of the page, it almost looks identical, but it’s like 20-40%, like the size of the previous page — it’s wider, it’s faster. It’s flat HTML, it looks very similar, but you are going to see some of the dynamic stuff getting pulled out. So, chat boxes and things like that. 

The dynamically rendered version is really a simplified version that’s queued up for them so that when they come and crawl with their HTML crawler, they can literally download the entire site really quickly and don’t have to kick however many pages you have indexed over into this rendering queue — which takes processing time and a lot of money on their end. That’s why [Google’s] a fan of it.”

The SEO Benefits of Dynamic Rendering

You could have all the content resources in the world, but if Google can’t see that actual content, what good is it doing? So, we see that a lot.

Companies have bigger indexation issues than they have any idea about, because it’s kind of hard to know. You see the crawl stats, right? You’re like, “Oh, they’re crawling me. I’m good.” And you see that they’re downloading information, but you don’t really know exactly what they’re downloading and how much they are actually accessing the stuff that you’re working on. With dynamic rendering, all those problems just get eliminated. All the content’s being indexed, and content affects rankings and rankings affect traffic. So you get a pretty significant benefit. If the site is pretty heavy in JavaScript or difficult to crawl, all of a sudden, they’re going to become privy to all this new information in a very short amount of time. And that’s actually going to impact rankings and traffic and all those other good things.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is dynamic rendering?

Dynamic rendering means that your site will render differently depending on what calls it; users see the normal client-side version of the site while search bots see a version designed specifically for them. It’s one of the biggest changes Google has made in the past decade. 

Does Google approve of dynamic rendering?

Yes! Not only does Google approve of dynamic rendering, they strongly recommend it and even coined the term.

Does every website need dynamic rendering?

The websites that can benefit the most from dynamic rendering are ones that are big, with complicated Javascript and lots of pages that need to be indexed.

How does Huckabuy dynamically render web pages?

You can dynamically render your website through our SEO Cloud software service. We convert your complex site into flat HTML, add world-class structured data to each page, and host your pre-rendered site in a caching layer to give Google the optimal crawling experience.

Should your business take care of dynamic rendering in-house?

It is possible, but it will cost more and quality will likely suffer. This is the type of service that is better to outsource than to train for and risk being done at a lower quality. First, you have to have at least one capable developer that can alter your tech stack and wire together some form of rendering service. So, time and maintenance are going to cost you some amount. Second, if you do it wrong or Google changes things and your development team is slow to make an adjustment, your website suffers the consequences. On your own, you are completely in charge of how the most important visitor, the Google Search Bot, engages with your website. If you decide to dedicate one or two engineers from your development team to this process, it is imperative they are experts. 

Does dynamic rendering affect users?

No! It has no effect on users.

Is dynamic rendering secure?

Yes. Only your publicly indexable content is exposed for Search Bots. Dynamic rendering also doesn’t interact with cookies or authenticated URLs.

Why hasn’t the SEO community embraced dynamic rendering?

Dynamic rendering is a technical issue, and a lot of SEO organizations aren’t focused on technical SEO initiatives, or don’t have developers working on their teams.