How should SEO be involved with Progressive Web Apps?

As we all know, mobile usage has been increasing steadily for quite some time now, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping. It makes sense for us to be looking at this as part of our forward planning, and, as marketers, stay ahead of the curve so we’re ready when ‘the next big thing’ arrives.

The current ‘next big thing’ would have to be Progressive Web Apps, and for good reason. Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs, are the next step in developing mobile and user friendly web pages.

When it comes to the longevity of any website, advancements such as these need to be part of the plan. If you’re building or migrating a site, and don’t take these into consideration, you could face complications if you decide to implement PWAs further down the line. With user experience very much at the heart of Google’s algorithms, Progressive Web Apps could very well be an important part of any website in the future.

If your website needs to behave like an app, has time-sensitive components or frequently releases fresh content, then the sooner you tackle PWA, the better.

What are Progressive Web Apps?

Progressive Web Apps are web pages that essentially act as mobile applications. They have extremely fast loading times, and make many of the steps required to view content redundant.

Google has dubbed them as “reliable, fast, and engaging.” With Google’s focus on user experience, it’s no surprise that they’re endorsing such implementations.

Progressive Web Apps are powered by what are known as Service Workers. These are essentially worker scripts that run behind the scenes, taking care of the PWAs. They run independently of the PWAs, and will respond to events such as network requests and connectivity changes, which can be particularly handy if you have a poor connection or are offline.

What are their benefits?

As mentioned before, user experience is at the heart of Progressive Web Apps, so the users are certainly benefitting from it. But so are the sites themselves.

Because websites adopting Progressive Web Apps are putting their users’ needs first, Google will certainly be taking notice. As we all know, the more you’re in Google’s good books, the better chance of success you will have.

PWAs also open up the market to a much wider audience due to their ability to work with any device – whether it be desktop, mobile or tablet. Furthermore, they work within any browser environment, so it rules out non-compliance due to some devices only supporting certain browsers.

In summary, Progressive Web Apps take the best parts of a web page, and the best parts of a mobile app, and combine them. For example, they exist online like a web page, but can be accessed and used offline like an application using an ‘add to home screen’ function. Because of their build, users can still visit these saved pages even when there’s no internet connection.

Fundamentally, they are a quick and simple way of staying connected with your customer base, even when they’re offline.

How should SEO be involved with PWAs?

The way that Progressive Web Apps work might cause some issues when it comes to search engines crawling the pages, and in turn, ranking and indexing them due to the fact that the content is loaded after the build of the pages.

Rather than have the pages sending the minimum needed at first load (or crawl), and then requesting the content afterwards, we SEOs should be working closely with developers to tweak these pages to be search engine, indexation and ranking friendly.

Ideally, the PWA should be built so that as the user arrives at the site, it sends back the application shell (minimum HTML, JS, CSS etc.) so it is all working properly. But, at the same time, the pre-loaded content for the application is also served – so it all comes at the same time. This way, the application loads immediately for both the user and search engines.

As well as getting the build of the PWA right, we also still need to have a firm grasp on the content itself and how users are interacting with it.

As with traditional web pages, content really does play a huge part in the success of these webpages. You can have a perfectly built PWA, but if your content isn’t up to scratch, then, it isn’t going to provide much value. So, your SEO team need to show the same attention to content and behaviour on PWAs as they would a traditional website.

The better your understanding of how your customers are interacting with these pages, the better chance you will have of success. How are they differing compared to traditional webpages, or even standard mobile pages? Is the usage different across different devices? Is time-on-page affected by different forms of content? These are all questions that we will need to be asking once Progressive Web Apps are in full flow.

Progressive Web Apps have a functionality that captures user behaviour and preferences, and push notifications are delivered off the back of this data. These prompts will also need to be addressed by SEOs to make sure the correct information is displayed at the correct time. By using the data properly, you have a real chance of reaching your audience on a better level than before.

Progressive Web Apps in a nutshell

Progressive Web Apps certainly do have a number of benefits for both user and supplier, which is something we can all get on board with.

  • Instantaneous loading, even in areas with bad or no signal and reception
  • Responsiveness that rules out glitchy behaviour associated with apps
  • An app-like build that allows the user to navigate the pages as if they were an app
  • Safe browsing due to being served via HTTPS
  • High visibility due to them being able to be identified as an app on the W3C manifest
  • Opportunity to be linked to and shared easily because they have their own URL

Companies are already seeing significant improvements thanks to PWAs, and by 2019, it is predicted that at least 20% of brands will abandon their mobile apps.

Flipkart has seen a 70% increase in conversions and a 40% higher re-engagement rate with PWAs. Additionally, The Weather Channel has seen an 80% improvement in load time with PWAs.

It’s vital to always be considering the changing landscape of search. And with it, the shifts in consumer behaviour that comes with any new technology, so, Progressive Web Apps are very much on our radar at Equator. When it comes to the longevity of any website, these new advancements need to be part of the plan.

By Chris Smith, Outreach Manager. 

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