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The Importance of Dynamic Rendering with Geoff Atkinson [PODCAST]

Geoff Atkinson talks about dynamic rendering, how it helps search engines index JavaScript websites faster, and who can benefit from this solution.

The Importance of Dynamic Rendering with Geoff Atkinson [PODCAST]

For episode 189 of The Search Engine Journal Show, I had the opportunity to interview Geoff Atkinson, Founder and CEO, Huckabuy.

Atkinson talks about dynamic rendering, how it helps search engines index JavaScript websites faster, and who can benefit from this solution.

dynamic rendering

What is dynamic rendering?

Geoff Atkinson (GA): Dynamic rendering is probably the biggest change Google’s made in maybe 10 years.

For them to actually offer, “we’ll crawl something that’s different than what the user experience is now, content and data all need to match up,” that’s big change for them.

For years they were like, “you have to have the user experience be the same thing.”

Brent Csutoras (BC): For context, anything that was different previously was considered cloaking. Right?

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GA: Correct. So dynamic rendering, it’s actually a pretty straightforward concept. It started with the difference between a mobile device and a desktop.

All it means is that our URL will render differently or dynamically based on what calls it.

So if you call a webpage from your mobile device, you’re going to get one experience.

If you call one from your desktop, you’re going to get a slightly different one.

Their big change was they said, well, now you can actually give a version for us.

And really, the reason for that is around the amount of JavaScript and front end dynamic technologies that have made it difficult for them to crawl and understand a site.

They basically said, “Here’s a way for us to keep it simple. Give us a simplified version and we’ll be able to crawl and index that much more efficiently than what the user’s experiencing.”

They don’t care about stuff like chat boxes and so on.

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It’s kind of a big shift for them. And one that, I think a lot of SEOs are trying to take advantage of.

What would be an example of what dynamic rendering would actually do?

GA: I’d say the most famous JavaScript thing that really makes Google get caught up while crawling is actually 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.

And a rendering queue is literally the same technology as your Chrome browser.

It’s just executing a page fully, allowing them to come in and actually crawl that dynamic content and it takes more processing time, so if you can strip that stuff out in a dynamically rendered version.

What are the other things that dynamic rendering will do for somebody’s website that they might not get otherwise?

GA: [Y]ou 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.

I think companies have bigger indexation issues than they have any idea because it’s kind of hard. You see the crawl stats, right? And 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 of it, are they actually accessing the stuff that you’re working on.

All those problems just get eliminated. You get almost instantaneous, all the content is being indexed and content affects rankings and rankings affect traffic.

You get a huge, pretty significant benefit if the site is pretty heavy and JavaScripts are 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.

Why do you think the SEO community as a whole is kind of not really embraced this or that it’s not on every site?

GA: Yeah, I find that shocking. But if we just sort of take a step back and we look at marketing departments and their general skillset, like even SEO groups sometimes aren’t the most technical.

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So if you think of a marketing organization, their skill set is really not technical SEO, that’s the last thing that they’re going to get to, right?

They don’t have developers working on SEO, very rarely.

And it’s a very technical problem, so you can throw tons of resources that content and link building and all those sort of more straight forward tasks and not even fully understand or fully recognize the technical problems that you have because you just don’t have that skillset on the team.

And we see that almost happen everywhere. Like even if they’re working with an agency or whoever, that technical skill set is so rare…

Within our little community it’s big, right?

But for when you step into a big internal marketing team, there’s just no one there that speaks that language.

So, I think that’s the reason is that it’s such a different hat to wear as a marketer getting into technical SEO versus managing your PPC spend or your content team or branding and messaging or social.

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It’s just a totally different skillset and it’s usually missing, so I think that’s kind of why it hasn’t been adopted as quickly as we would like.

On technical SEO initiatives: how could SEOs connect and convince the developers?

GA: I think about almost every organization, think about just the SEOs you talked to and whether they feel empowered or it’s a bottleneck getting through development and it’s almost always a bottleneck…

It is like an organizational mindset that you have to get in.

Do you feel like everybody needs to have dynamic rendering?

GA: I’d say probably 60% of sites out there need it, which is a lot.

And then there’s 40% where it’s like, it’d be a nice-to-have, but it’s not going to blow your socks off.

Like you’re getting enough, it’s a really small site, maybe there’s only a hundred pages index so Google can get through it. The site doesn’t change that much.

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There’s just not as much upside as some of these larger sites that are more complicated that Google is really struggling to understand them.

So there are a good number of sites that don’t necessarily need it.

Everybody could benefit, but what we find is about 60% of the internet, like really could use this solution.

Think about the number of JavaScript things that are included by business owners on their websites without thinking at all about what this does for Google crawling.

And then, of course, they’re going to be like, “Yeah, we want personalization and we want chat boxes,” and so they just throw it on there.

Meanwhile, it makes Google’s job like impossible…

What does it look like to implement dynamic rendering?

GA: So the first piece, how to do it on your own.

The crux of dynamic rendering is really the conversion of your dynamic content into flat HTML. The technical challenge is to be able to do that.

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If you have content being generated through JavaScript that is important for your rankings and you want Google to be aware of it, being able to convert that into flat HTML and leveraging some sort of CDN (like Cloudflare, CloudFront or Akamai) to be able to basically load that information up really quickly and eliminate literally all the JavaScript on the page, that’s how you kind of have to go.

It’s doable for sure. We actually see some companies doing it in house, it’s kind of hard to do in house, but we see it happening.

The second piece is automation.

For us, we think the automation of that is a really slick way to do it.

We’ve built that converter… we don’t actually have to have any developer look at your site. They don’t have to log in and do a bunch of work.

You literally make a DNS change and then Huckabuy takes over the bot traffic and we create this dynamic rendered version through SEO Cloud that’s flat HTML.

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We have a partnership with CloudFlare that allows us to keep all this information at edge. You kind of hear that term now being used at edge SEO.

So at edge basically means it’s pre-cached and located all around the world in 200 different locations so that no matter where a bot is coming in from, they get this really lightweight and cached page…

This podcast is brought to you by Ahrefs and Opteo.

To listen to this Search Engine Show Podcast with Geoff Atkinson:

Visit our podcast archive to listen to other Search Engine Journal Show podcasts!


Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita

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Brent Csutoras

Consultant at Brent Csutoras

Managing Partner at Search Engine Journal and a Digital Marketing Consultant, providing consulting, training, and coaching services at an hourly ... [Read full bio]

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