3 Key takeaways from BrightonSEO

26.09.2017

BrightonSEO is one of the best-known search conferences in the UK, held twice a year in sunny old Brighton. It attracts search marketers from both sides of the pond and across Europe, with a wide range of talks covering technical SEO, content marketing, digital PR and social media. As Technical SEO Lead at Draw, the big take home of the conference was good news for me: technical SEO is very much in ascendence. With the increase of Javascript frameworks, the rise of Progressive Web Apps, and the growing need for more semantic information about data sources, it’s fast becoming clear that harnessing the power of these new technologies presents a major opportunity to clients.

 

Javascript  frameworks and SEO is not as simple as you may think

I started the day with a talk held by Bartosz Goralewicz  from Elephate, who discussed the implications of using Javascript and frameworks when developing websites. Many of you in the SEO community will remember Google’s Deprecating our AJAX crawl scheme blog post where they said “we are generally able to render and understand your web pages like modern browsers.” Our speaker, Bartosz, set out to test this assertion by building a test site using the Javascript frameworks Angular, Angular V2, React, Ember, jQuery, Vue and Vanilla JS. What he found was surprising to say the least. Here are his findings and recommendations:

  • Google only managed to index a few of the JavaScript frameworks tested
  • Javascript-generated links are not always followed by Google’s crawlers
  • Inline vs external JS make a huge difference to crawling and indexation
  • AngularJS V2 must render content server side if you care about SEO
  • Isomorphic JS is great for SEO - implement it if you can
  • If it’s too late to make substantial development changes, use a pre-rendering service like prerender.io

 

Progressive Web Apps are going mainstream!

My second talk of the day was from Emily Grossman of Mobile Moxie, who spoke about Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and how JavaScript can impact their performance.  PWAs (a  term coined by Google in 2015) look to bring native app-like functionality to web-based apps, adding features such as downloadable, offline usage and push notifications. With various advances in the last few years, it looks as if these will soon become viable alternatives to native apps. In her talk,  Emily laid out some requirements and tips for improving the PWA experience:

  • PWA must be secure (https)
  • Your baseline framework size defines how much room you have for your app code (load time)
  • Cache essential assets upon installation of the service worker
  • Make use of preload, mousedown and touchstart. This can save hundreds of milliseconds - but it all adds up
  • Use Polyfills for browsers other than Chrome



Mobile first may mean Cloud first

Finally, an interesting theoretical talk from Cindy Krum put forward a compelling case for how search may change in the near future. As the level of Javascript has increased in web development, so too have Google’s costs of crawling and indexing the web. With no sign of this trend changing anytime soon, Google are looking for more efficient and cost-effective ways of indexing and understanding content on the web. This may come in a variety of formats such as markup, feeds and Google-hosted options such as AMP, Google Actions and database information from Firebase.

 

This calls to mind articles I came across last year such as this, which ask the question:  could AI personal assistants replace websites?  Optimising for voice technology (which now accounts for over 20% of all searches) is similar to what would be required to make your data machine-ingestible to other Google platforms or services that Cindy mentioned. This means that  information which is served through a Google Home device  (spoken out loud) can be the same information that is displayed on Google Now or the Google SERP (text on screens), as it’s now served from a universal index.

 

With changes like these, the remit of an SEO is extending. Soon, it will no longer be reasonable for an SEO to limit their focus to website searches. Instead, we will increasingly be required to consider a multitude of other search sources, including personal AI assistants, Google Home, and other Internet of Things devices. A better understanding of APIs may become essential to best practice in the very near future.

 

The future of SEO

All of this suggests that the SEO industry is moving in a more technical direction - towards driving technical efficiencies around mobile and load speed, ensuring new development methodologies such as JS frameworks don’t impede search visibility, and the need to make sites machine-readable through APIs and schema markup such as microdata & JSON-LD. As voice and other services are increasingly winner-takes-all - the ‘first’ listing chosen by the search engine is usually the only one served to the user - it is essential we make it clear to clients that being the first to implement these technologies could have serious strategic advantages over other organic competitors.


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