Is dynamic rendering for SEO still worth it?

Dynamic rendering is one of the methods used to optimize SEO. This brings a number of advantages, but also disadvantages. I this article I examine the pluses and challenges and look for alternatives.

What is dynamic rendering?

If you delve into the world of SEO, you will undoubtedly come across the term “dynamic rendering. This may sound like an advanced technique that can take your SEO strategy to the next level, but is it really worth it? Dynamic rendering is often a complex process in which GoogleBot correctly reads JavaScript components of the PWA/website. Different versions of a Web page are offered to different users or user-agents (including search engines). Whereas normally only one static version of a website is shown to everyone, dynamic rendering creates a specific page for SEO purposes and shows it to a detected user.

How is dynamic rendering different from other SEO techniques?

The main difference is that standard SEO techniques use only one version of a Web site, which is shown to both users and search engines. So for both audiences, the website must be user-friendly and optimal. So load times should not be too long and content should be clear and easy to read on cell phones. In addition, the content should contain relevant keywords.

Dynamic rendering makes smart use of the different versions by determining exactly which elements should be shown to the user and which to user-agents.

Dynamic rendering offers advantages in case a Web site contains content that cannot be indexed properly or features elements of JavaScript that do not load well by search engines. Especially websites with a lot of interactive content use dynamic rendering because search engines do not always crawl and index this content efficiently.

How does dynamic rendering work?

The purpose of dynamic rendering is to show a simplified version of the Web page to search engines so that they index it better. At the same time, consumers get to see a full version of the website.

Dynamic rendering works as follows. The server displays the HTML and JavaScript to the browser according to the source code. The server checks which user agent is requesting the files and then sends a static HTML to the crawler. This way, the content of the JavaScript also becomes immediately clear.

Difference from traditional techniques

Traditional SEO techniques focus more on SEO optimization by improving the structure and content of the website itself. This includes paying attention to metadata, loading time and creating quality and relevant content. Also, a website must have a proper mobile version.

Thus, the traditional SEO approach focuses more on improving the user experience for both normal users and search engines using the same version of the website. Dynamic rendering creates different versions of the website for both groups.

When to use dynamic rendering for SEO

Dynamic rendering can be complex. Applying this technique properly requires technical knowledge. Always consider whether the benefits of dynamic rendering outweigh the time and skills required to execute the technique properly. Moreover, costs are rising.

For a website that relies on modern technologies that are not so easily indexed by search engines, dynamic rendering can offer advantages. Dynamic rendering can also be a godsend for a Web site that uses complex JavaScript. In addition, this technique can be used on websites that are still lagging a bit with their performance, even though the content and structure are optimal. Dynamic rendering, for example, can reduce load times. Dynamic rendering allows the website to still rank higher in search results.

Disadvantages of dynamic rendering for SEO

In addition to the above benefits, dynamic rendering presents a number of challenges. Dynamic rendering offers several technical risks. Below I describe some of the key risks that are important in deciding whether or not to apply dynamic rendering.

Technical complexity

As mentioned earlier, dynamic rendering requires a lot of technical knowledge and expertise. Back-end systems must be significantly modified, which can lead to complications in maintaining a Web site. Dynamic rendering also takes a lot of time and is very costly. Many SEO experts are unable to perform dynamic rendering themselves and thus rely on outside experts. Moreover, the infrastructure is not always suitable for the advanced techniques performed in technical rendering.

Potential negative impact on SEO

While dynamic rendering can be used to improve SEO, it can actually have a negative impact on SEO as well. In case dynamic rendering is implemented in the wrong way, inconsistencies may arise between the version shown to users and the version intended for search engines. Search engines see this as “cloaking,” which can have a negative impact on ranking in Google.

Search engines also sometimes have trouble interpreting content that has used dynamic rendering. This has negative implications for indexing.

Trade-offs pros and cons

Always weigh the risks and benefits of dynamic rendering for SEO performance. The investment can be expensive, and on top of that comes ongoing maintenance costs. It also requires many other resources and time to properly implement dynamic rendering.

Thereby, it remains to be seen whether the SEO will be improved and the investments made will be recouped.

Testing whether the investment will be rewarded

As mentioned earlier, dynamic rendering pays off only for websites that rely heavily on JavaScript, websites where the content is not indexed well by search engines or websites that do not have a good SEO position despite optimal content.

To make an educated decision about whether dynamic rendering will achieve the desired effect or not, an analysis can be helpful. Analyze the use of dynamic rendering in different contexts, consider similar cases within an industry. Also make a good overview of the risks and costs for the specific website. Only by having all the outcomes listed can you make an informed decision to use dynamic rendering for the SEO roadmap.

Available alternatives

Besides dynamic rendering, there are alternatives that ensure that (part of) the desired effect is achieved. Consider what alternatives are available before opting for dynamic rendering. The choice can have a major impact on SEO position. The following is an overview of various alternatives.

Serverside rendering

With serverside rendering, a page is fully loaded on the server and then sent to the user. This way, search engines can crawl the page directly and do not have to wait for a client-side JavaScript. So only one version is used, but the website works faster. Because search engines immediately index the index, the website can rank higher in Google’s rankings.

When using client side rendering, JavaScript is added on the users computer and content can be rendered. This method of rendering provides flexibility and dynamism, but comes with risks. Search engines have trouble indexing JavaScript, which can lower SEO rankings.

Costs and benefits

To properly weigh the different methods of rendering, you need to look not only at the investment, but also at the results of each method. Thus, serverside rendering is a bit more expensive, but the SEO results are generally good. Clientside rendering is a bit cheaper, but also riskier for SEO positioning.

Rich Results Test

There is another tool that can help determine whether dynamic rendering is necessary or not. Google’s Rich Results Test checks that Google can properly see all of a page’s content. Also, this tool can see the rendered HTML (see image below).

Within HTML, you can search for certain content on the page, think alt attributes or image names. If the desired content is not present, it may be due to serving JavaScript. GoogleBot cannot reach this.

Summary

Dynamic rendering can have benefits for SEO, but this method is not without risks, both in terms of cost and results. Consider the costs and benefits and find out carefully whether alternatives such as serverside and client rendering offer the same results.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
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I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 27 March 2024. The last update of this article was on 27 March 2024. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.