Is dynamic rendering for SEO still worth it?

As a marketing manager, you understand the importance of SEO. This article explores dynamic rendering: what it is, its benefits, challenges and alternatives. In many cases, it is a complex workaround to get certain JavaScript parts of often your PWA/website to be read correctly by GoogleBot. I’ll help you determine if it’s something for your organization.

Dynamic rendering for SEO: Is it worth it?

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? I want to take you through what dynamic rendering entails, the pros and cons, and whether it can really make a difference for your organization.

Introduction to the concept of dynamic rendering

Dynamic rendering is a process by which different versions of a Web page are presented to different users or user-agents, such as search engines. Traditionally you serve one static version of a Web page to everyone, but with dynamic rendering you detect the user (e.g., a Googlebot) and serve a specifically optimized page for SEO purposes. Sounds smart, right? But let’s dive deeper into how this differs from standard SEO practices.

What is dynamic rendering and how is it different from other SEO techniques?

With standard SEO optimizations, you focus on optimizing one version of your website so that it is attractive to both users and search engines. This includes improving load times, mobile-friendly design, and of course, optimizing content with relevant keywords. Dynamic rendering, on the other hand, uses the principle of showing different versions to different entities. This can be beneficial when certain content is not indexed properly or when your site contains heavy JavaScript elements that do not load well by search engines. But this approach also has its downsides.

What is dynamic rendering?

The idea behind dynamic rendering is that you give the search engines a simplified, easily indexable version of your Web page, while normal users see the full, richer version. This can be especially useful for sites with a lot of interactive content or content that relies heavily on JavaScript, where search engines may have difficulty crawling and indexing the content effectively.

Technically, the following happens. The server serves the HTML and JavaScript to the browser as it appears in the source code. At the same time, the server checks which user-agent is requesting these files. For example, when this is GoogleBot, the server serves static HTML to this crawler, so the crawler can immediately take in the JavaScript content as well. This avoids the problem of the crawler not being able to access certain things within the JavaScript.

Comparison with traditional techniques

Unlike dynamic rendering, traditional techniques focus more on optimizing the content and structure of the Web site itself. This includes improving metadata, increasing site speed, ensuring mobile compatibility, and producing high-quality, relevant content. This approach is more holistic and focuses on improving the user experience for both real visitors and search engines, as opposed to creating separate versions for each.

When is dynamic rendering for SEO interesting?

Dynamic rendering can be interesting if your website relies on modern technologies that are not easily indexed by search engines. If your website uses heavy, complex JavaScript or you find that your SEO performance is lagging despite optimized content and structure, dynamic rendering may offer a solution.

However, implementing this technique requires considerable technical expertise and can be complex. Therefore, it is important to first assess whether the potential SEO benefits outweigh the effort and cost of implementing dynamic rendering.

Challenges and drawbacks of dynamic rendering for SEO

If you are considering using dynamic rendering for your SEO strategy, it is important to be aware of the challenges and potential drawbacks. It may sound like a smart way to get your content better indexed by search engines, but it is not without risks. I want to give you insight into exactly what these challenges are and why they could potentially impact your SEO performance.

Technical complexity and implementation challenges

Dynamic rendering is technically complex. It often requires significant changes in your back-end systems and can lead to complications in maintaining your website. Moreover, implementing dynamic rendering can be time-consuming and costly, especially if you rely on outside developers or if your infrastructure is not prepared for such advanced techniques. These technical challenges should not be underestimated.

Risks and potential negative impact on SEO performance

Another concern is that dynamic rendering, if not implemented correctly, can lead to inconsistencies between the version for users and that for search engines. This can be construed as “cloaking” by search engines, which can negatively impact your SEO performance. There is also the risk that search engines may interpret dynamically rendered content differently than intended, which can result in suboptimal indexing.

The trade-off between costs and benefits

Before you decide to apply dynamic rendering, you need to make a clear trade-off between the costs and the benefits. The initial investment and ongoing maintenance costs can be high, and the question is whether the potential improvements in SEO justify this investment. Consider not only financial costs, but also the time and resources needed to keep everything running smoothly.

Scenarios in which dynamic rendering adds value

There are scenarios in which dynamic rendering can certainly add value. For example, if your website relies heavily on JavaScript and the content is not well indexed by search engines, dynamic rendering can be an effective solution. Also, in situations where page load time can be significantly improved for search engines, it can improve user experience and therefore SEO performance.

Analysis of effectiveness in different contexts

It is essential to analyze the effectiveness of dynamic rendering in different contexts before making a decision. Look at similar cases within your industry, consider your current SEO status, and assess whether the benefits outweigh the risks and costs. By conducting a thorough analysis, you can make an informed decision about whether dynamic rendering is the right strategy for your organization.

Alternatives to dynamic rendering in SEO

If you’re unsure about using dynamic rendering for your SEO, rest assured there are other ways. It is important to consider all options before making a decision that could greatly impact your SEO strategy. I’m going to give you some insight into alternative methods you can use to achieve your goals.

Overview of other SEO strategies on rendering

There are several strategies you can consider, depending on your specific needs and the structure of your website. I briefly explain two of the most common situations, serverside and clientside rendering.

Serverside rendering

One of the most direct alternatives to dynamic rendering is serverside rendering. In this process, the page is fully loaded on the server before it is sent to the user. This means that search engines can crawl the page as soon as it is received, without waiting for client-side JavaScript. It is often faster and can improve SEO performance since search engines can index the content directly.

Clientside rendering

Clientside rendering is yet another method, where JavaScript is executed on the user’s computer to render the content. While this provides flexibility and dynamism, it can create problems for SEO if search engines have trouble indexing JavaScript content properly. This is important to keep in mind when considering this method.

Comparison in terms of cost-effectiveness and outcomes

When considering these alternatives, it is crucial to consider both cost-effectiveness and potential outcomes. Serverside rendering, for example, may involve higher initial costs but may yield better SEO results. Clientside rendering, on the other hand, can be cheaper and more flexible, but can present SEO challenges. It is important to base your choice on your specific situation, goals and resources.

How do you check if dynamic rendering is needed?

I have a simple check that Google can properly access all content on a page. This is Google’s Rich Results Test. In this tool, you can also see what the rendered HTML looks like of a page. For this, see the image below.

On the right side of the image, you can search within the HTML for particular content of the page. Consider pieces of content, image names or even alt attributes. Is this not what you are looking for? Then it may well be that the cause is serving JS that GoogleBot cannot reach.

Conclusion

Dynamic rendering is not always the best choice. It requires careful consideration of your website’s needs, technical resources, and SEO goals. Consider alternatives such as serverside and clientside rendering for more effective solutions. Good luck!

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 16 November 2023. The last update of this article was on 22 November 2023. 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.