How to Optimize Progressive Web Apps for Search [A Beginner’s Guide]


Jayraj
By Jayraj | Last Updated on February 18th, 2021 2:20 pm | 6-min read
How to Optimize Progressive Web Apps for Search- Appy Pie

PWAs were created to solve a problem. Let me give you a small backstory. When mobile apps and the smartphone industries started booming, businesses had to make a choice. They had to choose between creating a dedicated mobile app or simply continuing with their online websites.

Until a few years ago mobile apps were expensive to create, maintain, and update. We have it better! You can create your own mobile app in under 10 minutes!

The businesses that continued with their websites found it too difficult to optimize their websites for mobile. These businesses were cut off from the increasing mobile market. In 2015, developers from Google found a way to create a website that can function as native mobile apps also. These are now known as Progressive Web Apps(PWAs).

PWAs are built using HTML, CSS, JavaScript and can be accessed using mobile browsers that meet standard requirements. To simplify, a PWA is a website that works like a mobile app.

PWAs have been extremely popular ever since their creation. In fact, thousands of businesses around the world actively use PWAs. Businesses like Alibaba, Uber, etc use PWAs as alternatives for their mobile apps.

Here are some statistics to drive home the point:

The Benefits of Progressive Web Apps

The popularity of Progressive Web Apps can be attributed to the various benefits they bring for a business. Here are the main advantages of PWA:

  • Removes the need to download an app
  • Provides users instant access to your business products/services.
  • Extremely fast load times and lowered data usage.
  • Highly responsive layout and simplified navigation.
  • Offers offline functionality to allow the app to continue running in the background.
  • Supports HTTPS and is a secure platform.

Optimizing a Progressive Web App for Search

Just like any other website or app, PWAs require constant optimization. Everything from a PWA’s design to its SEO requires tuning to ensure the best possible results for a business. Hold on to your gentlemen, it’s a bumpy ride!

SEO Best Practices

PWA should be discoverable by search engines. Do remember that while your PWA works like an ‘app’, it is indeed a website masquerading as one. Your PWA should be discoverable or ‘crawlable’ for search engines. This helps your PWA rank on search engines and users to discover it.

This is why the first step to optimize your PWA is to ensure it is created with SEO best practices in mind.

PWAs can bring additional challenges to your SEO depending on the development path you take for it. There are three ways to create a PWA. The first way is to develop a Single Page Application. A single page application is essentially a barebones HTML page with Javascript creating the functionality and content of the app. Creating a single page application involves a difficult SEO path.

The second way is to use HTML to create a static HTML site. Both methods require significant tradeoffs. Static HTML has easier SEO but creating functionalities and a nice UI can be a bit difficult.

There is a third way that offers the best of both worlds. You could use a dedicated PWA builder. It can give you excellent design and functionality while also having built-in SEO features to ensure that your PWA gets crawled by Google. Appy Pie offers an excellent in-house PWA app builder that can be used to create a progressive web app for your business.

Coming back to the SEO, here are some of the best practices you should ensure before creating your Progressive Web Apps:

  • Independently Crawlable Pages: Each page in your PWA must be crawlable independently and must have a unique URL without fragment identifiers(no ‘#’ in the URL).
  • Indexable Content: All content in your web app must be indexable and should be able to be rendered by Google Web Redenering Service. It is recommended that you use server-side rendering(SSR) when possible since GWRS can often run into difficulty while rendering JavaScript content.
  • Define Canonical URL: Ensure that every page in your app that needs a unique URL has one and define it explicitly. This ensures that pages in your web app are searchable.
  • Good Web Design: Every PWA, irrespective of functionality needs to pass Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
  • Must run in HTTPS: Probably the most important optimization of all. Your website must always run in HTTPS.

Google’s PWA Checklist

Google developers came up with the concept of a PWA. It makes sense for them to offer a deeper insight into it. To help developers get better at creating PWAs, Google Developers have themselves defined a checklist for the ‘ideal’ PWA.

While Google’s PWA checklist, takes in many aspects of PWA, for now, let’s focus on the optimization-related suggestions that Google makes. The section below is essentially a TL;DR of Google’s PWA checklist:

  • All PWAs must be served on HTTPS
  • All PWAs must have URLs that work offline
  • All PWAs must open on both mobile and tablet devices.
  • All PWAs must provide correct metadata
  • Fast loading times are a must
  • Site should offer a consistent experience across all standardized browsers
  • Page transitions should be smooth and quick
  • Each page should have a unique URL

Various online tools such as Lighthouse(which can be added as a chrome extension) can help you optimize your PWA during the testing process.

Using Structured Data in a PWA

Structured Data is a way of labeling content web pages for crawlers. Every crawler tends to ‘read’ a page and ‘guess’ the category it belongs to. Crawlers can be very poor at guessing the meaning and main keywords of your page. The best way to ensure that your pages rank for the keywords you want is to explicitly ‘tell’ the crawler what your page is about.

This is accomplished with the help of schema vocabulary. Apart from optimizing web pages, the schema convention and structured data can be used to optimize PWAs too. Labeling the content in your PWA can go a long way in improving its rankings.

Structured data helps your PWAs be machine-readable and makes them more searchable and organized.

Making a PWA with Progressive Web App Builder

One of the simpler ways to build an optimized progressive web app is to use a dedicated app builder that specializes in PWA development. Appy Pie AppMakr is one such software that can help you make progressive web apps without any coding at all.

Appy Pie AppMakr provides an intuitive interface that you can use to create well-optimized progressive web apps having excellent functionality. Appy Pie AppMakr also provides in-built SEO tools to monitor your PWAs optimization and performance. Try it out today!

Conclusion

PWAs will continue to rise in importance and popularity in the coming years. However, optimization doesn’t end at SEO. There are other design and structure optimizations that you need to make for your PWA. Those optimizations require a blog of their own. We suggest subscribing to our newsletter below to get informed when that blog finally comes around!

Leave us a comment if you have any more questions or suggestions related to SEO optimizations for Progressive Web Apps!

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Jayraj
About The Author

Jayraj is a content writer whose goal in life is to be a polymath. He's not there yet but his quest has given him extensive knowledge about many things. He tries to share his knowledge by writing. In his free time, he surfs the Internet and takes long walks.

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