In this 4th episode of SEO Mythbusters, Google’s Martin Splitt talks with Ada Rose Cannon, a web developer advocate for Samsung. They discuss a variety of issues pertaining to website performance and usability, including:


Mobile web and web on low-end devices

How performance metrics relate to ranking factors

How Google communicates SEO metrics to SEO companies and website developers

The intricacies of JavaScript websites

Whether you should rely on HTML and CSS as opposed to JavaScript for SEO purposes


How does your device type impact your use of the web?


According to Cannon, the most important piece people should focus on when building web stuff is making the web accessible to people all over the world, no matter where they live or how nice their phone or computer is. Her goal is that the web should remain great for everyone around the world to use, regardless of whether people have access to the latest technology. 


In fact, most people are using older devices, or devices that cost less than $100, and unfortunately they don’t have access to the same web that people have who are using the latest version of the Iphone. Instead of devices getting better and better over time, regardless of how much they cost, the disparity between the quality and accessibility of high end devices and low end devices is just getting bigger. It’s a rather unknown fact that people who regularly use low end devices are probably getting outdated content.


Mobile page speed is considered a factor for how well a page ranks on Google. 

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It’s no secret that people care about how fast a page loads; they want answers to their questions, and they want them now. Google recognizes this and is now taking into account page speed on mobile as part of their ranking algorithm. Previously they only looked at desktop speed, but starting in July of 2018 page speed became a factor for mobile as well.


Can Google and web developers work together?

Google and it’s team can’t control what tools SEO agencies use to evaluate websites to ensure that they match up to what the Googlebot is using, but they do want to demystify the experience of SEO and make it more accessible to SEO companies and website developers. They’re having direct conversations with these people and with the people who create SEO tools, and that’s also why they’ve provided their own SEO tools like Search Console. Search Console gives great insight into how your website is performing in the search metrics so you don’t have to guess.


Google also wants people to stop using blanket statements like “JavaScript will kill your SEO”, because that’s not really true anymore. More on that below and in the third episode of SEO Mythbusters (see the summary here). 


The intricacies of JavaScript websites

According to Splitt, JavaScript sites are not getting penalized by Googlebot, it just takes longer to read a JavaScript-heavy website (up to a week or more). They’re ranking just fine, but during the indexing stage it is more complicated and more time consuming to render a site that uses JavaScript as opposed to HTML or CSS. JavaScript requires the Googlebot to take additional steps that the latter 2 do not require. Thus, they’re not able to refresh the content as quickly. 


Google’s goal is to find pages and websites that are good for users, and if a page takes forever to load that’s not going to translate into a good user experience, so new website developers should keep that in mind. 


If you’re using a JavaScript site, one way to get around this obstacle is to provide the Googlebot with a static-rendered version of your page to be crawled. That will allow the page to be indexed more quickly, but it won’t improve the user experience. 


If you want your site to rank well, should you use HTML and CSS or JavaScript?


Overall, Martin says that HTML and CSS are just more resilient than JavaScript. If you have to use JavaScript, use it responsibly and just know that you’re probably going to run into trouble with it at one time or another. Be proactive and use things like polyfills, progressive enhancements, and whatever tools and resources your web platforms provides you with. 


The Takeaway


In conclusion, Ada says that web developers and SEO’s can work together nicely as long as both parties are clear about their goals and what they’re trying to accomplish and that web developers don’t have to resort to “looking at the stars” to figure out how to get their websites to rank well. 


Cannon implores Splitt to think about what Google can do to improve the use of the web in the rest of the world, and not just in the “wealthy western” portion of it. 


What do you think? Will SEO companies be able to work together with web developers towards a common goal of making the web accessible to everyone? Or will they always be at odds, with  a huge gap between what the wealthy have access to online as opposed to the rest of the population? We’d love to hear from you- comment below! And don’t forget to check out the summaries of the first and second episodes of SEO Mythbusters to see what you’ve missed in the world of Martin Splitt and SEO!


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