As mobile usage increases and companies develop mobile-friendly sites to ensure the optimal user experience, developers are working hard to make the mobile web as efficient and useful as possible.
Last year, developers at Google created Progressive Web Apps, an interactive experience that has features of both a website and a mobile app. During a session at Google I/O 2016, Alex Russell, a software engineer at Google leading the project, stated that Progressive Web Apps “blur the line between Web content and apps, but they keep the strengths of the Web.”
Essentially, Progressive Web Apps allow for app-like user experience on a mobile browser. Users can interact with mobile web pages that have the look, feel and functionality of an app — including push notifications, offline accessibility, and the ability to add a shortcut to your device’s home screen — without having to visit an app store. And they don’t just work with Chrome, as other browsers are beginning to support Progressive Web Apps, as well.
Like any new technology, there are limitations and technical hurdles that can impact SEO performance. Here’s a closer look at how Progressive Web Apps work and how they affect SEO:
Progressive Web Apps (PWA) are designed with extremely fast load times and eliminate many of the steps required to access certain types of information or features directly from a website. They also have built-in intelligence that captures user behaviors and preferences so the app can deliver a more personalized experience.
These apps can be accessed from a browser tab and do not require any installation or downloads — the user can “build a relationship” with the app by interacting with it often and storing personal data. In return, the app will send push notifications for easy re-engagement. When a Progressive Web App is published online, it is completely linkable and deployed to a host that supports HTTPS. The app will work when the user is online or offline, using the data that was cached when the user was previously online.
In many cases, the mobile version of the website becomes the PWA itself since it allows for a condensed user experience on any type of screen with a variety of features accessible with a screen tap, swipe, or mouse click.
During the opening keynote of Google’s Progressive Web App Summit 2016 in Amsterdam, Thao Tran from Google emphasized that every company will take its own path when building Progressive Web Apps. You can see the whole keynote below.
(Tran, who leads partnerships for the Google Chrome and Web platform, will be sharing further insights into this topic at our company’s event, Share16, later this month.)
PWAs offer a number of benefits over a traditional mobile-friendly site, including:
In this post, he emphasizes the following:
For more information about the SEO implications of Progressive Web Apps, check out this great piece by Pete Wailes: “Introducing Progressive Web Apps: What They Might Mean for Your Website and SEO.”
Progressive Web Apps are the next generation of online interactivity, and they provide a whole new user experience. Companies that develop these app-like interfaces for their users need to be aware of the inherent limitations of the page being indexed by Google and make sure they are coding correctly. Progressive Web Apps can complement an existing website but may not hold much weight independently.
In terms of SEO, it is still up to the company to develop a strong online presence with their existing website using best SEO practices so that users looking for information can find the site or brand easily. From there, the user can decide whether they want to use a PWA or stick with the traditional desktop and mobile version of the site to complete their session.
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