Progressive web apps don’t rank higher than regular sites

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Google’s John Mueller says progressive web applications (PWAs) do not, by default, rank better in search results than traditional websites.

This topic is discussed during the Google Search Central SEO Office Hours Hangout on November 12, 2021.

Several questions were raised throughout the livestream regarding PWAs and if they have an advantage over HTML sites in search results.

Mueller says no preference is given to PWAs, but converting an old website to a PWA could lead to ranking improvements for other reasons.

Read his full answer in the sections below.

What is a progressive web application?

Let’s take a brief look at what a PWA is first, as this is a relatively new framework and you may not be familiar with it.

Simply put, a PWA is like a mobile app that you can use in a mobile web browser.

A PWA looks and works like a mobile app, but you don’t have to install anything on your phone. You can access it through a URL just like you would any other website.

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Many big brands have adopted a PWA framework for the mobile version of their website. Starbucks and Sephora are good examples of retail sites that are PWAs.

News sites like the Financial Times have taken the PWA route, and downloadable mobile apps like Spotify and Pinterest have PWAs on the web.

Almost any site can be turned into a PWA, but the question is, is it worth it?

PWAs, which are built with JavaScript, are more expensive to develop than HTML sites.

Improved SEO could be a reason to convert your existing site to a PWA. However, as Mueller says, there is no inherent advantage to PWAs when it comes to SEO.

Google’s John Mueller on Progressive Web Apps

Mueller answers questions in the last Hangout from people who saw competitor sites increase in rankings after converting to PWAs.

They ask Mueller if their sites can see similar ranking improvements with a PWA.

In response, he says that Google does not treat PWAs any differently from HTML sites:

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“They’re basically different ways of building a website, and you can build a website with a lot of different frames and formats. And, for the most part, we see them as normal HTML pages.

So if this is a JavaScript based website, we will render it and then treat it like a normal HTML page. If it’s already HTML at the start, we can do that.

The different underlying frameworks and CMS – usually we just ignore that and just say, well, here’s an HTML page and we can process it.

So just the simple fact that one of your competition switched from one framework to another and saw an improvement in search, this framework change from my perspective wouldn’t be responsible for that.

Mueller goes on to suggest other reasons why competitor’s sites have seen ranking improvements.

Launching a new site has the potential to improve rankings if it is significantly better than the old website.

It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the site being a PWA.

“But rather, maybe they now have a newer website with this change of framework. Maybe the new website has different internal links, different content internally, is a lot faster or a lot slower, or the users really like it, or they had a, I don’t know, campaign. marketing with the launch of the website.

All of those things sort of play in there and they’re all things that aren’t limited to the framework you’re using.

Very old websites Could Improve their SEO with PWAs

This topic is covered a second time during the hangout, where Mueller says there is a way to be sure that a PWA will improve rankings.

“I don’t think there is an absolute answer out there. I think, on the one hand, with a PWA, if it’s a purely JavaScript based website, you face challenges that are in addition to the normal website.

And that’s all about JavaScript-based websites and making sure they display well for search. It can be a lot of work and it can cause a lot of problems.

So by default saying go to a PWA will improve your rankings – I don’t think it does. It can improve your rankings if you build a better website, but there are a lot of other things you need to think about as well.

So this is something where basically, from my perspective, it’s more like: well, is switching to a new website going to improve my rankings?

And I guess if your website is really 10-15 years old and has kind of grown organically since then, probably yes. Like moving to any newer type of framework and a cleaner website, a faster website, a site that performs better for users, probably after 10 to 15 years you will see changes in the rankings. It doesn’t have to be a PWA.

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Then again, Mueller says developing a PWA takes a lot of work, so you have to ask yourself if it makes financial sense.

PWAs have tangible benefits, Mueller adds, such as the ability to implement mobile app functionality that cannot be used on an HTML site.

“Maybe even going to PWA adds so much extra work that it’s not worth it for you. It might be worth it. I think one of the benefits of a PWA is also that you have elements almost similar to mobile apps which are kind of available by default.

It could be installing on the home screen, maybe some offline functionality, and depending on your market this can be really useful. So it could be something that says, well, make a JavaScript based website work in search, but we don’t need to create a separate app, or we also have all of these extra features and it’s worth it. hard from a financial point of view to do so.

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But this is something where, almost like the SEO aspect is secondary. Especially if you have a large 10-15 year old website upgrading to something new I’m pretty sure you’ll see some big changes just because it’s going to be so much cleaner. It will be much faster, the structure will be much better, it will be better for the users, it will be easier for the search engines to understand. All the HTML improvements that have occurred since then are working in your favor.

Listen to Mueller’s full answers in the two videos below:


Featured Image: Prabowo96 / Shutterstock

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