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Google Explains Rendering and Impact on SEO

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Google’s Martin Splitt participated in a Duda Webinar about web page rendering and how it impacts SEO. Rendering is what happens when a browser requests a web page, it’s a key part of Core Web Vitals scores. Understanding this helps take some of the mystery out of Core Web Vitals.

Web Page Rendering

Web page rendering is what happens between the browser and the web page, the process of building a web page. An efficient rendering process results in high Core Web Vitals scores.

Less efficient rendering can impact sales, advertising earnings and even web page crawling to a certain extent.

Google’s Martin Splitt was asked to define what rendering is.

Screenshot of Martin Splitt Explaining Rendering

Google's Martin Splitt explaining web page rendering

Martin responded with an analogy between cooking a meal from a recipe and making a web page.

HTML means HyperText Markup Language. It’s a format for creating documents that can be accessed with a browser through the rendering process.

Martin Splitt explained rendering:

“If you think about HTML as a recipe, and you have all the ingredients in there:

You have a bunch of text

You have a bunch of images

You have a bunch of stuff

But you don’t really have it in the recipe. The recipe is a piece of paper with all these instructions on how to make a thing.”

The first part of Martin’s explanation is that HTML is like a recipe, the instructions. The text and images are the things used to create the finished meal, which is the web page.

Martin continued the analogy by comparing web page resources with the actual physical ingredients:

“Now, the resources of a website are the ingredients, such as the CSS, the JavaScript files as well as the images, the videos, all that stuff that you load to actually make the page look the way that it looks afterwards.

And the website that you know and use in your browser you see in your browser, that’s the final dish.”

Screenshot of Jason Barnard

Jason Barnard listening to Martin Splitt of Google

Rendering is Like the Process of Cooking

Martin next compared rendering to the actual process of taking the ingredients (resources like images, CSS, etc.) and doing the cooking.

He continued:

“And rendering is pretty much the cooking or the preparation process of that.”

Googlebot Crawling and Rendering

Next Martin explains what rendering is for Googlebot.

Martin explained Googlebot and rendering:

“So crawling fundamentally just goes into a big book of recipes and just takes out a page with a recipe and puts that into our realm, our reach, like basically we are standing here at a kitchen table …and we wait for the cooking to begin and crawling will basically just hand us a recipe.

And then rendering is the process where, rendering goes, Aha! Interesting! Crawler over there, can you get me these ten ingredients?

And the crawler will be conveniently, yes, I got you these ten ingredients that you need.

Thank you very much!

And then we start cooking.

That’s what rendering is.”

Related: How (& Why) Search Engines Render Pages

See also  5 Ways You Can Really Steal Organic Clicks from Industry Giants

Parsing the HTML for Web Page Assembly

The next part introduces a programming word, parse. Parsing is just taking all the parts of the HTML document (JavaScript, CSS, HTML elements) and following the directions for creating the web page.

Martin continued his discussion of rendering:

“So rendering parses the HTML.

HTML fundamentally, when it comes from crawling, is just a bunch of text, conveniently formatted but …Text!

In order to make that into a visual representation, which is the website really, we need to render it, which means we need to fetch all the resources, we need to fundamentally understand what the text tells us to be like:

There’s a header here, okay.

Then there’s an image there and next to the image there’s a bunch of text and then under the image there’s another heading, it’s a smaller heading, it’s a lower level heading …and then there’s a video and then below that video there’s some more text and in this text there’s three links going to here, here and here.

And all this assembly process, this understanding what it is and then this assembling it into a visual representation that you can interact with in your browser window, that is rendering.”

The Role of JavaScript in Rendering

Some JavaScript is critical for rendering (creating) the web page. Quite a bit of JavaScript, like the scripts associated with a contact form, aren’t really necessary in the initial creation of an interactive web page that a site visitor can scroll, read, and click a navigation menu.

In order to speed up the web page rendering (and improve Core Web Vitals) some non-critical JavaScript can be delayed or excluded altogether if not necessary for the web page.

There are some JavaScript that is important to making the page visible and interactive and some that is not important yet or at all.

Martin explained:

“And as part of rendering, at the very first stage, we execute the JavaScript because JavaScript happens to be basically a recipe within the recipe.

So JavaScript can be like, now go chop those onions!

So now you have the onions as a raw ingredient but you don’t put the onions as a whole into your dish, you cut them up.

And that’s what the JavaScript is needed for, right?

…The JavaScript execution is just a part of rendering.”

Screenshot of Bartosz Goralewicz

Screenshot of Bartosz GoralewiczRelated: Rendering SEO Manifesto: Why We Need to Go Beyond JavaScript SEO

See also  Attorneys general sue Google over location marketing practices

The Layout Tree

Martin next begins talking about the Layout Tree. He’s making a reference to the Document Object Model, which is an arrangement of all of the parts of the web page in a hierarchical representation.

The different “bits and pieces” of a web page are like the leaves of a tree. In HTML those leaves on what Martin calls the Layout Tree, are called, nodes.

Martin explains the Layout Tree:

“But then when the JavaScript execution has finished or if there was no JavaScript execution that is fine, too.

But what then happens is we are assembling, like we are figuring out these bits and pieces and how we need to like assemble them on the page and that leads to something called, Layout Tree.

And the Layout Tree tells us how big things are, where on the page things are.

If they are visible or if they are not visible, if one thing is behind another thing.

This information is important for us as well, just as much as executing the JavaScript because the JavaScript might change, delete or add content that wasn’t in the initial HTML as it has been delivered by the server.

So that’s rendering in a nutshell.

From we have some HTML to we have potentially a bunch of pixels on the screen. That’s rendering.”

Costly Rendering Can Impact User Experience

Martin next introduces the useful insight about the impact of JavaScript on energy consumption. He uses the word “expensive” to describe the how costly in time and energy some JavaScript can be.

He mentions how JavaScript has been compared to carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas and how that impacts users and ultimately the bottom line of publishers and ecommerce stores.

Martin Splitt Explains Expensive Rendering

Google-Martin-Splitt-expensive-renderingMartin explains the impact of expensive rendering:

“Google Search has the exact same struggle as a real-world user in this case.

Because, for a real-world user, even if you are on a modern phone and a really fast and fantastic and expensive phone as well, more execution also always, always, means more power consumption.

That’s just the thing. And …there have been people who called JavaScript the CO2 of the Internet and I don’t think that’s completely wrong.

…The more expensive you make it the worse it is for us as an experience.

Google Search doesn’t really care. We just have to invest in the resources that we need and we do a lot of optimizations to make sure that we are wasting as few energy and time as possible.

But obviously, if you are optimizing that, a nice and really nice side effect is that your users will probably also be happier because they need less battery, their old phone will still work fine with what you put out there and they will be able to consume your web content and maybe not your competitors because your competitors don’t care and actually produce something that is less convenient to use on their phones.

So this is not something where you would pit Google versus user experience.

This is kind of like the same problem or the same challenge and we are all facing it, including Google Search.”

Screenshot of Google’s Martin Splitt

Google Martin Splitt

Insights into Importance of Rendering

Core Web Vitals can be somewhat abstract and mysterious, especially when techies talk about Document Object Models, DOM trees and rendering.

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Martin Splitt’s analogies helped take some of that mystery out of one important part of understanding Core Web Vitals scores, which is rendering.

Another benefit of his discussion is creating awareness about the concept of expensive rendering and how that might impact site visitors whose phones might be older and have trouble rendering the page. And it’s not just older phones but newer phones might have an issue downloading a web page if it’s been on for days and the RAM is spread thin across multiple open browser windows.

Lastly, he demystified the concept of rendering. That helps move the conversation forward on improving web page speed and Core Web Vitals performance because there are few things like technical jargon to slow down or stop progress on understanding something important.

Citations

Original Duda Webinar Page for Essential Rendering

Watch Martin Splitt explain rendering from about the 15:36 minute mark

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Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

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Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

See also  Google on Penalizing Misinformation

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

[embedded content]

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Survey says: Amazon, Google more trusted with your personal data than Apple is

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MacRumors reveals that more people feel better with their personal data in the hands of Amazon and Google than Apple’s. Companies that the public really doesn’t trust when it comes to their personal data include Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram.

The survey asked over 1,000 internet users in the U.S. how much they trusted certain companies such as Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon to handle their user data and browsing activity responsibly.

Amazon and Google are considered by survey respondents to be more trustworthy than Apple

Those surveyed were asked whether they trusted these firms with their personal data “a great deal,” “a good amount,” “not much,” or “not at all.” Respondents could also answer that they had no opinion about a particular company. 18% of those polled said that they trust Apple “a great deal” which topped the 14% received by Google and Amazon.

However, 39% said that they trust Amazon  by “a good amount” with Google picking up 34% of the votes in that same category. Only 26% of those answering said that they trust Apple by “a good amount.” The first two responses, “a great deal” and “a good amount,” are considered positive replies for a company. “Not much” and “not at all” are considered negative responses.

By adding up the scores in the positive categories,

Apple tallied a score of 44% (18% said it trusted Apple with its personal data “a great deal” while 26% said it trusted Apple “a good amount”). But that placed the tech giant third after Amazon’s 53% and Google’s 48%. After Apple, Microsoft finished fourth with 43%, YouTube (which is owned by Google) was fifth with 35%, and Facebook was sixth at 20%.

See also  Google Update November 2019

Rounding out the remainder of the nine firms in the survey, Instagram placed seventh with a positive score of 19%, WhatsApp was eighth with a score of 15%, and TikTok was last at 12%.

Looking at the scoring for the two negative responses (“not much,” or “not at all”), Facebook had a combined negative score of 72% making it the least trusted company in the survey. TikTok was next at 63% with Instagram following at 60%. WhatsApp and YouTube were both in the middle of the pact at 53% followed next by Google and Microsoft at 47% and 42% respectively. Apple and Amazon each had the lowest combined negative scores at 40% each.

74% of those surveyed called targeted online ads invasive

The survey also found that a whopping 82% of respondents found targeted online ads annoying and 74% called them invasive. Just 27% found such ads helpful. This response doesn’t exactly track the 62% of iOS users who have used Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature to opt-out of being tracked while browsing websites and using apps. The tracking allows third-party firms to send users targeted ads online which is something that they cannot do to users who have opted out.

The 38% of iOS users who decided not to opt out of being tracked might have done so because they find it convenient to receive targeted ads about a certain product that they looked up online. But is ATT actually doing anything?

Marketing strategy consultant Eric Seufert said last summer, “Anyone opting out of tracking right now is basically having the same level of data collected as they were before. Apple hasn’t actually deterred the behavior that they have called out as being so reprehensible, so they are kind of complicit in it happening.”

See also  Attorneys general sue Google over location marketing practices

The Financial Times says that iPhone users are being lumped together by certain behaviors instead of unique ID numbers in order to send targeted ads. Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg says that the company is working to rebuild its ad infrastructure “using more aggregate or anonymized data.”

Aggregated data is a collection of individual data that is used to create high-level data. Anonymized data is data that removes any information that can be used to identify the people in a group.

When consumers were asked how often do they think that their phones or other tech devices are listening in to them in ways that they didn’t agree to, 72% answered “very often” or “somewhat often.” 28% responded by saying “rarely” or “never.”

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Google’s John Mueller on Brand Mentions via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s John Mueller was asked if “brand mentions” helped with SEO and rankings. John Mueller explained, in detail, how brand mentions are not anything used at Google.

What’s A Brand Mention?

A brand mention is when one website mentions another website. There is an idea in the SEO community that when a website mentions another website’s domain name or URL that Google will see this and count it the same as a link.

Brand Mentions are also known as an implied link. Much was written about this ten years ago after a Google patent that mentions “implied links” surfaced.

There has never been a solid review of why the idea of “brand mentions” has nothing to do with this patent, but I’ll provide a shortened version later in this article.

John Mueller Discussing Brand Mentions

John Mueller Brand Mentions

John Mueller Brand Mentions

Do Brand Mentions Help With Rankings?

The person asking the question wanted to know about brand mentions for the purpose of ranking. The person asking the question has good reason to ask it because the idea of “brand mentions” has never been definitively reviewed.

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The person asked the question:

“Do brand mentions without a link help with SEO rankings?”

Google Does Not Use Brand Mentions

Google’s John Mueller answered that Google does not use the “brand mentions” for any link related purpose.

Mueller explained:

“From my point of view, I don’t think we use those at all for things like PageRank or understanding the link graph of a website.

And just a plain mention is sometimes kind of tricky to figure out anyway.”

That part about it being tricky is interesting.

He didn’t elaborate on why it’s tricky until later in the video where he says it’s hard to understand the subjective context of a website mentioning another website.

Brand Mentions Are Useful For Building Awareness

Mueller next says that brand mentions may be useful for helping to get the word out about a site, which is about building popularity.

Mueller continued:

“But it can be something that makes people aware of your brand, and from that point of view, could be something where indirectly you might have some kind of an effect from that in that they search for your brand and then …obviously, if they’re searching for your brand then hopefully they find you right away and then they can go to your website.

And if they like what they see there, then again, they can go off and recommend that to other people as well.”

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See also  Google Update November 2019

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“Brand Mentions” Are Problematic

Later on at the 58 minute mark another person brings the topic back up and asks how Google could handle spam sites that are mentioning a brand in a negative way.

The person said that one can disavow links but one cannot disavow a “brand mention.”

Mueller agreed and said that’s one of things that makes brand mentions difficult to use for ranking purposes.

John Mueller explained:

“Kind of understanding the almost the subjective context of the mention is really hard.

Is it like a positive mention or a negative mention?

Is it a sarcastic positive mention or a sarcastic negative mention? How can you even tell?

And all of that, together with the fact that there are lots of spammy sites out there and sometimes they just spin content, sometimes they’re malicious with regards to the content that they create…

All of that, I think, makes it really hard to say we can just use that as the same as a link.

…It’s just, I think, too confusing to use as a clear signal.”

Where “Brand Mentions” Come From

The idea of “brand mentions” has bounced around for over ten years.

There were no research papers or patents to support it. “Brand mentions” is literally an idea that someone invented out of thin air.

However the “brand mention” idea took off in 2012 when a patent surfaced that seemed to confirm the idea of brand mentions.

There’s a whole long story to this so I’m just going to condense it.

There’s a patent from 2012 that was misinterpreted in several different ways because most people at the time, myself included, did not read the entire patent from beginning to end.

See also  Google on Penalizing Misinformation

The patent itself is about ranking web pages.

The structure of most Google patents consist of introductory paragraphs that discuss what the patent is about and those paragraphs are followed by pages of in-depth description of the details.

The introductory paragraphs that explain what it’s about states:

“Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs… for ranking search results.”

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Pretty much nobody read that beginning part of the patent.

Everyone focused on a single paragraph in the middle of the patent (page 9 out of 16 pages).

In that paragraph there is a mention of something called “implied links.”

The word “implied” is only mentioned four times in the entire patent and all four times are contained within that single paragraph.

So when this patent was discovered, the SEO industry focused on that single paragraph as proof that Google uses brand mentions.

In order to understand what an “implied link” is, you have to scroll all the way back up to the opening paragraphs where the Google patent authors describe something called a “reference query” that is not a link but is nevertheless used for ranking purposes just like a link.

What Is A Reference Query?

A reference query is a search query that contains a reference to a URL or a domain name.

The patent states:

“A reference query for a particular group of resources can be a previously submitted search query that has been categorized as referring to a resource in the particular group of resources.”

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Elsewhere the patent provides a more specific explanation:

“A query can be classified as referring to a particular resource if the query includes a term that is recognized by the system as referring to the particular resource.

…search queries including the term “example.com” can be classified as referring to that home page.”

The summary of the patent, which comes at the beginning of the document, states that it’s about establishing which links to a website are independent and also counting reference queries and with that information creating a “modification factor” which is used to rank web pages.

“…determining, for each of the plurality of groups of resources, a respective count of reference queries; determining, for each of the plurality of groups of resources, a respective group-specific modification factor, wherein the group-specific modification factor for each group is based on the count of independent links and the count of reference queries for the group;”

The entire patent largely rests on those two very important factors, a count of independent inbound links and the count of reference queries. The phrases reference query and reference queries are used 39 times in the patent.

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As noted above, the reference query is used for ranking purposes like a link, but it’s not a link.

The patent states:

“An implied link is a reference to a target resource…”

It’s clear that in this patent, when it mentions the implied link, it’s talking about reference queries, which as explained above simply means when people search using keywords and the domain name of a website.

Idea of Brand Mentions Is False

The whole idea of “brand mentions” became a part of SEO belief systems because of how that patent was misinterpreted.

But now you have the facts and know why “brand mentions” is not real thing.

Plus John Mueller confirmed it.

“Brand mentions” is something completely random that someone in the SEO community invented out of thin air.

Citations

Ranking Search Results Patent

Watch John Mueller discuss “brand mentions” at 44:10 Minute Mark and the brand Mentions second part begins at the 58:12 minute mark

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