Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are fancy and highly effective ways to build websites that are fast, reliable, and engaging. They deliver mobile app-like experiences to users of the web.
Anyone who works in businesses or institutions that rely on their web presence and online engagement knows well that SEO tends to be a top priority for any website.
And if you have been in the industry long enough, you will have noticed that mobile users are multiplying over the years. The number of mobile phone users in the world is expected to pass the five billion mark by 2019.
For most websites, usually, more than 50% of web traffic comes from mobile users. This presents businesses with 2 big challenges
- Optimise the website for mobile view
- Optimise website’s SEO for mobile
Thankfully, PWA embraces those challenges nicely providing benefits for mobile experience and SEO optimisation.
The biggest difference between PWAs and normal traditional websites by far is speed. PWAs are designed to load its pages fast on slow networks because they are not data-heavy, and are small in size so it takes less time to deliver to the browser. This is achieved through various mobile best practices like assets compression, page caching, and minimising page requests.
This boost to speed leads to higher conversion rates from mobile users who are known to be impatient in today’s age.
Feels and responds like a mobile app
PWA is not only a fast web-browsing experience, but it’s meant to be a mobile app-like experience for mobile users. Meaning that it is not only as fast as native mobile apps but also mimics the look and feel of native apps, along with UI elements and animations that are familiar with native apps.
The other mobile app experience includes:
- App installation. Once a PWA website meets a few requirements posed by Google, various browsers now prompt the visitors to install the PWA on their home screens, similar to installing an app and getting an icon for easy access.
This is very beneficial for SEO, because it means the most frequent users of the website will get to access it more conveniently. This is also better than the alternative of having a separate mobile app on the App or Play stores which might divert traffic away from the website to a native app, negatively impacting the website’s ranking ever so slightly.
- Push notification. Whenever a visitor adds the PWA to their home screens, they can be asked to also accept push notifications and thus receive messages on their devices automatically. This opens up for websites to tap into the marketing native mobile applications have previously had a monopoly on. This is also great for SEO because it can increase user engagement with the website, maintaining or increasing traffic flow to the website.
- Offline support. The very first time a user visits a website with a PWA installed, a complete or partial set of cached content will be stored locally on a user’s device. This ensures that any later visits will be serving pages near-instantly, and adds the possibility for users to visit the pages in offline mode. It’s possible to cache the entire site if it’s all static content. With dynamic content though, it’s more likely that partial content are cached, or even a special offline page be displayed. This offline mode is great for not breaking the native app experience of the PWA and potentially keep the user engaged even when offline.
Bonus fact: Google has announced recently that PWAs can be submitted to and listed on the Play Store, as a Trusted Web Activity (TWA). However, it’s still in the early experimental stages and does require extra development on the PWA.
Google Encourages PWAs
PWAs, much like AMPs, are officially endorsed and actively advocated for by Google.
Google announced mobile-first indexing in 2018 which makes their search engine prioritise mobile-friendly and fast-loading websites in search results for mobile users. Emphasis on the fast-loading part, since having mobile-layouts alone is not sufficient for a good ranking on mobile results.
That means if you are a business that relies on certain keywords to be found and uses a PWA site, and a mobile user searches for those keywords on Google, your PWA site will get a higher ranking in results.
Case Study: George.com
George.com is a leading UK clothing brand, part of ASDA Walmart. After upgrading their site to a Progressive Web App (PWA), the brand saw a 31% increase in mobile conversion.
- 3.8x – Faster average page load time
- 2x – Lower bounce rate
- 31% – Increase in Conversion Rate
- 20% – More page views per visit
- 28% – Longer average time on site for visits from Home screen
The George.com team recognised the challenges the business had to enhance the mobile experience for its mobile customers. By incrementally deploying their PWA, the team was able to tackle these challenges and realise the benefits immediately.
Following PWA best practices, in accordance with Google, Asda George reduced page load time for shoppers by 3.8x times. The business also saw a 31% increase in conversion and 20% more page views per visit.
By implementing site-wide HTTPS, Asda George now offers a more secure end-to-end shopping experience for customers, enabling modern browser capabilities, like Service Worker, and therefore allowing consumers to stay in touch with the brand whilst offline.
In addition, the brand implemented an “Add to Home Screen” prompt, which resulted in an increase in customer time on site by 28%, truly creating a native app-like experience on the web.
PWA is a new way to develop mobile-friendly websites that improve user experience and engagement as well as search engine rankings.
While it does indirectly improve the SEO of a website through favourable Google ranking and its own best-practices like using HTTPS and fast-loading pages, it still needs to abide by SEO best practices like having meta tags, page description, broken links, etc.
If you want to explore how your business can benefit from PWAs, we are here to help.