Page render is basically making a visual image of an HTML file. A search engine spider cannot see a web page. They understand the layout of a page based on rules of programming.
Once it understands all these elements logically it projects its understanding on it’s “internal screen” which is nothing but Google’s rendered version of the page. In other words Google’s best attempt of what it thinks the page might look like.
Why is this check important?
What Google crawler sees on a page might differ from what a user sees. A badly rendered page can lead to Google missing out on reading valuable content which is part of the page. It might even misunderstand the layout of the page. This could mean a lesser ranking advantage for your page and site.
There could be multiple reasons for such a thing to happen.
- Certain folders and files might be blocked for crawler access by robots.txt files
- The content could be under non-optimized Angular JS or React JS without Pre-render.
- Google crawler is being shown an HTTP request which is different from the browser.
- There are certain external CSS and JS which Google is not able to read because they have been blocked by those respective websites.
Fixing this issue is important as what doesn’t get crawled or read is not bringing you much-needed free SEO traffic. Content could be also in the form of links which point to other important pages on your site. If Google misses these links it might not pass link equity to these pages.
How to check if Google is rendering your pages appropriately?
Step 1: Make a list of all templates and page types on your site. Pick a URL as an example for each page type. For instance, if you are working on an online store you might have a homepage, category page, product page, search pages, Standalone pages (about, contact, customer service…) The list might look like this –
Home Page: www.youronlinestore.com
Category Page: www.youronlinestore.com/category/category-name
Sub-Category Page: www.youronlinestore.com/category/sub-category
Product Page: www.youronlinestore.com/product-name
Standalone Page: www.youronlinestore.com/company/page-name
For more complex sites the number of page types may be different. For one site I was working on it was 55. This can take a while but this list can help you in auditing other SEO aspects in the future.
Note: Know that you have only up to 500 fetches per week. Use the tool diligently.
Step 2: Once you have the list enter each of the example URLs in to Fetch & Render as Google function in Google Search Console. This tool will show you how Google reads the content on this particular page. Once you have verified render for a single page template or type it is highly likely that other pages in the category get rendered similarly.
Step 3: Once you have entered the URL for Fetch and Render then search console compares how a reader sees the page vs how Google sees it.
You have to scroll through both iFrame Windows and see if there is a major difference between the two.
Ask yourself –
Is there any content which is seen by your visitor but not Google?
Is that content important?
Does that content have potential to impact your search engine ranking?
How to fix this?
To know the gravity of each issue you should know error types and what appropriate action you must take.
Step 1: Know the Errors
Not Found – Check the URL on a browser. If it shows a “Not Found” error then you are testing a wrong URL in Fetch as Google. If the URL works fine then you are serving a wrong HTTP status code to Google.
Not authorized – Possible that Google doesn’t have access to this URL because it is behind a login page. If this is the case you are testing a wrong URL. If not your web server is throwing a wrong response code.
Unreachable – Such an error happens when the server takes too long to reply to a request. Check if your servers are up.
Temporarily Unreachable – This error is thrown because Fetch and Render didn’t get a response from your server. Wait for few minutes before trying again.
Complete – Google has successfully rendered all resources on your page. No action needs to be taken here.
Partial – A partial error is thrown when Google couldn’t render content because certain resources where blocked. On certain occasions, rendered pages pose no major SEO challenges while on other occasions it can prove costly.
To know the action items to take you have to dig deeper into “Severity” of the issue your page is facing. Check the “Severity” column in the image below.
- Low Severity – Nothing to be done here. The missing resource has little effect on page rendering.
- Medium Severity – The missing resource has some effect on the page rendering. If the resource being blocked is hosted on your own server make it accessible to search engines via robots.txt. If the resource is external like an image or a style sheet see if you can host it on your own server and call the file locally.
- High Severity – In this case, the missing resource significantly affects the rendered page. If the resource being blocked is hosted on your own server make it accessible to search engines via robots.txt If the resource is external like an image or a style sheet see if you can host it on your own server and call the file locally.
Redirected – If you see this error then you have attempted a Fetch and Render of a URLs which redirect to another URL. Fetch and Render doesn’t follow the redirected URL. You will have entered the destination URL and run Fetch and Render again.
Step 2: Ask Google for a recrawl of the page
Once you have allowed crawl of blocked resources it time to inform Google that it can access more content on your page. This can be done by clicking on “Request indexing” button across the tested page on the Fetch as Google page in your search console.
Google will crawl your page with the new allowed resources. This will enable better crawl-ability and ranking of your page and site.