The Googlebot is getting an update

Google recently announced a major change to the Googlebot – a largely invisible one that could nonetheless impact brands’ enterprise SEO strategies.

Moving forward, Google will keep the Googlebot up-to-date with the latest version of Chrome. Don’t know what that means? You’re not alone. Most search practitioners don’t even know what Chrome has to do with enterprise SEO.

What is Googlebot?

 According to Google, Googlebot is “the general name for two different types of crawlers: a desktop crawler that simulates a user on desktop, and a mobile crawler that simulates a user on a mobile device.” Simply put, Googlebot is how Google crawls your website and indexes it.

Think about what you want Google to see when it crawls your website. While your SEO efforts improve your searchability on Google, optimizing for Googlebot makes your site more crawlable.

Bringing what the Googlebot sees in line with what consumers see

Prior to this announcement of the new and improved Googlebot, Google was using a much older version of Chrome – version 41 – to view, crawl and render websites.

The current consumer version is 74, so the Googlebot has been using extremely dated technology for browsing and rendering.

Using this outdated version of Chrome didn’t just affect the indexing process. Users of the Chrome developer tool also had to rely on a dated version of Chrome to see web pages the way the Googlebot sees them.

With this change, Google is finally bringing the Googlebot (and, eventually, the dev tool experience) in line with the consumer Chrome experience.

How this Googlebot change may benefit enterprise SEO

Many enterprise websites – and websites in general – are transitioning to JavaScript-based CMSs or JavaScript frameworks like React.js and Angular.js.

JavaScript provides a much richer experiences to end users. But it also presents challenges for enterprise SEO:

  • JavaScript is rendered client-side (i.e., by web browsers).
  • The Chromium rendering engine traditionally has not been able to do this rendering “work”.
  • Thus, sites with a lot of JavaScript content can get neglected by the Googlebot and penalized in search as a result.

Google has had many issues reading JavaScript-heavy sites in the past. According to Google, this move will bring the Googlebot up to speed with “present day” technology and reduce the likelihood that pages will get unfairly penalized because of the way they are coded.

“We keep improving Google search for JavaScript sites. At the same time, we make sure we keep crawling and indexing efficiently,” Google’s Zoe Clifford explained in the Google I/O announcement.

This major update to the Googlebot demonstrates how Google makes constant tweaks and changes to its algorithm. It’s important to stay abreast of these changes to be sure your site doesn’t lose rank.

What this may mean for enterprise search practitioners

As with most Google algorithm changes, the best thing search marketers can do in the near-term is to simply track their pages’ ranking. Many back-end Google tweaks don’t measurably affect page ranks, so it’s possible your site won’t be impacted at all by this Googlebot change.

We at iQuanti are keeping a close eye on our clients’ pages. Should we see any major movement in the coming weeks or months, we’ll be sure to post here with our learnings.

The most lasting effect of the “new” Googlebot could be an even greater acceleration of JavaScript in an enterprise context. If Google does get better at rendering and interpreting JavaScript content and there is no longer a penalty for using it heavily, we may see more JavaScript-heavy pages on enterprise domains.

The Final Word

SEO practitioners have been requesting this Googlebot tweak for a long time. By bringing the Googlebot in line with the consumer version of Chrome, Google is showing its willingness to be a good SEO partner and ensure the web stays on a path of steady evolution.

Have anything to add to our observations, or want to ask our experts any questions specific to optimizing your enterprise website for search? Ask us here.

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