As you work to grow your SEO and improve your organic rankings, you may encounter unexpected flags or penalties that pop up as your site traffic grows but your business is unable to execute the changes due to technical limitations or limited resources.
Utilizing Edge SEO may be an ideal solution for brands that face these unexpected challenges. It is particularly valuable when you need to change your tags and other site features but can’t make server-side code changes. Let’s dig deeper into this SEO strategy and how you, specifically, can use it for your brand.
What is Edge SEO?
Edge SEO is the process of making changes to your website outside of the server in order to improve search rankings. You may hear developers refer to “coding on the Edge,” or “hanging on the Edge,” when they refer to these changes. Additionally, you may come across the concept of “serverless computing,” as well.
Simply put, when you make changes to your source code, you are affecting the make up of your website on your server. When users call your website, the code is sent to them. However, with serverless computing, brands can add tags and other elements that fire based on where the user is, rather than where the server is. The tags and coding can be unique to the user’s needs – and the search engine requirements in that area.
One of the most common tools used in Edge SEO is a content delivery network or CDN. A CDN is a geographically-based server group that makes it easy to deliver your website across the globe. A CDN does not host content, but it does help cache content. You will use a CDN if you host your website in one location, but have audiences in a different region or country that also need to access your pages.
Edge SEO in Practice
Edge SEO, or serverless computing, is easier to understand in practice over theory. By looking at a few examples of this development tool, you can see why search teams would want to make changes to their code after it leaves the server.
The two most commonly referenced uses include adding Hreflang tags to a website and setting up redirects.
Remove Hreflang Tag Errors
Hreflang tags are most often used to differentiate pages of content that are in different languages. For example, if you have a page in English and a page in German, your hreflang will tell Google to serve the page with the correct language to various audiences. This way German-speaking audiences won’t see the English-content site and bounce from the page (or vice versa).
Unfortunately, hreflang attributes are incredibly easy to mess up. In 2017, SEMRush analyzed more than 20,000 websites and found that 37% of multilingual websites have issues with hreflang links. Furthermore, 58% of multilingual websites have hreflang conflicts within a page source code.
Most brands want to fix these hreflang errors to optimize their rankings potential, but need to solve the problem outside of the traditional source code. This is where serverless computing comes in. To solve this, brands can use a content delivery system (CDN) that fires certain tags and reads specific information based on the region of the site visitor. The main site code remains intact, but the right content for international users is presented so customers get a better experience.
Setting Up Redirects
Similarly to solving hreflang errors, serverless computing can also help you manage your redirects so your customers (and Google crawlers) don’t get confused by what page they need to look at for the right information. Many platforms don’t support redirect management or make it easy for developers. Instead, setting up redirects through a CDN can make redirection easy to both view and manage.
Additional Benefits of Hanging Out on the Edge
While making serverless improvements can boost your SEO by reducing errors and providing a better experience to your customers, there are additional benefits to using this development tool.
One of the main benefits is that search professionals and marketers can quickly make changes to improve SEO without needing in-depth programming knowledge or working through the development team’s backlog. However, making changes without the knowledge and support of your development team is a quick way to get on their bad side (and for your future projects to always get kicked to the bottom of the list). That being said, many teams have managed to save several development hours, time, and resources by handling their SEO problems on the Edge instead of diving into the server.
Along with saving production time, serverless computing may be able to boost your SEO and improve your customer experience by making your website faster. For example, by moving redirects off of the server, response times can increase because server demand decreases. This can improve your TTFB (time to first byte), creating a faster experience for users (lowering your bounce rate) while improving the top metric that Google looks at for speed rankings.
Even if you can solve your redirect issues on the server, you may want to implement an Edge solution – especially if you may experience additional problems in the future. By familiarizing yourself with this option now, you will be prepared for when you really need it.
Improving Edge SEO on a Content Delivery Network
Now that you have an idea for the types of Edge solutions you can test out as a way to solve your SEO problems, it’s time to take action. There are a few commonly used tools and services you will encounter as you look to invest in the Edge, including various CDN brands.
Cloudflare is a popular CDN that allows brands to customize the regions that they want to reach. However, there are other options you can use that may be better for your specific needs. OnCrawl created a useful list that breaks down various CDN brands like Akamai and AWS Cloudfront along with why they are different.
Some of these CDN providers also offer specific developer services that you can hire. If you are unable to handle the Edge SEO improvements on your own (or simply want to hand the tasks off to a professional), they can work on setting up your website and the repairs you need for an added fee.
Use Serverless Computing to Grow Your SEO Toolbox
Not every brand will need to use Edge SEO, but knowing that it exists makes it a great tool for when you need a search problem and need a serverless solution. The more technical SEO knowledge you have on hand, the better you will be able to solve problems and grow your rankings.
You shouldn’t accept lower rankings and poor organic search traffic results because of unexpected problems that are out of your control. See what it’s like living on the Edge and whether or not you can find a solution out there.
Craig Smith is the Founder of Trinity Insight, an optimization agency that helps brands grow faster online. Craig started Trinity in 2006 and prior to that worked as a strategist for Ebay Enterprise. Craig is a frequent speaker at eCommerce events and guest lectures at NYU and Villanova on optimization business concepts.