SEO on the Edge: A Beginner’s Guide to Edge SEO

Alisa Meredith

Apr 07, 20228 min read
A hand holding a wrench over various icons to show edge seo.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

If you’re an SEO practitioner, one of your biggest headaches is probably implementation. In fact, in a recent poll, 56% of respondents said that less than 40% of their recommended SEO updates were actually implemented. 

If you face months-long delays (or worse: if your ideas are never implemented at all) how much potential revenue are you missing out on? These kinds of delays don’t just hold you back from reaching your goals. They may also impact the entire organization.

But what if you didn’t have to wait for your development team to prioritize your suggested page updates? With edge SEO, you may not have to.

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What Is Edge SEO?

Edge SEO is an approach to technical SEO that enables you to make site updates more quickly and without the help of developers. It gets its name from “edge computing,” because in it, SEOs use edge computing technology to launch updates without interacting directly with a site’s infrastructure. 

With edge SEO, you may be able to reduce your reliance on developers, while at the same time reassuring them (and yourself) that the changes you make are temporary and easily reversible. And because you can make site updates more quickly, you may also start seeing SEO results sooner

Edge SEO is an effective way to get stuff done quickly when infrastructure or resource constraints hold you back. Meta-title changes, redirects, or even a/b tests can be shipped and self-served quickly.

Kevin Indig, Shopify

Edge SEO may be ideal for: 

  • Sites already using edge computing (or who might want to start)
  • Inflexible sites, or ones that don’t utilize a user-friendly content management system (CMS) 
  • Making temporary page changes (such as special holiday updates or limited time promotions)
  • Teams with limited development resources or a long wait time to make updates

Do any of those sound familiar? If so, keep reading to find out the basics of edge SEO.

What Is Edge Computing?

In simple terms, edge computing is a data processing method often used to reduce latency (the wait time between a request being made and fulfilled by the server). It can be used for websites, online games, smart devices, and more. 

For example, imagine you’re trying to play your favorite massively multiplayer online game (MMO). You’ve just created a new character in World of Warcraft. At one point, you try to cast a spell on an enemy, only for the game to stutter and freeze. Will your character still be alive once the game loads properly? That frustrating wait to find out is latency.

Your site probably doesn’t have the kind of technical requirements that an MMO like World of Warcraft does, but the concept is essentially the same. A user makes a request by interacting with your site in some way, and there’s a delay while your server fulfills it. Ideally, this delay is unnoticeable and does not impact user experience at all, but that’s not always the case.

Sites that are “on the edge” (i.e., using edge computing) store their infrastructure in the cloud, in a data center that might be hundreds of miles away. Then they reduce latency and improve page speed by storing cached data and processing it in more conveniently located “nodes.” These nodes are the “edge” referred to in the name.

In other words, when you interact with your site, that request is fulfilled at the nearest node, rather than at the data center itself. Because the node is closer, this can be done faster, potentially improving your page speed (an important ranking factor for search engines).

In addition to physical distance, latency can also be caused by heavy traffic loads and overwhelmed servers. As such, your specific edge computing configuration (including how many nodes you have and where they are) may vary, depending on the problem you’re trying to solve.

Put simply, edge SEO goes by that name because, just like edge computing, page updates are made closer to the user rather than at the data center. What this means for you in practice depends on how you approach it.

For example, many edge SEO practitioners use serverless technology called “workers” to deploy SEO updates via content delivery networks (CDNs). CDNs help distribute web content faster by storing a cached version of your site in a network of servers that are physically closer to users than the main data center. 

SEOs and developers use workers to deploy code and update the cached version of a site, without touching the primary version located at the data center.

If you want to do this, you’ll first need to use a CDN that can run these serverless tools. You’ll also probably need to be able to write code in the language your system uses. For example, if you’re using Cloudflare Workers, Cloudflare recommends that you know JavaScript and TypeScript.

But what if your SEO team doesn’t know how to write JavaScript code? In that case, you may want to use a tool like PageImprove, which allows you to incorporate more edge SEO into your process without needing the same level of technical expertise.

What Is PageImprove?

PageImprove is a new tool that leverages Javascript and an optimized browser extension to enable you to make simple on-page SEO updates in real time, using an intuitive visual editor. It may be helpful for: 

  • Launching page updates more quickly without waiting for a developer
  • Making temporary page changes, such as promotional or holiday copy
  • Testing updates on sites that don’t drive enough traffic to use typical split testing tools
  • Making SEO updates to a client’s site without full access to their site’s infrastructure 

PageImprove is hosted on CDN, so that it can deliver your page updates to users as quickly as possible. Unlike traditional edge SEO, where you make updates in the cloud, it updates your site at the browser level. This means that, while PageImprove will not speed up your site, it also won’t slow it down. 

Since the changes live within PageImprove, your development team can still make permanent changes on the back end, but you won’t need to wait for them to get to it to start seeing the results of implementing your SEO optimizations and other changes.

How to Get Started with PageImprove

While logged in to your Semrush account, visit PageImprove, click on “Join the beta” and enter your information. You’ll receive an email with simple instructions which includes installing the PageImprove Chrome extension. Then, visit the website you want to update and launch the extension. PageImprove will then ask you to create a new project and will provide you with a code snippet to install on the site. 

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Next, install the provided JavaScript snippet into the <head> tag on each page you want PageImprove to have access to. If you need to come back to this step later, you can find your snippet code by clicking on the gear icon at the top right of the page.

Once you’ve installed the extension and the JavaScript snippet, all you have to do is click on the page element you want to update (such as your H1) and use the editor to make your changes. 

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Edit any element on your website—from titles and metas to H1s, links, images, content, canonicals, and more, instantly.

Because all of these changes happen at the browser level, you don’t need additional access to site data to make them. Plus, that site’s data won’t be changed on the back end. That means you have time to test out proposed SEO updates and get results before you decide to make them permanent. 

Edge SEO Benefits and Reminders

Adopting edge SEO for your website can have a number of benefits (not to mention a few challenges). 

Here are a few of the benefits: 

  • Faster updates: Edge SEO empowers marketers to make page updates themselves. Because of this, you can enact your SEO strategy more quickly, and start seeing results earlier, rather than fighting for stretched development resources. 
  • More agility: Because you can make updates faster, you’ll be able to pivot your strategy more quickly if the situation changes. For example, you could make temporary page changes for special promotions or events, quickly correct errors, test new ideas, or make quick updates if a page underperforms.
  • Increased efficiency: Because edge SEO takes some of the burden off your development team, you’ll be able to use your resources more efficiently. Not only might your development team have more bandwidth, but your SEO team can also start delivering results earlier.

Depending on how you use edge SEO, you may also see a few other benefits. For example, if you move your site to a CDN, you may be able to increase your page load speed and possibly even add to your security, testing, and analysis capabilities. 

As with any new process, adopting edge SEO may introduce some challenges for your team. Here are some things to keep an eye out for: 

  • Communication: Just because you can make your own page changes doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep other teams (like developers) in the loop. After all, your plans may have an impact on other teams’ work. Make sure you communicate with other teams well in advance of any planned updates to avoid potential conflicts. 
  • Compatibility: Depending how complex your site is, you may rely on a variety of tools to update, test, analyze, and manage your content. Do your research before adding any new ones to your site to avoid compatibility issues. It may be a good idea to involve your development team in this conversation, as they may have better insight into how different tools would interact.
  • Cost: As with any new tool or strategy, it’s important to consider potential cost. In addition to monetary cost (e.g., paying for edge services, a new tool, or a better CDN) make sure you know how much time and internal resources you’ll need to budget.

Does Google Index Edge SEO Updates?

Yes, Google can index your page updates when you’re using edge SEO, and visitors to the site will see your changes. You can double check that your modified pages have been indexed by using the Google Mobile Friendly Test tool. If you’ve never done it before, follow the step-by-step process on our Knowledge Base.

Take Charge of Your SEO Updates

As sites get bigger, faster, and more complicated, it can sometimes be difficult to keep up. With edge SEO, you can own your SEO strategies, test new ideas, and make necessary page changes when you need them most. 

With PageImprove, you can make instant changes, deliver results earlier, and free up your developers to focus on their most important projects. 

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Alisa is a Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Semrush where she helps agencies offer new services to help their clients grow. She‘s also known for speaking about and teaching Pinterest marketing and advertising.
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