Fetch and Horror: 3 examples of how fetch and render in GSC can reveal big SEO problems
Columnist Glenn Gabe demonstrates why discovering how Googlebot sees your desktop and mobile content is essential to any good SEO audit.
In May 2014, some powerful functionality debuted in the “fetch as Google” feature in Google Search Console — the ability to fetch and render.
Adding fetch and render was a big deal, since it helps reveal issues with how content is being indexed. With this functionality, webmasters can ensure that Googlebot is able to fetch all necessary resources in order for the render to be accurate; with many webmasters disallowing important directories and files via robots.txt, Googlebot might be seeing a limited view of the page.
As former Googler Pierre Far said at the time, “By blocking crawling of CSS and JS, you’re actively harming the indexing of your pages.”
Therefore, a technical audit isn’t a technical audit if it doesn’t include testing pages using fetch and render. Using the tool in Google Search Console (GSC), you can test both Google’s desktop and smartphone crawlers to see how Googlebot is rendering each page on your site.
I’ll cover more about the mobile situation later in this post, but for now, I’ll focus on what can happen when you block resources. After checking your own pages, you might just look like this:
Let’s take a closer look at three examples I’ve come across during my SEO travels.