Today, the diversity of tech solutions available to engage users on mobile includes responsive web design, native apps, hybrid apps, and progressive web apps (PWAs). The latter ones allow creating high-quality mobile experiences on the web, can be launched offline like normal apps, and have other benefits relevant for many publishing projects.
Building dedicated applications for the websites, publishers lock themselves into the app store ecosystems and may lose visitors who aren’t interested in making the extra step — downloading an app through the app store. Responsive websites also have their limitations and functionality gaps, such as the absence of push notifications or responsive scrolling.
PWA apps on the other hand integrate the best sides of mobile applications and responsive web pages, obviate the need to invest in app store optimization, and make the experience better for visitors. Let’s discuss this matter further.
What is a PWA?
In essence, this term means a web application that uses modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like experience for users. Like native apps, PWAs can be installed on devices, and they look and feel like mobile apps. Unlike apps, this solution is built at once for all platforms and does not require an app store to be installed.
To be considered a PWA, the web application also needs to have a responsive design and fit for various screen sizes, work without an Internet connection like native apps, and sync in the background to always keep the latest version.
The concept of PWA was first introduced by Steve Jobs back in 2007 when he announced that developers could use Web 2.0 plus AJAX to build a web application enriched with native mobile app features, allowed integration with iPhone services, and instantly distributed to end-users. In 2015, Google developed this idea a bit further and introduced the term “PWA”.
Since then, a lot of companies have upgraded their mobile websites to PWA; some prominent progressive web apps examples include Twitter, Wired, The Washington Post, Medium, Financial Times, Alibaba, Forbes, and others. Almost all adopters have traced improvements to engagement KPIs: total sessions, pages per session, bounce rate, active users, etc.
User-first mobile journeys
PWA has a variety of perks for user experience, such as a home screen icon and no browser tabs, swipeable card formats, push notifications, responsive scroll, seamless page transitions, and others; a polished app-like experience can be achieved without large files that sit on the device and take a lot of resources. Push notifications can help return visitors to the site, drive engagement or get them to complete subscriptions they’ve been on halfway through. For example, with push notifications, you can ask users if they want to add the web application to their home screen.
It is worth mentioning that PWA can be shared with a URL and be downloaded in the background when users reach a site for the first time. Also, this solution leverages cache data from a user’s last visit, so that it is possible to take into account previous interactions. Thus, PWAs allow publishers to seamlessly immerse visitors into interactive experiences with the site and content.
Is it a ranking factor for SEO?
Like normal websites, PWAs are searchable by Google and other search engines, and Google encouraged publishers to use them. Basically, this allows websites to keep users in the search ecosystem rather than exiting to download the app through the app store and using it separately.
PWAs can be faster or slower than mobile pages or AMPs depending on the published content (static or dynamic), site functionalities, server response time, and other factors. Here, the benefits to SEO ranking are enabled not just by the load speed alone, but by the responsiveness and quickness of interactions provided by PWA.
To gain additional search exposure, it can be recommended to use AMP and PWA together, as it was done by Forbes. In this case, AMP pages, or even AMP subsections of a page, are integrated into the shell of a dynamic web app decreasing the load size of static content. These AMP sections will also act as a hook to achieve good SEO rankings, catch visitors, and then reel them into the app experience.
Even though PWA is more popular among e-commerce companies, content websites and news destinations can also implement this solution to create user-first mobile experiences for their audiences. PWA provides more features for better engagement, such as a fast and smooth app experience, push notifications, responsive scrolling, etc. Ultimately, users will stay on the site longer, interact with more content, and bring more clicks and conversions.