In today’s article we will look at a little-known but highly useful web technology: caching. We will look at the 3 distinct types of caching, how each of them can help your SEO, when you might want to turn caching off, and some issues with caching which you should keep in mind.
By the end of this article, you will be a caching ninja!
Let’s get started.
What is caching?
Caching is a way of taking certain website resources such as images, video, CSS and HTML and storing them in a temporary, easily retrievable format. This allows the website to be delivered much faster when a user comes to visit. Since speed is important (especially on mobile), faster loading times can boost all kinds of metrics which Google uses to rank your site. For example, a faster site will have a lower bounce rate, since users won’t give up after 5 seconds waiting for it to load.
So that’s what caching does.
Let’s talk now about three different types of cache and how to take advantage of each of them.
Most of the images, texts and CSS (styling information) used on your website are stored on your web server – and unless you embed on YouTube or Vimeo -videos will be stored on your server too. In general, the more complicated and bigger your website is, the more files are stored on your server.
To speed up loading times, a cache of your website will keep pre-assembled versions of these pages ready, saving resources when multiple people are visiting the website. You can take advantage of server caching by using free and paid plugins, especially if your website is built on WordPress. Some web hosts, for example Site Ground, even supply all customers with free, automatic caching functionality.
Browser caching is very similar to server caching but occurs on the individual visitor level. Browsers such as Google Chrome and Firefox typically cache so called static assets (images, CSS) which do not change too often from visit to visit, and so can be loaded much faster, as they don’t have to be downloaded from the internet again.
If you notice that when you visit a site for a second time that it loads a little faster than the first time you visited it, then you just experienced browser caching. The main difference to remember between server caching and browser caching is that the data is stored on the user’s hard drive.
The Google Cache is a snapshot of a page stored by Google as a back-up. This snapshot would be taken when Google last crawled your website’s pages.
Basically, Google takes a copy of the raw HTML that the Googlebot received from your server of each page, and then stores this version as a back-up. The HTML captured by Google is then rendered by your browser.
This cached version is also what Google uses when finding results to show in the SERPs for certain search queries.
The advantage of having your webpage being cached by Google is that it will be able to evaluate your site faster when considering to display it to a user. If your page is cached by Google, you will have a much higher chance of appearing in the SERPs.
It is important to understand that the version of a web page which you see in the browser is not necessarily the version currently being cached by Google. If you have recently changed something on a web page, there will be a time delay before Google caches it. For news sites, this delay could be very short (a few minutes). For other sites which don’t get updated so often, Google might not cache it for a few days.
How to check for the Google cache version
Just enter the webpage into Google, but with the operator “cache:” before it:
Or right-click on the page when it appears on the search results:
And when you find the cached version, this is what it looks like:
You can check three different versions of the Google cache: the full version with all pictures, video and other assets – like the one on the picture above.
The text version, which looks like this:
And the view source version (the HTML) looks like this:
Issues with cache which you (or your SEO) need to keep on top of:
As SEO’s, we should be checking the Google cache of our client websites to see if the website is cached, and/or if there are any issues. The following issues are the ones we see most often:
- 404 cache error: lately Google is giving websites lots of cache issues, producing a 404 (Page not found) error. This should be taken seriously if you see a drop-in traffic and a loss of ranking
- Caching the wrong page: when you check the Google cache for domain.com/xxx and see it is caching the page domain.com/yyy. This is a big problem to have, as if you search for domain.com/xxx (even as exact URL search), then Google will serve domain.com/yyy as a result. Not ideal, and the visitor will probably leave the page very fast.
What to do if you find any issues with Google cache
- Check the canonical tag and make sure it is used correctly
- Check your sitemap, and if necessary, generate a new one
- Check Google search console for any alerts or messages
- Check the Google search console fetch and render function in the old GSC version, or check the URL inspection function in the new version
- Run technical SEO diagnostics using tools such as Screaming Frog
Or ask iGaming Inspiration to check all this for you!
What if you don’t want your content to be cached by Google?
There are scenarios where you do not want your content to be cached. A good example would be a site with dynamic content. For example, a website which shows live data, such as a cryptocurrency quotes website. Or if you run a sportsbook, you wouldn’t want the odds on Real Madrid winning the Champions’ League again to appear in the search results 2 weeks after they have been knocked out.
If your website has pages with this kind of dynamic data, you can use the following commands to stop the webpage being cached:
These can be placed in the header of your HTML to stop Google caching the page.
And of course, if you find that your website is not being cached, you should also check for these commands in your source code!
Caching is a vital tool in the arsenal of the modern SEO professional, and if you use it properly, you can improve both your user experience and your Google ranking.
The team at iGaming Inspiration stand ready to help you with any caching issues you may have, so contact us today and see how we can help you dominate your niche!