How does Google Use Pre-render on the SERP? (and why it matters for your SEO efforts)

In the following post, I’m going to introduce a simple concept, and explain how you can use it to perfect your client’s niche and competitors understanding.

It’s called Google Instant Pages and it is not new. It was announced circa 2011, but it’s still highly relevant and important.

First, what are instant pages?

Instant pages enable websites to load almost instantly, within a click on the search result, under specific search queries.

By enabling pre-rendering in Chrome browser, it preloads the first search result. The browser uses fetch and render to get all the required resources to load the page instantly.

This feature is very common within brand searches, and it makes a perfect sense too. If for example, I will search for ASOS, the homepage will probably be my desired result – and Google will do the math to display its pre-rendered version.

In other words, it will be an educated guess to say that Google monitors the CTR for any given search query, and automatically pre-render pages that are more likely to get the first click on the SERP.

But is it only valid for branded keywords?

No, here is another example: also pre-renders the first result for the highly competitive keyword “shop online” – meaning, that they put their trust in a popular website and it gives it prominence on a non-branded search.

Can you guess which site is it?

How to know if my site is eligible? Do I need to do anything?

Not at all. This process is fully automated. Needless to say, that if your site has crawling or indexation issues, you should first fix them. Otherwise, you won’t rank well, with or without prerendering.

How to verify that Google displays pre-render for a given query?

Let’s get back to the last example with Amazon. Check out the source code for the SERP, it should look like this:

<link href=”” rel=”prerender”>

The other results do not contain the rel=”prerender” tag

You can also download the SEO Minion Chrome extension – one of its features is marking pre-rendered results.

For instance, when searching for NBC:

See this cute tiny logo? It will be your indication for pre-rendering.

What about different countries, does Google prerender the same results?

Not always. Google instant pages are provided per query, not per page. It turns out it can also display different results or URLs, depending on the country you are searching from.

For example, I searched for “buy online” again, this time – in Australia ( and Amazon surfaced again, now with the Australian TLD:

Is the pre-render feature also applying for mobile search?

I’ve conducted my checks on a few dozen branded queries that have been pre-rendered in Google Chrome desktop. As it seems, it only applies for desktop (for now).

How can we leverage it for our SEO efforts?

1. Competitor research – assuming you really want to rank for a certain keyword (non-branded one). However, you see that Google already deployed the pre-rendering for this query to a competing website. Does it worth the effort?

Requoting Google:

“Chrome begins preloading the first search result when we’re confident it’s what you’re looking for”

How can Google be confident? It probably means that the pre-rendered result has an unusually high CTR, which also means that the click share for the rest of the search results is relatively lower than usual.

Should you invest in this keyword? In this scenario, my recommendation will be to put your efforts into keywords with more potential.

Even if you manage to rank the second place, will it be worth the trouble? Will you see any significant traffic increase out of it? Probably not

2. Improve CTR (even more) – in case pages are pre-rendered under certain queries, we can be best assured that this ranking will stay stable. Again, not only for branded keywords but still – it will be in most cases.

If we’re already positive that our ranking is stable and the CTR is high, we can mix it up a bit. Especially in holidays and other special days (but not only) – you can update a holiday discount or a special offer in the Meta Description or the Meta Title.

Map your pre-rendered queries and pages and monitor their CTR on a weekly basis. Sometimes, even a 1% increase can make the difference.

As a reminder, don’t forget that the CTR can also fluctuate for other reasons – seasonal, paid campaigns, PR and other aspects.

3. Better understanding of user intent

If Google predicts it’s highly likely that the user will click on a search result, it’s also a hint for something else – The user will be satisfied, and it answers the user intent. It serves us as an additional factor to evaluate some of the quarries when conducting keyword research, and vice versa

For example, conducting research and looking for the keyword “grow box”:

I wasn’t sure if it’s a brand name or this query is up for grabs. As you can see above, the first result is not pre-rendered (you can’t see the Chrome extension logo next to the result)

Meet the next generation – Nostate Pre-fetch

In July 2018 Google introduced the Nostate Pre-fetch. It was released in the Chrome 64 version and above. Nostate Prefetch fetches resources in advance, while pre-rendering also executes JavaScript in advance.

NoState Prefetch also reduces load time, spending less memory resources than prerendering.

Its main goals:

• Implementing the pre-render resource hint
• Fetching the first result in Google Search results
• Fetching pages that the Chrome address bar predicts are likely to be visited next

Do you see the difference?

In here, not only the “confident” result will be fetched, but also any given first result and other pages that Chrome predicts to go to next.

Second position? You guessed right

However, it doesn’t change the recommendation regarding pre-rendering, and how to take it into your advantage. Since Google keeps using pre-rendering for high CTR results, this fact doesn’t change.


Since 2011 Google deploys instant pages in Chrome using prerendering for queries with high likelihood to be clicked (in other words, expected to have a high CTR)

In this post, I’ve explained how to use it for your advantage, especially to better understand your competition, but also to optimize CTR (even more) and to understand your user intent.

Have you found anything surprising on how Google is viewing your website? As always, I would love to hear what you think – comment below

Posted by Roey Skif

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