When designing an SEO strategy for a company, a thorough analysis of their website is essential. As well as making best use of its sitemap and content, it is also vital to take into account any limitations, problems and browser compatibility issues the site may experience. Without developing a full understanding each aspect, how they can compliment and contradict each other, any SEO work will be at best, only partially effective.
So let’s imagine you work the other way and design a site that is fully compatible with older browsers, sticking to a very simple text and image layout, using an older version of HTML. Even though your site will be providing a better experience to those using older browsers, mobile and tablet users will now suffer, a fault which Google is becoming ever quicker to penalise.
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer when trying to find a site that caters reasonably well to all browsers whilst maintaining good SEO. This fascinating blog written by some of the web developers at BBC news is proof that even the largest, most successful sites struggle in a market that offers a huge variety of browsers, each with their own set of customisable options and add-ons.
From both a development and an SEO perspective, I would echo the advice of the blog I’ve linked to above: Create a good core experience that provides a clean layout and displays essential information to visitors. Once you’ve make sure that even the simplest version of your site ranks well, you can start building more complex elements in to the site with opt out measures in the code, to ensure that browsers that cannot display certain elements will ignore them completely. Feature detection tests like this are excellent tools when designing a homepage or landing page, as they will help give you an indication of the capabilities of a large number of browsers and filter out those that cannot display elements of your site. However, before making too many concessions to older browsers, it’s important to keep in mind that these formats are becoming obsolete, whilst the number of people using tablets and mobiles to visit sites is increasing each year. Whilst having a good, consistent core user experience is a valuable asset for a site, sacrificing key aspects like mobile compatibility will negatively impact your SEO performance in a rapidly growing section of the market.
Conclusion? Maintain an awareness of those using older browsers to access your site, but on no account sacrifice vital new elements of the site or SEO rankings because of them.