Google gets about 90% of all search requests and the first five links that appear in search results always garner the most traffic. That’s how essential SEO is when it comes to a web app’s success. No wonder startups begin thinking about SEO early on in development and carefully choose the technology stacks for their project. Although React JS is the most wanted technology stack for creating rich interactive web apps, there are still concerns connected to its SEO-friendliness.
In this blog post, we'll discuss the SEO-friendliness of a product that uses React and see if Google can correctly index your website. We'll learn how Google tracks your content and what pitfalls you might come across while using React.
Lastly, we’ll take a look at ways to make your web app attractive to search engines like Google.
How Google bots work
Google uses robots to rank websites. These robots crawl your site's pages to find new ones. While creating a website, you can choose which pages you want to be searched through by listing them in the robots.txt file. To avoid overloading your website, you can hide some pages as well. The next step that Google takes is indexing.
During this process, a Google robot analyzes the content of a webpage to understand what it’s about and based on that information the page is included or excluded from search results accordingly. The results of this process are stored in Google Index — an enormous database with information about all web pages. Web page indexing is automated, so it’s very important to structure your content in a way that does not mislead search engines.
The next step includes the processing of the data into packages which are then served, ranked, and displayed within the Google index.
Sounds simple, right? Then what’s the problem with React web apps?
#1. Slow and complex indexing process
Google bots will only easily index and entirely process HTML pages. Here’s how it works:
The first step to using machine learning is indexing the assets you want to analyze. Whenever the crawler visits an asset it must decide whether or not the results fall within what it's expert at finding, so validation begins with crawling and screening for matches against existing records to see if its automated setup allows quick wins. Pattern-matching gives way to readability, allowing validation rules to focus on semantics, originality and overall quality.
#3. Exhausted crawling budget
#4. Challenges of indexing SPAs
Single-page applications (SPAs) are web-based apps that load only one page and then dynamically load the rest of the information as needed after it has been requested. Users experience a faster, smoother, more convenient experience with SPAs. Using this technology means you can create mobile apps to function like websites rather than mobile apps because HTML 5 creates a native look and feel across all operating systems.
Even though single-page apps offer fantastic advantages for users, they have one key limitation in the eyes of search engine bots. A bot crawls through your site when it’s loaded completely but when there is content missing on your already loaded website, so obviously nothing will be visible to the crawler. Therefore, much of your site remains unindexed and your ranking will suffer in search results.
How to make your React website SEO-friendly
Many limitations are associated with React modules, but it’s not impossible to bypass them. To solve this problem, you can use the following practices:
Pre-rendering is a common approach to make both single- and multi-page web apps SEO-friendly. Pre-rendering is used when search bots can't render your pages correctly. In these cases, you can use pre-renderers: special programs that intercept your requests and present cached static versions of your website if the request is from a bot or user depending on the case respectively.
Pre-rendering apps for SEO have the following advantages:
- Pre-renderers support all web novelties, including those which introduce confusion as well as those which are simple to implement.
- This approach requires very little code modification or none at all!
- This method is easy to implement
However, there are some drawbacks to this approach:
- It isn’t suitable for pages that display frequently changing data.
- Pre-rendering can take too long if the website is large and contains a lot of pages.
- You need to rebuild your pre-rendered page every time you change its content.
If you just want to create a normal React web app, you need to know the differences between client-side and server-side rendering.
With server-side rendering, all the content on your website is sent by the server to browsers and Google bots. There are no issues with indexing or ranking. It’s best for React. If you want to create a single-page app that will be rendered by the servers, you'll need to add an additional layer of Next.js.
Let's talk about it in detail!
Next.js for SPA search engine optimization
Having worked with numerous React projects, the Distinct CLoud team has concluded that Next.js is a powerful tool to solve the SEO problems of single-page applications while also creating some interesting opportunities for future directions.
Here’s what Zack Tanner, a senior Hulu software engineer, says about Hulu’s migration to Next.js:
Next.js has been used by Hilton, Uber, PlayStation 4, Invision App, and numerous additional projects because of its powerful yet easy to use functions.
When building an SEO-friendly React application, site, or product you will undoubtedly face many unforeseen challenges. However, if your goal is to create an efficient and easy to use interface for users it’s necessary to make use of the React library because not only does it render DOM elements fast but is ideal for doing so at scale.