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React SEO Best Practices: Tips & Techniques

Learn about why developers should familiarize themselves with SEO best practices.

How does Google Search Engine work for Rankings?

Issues surrounding SEO for Javascript based web applications and how to resolve them.

React SEO Best Practices: Tips & Techniques

 

How many times have we heard about the importance of SEO aka Search Engine Optimization? Many times, perhaps. Remember that fad skirmish coming from across the hallway. That’s right. That’s the battlefront occupied by writers and SEO experts. Even though they strive hard to achieve one common goal, the lethal encounter is still inevitable.

If you think the battle is only limited to writers and SEO experts, then my friend, you better walk out that door before it gets ugly. Because SEO knowledge is as important for web developers as it is for others.

Why Should Developers Familiarize Themselves with SEO?

For one, SEO is a significant part of digital marketing and goes hand in hand with your web app’s success, and second, developers are responsible for the technical aspect of it – making sure the website is optimized and ready to entice Google with quirky meta titles and tags. But it’s not easy to lure Google with just your charms – it takes a little bit more than that.

Therefore developers are supposed to work in close collaboration with SEO experts to make the website SEO worthy. Sure you can spend all kinds of money, but at the end of the day, nothing can beat organic search and traffic to maximize your profitability. 

What is React SEO?

If you are familiar with React, you will know that it is a popular Javascript library specifically used for building alluring user interfaces (front-end). Can you imagine how difficult it is to choose the best front-end technology to build remarkable products? There are quite a handful of notable technologies and React is one of them: a big deal. This framework delivers highly responsive web apps with a great navigational experience for the end-user.

Moreover, websites powered by React are gaining a lot of popularity. Why? Because on the plus side, they are known to develop fast, robust, and reliable web apps. Some of the most popular global giants like Facebook, Twitter et al leverage React technology to build world-class engaging applications.

React SEO best practices

Plus this framework is best for building single-page web apps. Now on the downside, they are very challenging to work with when it comes to SEO. Are you thinking what I am thinking? Why can’t we just simply ignore SEO? Only a fool would do that, trust me. Even though React can be quite problematic – in order to improve the search engine rankings of your online businesses; you need it to work. 

Sooner or later, it all comes down to choosing the best framework but along with that – a website that can be easily optimized for Google search engine. In this blog I will share some of the most important React SEO best practices, so hang tight. 

How does Google Search Engine work for Rankings?

Javascript is considered best among the community of developers for building intuitive and powerful websites because it allows for easier development and is feature-rich.

According to a survey by StackOverflow’s developers in 2020, JavaScript is the most commonly used language for the 8th year straight with 67.7% of developers using it ( Vue.js and React leading in the race of best front end frameworks. Read more about popular Javascript frameworks). Now to make your web applications easily discoverable, specifically, those powered by javascript, you should keep a few things in mind such as Google Search processes and react SEO best practices.

React SEO best practices
Source: developers.google.com
    • Googlebot keeps a repository of all the URLs that it needs to crawl and index (where google tries to understand the content of the page and after which the bot makes it discoverable on the search engine)
    • Considering the amount of content that is floated on google every day – the crawler finds a new piece of content, picks up on the URL, visits the entire content and visual layout to decide where it is grandee enough to appear on the search results.
    • In the case of javascript, Googlebot fetches a URL from the crawling queue by making an HTTP request.
    • Now, Google gives you the liberty to choose the pages that you want to be crawled indexed. All you have to do is list them in the robots.txt file. 
    • So, if the URL is not allowed to be crawled the google bot does not make an HTTP request instead it skips the URL altogether and moves to the next. 
    • After precisely and comprehensively analyzing the web page, Googlebot queues all pages for indexing and rendering by a system called caffeine, unless a robot’s meta tag or header tells Googlebot not to index the page.
    • Just remember that the entire indexing process is automated therefore it is of utmost importance to thoroughly structure and format all your content.

The process does sound as easy as pie. But React would disagree. 

React SEO Optimization Issues 

There are a lot of concerns surrounding SEO friendliness when it comes to the React framework. Let’s go through them one by one and later in the blog post, you can find some doable solutions to get your own way. 

A long and complex process

Googlebot indexes javascript web pages in two waves, thus making the process rather complex and slow. Static websites are easy to crawl and render but now is an era of dynamic (non-HTML) web pages therefore if the web page has javascript in it – the google bot delays rendering until it has all the resources available to be crawled, rendered, and indexed. 

According to SEO expert Barry Adams, in his article on Medium, “What happens when you use React without server-side rendering is that the crawler halts on the very first page because it can’t see any hyperlinks to follow. It sends the page to the indexer, which then has to render the page and extract the hyperlinks, which will then be added to the crawler’s queue. Then the crawler will eventually crawl the next set of pages, and again will stop there because all the links are invisible until the JavaScript is rendered. So it has to wait for the indexer to come back with a new set of URLs to crawl. It makes the crawl process incredibly slow and inefficient. And that is why websites built on React (and similar JavaScript platforms) perform worse in Google than websites that primarily serve plain HTML to the crawler.” 

React affects the page load time

Googlebot skips the page due to negative load time. Since speed is considered one of the most important factors in google ranking therefore Googlebot will skip the page if it takes too long to load and Javascript on the other hand does affect page load times. Even the search engine knows the irreversible effects of poor user experience. 

Error in code causes indexing issues

Javascript parser does not condone errors in the code. Therefore, if it comes across any error in the code or finds anything misplaced, it will halt the parsing tout de suite and will indicate a SyntaxError – affecting the functionality of the script altogether. Google bot and Web Rendering Service (WRS) may not fetch or render resources or web pages that are not considered as significant content or are unnecessary such as error requests. 

Single-page websites are challenging to index

SPAs are becoming quite popular nowadays because they are very easy to manage. Some of the most popular benefits of developing SPAs are: the web page does not need to be reloaded to render the information, which makes it faster and less time-consuming.

Additionally, it has cross-platform adaptability. You can easily check development issues and perform debugging. Last but not least, deployment and post-development maintenance and updates are super easy and quick. Now you would think that single-page websites are free of faults and other concerns accompanied by web development. This is true to some extent but are they good for SEO too? Not so much. They do have certain limitations when it comes to search engine optimization.

Google relies on unique meta tags and individual URLs to index pages but since SPAs are developed without unique and search engine-friendly URLs, it becomes cumbersome for Google to crawl and index pages.

No inbuilt modus-operandi to develop sitemaps 

A sitemap contains all the collective and structured information of all your web pages including images, videos, and other related files. Traditionally Googlebot makes use of sitemap to easily crawl through the website. But surprisingly, React lacks inbuilt tools to develop a sitemap which can cause problems for the Googlebot. You can generate sitemap.xml by React Router configuration but it requires additional tools and efforts. 

How to Resolve React SEO Issues?

But all hope is not lost – if you consider React SEO best practices mentioned below, you are in for a treat no matter if its a static website or dynamic: 

Server-side rendering

One of the most popular React SEO best practices is SSR. Server-side rendering is one of the techniques that makes SEO for single web page websites far less intimidating. To understand SSR better, first, you need to know about client-side rendering. 

According to Google’s Martin Splitt, “If you use a JavaScript framework, the default is client-side rendering. This means you send the bare-bones HTML over and then a piece of JavaScript, and the JavaScript fetches and assembles the content in the browser.” 

Whereas server-side rendering is when a website is rendered on the server instead of the browser. Then the fully rendered page is sent to search engine bots to crawl, fetch, and index. Google bot does not need to wait for the resources to become accessible when they can get their hand on an already rendered page from the start. Gatsby.js and Next.js frameworks to build upon React for easier Server-Side Rendering.

React SEO best practices

Isomorphic React 

If you have a similar SPA structure or architecture, you would agree that when we first enter the page, it needs to be downloaded along with all its assets. Talking about SPAs, it takes a moment to load. While the assets/ content is loading the page is in unrendered form. This is primarily known as a “flash of unstyled content” (FOUC).

The main job of isomorphic apps is to stamp on FOUC without messing with the server API. In short, It enables content rendering even after the page loads on the client-side for optimal customer experience. 

The Bottom Line – React SEO Best Practices

Okay, the bottom line is that I am exhausted trying to make you understand that yes React may have some challenges when it comes to SEO but with the right strategy, React SEO best practices, resources, and tools – you can most precisely tempt google for a nice rank on its search engine. 

Recommended: How to find and hire top react.js developers?