Is React SEO-Friendly?
- 190460 views
- 7 min
- Mar 24, 2020
Google gets about 90 percent of all search requests. And the first five links that appear in search results always get the most traffic. That’s how vital search engine optimization is in terms of your web app’s success. No wonder startups think about SEO long before development begins and carefully choose the technology stacks for their projects. Although React is the most wanted framework for creating rich interactive web apps, there are a lot of concerns connected with its SEO-friendliness.
In this post, you’ll find out if you can rely on React when building an SEO-friendly software product, learn the main obstacles that prevent React from being SEO-friendly, and get familiar with the best practices to make your web app attractive to Google.
To solve the React web app problem with SEO, we need to understand how Google bots work and what common issues React solutions face.
How Google bots work
Google uses bots to rank websites. These bots crawl your site’s pages to find new ones. When creating a website, you can choose the pages you want to be crawled by listing them in the robots.txt file. To avoid overloading your site with bot requests, you can also hide some pages.
The next step that Google bots do is indexing. During this process, a Google bot analyzes the content on a web page to understand what it’s about. The results of this process are stored in Google index — a huge database with information about all web pages. Web page indexing is automated, so it’s very important to structure and format all content in a way that is understandable for a machine.
The third step includes serving and ranking processes. When a user searches for something, Google goes to the Google index to find the most relevant results.
Sounds simple, right? Then what’s the problem with React web apps?
#1. Slow and complex indexing process
Google bots can easily scan and understand only HTML pages. Here’s how it works:
Only when all these steps are fulfilled can the bot find new links and add them to the crawling queue.
This process is linear and significantly slower than indexing an HTML page.
#3. Exhausted crawling budget
A crawling budget is the maximum number of pages that search engine bots can crawl in a specific period of time (usually five seconds for one script).
#4. Challenges of indexing SPAs
Single-page applications (SPAs) are web apps created with React. These web apps consist of only one page that’s loaded once. All other information is dynamically loaded when necessary. Unlike traditional multi-page apps, SPAs are fast, responsive, and provide users with a smooth linear experience.
However, despite all these benefits for end users, SPAs have a significant limitation in terms of SEO. Such web apps can give content when the page is already loaded. If a bot is crawling the page when the content hasn’t been loaded, the bot will see an empty page. A significant part of the site won’t be indexed. Therefore, your site will get a much lower ranking in search results.
How to make your React website SEO-friendly
All the limitations we’ve described above can be bypassed. Here are the best practices you can use to solve React and SEO problems.
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 requests to your website and, if the request is from a bot, pre-renders send a cached static HTML version of your website. If the request is from a user, the usual page is loaded.
This approach to make your website SEO-friendly has the following advantages:
- Pre-renderers support all the latest web novelties.
- This approach requires minimal codebase modifications or no modifications at all.
- It’s simple to implement.
However, there are also 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.
- Pre-rendering services aren’t free.
- You need to rebuild your pre-rendered page every time you change its content.
If you’re only planning to create a React web app, you need to know the difference between client-side and server-side rendering.
In terms of SEO, client-side rendering is a problem, as Google bots don’t get any content or get a little content they can’t index properly.
With server-side rendering, browsers and Google bots get HTML files with all the content. Google bots can index the page properly and rank it higher.
Server-side rendering is the easiest way to create an SEO-friendly React website. However, if you want to create an SPA that will render on the server, you’ll need to add an additional layer of Next.js.
Let’s talk about this in detail.
Next.js for SPA search engine optimization
Having worked with numerous React projects and dealt with their SEO optimization, the RubyGarage team has concluded that Next.js is a powerful tool to solve the SEO problems of single-page applications.
Here’s what Zack Tanner, a senior Hulu software engineer, says about Hulu’s migration to Next.js:
Productivity has skyrocketed. We’re able to focus on feature development and improving our product, while Next.js handles the more difficult tooling for us.
PlayStation Competition Center, Uber Marketplace, Hilton, Trip.com, Invision, and many other famous projects use the Next.js framework because of its simple but powerful features.
You can face a lot of challenges when building an SEO-friendly React app. However, all of them are surmountable, and they certainly don’t make it worth avoiding React and all its fantastic capabilities.
- Google bot downloads HTML files
- WRS fetches data from external APIs and databases
Google uses bots to rank websites. The process takes three steps:
- Bots crawl site’s pages to find new ones.
- The next step is indexing, when a Google bot analyzes the content on a web page to understand what it’s about. The results are stored in Google index — a huge database with information about all web pages.
- The third step includes serving and ranking. When a user searches for something, Google goes to the Google index to find the most relevant results.
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