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React SEO Best Practices to Make it Search Engine Friendly

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React has become very popular in contemporary web development, and its increasing prevalence is too significant to disregard. For bigger enterprises that need complex development that cannot be met with a more straightforward approach, like a WordPress theme, React and similar libraries such as Vue.js are becoming the go-to choice.

Initially, Search Engine Optimizers (SEOs) hesitated to adopt libraries such as React because search engines had difficulties rendering JavaScript and preferred content readily available within the HTML codes. However, advancements in how search engines and React handle rendering JavaScript have resolved these challenges, resulting in SEO being relatively easy using React.

Key Takeaways

  • About ReactJS and its Single Page Applications (SPA)
  • How search engine functions and whether they are compatible with React apps?
  • Best practices to make your ReaactJS app SEO-frindly

What is React?

React is a JavaScript library (open-source) widely used for building user interfaces. It was developed by Facebook and released to the public in 2013. React allows developers to create reusable UI components and build complex interactive web applications easily.

React is based on a component-based architecture, where each component represents a part of the user interface. These components are designed to be highly modular and can be easily reused across different parts of an application. This makes it possible to create complex UIs quickly and efficiently.

React uses a virtual DOM (Document Object Model) to update the user interface efficiently. The virtual DOM is a lightweight representation of the actual DOM, and updates are batched and optimized for performance. This means React applications can update the UI quickly and efficiently, even when dealing with large amounts of data.

React has recently become very popular and widely used in modern web development. Many large companies like Airbnb, Netflix, and Instagram use React to build web applications. React has a large and active community, with many third-party libraries and tools available to extend its functionality.

React’s main benefits are its ease of use and simplicity. React’s component-based architecture makes building and maintaining complex user interfaces easy. React’s virtual DOM also makes it highly performant, even when dealing with large amounts of data.

React is a powerful tool for building modern web applications, and its popularity will likely grow in the coming years.

What is SPA (Single Page Application)?

What is SPA (Single Page Application)?

A SPA or Single Page Application is a web application that operates within a single web page. In contrast to traditional multi-page web applications, where clicking on a link or button will load a new page from the server, a SPA dynamically updates the current page’s content without requiring a full page refresh.

SPAs are typically built using JavaScript frameworks or libraries like Angular vs React or React vs Vue. They utilize client-side rendering, where most of the application’s logic and processing are done on the client side (in the browser) in place of the server.

Benefits of Single-Page Applications (SPAs):

The benefits of SPAs include faster page load times and a more fluid, responsive user experience. By avoiding full-page reloads, SPAs can provide a seamless experience for users, as the application responds quickly to user interactions without requiring them to wait for new pages to load.

SPAs also enable developers to build more complex, dynamic user interfaces. With the ability to update specific parts of the page without affecting the entire page, SPAs make it easier to build interactive applications that respond to user input in real time.

Challenges of Building SPAs

However, there are also some challenges associated with building SPAs. For example, since most of the application logic runs on the client side, there is a risk of security vulnerabilities if proper precautions are not taken. SEO can be more difficult with a SPA, as search engine crawlers may have difficulty indexing the content.

SPAs are a powerful tool for building modern web applications that provide a seamless, interactive user experience. However, they require careful consideration and planning to ensure they are secure, accessible, and optimized for search engine visibility.

Why Use React?

There are many reasons as to why we use ReactJS for web development. The primary ones are:

Code Stability:

React JS is a reliable choice for web development because changes to the code only affect the specific component being updated rather than the entire parent structure. This ensures code stability and is a primary reason React JS has become a preferred option for stable code.

Component-Based Architecture:

React is based on a component-based architecture, where each component represents a part of the user interface. These components are designed to be highly modular and can be easily reused across different parts of an application. This makes it possible to create complex UIs quickly and efficiently.

Virtual DOM:

React uses a virtual DOM (Document Object Model) to update the user interface efficiently. The virtual DOM is a lightweight representation of the actual DOM, and updates are batched and optimized for performance. This means React applications can update the UI quickly and efficiently, even when dealing with large amounts of data.

Declarative Syntax:

React uses a declarative syntax to understand the application’s behavior. With React, you declare what you want the UI to look like, and React updates the DOM to match.

Large and Active Community:

React has a large and active community, with many third-party libraries and tools available to extend its functionality. This makes finding solutions to common problems easier and staying up-to-date with best practices.

Performance:

React is designed to be highly performant, even when dealing with large amounts of data. React can update the UI quickly and efficiently using a virtual DOM and batched updates, resulting in a better user experience.

Server-Side Rendering:

React supports server-side rendering, meaning you can generate HTML on the server and send it to the client. This can improve performance and ReactJS SEO, as search engines can more easily index the content.

Can ReactJS Single Page Application be SEO Friendly?

Yes, a ReactJS Single Page Application (SPA) can be made SEO-friendly, although it does require some additional effort compared to traditional server-side rendered web applications.

One of the main challenges in SEO for React apps is that search engines traditionally have difficulty indexing dynamic client-side content. Almost every ReactJS web development services faces these challenges at some point.

Search engine bots typically rely on the server’s initial HTML response to understand a web page’s content.

To make React and SEO compatible, there are a few strategies that any MERN stack development company can use.

Server-Side Rendering:

One approach uses server-side rendering (SSR) to generate HTML on the server, which can then be sent to the client. This ensures that the initial response contains all of the content that needs to be indexed by search engines. React provides tools, such as Next.js, that support SSR out of the box.

Pre-Rendering:

Another option is to use pre-rendering, which involves generating static HTML files for each application page ahead of time. These files can then be served to search engine bots while the SPA is still available to users.

Dynamic Sitemap:

A dynamic sitemap can be generated to ensure that search engines can find all of the pages of a SPA.

Meta Tags:

Proper use of meta tags, such as title, description, and canonical tags, can help search engines understand the content and structure of a SPA.

Content Loading:

Ensuring that content loads quickly and efficiently, without excessive JavaScript, can also improve the SEO performance of a SPA.

While SPAs can present challenges for SEO, several strategies can be used to ensure that they are optimized for search engine visibility. By using server-side rendering, pre-rendering, dynamic sitemaps, meta tags, and efficient content loading, ReactJS SPAs can be made SEO-friendly. 

How do Search Engines Function?

How do Search Engines Function?

Understanding how search engines function is crucial for optimizing your website’s visibility on Google and other popular search engines. Let’s take a closer look at Google’s crawling and indexing process, which accounts for over 90% of all online searches.

Crawling:

Googlebot sends GET requests for URLs to a server in the crawling queues and saves the content in response, including HTML, CSS,  JS, image files, and other file types.

Processing:

During the processing stage, URLs found within HTML <a href> links are added to the crawl queue, along with source URLs (JS/CSS) found in <link> tags or the images in <img src> tags. If a no-index tag is found, Googlebot will not render, and Caffeine, Google’s indexer, will not perform indexing.

Rendering:

Googlebot uses a Chromium browser to execute JavaScript code and locate more content in the DOM, excluding the HTML source. This process applies to all URLs in HTML format.

Indexing:

Caffeine (Google’s indexer) receives data from the bot, normalizes HTML by fixing any brokerage in code, and then attempts to comprehend it. It also precomputes some ranking points prepared for use in search results.

It is important to note the clear differentiation between the Processing stage, which parses HTML, and the Renderer stage, which executes JavaScript.

The reason for this differentiation is that executing JavaScript is a resource-intensive task, especially considering that Google bots need to analyze more than 130 trillion web pages.

When Googlebot crawls a webpage, it parses the HTML and queues the JavaScript for later execution. According to Google’s documentation, a page remains in the render queue for a few seconds, although it could take longer.

It is worth noting that the concept of crawl budget limits Google’s crawling based on factors such as bandwidth, time, and the availability of Googlebot instances. Google assigns a specific set of resources to index each website.

If a website is content-heavy and contains multiple pages, such as an e-commerce website, and if these pages rely heavily on JavaScript to display content. Google may be unable to effectively index all the content on the website due to the limited crawl budget.

Why SEO for ReactJS Website Remains a Challenge?

With React becoming more popular among web developers, there’s a need to understand the challenges associated with optimizing ReactJS websites for search engines.

While Googlebot’s crawling and indexing process is just the beginning, there are additional hurdles that software engineers must overcome to ensure their React web pages are SEO-friendly.

The following is a deeper analysis of the difficulties posed by React SEO and the steps developers can take to tackle and resolve some of these obstacles.

Empty Page First Pass Content:

React applications can face difficulties with search engines because they heavily depend on JavaScript. This is due to React’s default use of the app shell model, where the initial HTML doesn’t have substantial content, and JavaScript must be executed to display the actual content on the page for both users and bots. 

This approach can cause issues because Googlebot only recognizes an empty page during the first crawl, and the content can only be seen after rendering. As a result, indexing content can be delayed when dealing with large websites with numerous pages.

User Experience and Load Performance:

Retrieving, analyzing, and performing JavaScript functions requires time. It’s also possible that JavaScript must make network requests to obtain content, causing the user to wait before seeing the requested information.

Google has established a set of user experience-related core web vitals that are used to evaluate ranking. Longer loading times may harm the user experience score, causing Google to rate a site lower.

Metadata:

Meta tags provide crucial information to search engines and social media sites, such as titles, descriptions, and thumbnails of web pages. However, these platforms retrieve this data from the <head> tag of the HTML source code and do not execute JavaScript to fetch it.

With React, <head> tag and its contents are generated on the client side and all the other content. Adapting metadata for individual pages and applications may be challenging since the app shell is the same across the entire website/application.

Sitemap:

A sitemap is a document that gives search engines information about a website’s pages, videos, and other files and their connections. Search engines use this file to crawl the website in a more organized manner.

React does not come with a default feature to generate sitemaps. If you use a tool like React Router to manage your website’s routing, some options are available to create a sitemap, but it may require some work.

Common Indexing Issues for ReactJs Apps

Complexity in ReactJs Indexing

Google indexes HTML pages rather quickly than JS, which makes React SEO difficult. The table below shows how the complexity arises for JavaScript-focused pages.

Indexing HTMLIndexing JavaScript
Bot downloads HTML FileBot downloads JS file
Google bots take links from the page code to implement it on multiple pagesBot loads JavaScript and CSS files
Downloads CSS filesGoogle Web Rendering Service (WRS) analyzes, manages, and displays JavaScript code
Caffeine indexes pageThe indexing system can only process after the execution
Google sends all loaded resources into the Caffeine system for indexing storageWRS collects data from databases and other APIs

This is the process for indexing HTML and JavaScript pages, but the indexing of JavaScript pages can be more complex. To properly index a JavaScript page, all 5 steps must be followed correctly, which typically takes longer than indexing an HTML page.

SPA Indexing is a Challenge

The idea behind a single-page application is to show one page at a time, with additional information loaded as needed, allowing users to browse the entire website on a single tab.

This approach differs from traditional multi-page applications, offering faster and more responsive performance and a smoother user experience.

However, SEO for single-page applications can be challenging because it may take longer to display content for Google bots, which could make the page empty if it doesn’t see the content during crawling.

If the content is not visible to Google bots, it can negatively impact the website’s ranking.

JavaScript Code Errors

Google bots crawl JavaScript and HTML web pages in different ways. A single error in JavaScript code can prevent page crawling altogether.

This is because the JavaScript parser is unforgiving and will stop parsing a script if it encounters an unexpected character or error, resulting in a SyntaxError.

As a result, even a minor error or typo in a script can render it useless. If there is an error in the script, the bot cannot see the content, and Google will index the page as one without content.

React SEO Best Practices – Making it Search Engine Compatible

1. Building Web Applications Dynamic or Static

Single-Page Applications (SPAs) can be challenging to fetch for Google regarding SEO. However, dynamic or static web applications with SSR (Server-Side Rendering) can help Google crawl more effectively.

Choosing between a SPA, dynamic website, or static website focuses on the specific marketplace you’re in. For instance, if all the pages of your website provide valuable content for a user, then an ideal choice is a dynamic website.

On the other hand, if you want promotion your landing pages, a static website may be the better option. These are some of ReactJS best practices to make it SEO compatible.

2. Setting URL Cases

Google crawl bots recognize pages with URLs with different cases (e.g., /Invision and /invision) as separate pages. To prevent such errors, it is recommended to generate URLs in lowercase.

3. 404 Redirections

All pages that have errors in their data return a 404 code. It is important to set the route.js and server.js quickly to avoid errors. Updating these files can help increase traffic to your web application or website.

4. Avoiding Hashed URLs

While not an issue, the Google crawl bot does not pass a URL if a hashed space is present. For example, https://www.xyz.com/#/about-us, the Google bot will now read anything after ‘#.’ So it is best to avoid using the symbol in the URL to make it more indexable.

5. Use <a href> Tag Only When Needed

One common mistake in React SEO optimization is utilizing a <div> or a <button> for URL changes. This might not be an inherent issue with React but rather a usage issue.

However, this can pose a problem for search engines, as Google crawl bots typically follow URLs within <a href> elements when crawling pages. If no <a href> elements are found, bots may not read the URLs and pass necessary PageRank.

To avoid this issue, using <a href> links is recommended to allow Google bots to fetch and crawl other pages.

6. Taking Fundamentals in Consideration

Even though there are some SEO concerns specific to React applications, it is still important to adhere to general best practices for web development, including:

  • Canonicals
  • XM Sitemap
  • Structured Data or Schema
  • Semantic HTML
  • HTTPS
  • Title Tags
  • Mobile-friendly website structure

Best SEO Optimization Tools for ReactJS

React Helmet

React Helmet is a tool that enables you to work effortlessly with social media crawlers and Google bots. With React Helmet, you can include “meta tags” to your React pages to specify more valuable content for the crawlers.

				
					import React from 'react';
import {Helmet} from "react-helmet/es/Helmet"; 
‍import ProductList from '../components/ProductList'; 
‍‍const Home = () => { 
return ( 
   <React.Fragment> 
   <Helmet>
 <title>title</title> 
 <link rel="icon" href={"path"}/> 
 <meta name="description" content={"description"}/> 
 <meta name="keywords" content={"keyword"}/> 
 <meta property="og:title" content={"og:title"}/>
 <meta property="og:description" content={"og:description"}/> 
   </Helmet> 
  <ProductList /> 
</React.Fragment>
)‍};
‍export default Home;

				
			

React Router

One issue to consider to optimize React apps is how to deal with React SPAs. While single-page applications offer a convenient user experience, you can still optimize them for SEO by implementing certain elements, rules and attributes in the pages.

Therefore, it is recommended to use React Router hooks to create URLs that can open on separate pages. This can help improve SEO for your React web app.

React JS Best Practices for 2023

Final Word

Regrettably, optimizing React applications increases the number of issues that a technical SEO specialist needs to address. However, frameworks such as Next.js have simplified the job of an SEO expert, making it easier than before.

In conclusion, this guide for ReactJS SEO has hopefully provided you with a better understanding of the extra precautions you need to take as a specialist when dealing with React applications.

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