React websites pose a big challenge when it comes to SEO. This article provides an introduction to what the challenges are and how to deal with them in order to rank higher.
About 92% of the web traffic comes from the first page of the search engine results while about 75% of the traffic goes to the top 5 websites on the list. Smartphones have led to the rise in search volumes drastically. Hence, for a business, one of the most important sources of web traffic is the search engine.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a process of structuring and organizing your website to bring a better quality and quantity of traffic to your website by ranking higher in the search engine results, focusing on the specific keywords related to your business. The main aim of performing the SEO process is to gain more visibility on the internet and drive more traffic to your website.
Search engines today rely on crawling the content that is put on your websites. Since this process is automated, it is extremely important that the content is structured and formatted in a manner that is understandable by machines. The SEO process involves optimizing the website performance and also curating the content to provide hints to the search engine crawlers to easily understand your website.
This may sound fairly straightforward, but for websites built on React, this may not always be the case. Let’s have a look at the reasons why.
Challenges with SEO for React Websites
a. The use of React-based Single Page Applications
Since the start of the World Wide Web, websites worked in such a way that the browser needed to request each page completely. To simplify the server generates HTML and sends it back on every request. Even if the next page has a lot of the same elements (menu, sidebar, footer, ...), the browser will still ask for the entire new page and re-render everything from the ground up. This causes a redundant information flow and additional stress on the server that needs to fully render each page instead of supplying only the required information.
With the advancement in technologies, the requirement for faster loading times increased. To resolve the issue with the full page loading time, developer communities came up with JS-based Single Page Applications or SPA. These websites do not reload the whole content on the website, instead, they refresh only the content that differs from the current page. Such an application improves the performance of the website drastically as the amount of data being transacted is reduced. One good example of technology that can be used to create SPAs is ReactJS, which is as well optimizing the way the content is rendered on the user’s browser (more about this here).
b. Main SEO issues with SPA
Although SPAs improves the website performance to a considerable extent, there are certain inherent issues in this type of setup when it comes to SEO.
Lack of dynamic SEO tags
An SPA loads the data dynamically in selected segments of the web page. Hence, when a crawler tries to click a particular link, it is not able to detect the complete page load cycle. The metadata of the page which is in place for the Search engine does not get refreshed. As a result, your single page app cannot be seen by the search engine crawler and will be indexed as an empty page, which is not good for SEO purposes.
Programmers can solve this problem by creating separate pages (more often HTML pages) for the search bots, and at the same time work with the Webmaster to discuss how to get the corresponding content indexed. However, this will increase the business expenses owing to the cost of developing additional pages and also make it difficult to rank websites higher on the search engines.
Solutions for SEO of React-based SPA websites
There are 2 major ways to resolve the SEO issues being faced in the React-based SPA websites.
1. Isomorphic React
a. How does Isomorphic React help in SEO?
b. Solving the problem using Prerendering
This approach has the following advantages:
- Allow the website to be correctly crawled by search engines.
- Easier to set up because we won't need to make the codebase compatible with server-side rendering.
Additional tools to improve SEO of React Websites
React is not inherently optimized for search engines, so a set of tools can be used to create websites that are more Search Engine friendly.
React Router v4
React Router is a component to create routes between different components or pages. This makes it possible to build a website with a Search Engine friendly URL structure.
React Helmet is the most important component when it comes to the SEO of SPA. React Helmet is used to manage the metadata of the corresponding web document that is being served via React components. Being a library on top of React, React Helmet is also executable on the server-side as well as client-side.
The major advantage of React Helmet is the ease of integration without any major changes in the page coding.
Single Page Applications created using React have excellent page load times and help in easier code management due to component-based rendering. SEO of React-based SPAs takes some additional effort to configure the application. However, with the perfect tools and libraries in place, business owners and web community are rapidly shifting to Single Page Applications for outstanding load times.
More to come...
Implementing analytics systems on React is also a challenge, especially when your React website is based in China. In future articles, we will explain in details how to integrate 'react-ga' and Baidu Tongji on a React website to track page views and custom events. Stay tuned!
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About the author
COO and Co-Founder of IT Consultis
As the COO of ITC, Thomas manages all operations and promotes the adoption of new technologies and philosophies within the company. In addition to raising the efficiency of each project, he invests his time in coaching and mentoring the project management as well as the development team, ensuring they all have standardized knowledge and skills to successfully meet client's expectation.