We all want our websites to rank well, and that's an undeniable fact. A high ranking suggests that the content on our website is higher in quality and will gain a wider audience of readers - not to mention more shares!
However, a high website ranking isn't guaranteed unless you get to the core of the issue - how the website is developed and what coding language is used. It's worth noting that most modern websites and website builders use React to create their pages.
Below we'll discuss websites built with React and how to conduct the best React SEO improvements on your pages.
What is React?
The simplest way to understand the components is by picturing them as plugins: these components allow you to build a design and quickly add functionality to a page.
And if we look even deeper, we learn that React, initially developed to write Single Page Applications (SPAs), is now used to create full-fledged websites and mobile applications. So let's roll up our sleeves and look into some SEO tactics with React.
How Google Processes Pages
To understand Next.js SEO and best React practices, we need to understand how Google processes pages since over 90% of all online searches go through Google. Let's take a closer look at how Google crawls and indexes.
Google bots are used to rank your websites. When building your webpage, you can choose the pages you want crawled by listing them in the robots.txt file. Likewise, you can also choose to hide some pages.
During this process, a Google bot analyzes the content of a page to understand what it's about. Then, the results of this process are stored in the Google index - a vast database with information on all existing web pages. This process is automated, so if you want the machine to understand your page content, you need to structure and format it accordingly.
The third step includes serving and ranking processes. When someone uses Google search, Google goes to the Google index and finds the most relevant results.
All this sounds straightforward. But if that's really the case, then what's the problem with React web apps?
1. Slow Indexing/Rendering
Google bots can only quickly scan and understand HTML pages. And although JS indexing has improved over the years, it still is more complex. Likewise, JS indexing is linear and, thus, significantly slower than indexing an HTML page.
Solution: Pre-render and pick the correct rendering strategy
When pre-rendering, specific programs intercept requests to your website, and if the request is from a bot, pre-renders send a cached static HTML version of your website. This is a common approach to make both single- and multi-page web apps SEO-friendly.
However, you need to choose wisely: pick the right rendering strategy. There are several such strategies: Client-Side Rendering (CSR), Incremental Static Regeneration (ISR), Static Site Generation (SSG), and Server-Side Rendering (SSR). Pick the one that will best apply to your case. For instance, if you're running an online store built with an eCommerce website builder, you will probably turn to SSR since it's the most optimal solution for you.
Now imagine this happening when the Google bot is indexing the page! Essentially, the bot will see an empty page and index it as a page without content.
Solution: Server-side rendering
As mentioned in the above solution with server-side rendering, browsers and Google bots receive HTML files with the corresponding content. Google bots can index the page correctly and rank it higher. Server-side rendering is the easiest way to create SEO-friendly landing pages. However, if you want to create a SPA that will render on the server, you'll need to add an extra layer of Next.js.
3. Indexing SPAs
Single-page applications (SPAs) are React-made web apps. Unlike multi-page apps, SPAs are responsive, fast, and provide users with a smooth experience. But as with any solution, there are some limitations here, specifically concerning SEO.
SPA web apps can give content when the page is already loaded. If a bot crawls the page when the content hasn't been loaded, the bot will see an empty page. A significant portion of the site won't be indexed. Therefore, your site will get a much lower ranking in search results.
Solution: Next.js for SPA SEO
You may face several challenges when building an SEO-friendly React app, but don't let that faze you. None of the problems are insurmountable, and they certainly don't undermine the worth of React and all of the benefits that come with using it.
Most leading search engines have claimed that they will make their solutions to React SEO evergreen, committing to regularly updating their web page rendering engine to the most recent, stable version of their browser. These regular updates will ensure better SEO for your React-built pages.