ReactJS good for SEO

Is ReactJS good for SEO

Is React.js good for SEO? This is one of the most debatable arguments in the developer community today. Unfortunately, if you are looking for a direct answer, there isn’t one. React.js has many features and provisions with certain SEO benefits; however, it isn’t free of flaws or limitations. This makes optimizing it for search engines difficult. So, from an SEO point of view, React is ‘good’ for SEO, but it isn’t the best.

SEO is a set of practices and guidelines to index your website/web app on search engines like Google. It is an inevitable practice needed to be followed to make your website more visible to a wider pool of audiences looking for services you have to offer. Unfortunately, many developer forums and panels have threads discussing their difficulties in optimizing their React web apps for Google or search engines. Therefore, it is generally advised to hire Reactjs developers from a reputed and experienced IT development company that has experienced developers who know how to optimize React for SEO.

Reasons why React.js is still so popular

Despite the SEO limitations, React.js has gained massive popularity as one of the most preferred web app development frameworks by the developers’ community and clients.

According to a report by Statista, React.js stood first in the list of most used website frameworks by developers worldwide in 2021.

a report by Statista

It is only natural to wonder why companies still prefer React.js for building their web apps.Well, the reason behind this is React is a JavaScript open-source web app framework backed by Facebook. It helps developers create appealing user interfaces for SPAs. From the beginning, React.js has been used by some of the largest organizations like Facebook, SoundCloud Pulse, Instagram, and more. Developing React.js can bring many benefits to the developers and the clients.

Some advantages of using React.js are –

  • Developers need to code less.
  • Can extend to mobile app development with React Native
  • Makes use of single component
  • Known for building the most appealing UIs
  • Reduces web-app development time significantly
  • Helps create modern web apps by leveraging the latest technologies
  • Delivers great user experience

What is the React SEO problem?

Now that we have an overall idea about how React is with SEO and why React is important as a web app development framework, we will look at the positives and negatives of React.js from an SEO point of view to get an overall understanding of the situation in hand. But before that, let us understand how to React functions and what that means for SEO.

React is generally used to develop single-page applications that depend on JavaScript to display the web app’s content on the page. This is an issue because Google crawlers that scan all pages/websites on the internet are not that efficient in fetching content from JavaScript instead of pages or websites that have pure HTML code. Though Google did announce that their bots are capable of crawling JavaScript rendered pages and indexing them back in 2015, we still see practical differences in the performance of pure HTML pages vs. JavaScript rendered pages on search engines.

React SEO – The Challenges

React functions and structure possess many limitations and challenges to optimizing React-based apps for search engines. Here are some of the biggest challenges you need to know about –

1. Unavailability of built-in sitemaps

Sitemaps are consolidated files where all information about your website’s pages, media, and other forks are listed with the relationship between them. Google has intelligent crawlers that can crawl this file to understand the contents of your site with greater ease. Unfortunately, React doesn’t provide any in-built methods to create sitemaps. However, you can use React Router and find the right tools for creating sitemaps.

2. Delayed website loading time and its impact on bounce rate

React utilizes JavaScript in place of HTML to load content. Google crawlers take longer to read/render JavaScript files, which can contribute to a considerable waiting time before the user can view the website’s contents. This can also impact the website’s bounce rate as people abandon the website due to the delayed initial page loading time.

3. Issues with Page Metadata

Meta tags are important tools for search engine optimization. They provide text snippets that describe the page’s content and contextto the search engine and make websites accessible on special computers for people with special needs. These meta tags aren’t visible on the pages but are present in the source code.

Google and social media websites use these meta tags to present your web pages with suitable title descriptions for pages. Generally, websites rely on the <head>tag of the targeted websites for getting this information. They don’t execute JavaScript for the target page. The challenge with React.js meta tags is to React all contents with meta tags on the clients’ end. React.js uses an app shell that remains consistent for the entire webpage; hence adapting metadata for individual pages becomes difficult.

React SEO – The Good Side

React as a platform is aware of the various SEO challenges that come with the JavaScript approach and other issues. It is not ignorant of the need to optimize its framework for search engine crawlers and has taken some noteworthy steps to improve its SEO efficiency. Here are some effective in-built and third-party ways to improve React SEO –

1. React’s Rendering Approaches

One of the simplest ways to optimize React for SEO is to avoid the very problem that makes it difficult for SEO optimization – google needing to render JavaScript to fetch website content. There are two approaches to rendering that developers generally use with React – client-side rendering vs. server-side rendering. Let us understand them briefly.

The Client-Side Rendering Approach

If you set up a basic, React app using client-side rendering, and a visitor lands on your web app, this is how the interaction flows –

  1. User requests the website
  2. The server sends response to the browser
  3. The browser downloads JS files
  4. The page becomes viewable and interactable

The content is rendered on the client’s browser by utilizing JavaScript. Hence, when google crawl bots reach this website, they will have to fetch all the content from the JavaScript file instead of the HTML document. The initial page load time is slow in this method, but the subsequent pages load faster.

The Server-Side Rendering Approach – SEO Friendly

Another approach to load React app is via the server-side rendering approach. In server-side rendering, this is how the process flows –

  1. User requests the website
  2. The server prepares HTML page as per user request
  3. The server sends ready to render HTML response to the browser
  4. The browser renders the page, loading the viewable content while downloading the JS files
  5. Browser runs React
  6. Page is now interactable

This is the key to making React SEO compatible. In this approach, the server sends prerendered HTML files to the browser, easily crawled and indexed by Google bots quickly, as all the HTML content will be available in the source code. This significantly improves the page load time, making the content quickly accessible for users, and helps improve google search ranks.

Which rendering approach you go with depends on various factors apart from SEO, but server-side rendering in React helps optimize React for SEO purposes.

2. Prerendering in React with SEO

Another approach to improvise React’s SEO is to prerender the HTML elements of your React app on the page and cache the single page application pages on your servers by utilizing headless chrome. For enabling prerendering in React, you would need to rely on an efficient prerendering tool for React.

Prerendering tools function by interpreting any requests on your app and identifying the source (bot/human) by using a reliable user agent. If the viewer is identified as a bot, it will fetch the cached HTML variant of the web page, but if it is a normal user, the React app will load the website normally.

Final Words

React.js is a web framework that provides the best of both worlds – an engaging user experience with modern web apps as well as SEO-friendly options to index your web app on search engines. Of course, it doesn’t come without its challenges but with the right React development team, you can create the ideal React.js website for your requirements.

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