Is React Good for SEO? The Complete Guide in 2023
React is the most in-demand web framework for 2022. 42.26% of software developers have assured Statista that they use the framework to develop web applications.
Facebook first released the project as an open-source project in 2015. Over the next half-decade, the once-niche development framework would grow in popularity for complex applications that require high levels of user interaction. It offers rich user interfaces with custom components that provide quicker rendering times at a cost (which we'll discuss later).
So is React excellent or bad for SEO? Should you use React for your web application? Let's take a look.
What is React?
The React Frontend Framework was made and developed by Jordan Walke, a software engineer from Facebook. It was developed as part of an initiative to make UI development a much simpler process than how it currently was.
React.js also uses stateful components to build its complex UI systems; its systems could expect events, track information, and use responses to rebuild the UI. Stateful components reduce a developer’s efforts in building a more interactive experience. If you couple this with React's ability to integrate plugins or libraries with existing code, developers are provided the capability to develop scalable and intuitive web applications quickly.
How Google Crawls and Indexes Webpages
Before we begin, we need you to understand how vital development and web app performance are. Search Engine Optimization is the process of making your site better with more readable content for search engines to crawl, index, and rank your website on. Google Search is a fully-automated search engine. Whereas libraries a hundred years ago would have required you to spend hours citing sources and looking for relevant content to understand a concept, you could achieve the same level of research in seconds.
It's clear that in SEO, good performance and fast rendering times are essential - all stemming from software development. The Dewey Decimal system has never seen anything like this.
Here are the three stages of Google Search
Step 1. Crawling
Google downloads texts, images, and videos from the pages you submit for ranking on the internet. Automated programs called crawlers are responsible for
- Finding new pages through "URL discovery"
- Visiting these pages to find their content. (Googlebot is the algorithmic program that decides which pages to see and crawl)
Step 2. Indexing
This step is when Google's crawlers attempt to understand the page's content. It doesn't "read" paragraphs the way people do - instead, it analyzes the key content tags and attributes, as well as the language of the page, the geographic location of the content, and the page's metadata.
Step 3. Serving and Ranking
The final step of Google's Indexing Process is Serving and Ranking, whereas the other actions all happen behind the scenes; serving and ranking is the visual, dopamine-inducing aspect of SEO.
In this step, the machine matches your content to queries that may be relevant to a query. Relevancy could be determined by hundreds of factors, including the searcher's location, language, and device. However, a general rule of thumb for content is that it should follow E-E-A-T:
Demonstrating these four aspects will ensure your web app ranks well on the Search Engine Results Page.
Metrics Used Often
From a technical SEO perspective, here are metrics that we know Google uses to rank the quality of a web app:
- Time To First Byte: The time between making an HTTP request and receiving the page's first byte. This metric measures connection setup time and server responsiveness.
- Largest Contentful Paint: the time it takes for the requested content to become visible. Anything under 2.5 seconds is a good figure.
- Time to Interactive: this represents the time it takes for a page to become interactive (scrolls, clicks, etc.)
- Page Load Time: the time it takes for a website to fully load all of its content and features
- Bundle Size: the number of bytes downloaded and code executed on a page.
React for Web Applications
React is a great choice for building web applications. It's a declarative programming language that has simplified the web development process - especially for complex projects. It allows users to create scalable solutions using customizable components that integrate with extensions well.
But is it a good framework for SEO? Here are some things to think about before you build your next web or mobile applications.
Single Page Application
While React may make building beautiful, dynamic content more accessible, it's still a Single Page Application. This means that your entire web application lives on a single page. It's great for dynamic applications but not so much for SEO.
It would be difficult for your meta tags to describe every pertinent aspect of your application. Secondly, Single-Page Applications without additional routing libraries. To build expertise and authority on the internet, you'll need your application to have a content-filled website, complete with valuable articles, semantic keywords, and properly labeled metadata.
The first thing you should know about React is that it uses Client-Side Rendering by default. While this isn't necessarily bad, it's common knowledge that Google Search loves to text and HTML.
What does this mean for SEO?
React knows about this issue, so Hydrate SSR was developed as a solution.
Hydrate SSR is a React technique similar to Rendering but with one key difference. Instead of an empty DOM into which we'll render all our components, we have a DOM that has already been built, filled with components already rendered as HTML. The term "hydrate" comes from this technique's ability to attach event handlers to existing HTML files. Like traditional CSR, the client will still fetch all JS files and re-execute them to find the components and event handlers that correspond to existing HTML Elements.
Next.js is the SSR version of React. With this framework, mobile and web applications are loaded faster than you would have had with React. Image optimization, automatic server rendering, and code splitting are other features that showcase Next.js penchant for speed.
Next.js answered many issues we faced when Coin360 hired us for our Next.js development services. The legacy code of their platform faced scaling issues alongside a low web app accessibility score on Google Lighthouse.
Next.js was the best alternative as it improved Google Lighthouse scoring and the data management application layer. The applications' data was handled more efficiently, so scalability was less of an issue in the long run.
Next.js is recommended for building static web applications with dynamic behavior. eCommerce platforms and web portals would be the ideal use case for Next.js. React, on the other hand, is much better for applications that require modular components. Data dashboards and social media apps are some of the best use cases for this framework.
Being a Single Page Application using CSR sounds makes React sound like a nightmare for SEO - but it doesn't have to be that way. Developers have built libraries, dependencies, and extensions that aim to solve React's inherent SEO problems, and the best part? These are ready for you to use and implement today.
Getting Better Rankings: Overcoming Common SEO Issues with React
We've extensively covered React, its issues, and its benefits. While React was never optimized for SEO, there are specific things that you could do to boost your web app's SEO and rank better on Google's SERP.
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Best Practice: Before you start developing your web application, write down the core components and basic requirements. Think about rendering and how React generates web applications.
- If you've realized that your website's simple enough to utilize simple SSR, you might want to look at PHP or simple static HTML documents that don't dynamically change but are very quick to render.
- If you do opt to continue with React, utilize Lazy Loading to speed up render times. You might also want to use Next.js or the ReactDOMServer to nudge your application to SSR speed.
To save time, you might want to look at web development techniques such as Lazy Loading - but that presents an entirely new set of issues that will be discussed later.
Performance and Google Core Web vitals remain a primary SERP ranking factor. Don't lose out on high rankings and thousands of monthly visitors by choosing the wrong web app framework.
Extensions to fix Page Metadata, Tags, and Titles
React, out of the box, uses one URL and has all its metadata set between its headers. Without adding a routing solution, different views won't change the metadata, given that everything about your web app can be found on a single page.
This is horrible for both users and SEO. Users will never be able to specifically share what they see on screen, and Google will never be able to index all the content on your platform. Shared links will always lead to the homepage, and Google's bots won't find the semantic keywords to rank your website well.
Best Practice: Unfortunately, it would be impractical to assign different metadata, fix tags, and change page titles with vanilla React. A standard solution is to use dependencies and libraries like React Helmet to improve their SEO.
React Helmet is a valuable package as it allows you to add metatags to specific components in your web application. Using this package only requires installing React Helmet via npm and then adding your meta tags inside the <Helmet> component. Apart from this, you could also add Facebook and Twitter tags that improve how preview cards of your site appear on social media.
When fixing your metadata and tags, here are some things that would do you well to remember:
- For images, create accurate alt tags
- For title tags, describe the content of the page. Ensure it contains one main keyword, is less than 70 characters, and is different from other titles in the SERP.
- For the general site, use semantic HTML. This means using article tags over a simple div.
Empty First Pass Content
Delayed Content Delivery
If you frequently have slower bandwidth at home, then you'll know the feeling of having to wait an extra 5 seconds for a page to load. That may not seem like a lot, but research shows that over 50% of mobile site visits are abandoned if the website takes longer than 3 seconds to load. You've essentially lost half your website traffic due to delayed content delivery.
Even Google has limited resources. Google doesn't have an unlimited amount of crawlers - so their finite supply means that an algorithm determines which websites are worth crawling, how often this should be done, and how many pages should be placed on the SERP.
From a technical SEO perspective, it falls on the shoulders of the developer to ensure that they maximize the amount of time the crawlers spend on their web project.
There is also a limit to the maximum amount of time a crawler could spend on your website. Should the JS take longer to load, Google might miss on crawling some pages.
Another option to look at is pre-rendering, which preloads all HTML elements on a page and caches SPAs through Headless Chrome. Pre-rendering service intercepts all HTTP requests to your website and labels them as either a bot or an actual user.
Here's where it gets interesting.
If the pre-rendering service finds the incoming traffic is a bot, it simply guides them to the cached HTML version. If incoming traffic has been tagged as a user, then the SPA loads normally. Though this strategy sounds ingenious on paper, there are little to no pre-rendering services that we could suggest to your web application. Current offerings are paid and often have difficulty handling React's dynamic components.
As mentioned earlier, React is a Single Page Application that, by default, has one URL pointing to the entire project. This means that Google only indexes the home page - making it impossible for your website to develop Authority and Trustworthiness on the SERP.
Essentially, it is a tool that allows you to change the browser URL while keeping the UI in sync with what the JS bundle had parsed. Using React Router can be done by adding the BrowserRouter or HashRouter implementation.
If accomplished, users (and Google) could navigate to different components using the links assigned by React Router. This solves the "One URL" issue we had previously mentioned.
To help guide your URL naming conventions, remember to keep it descriptive and simple. Complex URLs are bad for SEO because they're harder for users to understand, can lead to broken links, and makes navigating your site harder - especially if the page in question is a directory.
The final issue we'd like to discuss quickly using React for SEO is Lazy Loading. Lazy Loading solves your web app's performance issues - but when used too much, it could negatively impact SEO. One thing to remember is that Google crawls the DOM. If it's empty, the crawlers will also think the page is empty.
Beginners developers will get usually inject content into the DOM when an event happens. If the added continent was vital, then this will negatively impact your overall SEO as Google won't see the content or entirely miss internal links.
Lazy Loading is usually done to optimize web applications and load pages quickly - but the content that Google's crawlers may miss is enough for some developers to reject the technique altogether.
Best Practice to Solve Lazy Loading:
- Avoid Lazy Loading and optimize elsewhere
- Audit your web application.
Lazy Loading isn't the only optimization technique developers could utilize. You could also use immutable data structures, focus on stateless components, optimize dependencies, and avoid inline function definitions.
If you're working to optimize an existing React application for SEO and not looking to build it from scratch, a code audit might help. Check for common elements to see if any lazy loading was done, as no tool currently exists. Rather than having content programmatically added into the DOM, include it in the HTML by default and use CSS properties to toggle visibility or display.
SEO for React Web Apps: Conclusion
React is an excellent platform for building complex applications with beautiful UI. However, the framework wasn't built to be optimized for SEO. If you're looking to make your next web app on React, you'll need to use dependencies and libraries to optimize your project for the search engine. Overall, it's a go-to choice for developing complex web applications but should require careful thought if you foresee your main traffic source to be from the search engines.
If you need professional help building an SEO-optimized web application on React, talk to us, and we'll deploy our team of experts with decades of experience in building optimized applications.