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How to Perform SEO for Single Page Applications (SPA) – Know All the Secrets Here

July 2, 2019

6 Min Read
spa seo
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Over the last few years, web technology has taken a huge leap. It has evolved quite drastically in both front and backend channels. Today, we have different frameworks available to work on our desired domain. Especially in frontend, we have a great number of options to choose from, including the specialized frameworks and libraries to work with. 

Amongst this new generation of web interfaces, single page websites are trending now. They are easy to navigate, scroll and highly interactive in design. But, the SEO of SPA website is not a straightforward process. 

As we know, building a highly advanced application(s) is just not all you could get traffic with – you have to intelligently market it as well. Unlike simple web applications which use conventional SEO techniques, there is a lot difference when it comes to one page websites. It demands specialized SEO techniques and particular ways to work with. Let’s discuss them in detail.

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What is a Single Page Application (SPA)?

A single page application is a highly interactive form of modern website having the JavaScript powered interface. Rather than loading a new page for every service, the one page website combines all into one by dynamically rewriting the current page. This facilitates the user to find all the features / services on one page, avoiding disruptions and enhancing interactive user-experience for them.

Developers tend to use popular JavaScript frameworks including VueJS, AngularJS and others, to build such kind of websites. VueJS is more common amongst the developers, because it is relatively easy and provides great built-in features to build any advanced single page application.

Pros and Cons of Single Page Websites

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Talking About the PROS

There are many reasons why people love single page design. The most obvious one is the ease of accessing all website content at one place. It helps users to navigate swiftly throughout the website, as all the services are defined on one page, and requires no extra loading of any new page.

Considering the mobile friendliness, one page websites are also far better than multi-page websites. Because their design is responsive, and fits well with the smartphone screens. In fact, these single page websites are a tailor-made solution for smartphone devices, as people are always looking to interact with such applications which are fast and easy to navigate.

Talking About the CONS

Everything comes up with advantages and disadvantages. Same goes true with the single page applications. Though, they are easy to navigate and scroll, but require a lot of time to load, which is one of the main reasons of fast bouncing rate. Because the single page applications are programmed in JavaScript, that is why they require a bit of extra time to load on mobile/web browser.

Meanwhile, if you are using Google Analytics to track the traffic and performance of each website page, it becomes difficult for you to do the same for single page applications. If Analytics is configured correctly on SPA, you will get no insight about which content is performing well and which is losing users interest, quickly ending up lower engagement on the website.

What is Googlebot & How it Sees Single Page Websites 

To crawl website content and pages, Google deploys a unique crawling tool called Googlebot. It helps Google to collect data from the website and build a searchable index for it in the search engine. It is one of the main factors used in website SEO, and holds a significant importance for ranking websites on search engines.

Usually, Googlebot indexes the page by rendering the HTML/CSS data. But, that becomes a bit different in the single page applications as all the frontend has been built up with VueJS or any other JavaScript framework.

In order to perform crawling in VueJS applications, Googlebot deploys a different technique i.e running JavaScript on the page and executing Ajax calls. Moreover, it waits between 5-20 seconds before taking a shot of each page. This advanced technique allows Googlebot to crawl single page applications properly. It indexes the content for SERPS and makes them viable for search engine optimization.

The Basic Issues of SEO in SPA Websites

Single page applications (SPAs) are commonly regarded as non-SEO friendly websites. Their basic problem lies within their JavaScript infrastructure. Because, Googlebot easily crawls those websites whose backend is in HTML/CSS, as it gives crawlers the ease to render website content.

Another critical point is the website page(s). It is a fact that search engine always ranks the website pages, not website itself. The pages are carefully designed and written with particular keywords, so that they can get desired ranking on search engines. The content of the page carries substantial volume of defined keywords and few internal links, which allows search engine to rank those pages on particular keywords.

But, as we know in case of SPAs, all the pages are combined into one and there isn’t any separation between the content. As a result, it becomes just an individual page for the whole application, heavily minimizing its chances to get ranked on different keywords.

And when it comes to interlinking, the SEO in SPA websites become much worse. Since a high proportion of the internal links is not part of the HTML source code, the crawler may only find a limited number of URLs. To access those URLs, crawlers must go the extra mile. The step in which they have to execute JavaScript to retrieve those links, which eventually causes delay for the search engines. 

Best Practices for SPA SEO

Fortunately, all is not lost for the single page applications. There are still some techniques, developers can use to optimize single page applications for search engine rankings. Let us read about these techniques:

Server-Side Rendering

Server-side rendering (SSR) is a process in which a website page is rendered according to the needs of the server request. It helps in rendering the website pages and facilitates crawlers to index those pages.

To perform server-side rendering in single page applications, they need to be first executed against a virtual DOM, which is later converted into an HTML string. That HTML string is then added to the page and is executed by the JavaScript to replace the existing content.

This way, server-side rendering helps in making single page applications crawler-friendly, and allows the search engines to index them properly despite of their complex JavaScript structure.

Pre-Rendering

Pre-Rendering is almost similar to Server-side rendering, except its pre-deployment rendering procedure. In Pre-Rendering, the rendering takes place before the project deployment, not like the Server-side rendering in which it is done on live servers.

To perform Pre-Rendering, you have to first run your single page application on any web browser like Chrome, Firefox, Mozilla etc. Then, you have to take a snapshot of your page output, and substitute the HTML files according to it in response to the server request.

By using Pre-Rendering, you neither have to bother about having any production server nor about the surging load on hosting for PHP websites.

Other SEO Optimizations in SPA Site

URL

We advise you to have SEO-friendly URLS for your website. Same holds true for the single page applications. For better results, we recommend you to have two URL structures for your single page application, one should be the ID URL and other should be the Slug URL.

The Slug URL should be clearly defined with the actual words separated by hyphens, and should not be much complicated. It must contain all the relevant keywords which you want to rank on, and should not exceed its maximum length.

Meta Tags

The page should include all the important Meta tags such as page title, description, canonical tags, HREFLANG etc. It is also recommended to render all these Meta tags directly into the source code of the page, so that your server-side rendering can get more stronger.

Internal Linking

All internal links must be well placed within the content and must be embedded with <a> tags, so that Googlebot can easily crawl the whole page. It is also advised to define all the core navigational elements within the source code and must be placed on top of the page.

Final Words

Single page applications (SPAs) are highly interactive and unique in design, but do carry little limitations in search engine optimization. This article highlights all those issues which are commonly faced by the users while optimizing any single page application for search engine ranking. It also gives a brief account on some advanced SEO techniques, and how to utilize those best practices of SEO in SPA websites.

If you still have some more questions regarding this article, or want to contribute your suggestions, feel free to post them in the comments section below.

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Shahroze Nawaz

Shahroze is a PHP Community Manager at Cloudways - A Managed PHP Hosting Platform. Besides his work life, he loves movies and travelling. You can email him at shahroze.nawaz@cloudways.com

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