Startup: single page app SEO

A website with multiple pages and a blog provides different opportunities for improvements to SEO, but a startup that is launching a single page application (SPA) will have a true challenge on their hands, which is why they will need a true SEO solution.

The main issue is that search engine optimization and single-page apps do not get along coherently, but this should not derail you from your startup goal.

The benefits of single-page applications

When talking about single-page applications we must note that they are easy to build and require few server requests per operation, meaning they are appealing for companies who want a top-notch online experience for their users.

Single-page applications and web apps are endorsed by Google and other internet giants.

What this means is that these applications will run fast and do not require a client software but will run through a web browser on a plethora of devices making them easily accessible without the cost of development for different device platforms.

The difficulties that come with a single page app SEO

Understandably, the nature of SPAs is such that search engines are not really friendly with them, but that does not mean Google or other Internet giants are not developing them for their own needs.

The main disadvantage of a single page application regarding SEO is that the search engine crawler cannot download their HTML files, index and rank them into their database.

Maybe you did not know, but search engines do not rank websites, but web pages, which makes our SEO task significantly more difficult.

Because a single page app is essentially a JavaScript engine the crawler will have to execute it (if possible at all) to retrieve links and this will induce more work for search engines, and further delay indexing and ranking.

Basically, what we need to do is ranking for specific keywords with a single page application which will be far more difficult than ranking for keywords through a range of web pages.

Applicable SEO practices for single page application

The particular task of SEO for a single page application will have us employ several different SEO practices that will help us reach the desired goal.

SPA server-side rendering

One of the best things SEO wise you can do is to process server-side rendering for your app, to achieve having a web page rendered as part of the server request/response cycle. For example, in the particular case where you want to run SSR on a JavaScript framework, the app needs to be executed against a virtual DOM object.

This is because the virtual DOM is then converted to an HTML string, and it is then injected into the page before it gets sent to the end-user.

single page app SEO
single page app SEO

Naturally, HTML string is much easier for the crawler bots to digest and will provide much more benefit than JavaScript alone.

While we can note that this technique will substantially increase the development time of your application, if it is done as a proper universal coding then the app will work in both the browser and in a server-based JavaScript environment which is crucial.

Single page application pre-rendering

If for some reason you are not able to implement the previously mentioned SSR then another option is pre-rendering your application.

Pre-rendering requires that you run your application on a headless browser like Chrome or Firefox in your dev environment where you will take “snapshots” of your SPA output that will serve as a substitute for the HTML files.

This way, again, you are preparing digested data for SEO purposes, similarly to SSR while there is no rendering on live servers and requires no server overhead, no additional resources.

The drawbacks of this technique are that it does not apply to pages that display dynamically changing information, and each SPA route will have to be pre-rendered individually.

Additional SPA SEO tips

Now we would like to mention a few additional tips that can complement the previously mentioned techniques.

You will need to have meta tags: page title, meta description, canonical tags, and HREFLANG, that are rendered straight in the source code of the page for the goal of SEO supplement to the SSR or pre-rendering your app.

Having internal links embedded with the link <a> tags in the source code is highly recommended as this way all the core navigational elements are directly outputted within the source code.

The staple of any website SEO, having an XML sitemap is a must as it will enable crawler bots to go deeper.

Conclusion single page app SEO

There is no doubt that a single-page application cannot provide the SEO benefits which are expected from a traditional website and you will have a real fight on your hands on the SEO front.

Still, a well-made SPA that boasts a positive user experience can become very successful, such as Built Things, Crafted, or Treehouse, while I am sure our recommendations will come in handy.