What are Single Page Application (SPA) SEO?

Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, has said that Single Page Applications are “more difficult” for Googlebot to index. Single page applications are the new-age way of building websites. Single page apps are built by using JavaScript frameworks like AngularJS, Ember.js or Backbone.js , while some might be done using plain Javascript. On the front end side, it looks similar to a normal website with just one HTML page/view, but behind this single view is an entire application made up of multiple HTTP requests which cause browser rendering (on client side) and also at times server requests (on server side).

With these Single Page Applications you can build anything from simple forms to complicated business logics which require number crunching, database requests & retrieval. Single Page Applications are growing in popularity day by day among developers due to their ability to give a great user experience.

More on Single Page App development at Google Developers video for Single-Page web apps

Web crawlers/spiders are programs that visit websites and read their content so they can be cataloged by search engines or used in other ways. The first step for any good Single-page application is to do the basic stuff to get started with crawling it properly, because if your Single-page app is not crawled properly you might have issues serving the appropriate content depending upon the user’s path. So its important that you just setup default links for all of the applications that he crawler might stumble upon.

What is SPA

The Single-page application will take care of the steps further to make it crawlable by the crawler. As Single-Page applications are built using AJAX, they perform client side rendering and hence all content is available on client side, while some Single Page Applications might hold back or cache some data on server side/database which needs to be made available for crawling.

The best way to do this would be to render your Single-page app likely as a Single HTML page, with all JavaScript code being executed only after the DOM is loaded completely. Then you just need to have a “crawl” link somewhere in your HTML that allows Googlebot to start crawling from that point. This is how a Single-page website works & is often done, so Single Page Applications should follow the same methodology for crawling.

Preferably Single-page apps should render all HTML/JavaScript on the server side and then send down to the browser only a Single HTML page that is ready to be rendered by the client-side JavaScript frameworks. Single page applications are building up websites from scratch compared to traditional website development where developers generally use templates for quick development. As Single Page Apps are not served through conventional ways of serving content, this might cause problems with SEO implementation.

As Single-Page Applications build web pages dynamically from client-side script, there can often be a delay before crawlers start indexing or “craw” your application – especially because most search engines crawl at a much slower rate than human users. Single-Page Applications are supposed to be fast, but when it comes to crawling Single-page applications become slow crawlers in search engine results. For example, Google said that for their crawl budget estimation purposes, a Single-page application is considered “dynamic”.

There are ways of speeding up Single Page Application indexing by doing things like rendering on the server side , having canonical URLs from client side hash (#) navigation and also defining crawler directives within Single-Page app’s HTML.”

Some of the SPA SEO problems include: Not canonicalizing SPA versioned content properly Mobile pages load slowly due to heavier scripts Problems with presenting cached data & a 404 error when a cached page does not exist Crawling of SPA’s content is slow Single page apps are not search crawler friendly Crawling a Single Page App using the conventional URL, while rendering the Single Page App on server side causes issues.

Single-Page Applications are build with JavaScript, HTML and CSS where each element on the Single-Page app is a part of a single page of information/data which makes Single-Page Apps highly interactive & fast loading. Unlike traditional websites where there can be many pages linked together making them slow, Single-Page Apps have only one html page which has all code required to run Single-Page App. Single-Page Apps are build from scratch whereas traditional web development uses templates which is why Single-page applications can be a challenge to test SEO implementation with crawlers in Single Page Applications.

SEO in Single-Page applications provides an enhanced user experience by allowing multiple resources to load quickly and reliably, while ensuring crawlers find all content on the page. The main problem in Single-Page apps is that it’s not clear when Single Page Applications have finished loading html & JavaScript code or when they start rendering data/content – this makes crawling Single-page application hard because content has been loaded from different sources & Single Page Apps contain multiple links which may index many pages of information under one website description/title/URL.

Single-Page Applications do not follow the traditional website development where most pages are linked together with each other like Single-page applications which can be considered as one page. So Single Page Apps would benefit from having separate HTML webpages for each view (content/data). Single-Page apps usually have client side hash navigation to access information whereas search crawlers rely on traditional URL paths, so it may cause Single Page Application SEO issues because of server-side rendering for Single Page Apps which is not crawlable by search engines.

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