PH - 03 9090 7070

Tue Oct 10 2023

Can Your Headless CMS be Indexed?

Back to Blog

Headless Content Management Systems (CMS) have gained immense popularity in the world of Web Development in recent years. They offer the flexibility and scalability required to build dynamic, content-rich websites and applications. However, there’s a common question that often arises when working with headless CMS platforms: Can my headless CMS be indexed by search engines?

In this blog, we’ll explore the factors that influence indexing and how to ensure your headless CMS content gets the attention it deserves.

Back to Blog

Understanding Headless CMS

Before diving into indexing, let’s quickly recap what a headless CMS is. Unlike traditional CMS’s, which tightly couple content management with the presentation layer, a headless CMS decouples the content from its display. This means your content lives independently and can be distributed to various platforms, such as websites, mobile apps, and IoT devices. A general headless CMS setup might look like a CraftCMS or WordPress CMS using ReactJS/NextJS/Gatsby as the presentation layer, rendering all the content saved in the CMS alongside other information.

The Challenge of Indexing

When you opt for a headless CMS, you’re embracing flexibility, but this flexibility can sometimes create challenges when it comes to indexing. Traditional CMS systems generate HTML on the server that search engines can crawl and index. In contrast, headless CMS delivers content in a structured format (often JSON or XML) to the presentation layer (eg ReactJS/NextJS/Gatsby) that is rendered after the page is loaded. This is a fancy way of saying the content isn’t really there when the search engine requests the page from the server because it loads after the initial page load. Client-side rendering can lead to delays in content visibility, especially if there’s a lot of JavaScript to parse or if API calls are necessary to fetch content. While Google is great there is still debate if it can execute JavaScript and load content in this manner and what is/isn’t missed..

Here are some key considerations for ensuring your headless CMS content can be effectively indexed:

  • Pre-Rendering: Pre-Rendering, renders content at build time but may not generate all pages. For example, static pages might be known but new blog posts will not be known as they are based on CMS URLs. This is not as dynamic as Server Side Rendering (SSR) or Static Site Generation but far better than no consideration at all.
  • Server-Side Rendering: The content is rendered on the server every time a request is made in Server Side Rendering. This is resource intensive and it requires a lot of ‘compute’ power, especially in high-traffic or complex sites. This can be overcome with a good caching strategy and allows Google to index the site exactly as it appears to users without having to execute JavaScript to load content. Bowens is a great example of an SSR-rendered site.
  • Static Site Generation: This works by creating a static HTML file for every page at build time (eg. when you change code and deploy it to production). The advantages of this are it is extremely fast for ‘time to first byte’ (TTFB) (see our load test results for CitiPower) and the content exists when it is requested from the server meaning the search engine can index it.
  • SEO-Friendly URLs: Configure your headless CMS to generate SEO-friendly URLs for your content. Clean, descriptive URLs make it easier for search engines to understand and rank your pages.
  • Metadata Matters: Leverage metadata to the fullest extent. Ensure that each piece of content includes relevant meta titles, descriptions, and keywords. This metadata provides search engines with valuable information about your content.
  • Sitemaps: Create and submit a sitemap to search engines. This XML file lists all the pages you want to be indexed, making it easier for search engine bots to discover and crawl your content.
  • Structured Data: Implement structured data ( markup) to provide search engines with additional context about your content. This can enhance how your content appears in search results.
  • Canonical Tags: Use canonical tags to indicate the preferred version of a page when you have duplicate content. This helps prevent SEO issues related to duplicate content.
  • Robots.txt: Configure your robots.txt file to ensure search engine crawlers can access and index the necessary parts of your site while excluding non-public or duplicate content.
  • Performance Matters: Optimise your site’s performance. Faster-loading pages and a responsive design can improve user experience and indirectly influence your search engine rankings.
  • Content Syndication: Consider syndicating your content to platforms that can be easily indexed, such as social media or content aggregation sites.

In the world of headless CMS, the challenge of search engine indexing is real but manageable. By implementing SEO best practices, optimising your content, and ensuring proper configuration, you can ensure that your headless CMS content is not only indexed by search engines but also ranks well in search results.

While the headless approach offers unparalleled flexibility, it also demands a proactive approach to ensure your content reaches its intended audience through search engines.

At Arcadian Digital, we specialise in creating web solutions that are not only technically robust but also optimised for search engines. If you’re interested in unleashing the power of headless CMS while maintaining SEO standards, contact us today. We’re here to help you navigate the exciting world of modern web development.

Get in touch

We’d love to hear about your digital requirements. Even if you don’t quite know what you need, get in touch as we can help formulate a whole digital strategy to meet your business objectives.

Contact us

Level 16, 459 Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000

03 9090 7070

© Copyright Arcadian Digital Pty. Ltd.