JAMstack July 24, 2020

SEO-ing my JAMstack site

Jason Leow @jasonleow

After thinking through the marketing channels that's best for me and my strengths, I decided to start off with search engine optimisation for my JAMstack site Sweet Jam Sites.

To be honest, SEO wasn't my strongest suit. I'm more familiar with content marketing.I write daily here on 200wad anyway, and coming up with content isn't difficult. But my worry is that it might be an abortive exercise, as I'm still experimenting with my target audience. I know JAMstack is great, but it's a key to unlock a door that I'm still searching for. So when @msulcs from Uprankd.com offered a free SEO audit consultation on Indie Hackers, I took it. I seriously didn't know what to expect. I didn't even know if I have the development skill to fix any of the suggested recommendations. But I'm pleasantly surprised at the depth and breadth of the report, and Martins was really helpful, even checking back to see if I had any problems fixing my site.

So after an SEO day, my Lighthouse score went from the 60-70 range to the 90s range! So awesome! Here's what I did:

Meta tags

I added meta tags some time ago, but canonical tag was something recommended in the report. Which is true because I had many different landing pages for different audiences, and much of the content overlapped. So telling search engines which is the main home page is important. And a word about JAMstack – it's not immediately clear where to inject the meta tags in Gatsby because of the file structure. Initially I did it via via gatsby-ssr file, but later on discovered a simpler solution - via the snippet feature in Netlify itself.

Nofollow outgoing links

I changed relevant outgoing links to "nofollow", so that Google wouldn't penalise me too much. In fact, before starting this, I didn't think I had many outgoing links to start with, but I ended up spending the most time on this as there were a lot more outgoing links than I realised.

Added SEO.js component for SEO on all blog posts

The thing about adding meta tags in point #1 is that it adds it globally to the site. But I want specific meta tags for my blog posts. So adding this piece of Javascript code is important. I followed this tutorial since I used a Stackbit site.

Added a sitemap

I wasn't sure how to create a sitemap. The Stackbit tutorial recommended using a Gatsby plugin, but it involves using the command line (which is a hassle, and for non-technical folks, just plain scary). Initially I went with the old school way – just creating a xml file and uploading it directly to my root folder (which is the /static folder in Stackbit sites). I googled for a sitemap generator site, keyed in my site's URL, and then download the auto-generated sitemap file. I proceeded to upload the sitemap into my Github repository, and was happy with it as a short term hack (the problem is that you need to manually update the xml file whenever you updated your file, which is a pain). But later on when I was experimenting with Netlify Build plugins, I found plugins for sitemaps! The plugins would auto-generate a new sitemap on each build on Netlify, and another plugin auto-submitted to search engines. Just. Freaking. Amazing. So impressed with Netlify.

Google Search Console

I submitted my domain and sitemap to Google Search Console so that Google would start indexing my site properly. But subsequently, because of the sitemap plugins on Netlify, I probably no longer need to manually update anything on Google Search Console.

Netlify Build plugins

Lastly, I went into Netlify UI and installed Netlify Build plugins for optimisation of images, inline source, font loading, sitemap generation and submission. Netlify also has native features for CSS, JS bundling and more image optimisation, which I switched on. There's also a Gatsby Cache plugin to persist the cache in between builds, so that build times are shorter. And do you know they are all free?! Amazing!

There's still loads of recommendation in the SEO audit report that I had yet to touch. Using new image formats is another thing I'm keen to work on. But after a hard day's work on it, a Lighthouse score in the 90s is pretty motivating!

What other SEO hacks and tips would you recommend?

  1. 2

    Just an FYI, the whole thing about having followed outbound links doesn't get you a "penalty" from Google. I have never heard of a website being penalized (not sure if you're talking about a manual penalty or what) for having outgoing links, as long as those followed links aren't paid/advertisements.

    In fact, Google may ignore the fact that you nofollowed your outbound links:

    https://searchengineland.com/google-to-treat-nofollow-link-attribute-as-a-hint-after-march-1-2020-321664

    Why did they do that? Conjecture is there are websites who are abusing this by putting nofollow on outbound links to preserve "link juice" for their internal pages or other web properties. Which it sounds like what you are doing, albeit perhaps not on purpose?

    I don't know where people get the idea they should nofollow outbound links en mass.

    It's a decent thing to do to leave a link as a follow link if you think the resource is useful and relevant for your readers. There is no such thing as "nofollow outbound links" as an SEO best practice. It appears to be "working" on some sites but is considered generally a bit shady.

    Thought you might want to know that in case you're not following this topic super closely and you're just following recommendations.

    1. 1

      That said, I'd recommend focusing on your internal linking over laboring over trying to get Google to think you "don't trust" any external resource on your website by nofollowing them.

      Here's a helpful article that explains the importance of internal links:
      https://ahrefs.com/blog/internal-links-for-seo/

      1. 1

        Thanks for the resource articles! Very helpful.

        Yeah I'm not following this topic too closely, but don't worry, am not changing ALL my outgoing link en masse (sorry if it wasn't super clear in my post). I still allow some of the links that I want to credit. But I found doing nofollow exercise really helpful - I had a lot of repeated outgoing links going to the same 2-3 sites, and until I did this, I didn't realise! It might have looked like I was a backlink farm site that way, and didn't want that. Glad to have done it. But completely understand your point - have to selectively do so.

  2. 1

    Whether you are running a Jamstack website or not this is a comprehensive overview of everything you need to know to be successful at SEO: https://bejamas.io/blog/jamstack-seo-guide/

  3. 1

    Bit off topic, but thanks for starting the JAMstack group. I'm building my site w/ Gatsby so I hope this group takes off!

    1. 1

      Yeah glad to have started it! It seems like even a niche topic amongst indie hackers, happy that there's a place we can talk now. I'm building sites in Gatsby too, would love to eventually build a PWA

  4. 1

    Wow, thank you for mentioning me!
    I'm super glad that you took your time to fix the issues! Best of luck to you!

    1. 1

      And thanks for the awesome report (which I'm still working through slowly)!

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