Build a SEO-friendly React blog with an API-based CMS

Build a SEO-friendly React blog with an API-based CMS

Have you ever wanted to build a server-rendered, SEO-friendly website using React and Node.js? The typical solutions for achieving this are either using a pre-rendering service like Prerender.io, or implementing server-side rendering of React components.

A relatively new alternative is Next.js, a framework for building universal React webapps. Next.js provides out-of-the-box tools for server-side rendering including setting HTML tags for SEO and fetching data before rendering components. Read more about the philosophy behind Next.js here.

In this Blog, I’m going to show you how to build a CMS-powered blog using React, Next.js, and ButterCMS.

ButterCMS is an API-based CMS and content API. You can think of Butter as similar to WordPress except that you build your website in your language of choice and then plug-in the dynamic content using an API. You can try ButterCMS for yourself by signing in with Github.

Getting Started

Create a new directory for your app and add a package.json file:

{
  "name": "react-blog"
}

Install Next.js and React. As of the time of this writing, we’ll want to install the Next.js so we can setup dynamic routes later:

npm install next@beta react react-dom --save

Then add a script to your package.json:

{
  "scripts": {
    "start": "next"
  }
}

Next.js treats every js file in the ./pages directory as a page. Let’s setup a basic homepage by creating a ./pages/index.js inside your project:

export default () => (
  <div>My blog homepage</div>
)

And then just run npm run start and go to http://localhost:3000.

Finally, create a ./pages/post.js and make sure it loads at http://localhost:3000/post:

export default () => (
  <div>A blog post</div>
)

Fetching blog posts

Next we’ll integrate ButterCMS so we can fetch and render blog posts dynamically.

First install the ButterCMS Node.js API client and restart your server:

npm install buttercms --save

We’ll update index.js to be a React component that fetches and displays posts using the ButterCMS SDK:

import React from 'react'
import Link from 'next/link'
import Butter from 'buttercms'

const butter = Butter('de55d3f93789d4c5c26fb07445b680e8bca843bd')

export default class extends React.Component {
  static async getInitialProps({ query }) {
    let page = query.page || 1;

    const resp = await butter.post.list({page: page, page_size: 10})    
    return resp.data;
  }
  render() {
    const { next_page, previous_page } = this.props.meta;

    return (
      <div>
        {this.props.data.map((post) => {
          return (
            <div>
              <a href={`/post/${post.slug}`}>{post.title}</a>
            </div>
          )
        })}

        <br />

        <div>
          {previous_page && <Link href={`/?page=${previous_page}`}><a>Prev</a></Link>}

          {next_page && <Link href={`/?page=${next_page}`}><a>Next</a></Link>}
        </div>
      </div>
    )
  }
}

With Next.js getInitialProps will execute on the server on initial page loads, and then on the client when navigating to a different routes using the built-in <Link> component. getInitialProps also receives a context object with various properties – we access the query property for handling pagination. We are fetching posts from a ButterCMS test account – sign in with Github to setup your own posts.

In our render() method we use some clever syntax to only display pagination links only when they’re applicable. Our post links will take us to a 404 – we’ll get these working next.

Displaying posts

To get our post links working we need to setup dynamic routing for our blog posts. Create a custom server ./server.js that routes all /post/:slug URLs to our post component:

const { createServer } = require('http')
const { parse } = require('url')
const next = require('next')

const dev = process.env.NODE_ENV !== 'production'
const app = next({ dev })
const handle = app.getRequestHandler()

app.prepare().then(() => {
  createServer((req, res) => {
    // Be sure to pass `true` as the second argument to `url.parse`.
    // This tells it to parse the query portion of the URL.
    const parsedUrl = parse(req.url, true)
    const { pathname, query } = parsedUrl

    if (pathname.includes('/post/')) {
      const splitPath = pathname.split("/");

      // Add post slug to query object
      query.slug = splitPath[2];

      app.render(req, res, '/post', query)
    } else {
      handle(req, res, parsedUrl)
    }
  })
  .listen(3000, (err) => {
    if (err) throw err
    console.log('> Ready on http://localhost:3000')
  })
})

We’ll also update our post component to fetch blog posts via slug and render the title and body:

import React from 'react'
import Butter from 'buttercms'

const butter = Butter('de55d3f93789d4c5c26fb07445b680e8bca843bd')

export default class extends React.Component {
  static async getInitialProps({ query }) {
    const resp = await butter.post.retrieve(query.slug);  
    return resp.data;
  }
  render() {
    const post = this.props.data;

    return (
      <div>
        <h1>{post.title}</h1>
        <div dangerouslySetInnerHTML={{__html: post.body}} />
      </div>
    )
  }
}

Finally, update our package.json start script to use our customer server and restart:

"scripts": {
  "start": "node server.js"
}

SEO

Next.js provides a <Head> component for setting HTML titles and meta tags. Add import Head from 'next/head' to the top of ./pages/post.js and use the component in the render() method:

render() {
  const post = this.props.data;

  return (
    <div>
      <Head>
        <title>{post.seo_title}</title>
        <meta name="description" content={post.meta_description} />
        <meta name="og:image" content={post.featured_image} />
      </Head>

      <h1>{post.title}</h1>
      <div dangerouslySetInnerHTML={{__html: post.body}} />
    </div>
  )
}

Restart the server and inspect the HTML source of a post to verify that tags are getting set correctly.

Wrap Up

Next.js is a powerful framework that makes it easy to build universal React apps. With ButterCMS you can quickly build CMS-powered blogs and websites with React.

Be sure to check out ButterCMS, a hosted API-based CMS and content APIand blog engine that lets you build CMS-powered apps using any programming language including Ruby, Rails, Node.js.NET, Python, Phoenix, Django, React, Angular, Go, PHP, Laravel, Elixir, and Meteor.

Code Source: available on Github.