Optimising Magento with SEO
As far as ecommerce platforms go, Magento is one of the most search engine friendly out there. However there are always improvements that can be made to make your Magento website to make it even more visible online. Below we have explained the importance of optimising your Magento website and some of the ways you can do it ethically.
Although Magento’s already pretty SEO friendly, a little extra optimisation won’t hurt!
Why it’s important to optimise Magento with SEO
The better your Magento website’s SEO is, the more likely it is to appear in relevant search results. It’s a known fact that the higher up the search results page you are, the more traffic you receive to your website. If you want to stand a good chance at increasing your conversion rate and generating sales, a clever and ethical SEO strategy is a must.
We stress the word ethical, as there is most certainly a right and wrong way to go about optimising Magento with SEO.
Do it the wrong way and you could risk getting penalised by Google and losing your rankings on search engine results pages.
Have a read up on Google’s SEO guidelines and check out our white hat SEO for Magento tips for further guidance on ethical practices.
Improving your Magento website’s SEO will result in an increase in traffic to your site.
Before we go through the many things you can do to improve your Magento website’s SEO, it is firstly important to make sure that you are running your ecommerce website on the latest version of the software.
SEO tips for Magento
Ready to get started on improving your Magento website’s SEO? Check out our top tips below. If you require any assistance or believe you would benefit from outsourcing the work to an experienced SEO specialist, get in touch with Online Media Direct today.
This sketch shows some of the ways you can optimise Magento with SEO.
Make use of the Meta Robots Tag
First of all it’s important to make sure that your Magento website is visible to search engines and easy for their spiders / robots to crawl. To ensure this go to System > Configuration and click on the ‘Design Tab,’ you can then navigate to the Default Robots field. Make sure it is sent to ‘Index, Follow.’
Optimise the content of your Magento pages
Another way to increase the visibility of your Magento website in search engines is to make sure that your Magento category pages and content all feature relevant search terms. All of your page titles and descriptions should be completely unique and relevant, as should any content featured on your ecommerce website.
To optimise content pages, go to CMS > Pages > Manage Content and select the page you wish to edit. You will then be able to optimise the page title, meta data and URL. In order to have any real benefit your page titles should be no more than 68 characters and your meta descriptions no more than 155.
To optimise your category pages go to Catalogue > Categories > Manage Categories. There you will be able to edit the page title, meta description and meta keywords for each page. Something else which will benefit your website’s SEO is creating unique category descriptions featuring relevant keywords. Optimising your category pages will allow you to target specific search terms related to the products or services in that particular category, which is much more beneficial than trying to fit all of your search terms onto your main Magento homepage.
When uploading new products to your Magento website, you need to make sure they are optimised for SEO. All of the descriptions you write should be completely unique and feature relevant keywords to the product and category. It’s also important to label your image files correctly. Instead of smashing any old letters on your keyboard, make the image title relevant to the product and ensure the ‘alt’ tag is filled in too.
Many people get a little confused by alt tags and do not know what they are supposed to do with them. The best way to create effective alt tags for the images you upload to your Magento website is to describe exactly what they are showing as if you were telling someone that had a visual impairment. You cannot just count on Google and other search engines to be able to tell what the image shows, without any assistance. You need to make sure your image alt tags are easy for search engines to understand.
As an example, an alt tag for this image could be ‘A light grey leather handbag with a chain strap.’ It tells search engines exactly what the image shows and will help them to include it in the most relevant keyword searches.
Not only can creating unique and effective alt tags for your Magento images help them to become more visible in search results (e.g. Google Images results) but they can also prove to be useful if for one reason or another, the image does not load on your webpage. If this happens, the alt text will show up instead, describing what the image was supposed to show to the user.
Building internal links
Something that far too many webmasters over look is the benefit of building internal links. Creating internal links that point from one of your Magento web pages to different Magento web pages is a great way to improve site navigation for users and share link juice between your pages.
Creating internal links will greatly improve the usability of your Magento website for visitors. For example, on one of your Magento product pages you could make suggestions to other products that site visitors may like, due to them being relevant to the page they are viewing. This will not only help improve users’ shopping experience but also keep them browsing your site for longer.
The longer they stay on your Magento website, the lower your bounce rate will be. A low bounce rate will be taken into consideration by Google and may help to boost your rankings, as it tells search engines that users are satisfied with the content found on your website and that it is of relevance to them.
Creating valuable and relevant internal links will help to keep users engaged with your website. The longer they are looking at your website, the lower your bounce rate will be.
Internal links can also make your website easier for search engine spiders to crawl. It is important to make sure that all of your pages are linked to in some way, even the deepest pages of content, as otherwise search engine spiders will not be able to crawl and index them. The best way to go about structuring internal links is to think of a pyramid, with your main Magento page being at the top. Your main page should link to a few category pages, which should link to relevant sub category pages, which should link to deeper pages and so on.
Structuring your Magento website like this and creating internal links will also help to spread link juice around your site. Build internal links off your most-linked to pages and you will be able to share the link juice they get from external websites with other pages on your domain, helping to improve their rankings.
If you have set up a blog for your Magento website (and if you haven’t already, we recommend that you do) then you will be able to create relevant and natural internal links within your blog content that point towards your website and help to spread link juice.
When it comes to building an internal linking strategy for your Magento website, the key is to keep things relevant and natural. Make sure that every link you create to another page will be a link that is valuable and useful for your users to click on.
Creating SEO friendly layered navigation
Although Magento benefits from being very SEO friendly out of the box, it does not come without its challenges. One of the biggest SEO challenges users will face is if they want to use layered navigation. Layered navigation is basically a functionality that allows users to search for products by specific characteristics.
There are a number of issues that Magento users implementing layered navigation face.
The first is that search engines may no longer be able to crawl and index all of their pages. Using layered navigation in Magento can add a significant number of pages to your website, some of which may not be reached by search engines if they do not crawl deep enough.
Layered navigation can also lead to problems with duplicate content. If search engines find hundreds or thousands of pages that contain very similar content, it may have a negative impact on your search rankings.
The third and final issue is that layered navigation often makes it difficult for search engines to distinguish the most important pages. Switching from static to layered navigation may make important category and sub category pages harder for search engines to find.
If you are thinking of using layered navigation or are currently using it and facing the SEO issues above, then you may want to check out the following solutions.
Create a Robots.txt file
Creating a Robots.txt file will allow you to decide which pages you do and do not want search engine spiders to crawl and index.
Use Rel=Canonical Tag
In cases where layered navigation is creating pages featuring exactly the same content, you will need to use the Rel=Canonical tag.
Use No Follow links
Using no follow links on layered navigation pages will stop pages from being able to pass link juice / page rank, however it will not stop Google and other search engines from indexing them.
Set Parameters in Google Webmaster Tools
Something you may also want to consider doing is setting specific parameters in Google Webmaster Tools. Doing this will allow you to specify how Google handles certain parameters of your website.
Install a Magento Layered Navigation extension
Another great solution is to use a layered navigation extension for Magento. There are a number of extensions available which aim to make Magento layered navigation more search engine friendly and therefore will help you to improve your rankings. One of the most popular layered navigation extensions is called SEO Layered Navigation Pro.
Utilise redirect 301 pages
If you change any of your Magento website’s URLs, it is important to make sure you have set up Redirect 301s. To do this, go to System > Catalog > Create Permanent Redirect for old URLs if URL key changed. Make sure that it is set to ‘yes’ so that when search engine spiders are crawling your website, they will know that the page has been moved to a new URL permanently. This will allow them to index the content from the correct location.
Configure your Google Sitemap
Sitemaps provide an easy and efficient way to communicate important information to search engines. Using a sitemap you can tell search engines which parts of your site that you want them to index and which you want them to exclude.
Go to System > Configuration and click on the Google Sitemap tab. There you will be able to specify how often your sitemap should be updated and at what time of day.
Producing great content both on and off-site will improve your Magento site’s SEO.
The SEO techniques outlined above all explain how you can improve your Magento website’s on-site SEO, but it is equally as important to optimise your website off-site too. A great way to do this is by guest blogging on other relevant, high quality websites.
Creating interesting and engaging content is the best way to nab a guest post spot on another blog and gain an ethical back link to your ecommerce website in the process. If content creation is something that leaves you a little lost for words, you can always get in touch with our team of experienced and reliable copywriters for help.
So how does writing a blog post on another website improve your search rankings? Basically if your link is shared on a website or blog that is relevant to your Magento store (either by industry or audience) and has more authority than your site, it will share Page Rank or ‘link juice’ with the page it links to. This will signal to search engines that your website features relevant and interesting content and will count in your favour when they come to index your website and determine its position on SERPs.
The more high quality backlinks you have pointing to your website, the better your Magento store’s SEO will be. It is important to stress that backlinks from other websites will only be beneficial to you if they are high quality. Getting multiple backlinks from sites that are spammy or have no relevance to your Magento website will ultimately hinder your search rankings rather than help them.
Always be very careful when considering guest blogging and link building opportunities. If in any doubt, you can always count on us to provide you with good advice!
Guest blogging on other relevant websites can help to increase your Magento website’s Page Rank and improve its search engine rankings.
SEO plugins for Magento
If you are new to SEO or could benefit from a little extra help, you may want to consider integrating one of the many SEO Magento Extensions with your website. Below we have listed some of the most popular plugins, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, get in touch with one of our Magento Developers and they’ll create a bespoke plugin for you.
Canonical URL for Magento
This extension is designed to prevent duplicate content issues that can affect your Magento site’s SEO. When products are placed in a number of different categories, the same content is shown on different URLs, which may look like duplicate content to search engines and affect your rankings. The Canonical URL extension will add new canonical links to the head of your Magento pages that tell search engines to index your product pages and not category pages.
Yoast Meta robots Magento extension
Earlier on we mentioned the need to make sure your Magento website is easy and quick for search engine spiders to crawl. In order to achieve this, it’s a good idea to make sure that they avoid crawling non-content pages like your login and register pages. The best way to do this is by using the free Yoast meta robots extension.
SEO Suite Pro
Another Magento extension that makes adding canonical URLs and Robot Meta tags to your Magento pages HTML head sections is SEO Suite Pro. Use this SEO extension for Magento and have the peace of mind that search engine spiders will not be caching duplicate content or pages without any content. You can also use this extension to convert your RSS feed URLs and product URLs into a more user-friendly format.
Other useful SEO plugins for Magento can be downloaded from Magento Connect – The Marketplace for Magento Extensions.
Use Google Analytics to track and monitor your Magento website’s SEO progress.
Useful tools for Magento SEO
Improving your Magento website’s SEO will not be a one-off task. In order to improve your website’s rankings on search engine results pages, it is going to take hard work and dedication. Your SEO efforts need to be consistent if you want to make any sort of impact on search engines like Google.
Seeing as SEO improvement is an on-going process, you will find it very useful to utilise tools that help you to monitor your progress. Two tools that are particularly useful for this are Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. Utilising these tools on a daily basis will greatly assist you in monitoring your Magento website and seeing where further improvements can be made.
In order for Google Analytics to start monitoring your Magento website, you will need to implement the verification tag. The best place to put this piece of code will be in your Magento website’s head. Simply go to: System > Configuration > Design > HTML Head and then insert the code.
Setting up tracking is also very easy. All you need to do is navigate to System > Configuration > Google API > Google Analytics and enter the unique UA number for your website, provided on your Google Analytics account settings page.
Using Google Analytics will give you access to a wide range of information about your Magento website, including the keywords users are searching for to get to your website from search engines and your bounce rate.
You can also set up Google Webmaster Tools to monitor your Magento website. Google Webmaster Tools will notify you if there are any issues with your site regarding crawling or duplicate content, so you can make the necessary amendments.
3 things to remember when optimising Magento for SEO
When it comes to improving your Magento website’s SEO, you’ll need to avoid falling into common traps that end up hindering your search rankings rather than helping them. Below we have listed three things to remember when optimising Magento for SEO.
Change the home page title from ‘home’ – You would be surprised at the sheer number of people who forget to edit the title of their Magento homepages and leave them titled ‘home.’ Make sure your ecommerce website title features your company name. You could also include what your business is, e.g. ‘Internet Marketing Experts Online Media Direct.
Turn on rel=canonical – We’ve already mentioned the importance of using the rel=canonical tag. Make sure it is turned on and you will save yourself no end of duplicate content issues which left untouched would negatively impact your search rankings.
Remove sample products and categories from your sitemap – Before you submit your .XML sitemap to Google, make sure you actually know what has been included in it. You don’t want to end up submitting an .XML sitemap full of sample products and categories that you won’t be using when your site goes live.
Although Magento is already one of the most SEO friendly ecommerce platforms on the planet, it is always worth taking the time to optimise your site further to gain an advantage over your competitors. If you have any questions about optimising Magento with SEO or believe you would benefit from our expertise, please get in touch with Online Media Direct by calling 01706 830 965. Alternatively you can head back to the History of Magento page to find out more about the platform.