8 Essential SEO Tips for Magento
Out of the box, Magento is already one of the most SEO-friendly eCommerce platforms. To capitalize on the full power of Magento and sales performance, there are some minor adjustments that should be made so Google won't hold a grudge against you.
We gathered some of the best tips to help your Magneto SEO – actions you can perform today that will have a serious impact on your rankings, visibility, and site performance.
1. Set Your Preferred Domain (& Enforce It)
Don’t let the WWW and non-WWW versions of your website compete for rankings or create canonical issues – you can easily fix this problem in a few minutes.
Simply go to the “Secure” and “Unsecure” Base URL (located in the core_config_data table in phpMyAdmin)to set this preference within Magento – and then enforce it by using two ways to follow up:
- Enforce a 301 redirect from the incorrect version to the correct one with a mod_rewrite in your .htaccess file
- Select your preferred URL in Google Webmaster Tools
2. Use Tiered XML Sitemaps
You may already be using an XML sitemap, but did you know that for large sites, you can actually create a “sitemap of sitemaps” that breaks out categories into more bite-sized chunks for a search bot? This reduces the long, awkward length of sitemaps that can cause pages listed at the bottom of your sitemap to be ignored.
Break out your site into naturally flowing chunks – perhaps by category – and create sitemaps for each large section. Then, list the URLs of the other sitemaps in a primary sitemap, as shown below:
In your Admin panel, go to Catalog -> Google Sitemap -> Add Sitemap and add your primary sitemap. Then, add that sitemap to your robots.txt file. If you want to be certain Google sees it, you can also add your sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools, showing the search engine giant exactly where to look.
3. Enable Server URL Rewrites & Disable Store Codes in URLS
This is one of the simplest and easiest steps you can take to give yourself more control over the URLs of your website. Because search engines evaluate URLs when determining rankings and relevance (keywords in the URL, dynamic character strings, etc.), you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the power to keep things short, sweet and clear.
To do this, go to System -> Configuration -> Web -> Search Engine Optimization, and under “Use Web Server Rewrites”, simply select “Yes”. This will eliminate index.php from your URLs and keep things highly readable.
From this same screen, under the “URL Options” menu, select “No” under “Add Store Code to URLs” to prevent these strings of code from being plunked into your URLs.
4. Disable the Category Name in the URL Path
Magento doesn’t handle adding category names to URLs very well. This can result in some pretty messy URLs and loads of duplicate content issues.
To maintain control and avoid duplicate issues, go to System-> Configuration -> Catalog -> Search Engine Optimization and change “Use categories path for product URLs” to “No”.
Rejuvenation does a great job in controlling the urls for their product pages:
The category URL is: http://www.rejuvenation.com/catalog/categories/lighting/table
But notice how they remove 'lighting' and 'table' from the product URL.
Long, messy templates don’t do your Magento SEO any good – not to mention that having to reload these elements over and over again doesn’t help your load time.
By moving these into external files, you can make sure that visitors cache them on their first load of the page and prevent search engines from having to download them over and over again.
One of the key areas to take care of is stylesheets, as Magento doesn’t handle these well be default. Combine stylesheets into just one new one (except for print.css) to keep things buzzing...quickly!
6. Don’t Neglect Image Optimization
In the hurry to upload images and get product pages live, you may be missing some awesome residual search engine traffic just sitting there waiting to be scooped up. Take the time to optimize your product images, both for search engines and the visually impaired. Here’s some basics to cover:
- Give the image a keyword rich name like antique-lamp.jpg instead of a generic filename like image42.jpg. Search engines use these filenames when determining image rankings.
- Use an informative, succinct and (when natural) keyword-rich alt description to help search engines understand the content of your images. (helpful hint: write these for the visually impaired; describe the product in detail to someone who needs that information to make a purchase)
- Give the image a descriptive and meaningful title
Yes, this is a little bit of added effort – but as anyone who sells products who has hit the first page of image search can attest, it can be well worth the small amount of time invested.
7. Remove Empty Robot Metas
Magento has a weird proclivity to show non-set meta robots tags as follows:
<meta name="robots" content="*" />
This can create problems for search engines, so it’s best to remove them from your code altogether. There are modules and plugins that handle this quite nicely, so you won’t constantly have to code-hunt for them.
8. Don’t Overlook the Basics: Product Name Titles & Descriptions
Magento gives you easy access to giving every one of your pages a unique title tag and meta-description – so USE that power!
- Every product’s title tag should be descriptive, unique – and compelling. Think: What sales information or call to action could you work into a title tag that would earn you the click over a better-ranked competitor?
- Create a title tag that places your targeted phrases as close to the front as possible (Google places prominence from left to right)
- Keep titles short – Google’s limit is 50-60 characters
- Like titles, every page’s description should be unique.
- Unlike titles, descriptions don’t directly influence rankings – though they DO influence click-throughs. Your description should be compelling enough to prompt someone to click, so make sure you express that you’ve got exactly what they’re looking for.
- Descriptions should be kept to 150 – 160 characters – just over the length of a tweet.
Keep it User-Focused!
We’ve talked a lot about technical tips today, but there’s one more thing to keep in mind: Your site has to cater to visitors first. That means things like bland, duplicate product page copy, keyword-stuffed title tags, confusing navigation and slow online experiences all need to be dealt with.
Tweak your technical elements – but as you do, keep your eye on the prize: delighting every new customer who comes into the site!