Magento SEO 101 – A Definitive Guide To Master Your CMS

When you think of eCommerce Management Platforms, there are quite a few names that will cross your mind like Big Commerce, Woocommerce, Shopify and Magento. It doesn’t matter if you are already an eCommerce Store Owner or an aspiring webmaster thinking of starting an eCommerce store or planning to upgrade an existing one. A good platform can make the management easier by covering all your requirements ranging from inventory management, product updates, catalogs, user accounts, wish lists, comparison windows, check-outs, etc. in one panel.  
In this guide, I am specifically going to address the Magento platform because I feel that it is one of the best CMS available today. Magento is used by most global brands like Nike, Rovio, Paul Smith, etc, and the only setback it has is that it cannot be customized without extensive knowledge. Let’s take a step towards Magento success. I will try to update this guide as and when Magento platform receives an update in the future.  

Take a look at the Table of Contents below.

Contents:

1. What Is Magento SEO, Why Indulge?


2. Common Magento SEO Mistakes To Avoid


3.1 The Art Of Optimizing Magento

 3.1.1 Fundamentals Of Optimization

 3.1.2 Setting Up Headers

 3.1.3 Content Management System Pages

 3.1.4 Managing Categories

 3.1.5 Managing Products

 3.2 Optimizing Magento Theme

 3.2.1 Free Themes vs. Paid Themes

 3.2.2 Customizing Headings

 3.2.3 Clean Your Code

 3.2.4 Speed Optimization

 3.3 Duplicate Content and Advanced Optimization

3.3.1 Nofollow Redundant Links

3.3.2 Canonical URLs


4. Dealing With Layered Navigation In Magento

4.1 Canonical Tag

4.2 Parameter Handling in Google Webmaster Tool

4.3 Meta or X Robots

4.4 Ajax Navigation


5. The Advantages of Magento

5.1 Search Engine Friendly URLs

5.2 Google Site Map

5.3 Most Viewed Products

5.4 Top 5 Incoming Search Terms

5.5 Undoubtedly the Best CMS


6. Make Your Custom Robots.txt File


7. Measuring Your Magento Success

7.1 Check Your Popularity

7.2 Google Analytics for the Win


8. Conclusion Strategy


 1. What is Magento SEO and Why Indulge?

Magento is an open source, robust, and scalable eCommerce platform best suited for those businesses, which have a web-store. If you are an eCommerce storeowner, then you should definitely read this guide and if you are an aspiring eCommerce web-store owner, then you should read this guide again.

Magento is extremely stable today (far more than what it used to be back in 2010), and its latest version is very SEO friendly and can easily be customized by Search Engine Experts. If your online web store is lying un-optimized, then you are not only killing the potential of your website but also wasting a lot of energy, time and resources. Reconsider your decisions today.

Some Webmasters tell me – We have the Magento SEO Plugin. It is easy to use, then why bother investing in Magento SEO?

Yes! The Magento SEO Plug-in is a great choice, and I always encourage using it, but you should u understand that there is a fine line between bravery and stupidity. Magento is a “MASSIVE” platform and the SEO plugin does give some handy optimization techniques like editing the Title tag, Meta Tag and Anchor text, but it is not magic. The intricacies of SEOing a Magento Platform go far beyond the reach of a pre-designed program. Thus you need to have someone experienced work on the Platform to maximize its full potential

I hope that by the end of my post you will be able to make up your mind about taking a step further towards your Magento eCommerce Success. Moving on, here are some common Magento SEO mistakes that are easily avoidable.


2. Common Magento Loopholes That Are Stepping Stones For Every Webmaster

Let us look at some of the most common inherent Magento mistakes from the development phase, which are always overlooked. These make the most difference in carving your ‘stairway to heaven’ in your eCommerce escapade.

#Mistake No 1

Leaving the Homepage Title as Home

Most Homepage(s) are CMS Pages. It would be in your best interest to give it a personalized title like – Extreme SEO Online Store – Extreme-SEO.com.

#Mistake No 2

Leaving the Default Description un-optimized

Always leave the default description field blank, or Magento has the tendency of duplicating it for search engines to such an extent that it looks more like spam.

Go to – System -> Configuration -> General -> Design -> HTML Head -> Default Description and “leave it blank.”

#Mistake No 3

Forgetting to use rel=canonical

Again, a simple command if not used can make your Magento web-store look like a spam farm with multiple duplicate content issues. Always use “rel=canonical” for both products and categories.

#Mistake No 4

Forgetting to change meta robots to index, follow – after migrating to live website

After migrating to live website, lot of developers forget to change meta robots from noindex, nofollow to index, follow.

Go to – System -> Configuration -> General -> Design -> HTML Head -> Default robots “index, follow”

#Mistake No 5

Sticking with Default Layered Navigation

Layered Navigation is a nightmare for SEO. I will let you in on the details in another section. (check Section 4)

#Mistake No 6

Ignoring or Forgetting the XML Sitemap

Before submitting your website to Google, it would be a good idea to check the XML Sitemap. Most developers create a sample Sitemap and leave it at that, which is always a no-winner.

CALL TO ACTION – Make sure you avoid these mistakes and let me know if I missed out something in the comments section below.


3.1 The Art of Optimizing Magento

Take a look at the definitive Art of doing Magento SEO, known only by a few, but brandished by all. I will show you some basic measures that are followed by most Magento SEOs.

3.1.1 Fundaments of Optimization

Enable Server Rewrites – Go to – System -> Configuration -> Web -> SEO -> Enable Server Rewrite

Under the URL Options section, you will find another handy edit,

Store Code To URLs – Always set it as “No” or your URLs will look like a mess with unnecessary characters.

Www or non-www – Under Secure and Unsecure, there is an option to select a preferred domain, select a particular URL type either www.mystore.com or mystore.com

3.1.2 Setting-up Headers

Search Engines appreciate those websites, which have their chief keywords near the page start. For this purpose, leaving your Header in default condition “Magento Commerce” is never a good route to take.

Go to – System -> Configuration -> Design -> HTML Head

NOTE: This title will only be visible on most basic-pages of your website.

Remember to leave your Default Description and Default Keywords field blank for reasons discussed in the Mistakes to avoid section.

3.1.3 Content Management System Pages

Keeping the above-mentioned trick(s) in mind, it is time to move onto the crux of Magento Platform. After you have put up some content on some of your CMS pages, choose a Search Engine Friendly URL and Descriptive Page Title for each page. Change the description of your most important pages in the Meta Data section, always write something, which is meaningful and will attract customers to your page.

In case you decide to leave the description field blank, then the Search Engines will find a keyword that is being searched for by users and show them an excerpt from around your keyword in the page.

3.1.4 Managing Categories

When making categories for your products and/or services in Magento, it is important to remember that this platform has the tendency of creating duplicate pages for product/services that fall under multiple categories.

This is turn is not a very welcoming signal for Search Engine crawlers, as they may end up taking those duplicate pages as spam content and flag your website.

To ensure that this does not happen, Go to – System -> Configuration -> Catalog -> SEO -> Choose “No” for Use Category path for product URLs.

After you have done the above, it is time to Manage Categories:

Go to System -> Configuration -> Catalog -> Manage Categories and make the necessary edits.

  • Meta Description Do not underestimate the importance of a good, keyword rich and attractive Meta Description.
  • Page Title – It is in your best efforts to leave this space blank. This will display the category name along with parent categories (if any).
  • URL Key – Try to keep your URL, as keyword rich as possible. Do not give special characters or number or stop words in your URL.

3.1.5 Managing Products

It is almost the same as managing the Categories. However, a handy tip to enhance the SEO of your Magento platform would be to optimize the images properly.

  • Choose clear Images that are attractive for your products
  • Remember to name the image files with proper keywords and avoid special characters and numbers
  • Set label for each image under “Images” tab – this Label will be used as Alt tag and Title for your images.

3.2 Optimizing Magento Theme

3.2.1 Free Theme vs. Paid Theme

I go by the rule of the thumb, which states that nothing good in life comes free of cost. I personally do not like using anything free, just because it is unreliable, and a developer who would spend the proper time and patience in customizing a paid theme would never do the same if the theme was free.

CALL TO ACTION – Select a Premium Theme for Your eCommerce Store or get one designed by a professional.

3.2.2 Customizing Headings

The default logo should always be in Heading 1 on the front page. All the subsequent pages, the main idea should be to put in as many keywords in the Titles as possible so I normally choose Heading 3.

Do not over use headings. Remove all unnecessary heading from your pages to throw light on the main content of the page. Also, remove all headers in the Side columns and replace them with a bold <strong> font if required.

In category page, <h1>Category Name</h1> and <h3>Product Name</h3>

In product page <h1>Product Name</h1>

3.2.3 Clean Your Code

Remember to remove all those unnecessary JavaScript and CSS that you might have in your themes. They do not help in SEO of your Magento platform in any manner and removing them ensures a faster load and that users can get to your website quickly.

3.2.4 Speed Optimization

Here are a few things that you can keep in mind, which would greatly enhance the customizability of your Magento Platform.

  • Enable Caching – This feature greatly enhances the page load speed for the users.

 Go to System -> Cache Management -> Enable Cache Management

  •  Always choose a good host, which is compatible for Magento Hosting.

Ensure that you limit the number of external files to as less as possible because every time a user visits your website you make them download external files. It is in your best interest to combine as many internal files as possible.

3.3 Duplicate Content and Advanced Optimization

After you have completed the basic optimization techniques, you might be faced with the problem of duplicate content, which is extremely common in Magento Platform.

I am going to show you how to let the duplicate content stay and still manage to get the right page indexed and the rest ignored by spiders. Read on to find out.

3.3.1 No Follow Redundant Links

It is important to nofollow all unnecessary links like basic-pages, add to wish list, checkout, login.

Also, remember to nofollow RSS feeds, add to wish list, and compare products, layered navigation in your theme files.

3.3.2 Canonical URLs

Canonical as the name suggests is the preferred URL for a product that you want the search engines to index. This removes the hassle of having to deal with duplicate product URLs in Magento platform.


 4. Dealing With Layered Navigation in Magento SEO

Layered Navigation, as I quoted earlier is the nightmare of all SEO. In layman’s terminology, whenever a new filter is applied to a product, Magento creates a new page (a replica) of the original page depicting the recent changes. To add to the mess, if a website has (n) number of products, it becomes increasingly difficult to deal with layered navigation manually, which leaves the website prone to Google’s Panda-monium, if left unattended.

Here are some of my ways of dealing with Layered Navigation in Magento:

4.1 Canonical Tag

Just like I mentioned in the section above, canonical tags are the preferred choice. This will show Google your preferred URLs for indexing purposes. I always tag this method along with the other methods due to its easy implementation.

4.2 Parameter Handling In Google Webmaster Tool

The Parameter Handling resource in GWT has created a lot of buzz amongst the SEO lately. It should be noted that the tool is efficient, and it gives varied results like the Canonical Tag. Use the Parameter Handling resource carefully, as in the end you are telling Google how to react to your pages through this tool.

This technique should be combined with one of the below techniques.

4.3 Meta or X Robots

This option is mostly preferred by SEOs for dealing with layered navigation. You can apply the Meta or x robots rules (noindex, follow), as it is efficient and easy to implement and does not consume much time.

4.4 AJAX Navigation

AJAX navigation is the best and most time/resource intensive process for optimizing your Magento webstore. The benefit of AJAX Navigation is that it applies the filters to the products without creating any duplicate entries.


5. The Advantages of Magento SEO

5.1 Search Engine Friendly URLs

Magento has become one of the most flourishing eCommerce platforms mainly because of its Search Engine Friendly URLs. When Magento had first released, the URLs were broken and it was difficult for Search Engines to decipher them. However, present day the URLs in Magento are very customizable and store owners can create their own custom URLs, which are keyword rich and easy to read.

5.2 Google Sitemap

Magento platform allows for faster indexing of Sitemaps in Google, which helps target customers reach the desired products faster. This is extremely beneficial of eCommerce Store Owners.

5.3 Most Viewed Products

This one is a sheer winner; it is your window to consumer magnetism right at the backend of your Magento platform. With this tool, you can see your most viewed products from the back panel. By getting a deeper insight on which products are most viewed, you can boost those pages by coupling with other marketing techniques or by using Google Adword.

5.4 Top 5 Incoming Search Terms

Wouldn’t it be a time saver if you knew exactly which keywords to optimize in your content development campaigns? The Top 5 Search Terms feature of Magneto does just that. It helps webmasters and SEOs optimize traffic by knowing the most popular incoming Search Terms to your Magento eCommerce Store.

5.5 Undoubtedly The Best CMS Around

You can make the most of the CMS section by uploading your SEO content here. This is the place where you can write product reviews, about the company or anything that will attract the customers to your store. Optimized with good keywords, this is a powerful place for making the most out of the Magento Platform and getting the conversions rolling.


6. Make Your Custom Robots.txt File

One of the most common mistake of Magento Store owners and developers is they forget the importance of creating a custom Robots.txt file when optimizing their Magento Platform.

Some webmasters even think that taking any generic robotx.txt file and placing it in their store is going to get the job done. I would like to stress on how important having a proper robots.txt file is. It is crucial to understand that every store is different; it has a different structure and requires a robotx.txt file of its own. A Robots.txt file of another flourishing eCommerce store is not going to work for your store, in every case you will need to make some important tweaks to better fit the URL structure of your eCommerce store and its priorities.

Always make sure that your robots.txt file is properly working through the Google Webmaster Tool before hitting the live button. A wrong robots.txt may lead to the downfall of your website.


7. Measuring Your Magento Success

7.1 Check your popularity

What you do, how much you invest, how hard you work is all in vain, if you are not popular at the end of the day. In the online world, where one organization wants to crush the other in the battle for supremacy, it is essential to establish an authority by the strategies and tactics that you deploy through your SEO. If you become famous, you have won the major part of the battle. One of the ways of finding your popularity is by checking the number of people who link to you. The more the number, the famous you are.

It is a give and take policy – no one will do anything for you free until there is a benefit in it for them. What I mean to say is, no one is going to link to your website until they get something back in return. A great way of promoting your products and getting backlinks to your websites is through Affiliates. If you can offer webmasters a modest commission on every sale they crack for you through their website, they are going to take interest in what your store has on offer for your target customers. There are countless number of backlink building strategies out there, you just have to reach out and employ a few of them in your website and your eCommerce platform will be flourishing in no time.

7.2 Google Analytics for the win

The internet is filled with countless ways for letting webmasters analyze and monitor their ROI. Make best use of Google Analytics to check the number of visitors to your website, where they are coming from, which website is sending in the most referrals and what are your most ranking keywords.

Also, try removing the keywords with your brand or product names and check the highest rankings for your most generic keywords. If you want eCommerce success, then you should already be ranking for your brand keywords. If you filter out your brand traffic from organic search and check your actual revenue for generic keywords; this is the real ROI of your Magento SEO campaign.

Magento is a powerful platform – extract the most out of it by combining it with great SEO.


CONCLUSION STRATEGY

That is it for my detailed insight on Magento SEO. Finally, I would like to state that it is crucial for all webmasters to understand the potential of a great SEO campaign and how it can positively impact their business.

For me, it has always been about staying focused and reaching your goals one at a time. Most webmasters think the web is like a huge piggy bank; they just want to scoop in and extract as much money as they can out of it. I say that their wishful thinking is not bad, but being online is more about establishing a meaningful relationship and forming connections. If you can learn to give value to your customers instead of bombarding them with mindless advertisements and sales proposals, you can be a winner.

Just work on the visibility of your Magento website, the significance of its existence and its popularity by forming connections. If you are focused in your objectives, you will see an exponential increase in the number of traffic to your website. Magento SEO will make you established and develop a brand presence that is unmatchable by any competitor.

 

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Magento SEO 101 – A Definitive Guide To Master Your CMS was last modified: August 3rd, 2016 by Piyush Agarwala