The Ultimate Guide to Magento SEO – Part 1

In this guide, we’re going to step through the do’s and don’ts of Magento SEO, from the built-in functionality, through to the wealth of additional features that you can add to it.

4 Jason Ford

SEO has changed drastically over the last 10+ years, as search engines become more advanced and improve their services, so does the process of optimising your website for the best performance. SEO now covers nearly every aspect of your website, mainly focusing on the Customer Experience (CX) and providing the correct information to search engines.

Below we’re discussing practical ‘quick win’ Magento SEO changes as well as bigger SEO improvements that can take your Magento Ecommerce to the next level.

Magento Core SEO

In Part 1 of the Ultimate Guide to Magento SEO, we’re going to concentrate on what Magento can do without any modules or code changes. Magento has a lot of ‘out of the box’ SEO improvements that you can start making use of straight away.

HTTPS everything

Google recommends HTTPS as a ranking signal, and it also helps customers feel more comfortable shopping on your Magento store.

Magento offers you some options for using Secure HTTP (HTTPS) on the admin section, and on the ‘Frontend’, however this only really changes switches for the Checkout and My Account pages. Unfortunately, this could also lead to duplicate content, which is a big SEO issue.

For best results do the following:

  • Set the Unsecure Base URL to HTTPS to make it secure
  • Use the {{unsecure_base_url}} variable in the Secure Base URL
  • Set Use Secure URLs in Frontend to Yes
  • Set Use Secure URLs in Admin to Yes

Use Extended Validation SSL Certificate with Magento

Using an EV SSL certificate gives customers more sense of security, and reinforces that the whole site is protected through the introduction of a green URL bar. This is especially apparent on mobile devices, as it is much more visible for customers.

Magento URL Rewrites

Magento Server Rewrites is a core peace of functionality, which allows you to have nice ‘customer friendly’ URLs. These are excellent for readability and preventing duplicate content.

https://www.yourstore.com/catalog/product/view/id/177 becomes https://www.yourstore.com/brand-product-name

You can activate this setting through System -> Configuration -> Web -> Search Engine Optimisation -> Enable URL Rewrites, and Magento will even populate all of your 301 redirects for you.

Google Sitemap

Magento has a (very basic) XML sitemap which can be submitted to Google Web Master Tools.

To create your first Magento sitemap add the file name ‘sitemap.xml’ and a path of ‘/’ in the following menu.

Catalog -> Google Sitemap -> Add Sitemap

 

After this is created, it is important to setup the sitemap to automatically generate itself on a schedule, otherwise your sitemap will get out of date as soon as you add a new product.

System -> Configuration -> Catalog -> Google Sitemap

Fill in these Magento Google Sitemap settings using the following:

Magento Meta Information

Magento allows you to input Meta Information for all products, categories, and CMS pages. It is worth filling these in wherever possible with unique information. All your Meta Information should abide by your keyword strategy.

There are some additional Meta settings that allow you to set a Meta Title Suffix which is useful for brand consistency, as well as some default Meta Information. Ideally Google will never see the default text, because you will have unique Meta Titles, Descriptions and Keywords for each piece of content.

Default Robots

This is a very simple change, but is worth looking at if not all your pages are being crawled/indexed. Changing this to ‘INDEX, FOLLOW’ is best practice for most installations.

System -> Configuration -> General -> Design -> HTML Head -> Default Robots

Magento Logo Image Alt

Making sure that your header logo has a decent Alt description can help search engines understand what the image is.

System -> Configuration -> General -> Design -> Header -> Logo Image Alt

Magento Canonicals

Canonicals allow Magento to link content back to a single source. This is useful to avoid duplication, and luckily basic canonicals are included ‘out of the box’. Set the Categories and Products Canonical settings to ‘Yes’.

System -> Configuration -> Catalog -> Search Engine Optimisation -> Use Canonical Link Meta Tag

Magento Catalog SEO Settings

Magento provides some basic settings that are worth changing, these can all be found under:

System -> Configuration -> Catalog -> Search Engine Optimisation

  • Autogenerated Site Map: Enable
  • Popular Search Terms: Enable
  • Product URL Suffix: (blank)
  • Category URL Suffix: (blank)
  • Use Categories Path for Product URLs: No
  • Create Permanent Redirect for URLs if URL Key Changed: Yes
  • Page Title Separator: –

Magento Google Analytics

Magento includes basic support for Google Analytics. This includes the use of the new Universal Analytics options, which is highly recommended. All you need for this is to activate the feature and provide your Account Number.

System -> Configuration -> Sales -> Google API -> Google Analytics

In Part 2 of this guide we will talk about Google Tag Manager, and the best way to implement this amazing new service from Google, in place of the typical Google Analytics.

Magento CSS and JS File Compilation

A very simple way to help optimise your website loading speed (which is a Google ranking factor), is to consolidate all your CSS and JavaScript into single files. This has the benefit of allowing more concurrent downloads. Using this feature is recommend for most hosting providers, unless you have specific requirements for SPDY or HTTP 2.0.

System -> Configuration -> Developer -> JavaScript Settings -> Merge JavaScript Files

System -> Configuration -> Developer -> CSS Settings -> Merge CSS Files

Please also note that the JavaScript compression can cause unexpected results if your website is not coded in the best practice standards, so test thoroughly after implementing.

What Next?

Now that you’re done with Part 1, checkout The Ultimate Guide to Magento SEO – Part 2, where we discuss some external services that help you get the most of Magento’s SEO potential.