How to Make a Magento Store SEO Friendly in 10 Steps

Published May 24, 2014 by James Parsons in SEO
Estimated read time of 3 minutes and 57 seconds3 0
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Magento is an incredibly common ecommerce platform, but it suffers from a lack of default SEO optimizations. Thankfully, with a few tweaks and a couple of extensions, you can optimize your storefront to become an SEO powerhouse.

1. Use URL Rewrite Management

One of the major problems faced by Magento users is the URL format. URLs generated by Magento are dynamically created using a series of anonymous subdirectories, so a URL may turn out to look like .com/catalog/product/view/id/3191/category/332. This kind of subdirectory chain is valueless for SEO and parses poorly for a user. By using URL Rewrite Management, you can convert a URL like that example into a convenient, readable URL like .com/mens/categories/shoes.htm. While you’re at it, edit your robots.txt file to hide the dynamic Magento URLs from the search engines. This guarantees that you won’t face duplicate content issues when your pages are indexed.

2. Other URL Optimizations

Another possible duplicate content issue is whether a URL has a trialing / or not. A web browser will parse the same URL with and without the / as the same page, but a search engine will see differences in the URL and record them as two individual pages. The best way to fix this with Magento is to visit the System, Configuration, Web, SEO page and tell the platform to force a trailing slash onto the end of the URL. This guarantees that all URLs include the trailing slash.

Once you make any change to your URLs, you should use Google’s Webmaster Tools to search for any external pages linking to URLs in the old form. Identify those old URLs and use rel=canonical and 301 redirects to pass any SEO benefit from the old URL to the new one.

3. Optimize Page Titles

Optimize-Page-Titles

Your page title is the primary text a user sees when they perform a Google search and read the results. You want to optimize each title on your page for maximum utility. Avoid front-loading your brand name. Google only shows the first 67 characters of your title in the search results. Anything beyond that limit is cut off. If you waste space with your brand name, users will see that but they won’t see the specific content of the page.

Do this for all content pages, category list pages and product pages. The title is a great place for the primary keyword you’re targeting with each individual page, generally the name of the product or category.

4. Optimize Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are the rich text snippets that appear beneath the title in a Google search and are, if anything, more important than the title. They have more space to work with – up to 255 characters – and they’re a fantastic place to include long tail keywords and an organic description of your product or category pages.

If your store includes a large number of products, optimizing these fields can take an exceptionally long time. You can, however, partially automate the process, if you have a custom Magento page title generation module. As with titles, you should do all meta descriptions for all content, category and product pages.

5. Generate a Sitemap

One of the best perks of Magento for SEO is the automatic generation of an XML sitemap. In the System, Configuration, Google Sitemap menu, you can customize your XML sitemap in a variety of ways. In particular, you can set the page to automatically refresh different parts of your sitemap at different times. Category pages, which change frequently as you adjust your stock, can be set to automatically regenerate on a daily basis. Meanwhile, content pages, which change infrequently on an individual level, can be refreshed weekly.

Note that an XML sitemap only works for search engines. If you want a sitemap that works for users as well, you can use a Magento module to generate an HTML sitemap. These will need a bit more work to customize to match the rest of your storefront, but they can be automated in much the same way once they are created.

6. Configure RSS Feeds

Configure-RSS-Feeds

Another great feature of Magento is the automatic generation of multiple RSS feeds, for users interested in keeping up to date with your storefront. You can create several different feeds, name them as you choose and configure them to display changes to any product in a given category. The options can be found in the System, Configuration, RSS Feeds menu.

Some suggestions:

  • • A news feed for updates to your blog and news pages.
  • • A new products feed, to display whenever a new product is added to your store.
  • • A special products feed, to display special sales and limited items.

7. Configure Image Alt Text

To a search engine, an image is simply a URL pointing at an image file. The search engine does not parse the image as anything graphical and does not know the meaning behind the image. The way to solve this is to set alt text for your images. One image in particular you should set alt text for is your logo. You can find the option for this in the System, Configuration, Design, Header section under logo image alt text.

To change the alt text of existing images, visit the Magento Commerce directory, under Catalog, Manage Products. Each product will have an images section, and under that section will be the header “label.” The label is the alt text for the image, which you can customize for each product.

8. Paginate Category Pages

If your store sells more than five or ten products in a given category, you’ll want to set up search result pagination and category pagination. The easiest way to paginate your pages is to use a module that adds SEO pagination to your site. These modules can be expensive, but so may be a developer coding it for you. Whether you choose a developer or a module, make sure that the pagination is properly coded with rel=next and rel=previous tags. This tells Google that the pages at those links are part of the same overall category page, rather than individual pages with near-duplicate content, which can cause SEO issues.

9. Use Caution for Multiple Stores

When you’re running multiple storefronts with similar product listings, or even using the same inventory, you need to watch out for duplicate content. Make sure that you change up the title and meta description field for each store, so you aren’t generating identical text for different stores. The same goes for page content, including product descriptions.

10. Remove Index.php

If your URLs have index.php appended to the end of them, you’re adding an unnecessary field to your URL. Neither users nor Google needs this to exist, so you can remove it safely. Under System, Configuration, Web, set the “use web server rewrites” field to yes. This will remove the index.php from your URLs. Once this is done, make sure you perform the same webmaster tools scan as above to find incoming links to a page with index.php. Set up 301 redirects to maintain the SEO power of that link.

Written by James Parsons

James Parsons

James Parsons is a blogger and marketer, and is the business development manager at AudienceBloom.com. When he isn’t writing at his personal blog, he is working on his next big project.

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