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How to Ensure Your New Magento Site is SEO Ready

While we here at Watermelon love working with a variety of Content Management Systems including WordPress for specialized e-commerce solutions, we often want to offer clients the choice of Magento for sites that require a more robust and complex e-commerce configuration. There are many reasons why Magento is a clear leader in the field for highly specialized online market solutions: support for rich structured data, localization options, complex tax structures, multiple store configurations, security features and an open source development environment, just to name a few.

And if you’re getting up and running, there are some crucial development features that should not be overlooked, to take Magento’s typically strong SEO friendly structure and hone it into an SEO powerhouse. Let’s examine some development items that can lock in these enhancements that can be done during site development.

Keep Your Title Relevant

In certain situations, clients want to have store name appear on all store pages. To enable this, in the System > Configuration page, select Design under the General menu on the sidebar. Under HTML Head, you will see some options for title information. Be sure to set your Default title to something that includes your store name and a short description (your site tagline.)

If it is relevant, you can include your Store name in the Title Suffix field to ensure it remains in the title for named static pages, like the Contact page and Category page collections.

For production sites, do not forget to set the Default Robots tag to INDEX,FOLLOW. This is a crucial setting that if overlooked during production will prevent robots from seeing the site, and will make you very unhappy with the resulting outcome.

Your Default Description and Default Keywords are set in this pane as well. Be sure to include all of your major ranking keywords here, and a short and sweet default description will give search engines the correct information to display on your search results.

If you do not have any particular keywords to display in the Default Keywords textarea, Magento will default to your product names if they aren’t set manually.

Additionally, you will want to setup your Meta Descriptions for all of your product categories to avoid duplication of this meta data. The more unique descriptions for your categories mean that search engines will be better suited to properly crawl your store and provide better search results for your users. To edit your category descriptions, go to Catalog > Manage Categories, open your category to edit, and enter the description in the General Information tab.

Finally, you should probably have your developer code a canonical tag for all of your store pages. There is another simpler solution from the third party developer Yoast, they provide a module called Canonical URL’s that can enable this without any additional coding. Providing canonical URLs prevents duplicate content penalties from search engines when Magento sorting and layered navigation appends query strings to similar content. Canonical URLs remove the risk of this happening to your content.

Better Catalog and Product URL Control

You may want even more control of how your product URLs are built by Magento. Say you’ve got a complicated category name that isn’t very readable or even very descriptive. Or say you’ve got a product with an unusually long name that would be better suited in a URL in a shorter form. Under Catalog > Manage Products and Catalog > Manage Categories, be sure to set this information in the URL Key under the General Information tab. Search engines and users will thank you for streamlining the look of your resulting URL structure (it’s readable!)

To WWW or Not to WWW

This is a frequent SEO for almost every website during development, and any website that undergoes an SEO strength audit: if your site can be accessed with or without the www prefix, this can be a hit to your SEO rank. Search Engines do not like duplicate content, and if they can browse both you will get the penalty of reduced ranking and site authority.

Magento can simplify this process by setting the preferred prefix. You can set this in System > Configuration, then select Web under the General menu on the sidebar. Under Unsecure and Secure you can include or exclude the WWW from your preferred Url. Then in .htaccess, you can redirect index.php to root like this (source: Yoast.com):

RewriteBase / RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} ^[A-Z]{3,9} /index.php HTTP/
RewriteRule ^index.php$ http://www.mydomain.com/ [R=301,L]

Static Content Should Be Friendly Too

Besides displaying all of your product categories, you will likely be employing Magento CMS pages for static content like About Us, Location Information, FAQs, and other content that is not a typical Magento product. These pages should not be overlooked during the SEO process.

Under your CMS page content, in the right menu you will find the Meta Data tab. This will allow you to flesh out this meta data in the same fashion as the default data and the category data. This will let your About Us page get the same relevance as your actual store content, or give your FAQ a much needed search engine rank if you are selling complex products that require additional resources for your users.

Better Image Visibility

It likely goes without saying that your catalog will feature beautiful imagery to display alongside your product information. But we can tweak the display of these images to work better with search engine image searches as well, and this will provide better image rankings for unique products as well as enabling search engines to better match images with a giving search term.

Under Catalog > Manage Products, you can edit for a given product the label of a product image. This label will become both the alt tag and the title tag of the image. This way you can customize alt tags per product to your liking.

Sitemaps

Don’t overlook your sitemap settings, as this is a default Magento feature and very easy to implement. Simply go to Catalog > Google Sitemap > Add Sitemap. Choose a filename, path, and store view, then Save and Generate your sitemap. Your sitemap will then be located at http://mydomain.com/sitemap.xml. This won’t help your site ranking, but it will get your site indexed faster. You can use Google Webmaster Tools to automate this process.

You may want to have your developer setup a cron job for the sitemap generation as well. When you change your catalog, you will want to regenerate the sitemap. A cron job can do this automatically for you so you only have to set it up once, then freely work on your catalog knowing the server is updating this for you.

There is always a level of care and finesse in making sure your site is optimized for the wild. Hopefully this outline will give you a basic rundown of the major things that can be easily overlooked when you are setting up your online catalog. SEO is an ongoing process of fine tuning, but it certainly helps to come strong out of the gate. Happy selling!

1 Comment

  1. Pooja Gupta · January 18, 2017 Reply

    Making a website SEO as well as user-friendly gives a boost in the visibility of a website. In your list i would like to add one more thing which is adding a blog section to the website and regular updating the blog with latest posts helps to boost the online visibility.

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