Your Magento e-commerce isn’t performing on SEO like you’d want it to? In this guide we’ll show the exact process we use to make your site search friendly: our best practices, checklist, extensions and all the necessary information to easily set up your Magento website and bring in the organic traffic you need to make your business grow faster!
- Why is it necessary to optimize Magento for SEO?
- Magento Site Optimization – How to make Magento SEO friendly?
- Optimizing Metadata: Meta Titles & Meta Descriptions
- Optimizing Content: H1 Tags & Category/Product Descriptions
- Magento SEO Extensions
- Going beyond on-page optimization
Why is it necessary to optimize Magento for SEO?
Optimizing your Magento website for search engines can be the most crucial aspect of your business because it can significantly boost your revenue, so choosing to make the right steps in SEO is more than a must when it comes to e-commerce stores.
Doing SEO for your Magento site is not merely just about having an online presence, it’s especially about keeping your business alive by attracting new customers and making them remain active for a long period of time, wanting to come back to your store again and again. After all, when it comes to retail, organic search is responsible for over 50% of the total potential online traffic and 40% of the revenue that an e-commerce store can receive.
By making the right SEO steps in setting up your Magento store you can benefit of greater visibility for every product you sell, decrease your marketing budget invested in online advertising, bring more value to your business and gain more loyal customers, increase sales and enhance your overall company growth on a long term.
Making your business grow is in our interest too, and that is why we have prepared a complete Magento SEO guide with all the necessary information you can have at your fingertips to easily set up your Magento website.
Magento Site Optimization – How to make Magento SEO friendly?
Magento provides a lot of options to make your store SEO friendly, some that can be setup directly from your admin interface, others that require certain theme enhancements or third party extensions.
In this guide you will find out how to do SEO for your Magento website and how to address different Magento SEO issues to make you business more attractive and improve your sales performance.
We know Magento can sometimes give you a headache, with all of its menus, settings and extensions, but have no worries, we will break every little trick down for you to make the technical details more manageable and shed light on every dilemma you can encounter.
Magento Accessibility – Site Structure, Crawling & Indexing
The architecture of your Magento store is the cornerstone of your SEO strategy. Deciding what pages you will want to be visited by the search engine bots gives you the opportunity to optimize the content of your webstore and take your business up to the top in the search results pages.
When it comes to Magento’s level of accessibility, you want to make sure your most important pages are properly crawled and indexed, while the ones that do not offer any value to search engine users should be blocked from appearing in search results. You should also pay attention to your content to avoid any duplication and optimize your pages to offer the best user experience while obeying search engines guidelines.
To fulfil these two needs you have to focus first on category structure and navigation.
Implementing a proper category structure in Magento
Example of category structure. Image source: magento.com
Having a good structure of your Magento e-commerce is important both for user experience and search engines algorithms. You want your categories and products to appear in the top results pages whenever a user inputs one of the keywords which are relevant to your business, right?
The decision-making process on the categories that you need to implement in order to have your products logically cluttered in a parent landing page, as a part of a group, should start from scratch with an analysis of your customers online behavior.
This implies a thorough keyword analysis in order to find out what users are searching for and how often. Tools like Google’s Keyword Planner are a great starting point for this analysis, allowing you to create a hefty list of keywords together with their monthly search volume.
Based on this analysis you can figure out how your site should be structured in order to best satisfy the needs of your audience, while making sure search engines understand what pages they can show in their results. Your categories should be easily accessible from any place in your website and the structure should be logical and intuitive.
If a lot of users search for “long sleeve shirts” you will want your site structure to have a page entitled “long sleeve shirts” that contains those kind of products, no matter how many brands of shirts you have or based on what any other criteria you have chosen to structure the content of the site.
To do this, you can choose to fit that page into your website’s structure as a category or subcategory page (such as Shirts > Long Sleeves), where users can browse all the long sleeve shirt products that you can offer.
Basically, the same goes for each keyword in your list. Make sure that each keyword has a corresponding category page (note that it’s often the case where multiple keywords are targeted by the same page), and that all of the categories fit well in your site structure.
Of course, for the same example above, you can opt to use filters (such as a “long sleeve” filter in the “Shirts” category). In fact, you probably already have those set up, so why bother creating categories as well?
Well, the reason is simple: Filters are very practical for your customers, but they can be a source of further issues when trying to keep your website SEO friendly. Using filters can generate duplicate content or extra URLs that have no value for your website (such as a combination of filters which yields no products).
Also, the more attributes your products have, the more filters you’ll have in your category navigation, which leads to an exponential amount of pages.
Using Filters in Magento – Image Source:Amasty.com.
For example, let’s say you have 10 t-shirt products in one category. You might think that totals 11 pages that search engines can crawl and index. But if each t-shirt has 5 possible colors and 5 possible sizes, that’s 25 possible combinations of filters, which results in 25 extra pages that are crawled and indexed. Add another attribute with 5 options, and we get to 125.
That’s already a 10-fold increase in the total amount of pages of your site! Because of the big number of duplicate content and pages filters can generate based on users queries, it’s usually best to avoid having search engines have to crawl and index them, so that they spend more time crawling your important pages (categories and products) and serve users the proper optimized results.
Yes, that does mean you might need to create quite a few categories (it’s often the case where you might have a few hundred, based on how big the niche and your product offering is), but there are usually easy ways to fit them in the navigation so they offer a good user experience. Top level categories can fit in a main horizontal menu for example, while lower level categories may be accessed from a sidebar.
In fact, Amazon does something similar, listing their top departments in their top menu, while allowing you to delve deeper by using the sidebar. ASOS does this very well too, offering users both categories and filters for certain product combinations.
Below we have wrapped up the main options you have of blocking filters from being indexed and/or crawled:
This is typically the fastest option. It basically tells search engines not to even bother accessing filter URLs. While this might seem best, it may be the case we might get some ranking signals to a few of those pages, which in turn get lost since Google can’t access them.
Another issue that may stem from this is that, if your category structure isn’t properly optimized, blocking access to filter pages may in turn cause search engines not to find some products on your site.
Meta Robots Tag
This is a more accurate option, where we can simply set for search engines not to include filter pages in search results by using the NOINDEX option, but continue to access them and any other internal links to products on these pages, and pass ranking signals throughout the site naturally.
The disadvantage here may be that, with a very large amount of product attributes, a lot of search engines resources may be spent crawling the filter pages. This means that some recently updated categories on your site might show up later in search results, when bots get the time to crawl them.
This is perhaps the best option currently out there when it comes to filters, and extends even further than this usage.
Simply put, canonical tags are a mix between a NOINDEX tag, thus preventing filter pages from showing up in search results, and a search engine only redirect, where any ranking signals that belong to the filtered page are transmitted to the non-filtered category.
In fact, when it comes to Google, canonical tag also reduce the amount of resources that Googlebot spends on crawling these pages, thus being a win-win-win.
Canonical tags are also useful for product pages, especially if you set up your store to include the parent category in the URL of each product. This implies that a product that can be accessed from multiple categories will have multiple URLs, thus creating duplicate content. The canonical tag helps by showing search engines that all these URLs should be merged into a single ‘canonical’ one which should be shown in search results and aggregate all ranking signals each URL version has.
Lastly, canonicals also help with URL parameters that may come outside of Magento, such as parameters used for tracking marketing campaigns.
AJAX navigation can enable filtering options for users without changing the URL of the results page. This means that only users will ‘see’ the filters, search engines won’t.
While this may sound exactly like it’s exactly what you need, AJAX navigation is not easy to implement, and requires a lot of development time or expensive themes or extensions. Also, this kind of navigation can cause issues with performance, and a lot of performance-enhancing extensions don’t have any effect on AJAX.
Google Search Console / Bing Webmaster Tools
We can’t end this section without talking about the URL Parameters options in both Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Both search engines offer options to deal with filters and let them know what exactly they should index or not, or give them more information about what each filter does.
While this is definitely a good option to have, it is specific to just those search engines where you set it up, and you have to update the configurations whenever a new parameter shows up, thus not being as effective as something that can be implemented directly on your site.
Optimizing Metadata: Meta Titles & Meta Descriptions
As with page titles, meta titles should be kept every basic and straightforward. They are clearly an important aspect of your optimization strategy, so you should stick to the basic requirements the SEO experts suggest. However, meta title should be written for customers in order to add value to your website and increase clickthrough rates.
Magento Metadata Optimization. Image source: magento.com
Meta titles are composed of two parts, a unique description and the name of your
brand. To add your brand name to each title tag, leave checked the default settings in the “Title suffix” set in Magento.
For the first part it is advisable to optimize it to be relevant for the page in
question, so that you do not have to add the parent page’s name in it. Do not to make it too long, however, the meta titles should be very specific and should contain about 65 characters max.
Concentrate on using the primary keywords first, followed by secondary keywords but
don’t overdo it. Remember, first of all they should address your customer’s needs and fit their online search queries.
Avoid using the default titles, such as “Home”, “Home Page” or “Product Page”,
because search engines will have a hard time understanding what your page is about. This can cause your click-through rate to drop and, worst case scenario, your rankings can suffer.
This is how you meta title’s structure could look like:
Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword – Brand Name
Short-Sleeved Men Shirts – Summer Menswear – Kelly’s Shop
Meta descriptions can be used to attract more clicks and let the user know what he or she can expect to find by clicking on that specific URL. It is important for them to contain, in a non-spammy way, the keywords which are specific to each page together with a persuasive description that will make the user want to enter.
Keep the meta descriptions short – Magento’s description character limit is no more than 150 characters – and, as their name indicates, make them descriptive.
Meta descriptions should contain the keywords relevant to each page and a call to action. Think of it as an Ad for that specific landing page and the product the page is dedicated to.
Here’s an example of a meta description for a category page:
Shop for Short-Sleeved Men Shirts at Kelly’s Shop! – 100% Authentic Products – Free shipping over $150!
Magento Content Optimization – Image Source: Amasty.com
Separated from the meta titles (which are only shown in search results), the page titles in Magento are usually the “name” of the actual pages displayed for users, in most cases using an H1 tag (the recommended HTML tag used for page titles).
Optimize each and every title page to drive more traffic by choosing the best words which describes the page in question. Users need to make quick decisions to click on a page so keep in mind that page titles are important for a good user experience and responsible for every user action and should not only reflect the rest of the content of a page, but also fulfill their needs and satisfy their expectations.
The title doesn’t need to be the same as the meta title, and in fact, unless you use an extension, you will probably prefer these titles to be shorter so they can also be used in your navigation.
Category content optimization
Remember that after the homepage, category pages are the most powerful pages your Magento store has, because they contain numerous on page links to all subcategories and product pages, which give them a lot of authority and can increase the rank of all pages they link to throughout your website’s structure.
When it comes to category optimization for Magento, try to keep the category name particular, the meta title & description tags specific and relevant and don’t forget to include the main keywords users search for when they seek for the type of products included in this category.
As mentioned above, you can keep the category name shorter in order to fit your navigation, but avoid making it too short.
For example, if your structure looks like this:
Women > Dresses > Casual
The title of your category might simply be “Casual”, which is not the most relevant title you might want to show your users and search engines. “Casual Dresses” would be a much better fit.
Product content optimization
Nobody is born a writer and writing good content is more about optimizing it, than having a good moment of inspiration. They say that 90% of writing is editing so be prepared to improve your content as often as you can to keep your customers active and attract new ones.
Product pages optimization is similar to category pages optimization, although here you need to fill in as much information about your products as you can. Make your content interesting by adding images and a structure to it using headings.
The bottom line is to manage to offer a good and thorough description of each product, using the specific keywords users input in their searches, to successfully target your audience on each search engine.
Sometimes less is more and here it is also recommended not to overpopulate your content with specific keywords that might make users go to the next shop where they are not assaulted by aggressive marketing strategies.
You want them to feel free to choose whether they want to buy your products and use your services or not, so at least let them have this impression by keeping your SEO tactics smooth.
Structured data comes in the form of certain markup on your pages that is only visible to search engines. The purpose of this markup is to provide more information about your business and products and also enhance the way your site appears in search results.
The main reason for having this data is that, while your users can clearly see what the price, availability or ratings a product has, search engines may have trouble correctly identifying these values. The main benefit is having those values shown directly in search results, which in turn increases the amount of clicks your site may get. Getting more clicks can even lead to better rankings, especially if your competitors don’t have this kind of markup applied.
Structured Data Magento – Image Source:
For e-commerce sites, these are the main types of structured data that can enhance the way your site appears in search results:
- Product Markup
- Breadcrumbs Markup
- Organization & Local Business Markup
To implement this markup you can either
- ask developers to implemented directly in the code
- use an extension that adds the markup automatically
- use Google Search Console to visually select each element necessary for the markup
While all options lead to the same results, the last option is not used as much because it is specific to Google and highly dependent on your theme. That means that if you change the theme, you’ll have to go through the whole process again.
If you want your business to be easily reachable and to appear among the first services on search engine results pages, then you need to choose the best platform that can provide you with the flexibility your customers need to be able to make orders via their laptop, smartphone or tablet.
Approximately 60% of the users leave a website which is not optimized for mobile devices, so this is one of the most important things you need to do in order to keep up with the market trends and increase sales.
Web Traffic by Device – Image Source:
Search engines such as Google take this aspect quite seriously, especially since the majority of users are now accessing search engines from a mobile device. In fact, with the future Google updates, not having a mobile-friendly version for your website can lead to lower rankings on both mobile and desktop/laptop devices, since Google will take all its ranking decisions based on the content you serve to mobile users.
Fortunately, the vast majority of themes today have a mobile version by default, and most Magento web designers & developers make sure that any feature they add or change comes with mobile users in mind.
Certain extensions also help provide a better mobile user experience and even convert your desktop-only site to a ‘responsive’ one, but the best option is still making sure your theme is mobile friendly from the beginning in order to ensure maximum customization.
Google Mobile Friendly Test – Image source:
When it comes to mobile SEO, you really just need to focus on making sure that:
- Your site’s pages pass the Google Mobile Friendly test (you’ll also want to add your website to Google Search Console in order for this test to be automatically done to all of your pages)
- Your users aren’t interrupted by any big popups or ads when they arrive directly from the search results (this is usually the case for the first ~5 seconds after entering the site)
- You provide the users an optimal experience for them to complete their journey (whether it’s browsing products or making purchases). This, of course, makes sense without even worrying about SEO.
Giving users the option to access your site via HTTPS allows them to have a secure experiencing when browsing and purchasing from your website. While formally found only in the checkout phase, it’s now recommended that all pages of your site can be accessed using the HTTPS protocol.
From an SEO perspective, using HTTPS will actually give you a small ranking boost in Google, a feature that has been implemented since 2014 in order to convince more and more sites to adapt this protocol.
Nowadays, the SSL certificate required to use HTTPS can be acquired for free through services like Let’s Encrypt or Cloudflare, so there is little reason not to get one.
Just like the mobile version, your site’s performance can play a very important role for both your users’ experience and search engines.
When it comes to users, it’s important to know that most users abandon a site which takes more than 3 seconds to load, especially on mobile devices.
Magento Performance – Image Source:
Search engines such as Google also check for performance in order to make sure their users are satisfied with the search results they get, thus learning how to make Magento site load faster and be more responsive is one of the most important aspects that can get your business up in the search results pages.
While we cover Magento performance in greater detail (see our Magento Performance Optimization Guide), here’s a list of tools that can help you determine whether you or your site’s development team needs to take a closer eye on the site’s loading speed:
- Google PageSpeed Insights
- Google Search Console
- Google Analytics
Just note that, for SEO purposes, search engines prefer to act directly on rankings when it comes to performance only in somewhat extreme scenarios, when your site takes a very long time to respond (5-10 seconds or more). However, remember that every performance improvement can lead to a better user experience, which may indirectly help you rank better.
Sitemaps are highly useful for search engines since they offer information about what pages currently exist on your site and how often they have been updated. That way, every time you add/delete/modify a page, search engines can find out about it much quicker, thus ensuring you offer the latest information for users in the search results.
Moreover, submitting the XML sitemap files to your webmaster tools accounts (Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools) ensures that you have a constant check over any errors that search engine bots encounter when accessing these pages. Doing this also gives you statistics over how many pages have been indexed so far.
Because in Magento the option to create XML sitemaps usually provides a sitemap which contains pages you do not want to be indexed, a recommended approach is to create two XML sitemaps, one for products and one for category and content pages. This option will allow you to have a better visibility of your indexed pages through Google Webmaster Tools and will make everything easier for Googlebot to access the content of your pages, especially if your online store is big.
Alternatively, there are extensions which are dedicated to maintaining your sitemaps, and offer this service as part of a broader set of tools.
Magento SEO Extensions
Magento Extensions – Image Source:
There are quite a few extensions that help you setup and control most of the technical SEO features that we’ve talked about in our guide.
Here are two that are the most popular:
One of the most notable ones is the MageWorx SEO Suite, which allows you to set up:
- Robots meta tags for any page or filter in particular
- Canonical tags that can deal with both indexable and non-indexable filters
- Meta titles, meta description and page title templates
- Structured data information
- HTML & XML Sitemaps
Another popular extension is the Mirasvit Advanced SEO, with features such as:
- Titles and description templates
- Canonical tag setup
- Sitemap configuration
- Structured data
- Image alt attributes
Going beyond on-page optimization
Ending this guide with the conclusion that on-page SEO is important is almost an understatement. However, making sure your site is technically optimised and search friendly isn’t the whole picture. SEO is also about adding value to your users by creating e-commerce experiences that solve their problems and offer them what they’re looking for.
All the SEO technical fixes aren’t designed just so your ecommerce is “SEO optimized”. Most activities we do to make a Magento site search friendly will also influence other parts of your marketing. A faster site will bring better conversion rates. Blog posts that answer your users questions will help sales too and differentiate your ecommerce from competition. An optimized sitemap architecture means your visitors will find what they need faster, which can also translate into conversion rates boosts. A feature that talks about your business is not just about a backlink that gets discovered and accessed by a search engine. It’s also about a larger audience discovering your brand.
Canonicalization, accessibility or structured data are technological tactics that will get you far. Doing digital PR and content marketing on top of it will get your SEO results even further.