Magento is a widely used open-source content management system and commerce platform for businesses ranging in scope from major retailers to small-and-medium businesses selling things online for the first time. No matter the size of your business, if you’re using or considering Magento Commerce, there are a series of benefits and challenges with the platform related to SEO and other considerations. We are pleased to offer this primer to help you navigate the SEO best practices.
SEO benefits are definitely possible with Magento, but it does require some work. After initially installing Magento Commerce, there are a number of default settings that you should adjust to make your site more search engine friendly.
While there are many steps you can take to optimize Magento for search, we have identified three primary best practice recommendations directly from our experience with small- and large online retailers. So if you only have time to consider a few best practices, these three are the essentials:
1) Include Brand Names in Product Titles
When building your product listings, you should always ensure that the actual brand name is included in the product title. This helps reduce lengthy or un-necessary directories in the URL structure and supports good product-category bread crumb trail navigation: For this, you should hard-code text-based navigation links such as the sample below to ensure product and category relationships, otherwise it becomes “orphaned” content.
Original URL example: http://www.snowboardwebsite.com/mens/mens-button-ups/wovens/vans/hoover-l-s-shirt-new-charcoal-pid-94570
Recommended adjusted URL: http://www.snowboardwebsite.com/mens/button-ups/wovens/vans-hoover-l-s-shirt-new-charcoal
Example of breadcrumb navigation: Home > Mens > Button Ups > Wovens > Hoover Long Sleeve New Charcoal
2) Consider Addressing Canonicalization and Redirects
A common issue with Magento Commerce is duplication of Product URLs. You will find that you can reach the same product page with several URL variants. You will need to make some structured business decisions to apply your rel-cannolical rules and we have a common best practice that that has successfully applied to several clients.
For example, Magento will create your URLs with this general scheme:
From our experience, we recommend that you create a re-write rule that has all variants redirect to the main product page detail at:
Home > Category > Type > Product Detail page.
With this approach, products can live in multiple categories such as men’s, women’s, shoes, accessories, jewelry, and more. Most importantly, these variant product pages won’t be penalized by Google and other search engines as duplicate content.
3) Always Paginate Category and Brand pages
Another area where you can consolidate indexing properties and relationships of content from page-to-page is by using rel=“next” and rel=“prev” canonical tags.
As one option, you can use the Magento SEO Pagination extension for $99 if you don’t have a developer that can code this attribute for you. The only shortfall of the extension is that it only works at the category level, but not at the brand level, which needs to be hard-coded by a developer.
Why bother? Because pagination is important in strengthening content relationships and avoiding duplicate content issues. Here’s an additional resource provided by Google: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2011/09/pagination-with-relnext-and-relprev.html
Finally, here are some four additional adjustments that could save you some time and frustration. You can address these in the Magento Commerce admin interface without any custom programming:
- First, in the “Search Engine Optimization” menu that lives in System > Configuration > Web, set the “Use Web Server Rewrites” option to “Yes” to remove “index.php” from your URLs to automatically generate more search-engine-friendly and readable URLs.
- Use meaningful names for labeling your images. In the Magento Commerce directory, go to Catalog > Manage Products and select a product and you’ll see “images,” then you’ll find the field to label your images under the “label” header. Once there, instead of something general like “photo123,” label a photo by a brand and product name, especially if it’s a seasonal product.
- To help Google index your site, generate a XML Sitemap. Under the Catalog > Google Sitemap of Magento Admin Panel, click “Add Sitemap” button on top right where you can enable the automatic generation of a Sitemap. You will need to choose a filename, use ‘/’ if you want the path to be at root and store view, and then click “Save & Generate”. From there, plan to change the frequency settings based on your product update schedule. If you haven’t already verified your site with Google Webmaster Tools you can add the script in the System > Configuration > Design > HTML Heads section within the Miscellaneous Scripts box. Once you have your site verified with Google Webmaster Tools then you can submit your XML sitemap with them.
- Finally, Magento Commerce has a rich snippet extension for $39 that you can configure to dynamically showcase your inventory, including stock, price and more on search result pages. The only drawback for this extension is that it only provides structured markup on product level pages and not on the brand and category pages. Your web developers should be able to identify and code the ItemProp tags on those pages for you. For more information on structured data, visit schema.org. To test your rich snippets use Google’s structured data testing tool.
Magento Commerce is a robust and dynamic platform for online retailers of all sizes and is becoming more popular by the day. Following a few easy steps can go a long way toward helping you and your business get the most value from it. This article has covered some best practices and quick fixes for Magento SEO, if you have some additional feedback and ideas please send them over to us or comment below so we can share them with other readers.