Out-of-the-box, Magento is fairly well configured for SEO. It’s fast, has excellent CMS features, and does the right thing in most cases, but search engine optimization is all about unique, relevant content, and for that, retailers have to put in the work.
eCommerce SEO is a complex business (and there are experts who focus on it as a career), but as with most things SEO, applying the basics gets you 90% of the way there. I’d like to look at five SEO tasks that every new Magento store should focus on if they’re to be competitive in the SERPs.
Optimize Categories And Products
eCommerce can be tricky where high-quality, relevant content is concerned, and many retailers don’t bother at all, but if you want your products to appear in Google for relevant searches, you’re going to have to invest some time writing original and keyword-rich product descriptions.
The better your product and category page content, the more information Google has to assess their relevance to a search query.
Don’t overdo it; the same rules that apply to blogs and lead generation sites apply to eCommerce retailers: no keyword stuffing, no thin content, and no “SEO tricks” like hidden text — it doesn’t work and you’ll end up with a penalty.
Title And Description Tags
The title and description tags are essential for two reasons. Firstly, Google uses keywords and other signals from them for indexing content; and secondly, they appear in the search engine results. The title appears as the text of the blue link, and the description appears as the snippet of text underneath the link (usually — Google can decide to use other text).
There’s a great description of how to do this on the Magento Stack Exchange, which is an excellent resource for new Magento users.
Watch Out For Duplicate Content
Duplicate content can be a huge problem for retailers. Many duplicate content problems are caused by query strings on site URLs. Magento makes heavy use of these to maintain state and each unique URL looks like a page to Googlebot. Obviously, these pages will have identical content, which doesn’t look good to Google.
The best way to handle duplicate content issues on Magento is firstly to keep duplicate content on product and category page to a minimum, and secondly to use canonical URLs to designate which pages Google should be paying attention to.
You can activate canonical URLs in the Search Engine Optimization dropdown of your Magento store, which is found in System > Configuration > Catalog. Activate both “Use Canonical Link Meta Tag For Categories” and “Use Canonical Link Meta Tag For Products”.
Noindex Non-Content Pages
Ideally, you want only content pages to appear in search results. One of the most irritating aspects of Magento is the way in which potentially thousands of internal search results will be indexed, cluttering the SERPs with unattractive results. Some SEO say the more the merrier, but I prefer a more targeted approach.
You can tell Google which pages to crawl in the robots.txt file, and you can exclude the search pages as explained in this article from Magik, but robots.txt is limited. It will stop Google crawling pages, but they can still appear in the index. Ideally, we’d like Google to crawl search pages and follow the links in them, but not put them in the index.
To do that we need the meta robots tag, which uses the Robots Exclusion Protocol. We want to add the following tags to the head of our search pages:
<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, FOLLOW”>
This is not an easy tweak and the method depends on your theme, but Traffic Motion discusses a relatively straightforward technique.
A Need For Speed
Site performance is a crucial part of good SEO. Google doesn’t want to send its users to a poorly performing eCommerce stores, particularly when they’re using mobile devices. Unfortunately, performance is one of the most difficult aspects of Magento to control. Unless you’re an expert, I’d advise you to find a managed Magento hosting provider that has the technology and the expertise to get the most out of Magento.
These five techniques are only the foundation of an ongoing search engine optimization strategy, but for a new store, they are a great foundation for future search engine success.