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Magento SEO Tips

by Workshop Team   |   Jul 05, 2016

Magento is an easy-to-use platform for ecommerce stores, if you fully understand all of its capabilities. One of its major downfalls, however, is that the default Magento settings are not ideal for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). As an SEO Analyst who has worked mostly on informational sites, I was thrilled to jump right in and expand my skills to Magento's ecommerce platform—until I realized the vast configuration differences between informational and transactional sites.

Magento has functionalities and verbiage that I was unfamiliar with at first, which presented a much higher learning curve than I anticipated. The platform was almost too alarming for me to sort through all the possible options to enable and modify. After you’re past the initial learning curve though, it is an extremely useful tool to optimize your site for organic search. I would even argue that Magento is easier to use for regular SEO maintenance than some of its simpler counterparts.

In this post, you'll learn how to optimize your Magento ecommerce site for the following SEO elements:

Although it’s not a comprehensive list, these basics will get you moving in the right direction for a clean, search engine–optimized site.

Enable Google Analytics tracking.

Magento makes it easy to add Google Analytics tracking code to your site. This step should always be completed before making any adjustments to the following configuration settings. The following should be enabled to ensure proper Google Analytics tracking:

  • Have ecommerce tracking enabled in your Google Analytics account
  • Enable Google Analytics in Magento
  • Add your Google Analytics account number

System > Configuration > Sales > Google API

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Create an XML sitemap.

You can configure and generate XML sitemaps within Magento. However, its default options limit attempts to include or exclude specific pages. Your sitemap settings ultimately depend on the type of store and its priorities. Generally, you should include your CMS pages (about us, terms and conditions, privacy policy, etc.) in your sitemap.

You can configure these settings under System > Configuration > Google Sitemap

Once you’ve adjusted your sitemap settings, you need to take another action to generate the sitemap. Simply modifying and saving sitemap settings doesn't update the live sitemap until you direct it to "Save and Generate." You should write your filename as “sitemap.xml” and set the path to “/” to make sure the sitemap is saved in the root directory.

Catalog > Google Sitemap

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Direct users to the end product page regardless of entry point.

My first experience with a Magento platform included an ecommerce store that had 40,000+ duplicate pages, which typically is a nightmare to handle in simpler platforms. Magento automatically creates duplicate product pages with the product URL keys appended to the category URL of the product page.

For example, let's say you have an orange shirt for sale at your online store and you allow users to visit it directly, through the All Products page or the Shirts page. Without direction, Magento will create two additional URLs for the exact same orange shirt page for these category pathways.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 2.57.17 PM

In the end, you're left with three pages for just one shirt. Imagine if you allowed users to enter through brands, product type, colors, etc.—Magento could create a half-dozen pages for every single product on your site.

Although the tens of thousands of duplicate pages were self-inflicted by the default settings of Magento, it is beautifully resolved with just a push of a button. To avoid duplicate pages, simply change the setting for “Use Categories Path for Product URLs” to "No." This directs Magento not to append product URL keys to category paths.

System > Configuration > Catalog > Catalog > Search Engine Optimizations

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Automatically create redirects for changing URLs.

You can set product URL keys (the product URL appended to the domain or category URL) in your product page settings. This product URL key is appended either to the root domain or category URL. These URL keys can be generated automatically from templates, which pull from information in product imports. Therefore, configuring URL settings can affect the URL structure en masse across the site, which can negatively affect user experience if the same changes aren't reflected in the front end of the site.

In Magento, you have the ability to create a permanent 301 redirect automatically if the URL key ever changes. This is a necessary setting, since product URLs and URL structure change regularly on a large ecommerce site.

System > Configuration > Catalog > Catalog > Search Engine Optimizations

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Set canonical link meta tags.

Canonical tags are pertinent to ecommerce stores with filtered product pages, configurable products, and URL parameters. Although the two previous steps will take care of the majority of duplicate pages, you should always have canonical tags set on your category and product pages to avoid confusing search engine bots.

When there are multiple versions of a page, canonical tags help search engines understand which version to serve in search results. For example, you may have a shirts page at website.com/shirts that shows every shirt you sell, with an option to filter by color. When you filter the page for orange shirts, the products on the page shift, and the URL changes to website.com/shirts?size%5B=101&push=1.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 3.46.20 PM

If you offer users many filtering options, you may end up with hundreds of versions of your shirts page, which is not ideal when trying to get that page to rank in search results. Magento offers the ability to add canonical tags on category and product pages by configuring the default SEO settings. I recommend setting “Use Canonical Link Meta Tag For Categories” to “Yes” to add a canonical tag on filtered versions of category pages that points to the main version. This is a necessary step for large ecommerce sites that append dynamic parameters on the end of filtered category pages.

Although usually there is only one product page, you can add canonical tags to product pages with parameters by enabling “Use Canonical Link Meta Tag For Products.”

System > Configuration > Catalog > Catalog > Search Engine Optimizations

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NOTE: It’s important to re-index your data after making changes to your products.

Typically, when changes are made to a page, you should submit it to search engines to be re-crawled and re-indexed. Just like pages need to be re-indexed for external search engines, product and catalog data in Magento need to be re-indexed to serve up-to-date information on the site. Any changes that are made to products and categories, such as a change in price, need to be updated in the internal index to appear on the site. You should select every index and submit all to be re-indexed.

System > Index Management

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While you’re changing these settings, keep in mind that some might not apply depending on your server configuration. It’s important to keep a close relationship with your developer while working on your Magento site to ensure the proper changes take hold.

These first few steps cover some of the basics to optimize your Magento ecommerce site for organic search. However, there are still quite a few important steps you should take afterward (like setting up a robots.txt file and removing Out of Stock products immediately from the index). There are many extensions in Magento Connect to configure advanced SEO settings easily.

Do you have a Magento eCommerce store? Comment below and let us know which other SEO settings you’d like to learn about to optimize your online store!