When you’re looking for an SEO-friendly solution for online shopping, Magento is right up there as a very serious contender. But even Magento has its shortcomings. To be fair, recently it’s made some welcome improvements, and third parties have come up with their own fixes. Yoast has produced a basic SEO guide to give a head start to those using Magento without a solid background in eCommerce. But with our Magento sites, we like to go beyond those basics. Here, rather than reiterating the explanations from the Yoast beginners guide, we’ll focus on some of the extra steps we take to optimise eCommerce Magento stores.
The Magento SEO Theme
We start as always with a blank theme. We tweak the coding, take out any unwanted detail in the header and implement some no-follow settings. In addition, we
re-route non, www traffic to www301ing/index.php to the root implement canonical URL extension generate XML sitemap
Next, we amend the basic theme in the following ways. So that we can use div blocks to organize the products, we take out the table-based layout for the product grid. That makes for cleaner code, and we prefer it. In addition, the semantics of that theme’s header tags get changed. This is common practice among SEOs – often the h1 tag gets changed to a logo and keyphrases are used as a title which then gets placed on all the pages. That’s okay for keeping the site structured, but unless there’s a good reason for it, it’s much better to have a unique h1 tag on each page. On the blank SEO theme, the logo is an h1 on the homepage and an h4 on the rest. The trouble with this is that h4 is displayed above h1 on all those pages, which isn’t great semantically. So our advice is that if you have a natural heading, there’s no reason to make the logo an h1. If you don’t have a natural heading, only use the logo wrapped in an h1 on the homepage.
We also take all the layered links – navigation, sorting, paging, wishlist, comparison etc – and make those no-follow too.
All eCommerce pagination, including Magento approaches, can give rise to problems with duplicate content and other issues. We haven’t yet gone as far as revamping the whole Magento system for pagination, but we do like to make two major changes to the way it operates in eCommerce sites. The first thing is to amend the title tag on every page so that it starts with the prefix, “Page  of…” and so is unique. The other thing we do is to fix the way the system duplicates the URL for the first page. You can see this if you look for a category that contains multiple pages. See how, beyond the first page, there’s a link back to page one – using a query string parameter for that page, instead of the URL. So, as an example, if our store sells red boxes, the URL might be /products/red-boxes, and the following pages would be /products/red-boxes?p=1. Our solution is to give the page 1 link a no-follow attribute. It would be even more effective if the model itself was changed so as not to have the p+1 query string parameter.
SEO For Multi-Store Magento
Magento is perfect for supporting multiple web stores and combining them into one administrative interface that manages all orders, products, etc. That means you can have a number of storefronts that share certain products. If you’re looking to do that though, watch out for duplication. Since you probably will have used the same IP block for each setup, if you replicate the exact same information on the different sites, search engines will not only pick up that the stores are related, they will consider them to be all part of the same site.
Here’s our advice. If you’re going to run multiple sites, go through the titles, descriptions, headers and even the pricing, to create individual content. After all, if the whole point of having more than one site is to have more of a marketing reach, then you don’t want to create a reason for each one of the sites to be rendered less effective in SEO terms by the others. In that case, you’d be better off just working on optimising just one domain.
301-ing Disabled Products
Let’s imagine that your site has a product on sale that is a massive seller. It’s the next big thing, so of course, you’re falling over yourself with inbound links and viral marketing. But inevitably, months down the line, you don’t sell it anymore, and you take the product offline. You know what that means – all those valuable clicks and search rankings end up with a 404 error.
It happens a lot in eCommerce. One basic thing we suggest is to customize the “not found” page to display related pages or a search instead. But even better, both for SEO and to help passing customers find their way back into your site, is to redirect to another related page. So what we do is to provide the facility for Magento administrators to redirect pages from disabled products or categories so that instead of a 404, the page displayed is a replacement or related product. That’s great for everyone because the customers get a better service, and all the valuable SEO benefits are retained.
SEO And eCommerce Platforms
Reading all this, you might be wondering whether Magento really is so SEO-friendly after all! The truth is, you needn’t worry. Just about every eCommerce platform we use has similar hurdles. At the end of the day, it’s just a platform for optimising site content, and for doing that, Magento is as good as any other. Although every eCommerce platform likes to boast that they’re more SEO-friendly than the others, in reality, they are all about as good as each other. Most of them nowadays have developed tools that are helpful for SEO, and there are only slight differences between them. But that’s a topic for another article.