There’s the learning curve associated to a new CMS and then there’s the learning curve associated to the Magento CMS. It’s an unwieldy beast, no doubt. Even experienced developers would acknowledge that, let alone search engine marketers. In fact, it’s only really been the past couple of months that I’ve managed to get my head around the platform, from an SEO perspective anyway (if anyone was to ask me anything beyond that, I’d be sure to slip up, immediately running off to our dev team for help).

So, after having to resolve a series of specific Magento SEO-related queries, I decided to relay the techniques here in a comprehensive Magento SEO guide. Granted, the SEO principles that these approaches pertain to are relatively simple – the adding of a title tag to a CMS page, for instance – but actually finding where, and how, to execute these principles in Magento is an entirely different story.

This blog post unpacks a series of how-tos, related directly to fundamental Magento SEO, to ensure your eCommerce store has the framework in place to be properly optimised for search engines.

 

Editing global HTML Head settings in Magento

First things first; how to edit site-wide settings that pertain to your HTML head. As many of you know, this is the part of a webpage that’s packed full of SEO tags, from your title tags and meta descriptions to your social tags and canonical tags. It’s therefore important to know where the global settings for this lie within Magento.

Navigate to Magento’s Design page under System > Configuration > General > HTML Head and you’ll find various <head> settings that are customisable at a site-wide level.

 

html-head-magento

 

For example, you may be interested in setting your title tag’s suffix site-wide, for example, “ | My Online Store ”. You can state this using the Title Suffix field.

Conversely, you may want to remove any default settings that are interfering with your optimisation efforts at page-level. Remove these by simply deleting the values within their corresponding fields.

You can also upload your site’s favicon here which helps to boost the aesthetics and trust signals across your website.

 

Adding custom meta data via XML markup in Magento

Title Tags

The Magento CMS splits its page types into two overarching categories: Catalog pages, i.e. category pages and product pages, and CMS pages. A CMS page is essentially any page that is not directly Ecommerce-related, for example, your homepage or your “About Us” page.

Although category pages and product pages allow for complete meta data to be optimised within their own respective UIs, CMS pages only supply data fields for meta descriptions and meta keyword tags. These can be found within the Meta Data tab of a CMS page.

 

A screenshot of Magento's Meta Data fields

 

A dedicated title tag field is, therefore, entirely missing. Instead, the CMS page’s title tag corresponds to the Page Title field, i.e. the h1 tag, found on the initial Page Information tab.

 

A screenshot of Magento's Page Title field

 

So, to create an individually optimised title tag that doesn’t correspond with your page title, enter the below snippet of XML markup into Page Layout XML (found under Design on a CMS page).

<reference name="head">
<action method="setTitle"><title>Input Title Tag here | Online Store</title>
</action>
</reference>

Meta Description

For quick reference, I’ve also outlined how you override the meta description via XML markup below. Similar to titles, this also goes into the Page Layout XML field.

<reference name="head">
<action method="setDescription" translate="title">
<title>Insert your new meta description below</title>
</action>
</reference>

 

Adding meta robots tags via XML markup in Magento

For Catalog and CMS page, the Layout Update XML field under Design offers great flexibility for Magento SEO that actually goes beyond editing your meta data.

To add any meta robots tag you wish via Layout Update XML, copy and paste the below XML markup:

<reference name="head">
<action method="setRobots"><value>NOINDEX,FOLLOW</value></action>
</reference>

Although this markup will add a “noindex, follow” meta robots tag to your corresponding page, editing the directives within the value brackets will allow you to include any meta robots tag you desire.

 

Managing 301 redirects in Magento

Outside of editing your .htaccess file, here are some methods of 301 redirecting within the Magento CMS.

The permanent redirect checkbox ✅

Redirecting page URLs in Magento is actually really easy, more so than some platforms. For Catalog pages especially, all you need to do is define your new URL destination and, as long as you have the Create Permanent Redirect for old URL checkbox ticked, Magento will automatically redirect your old URL to your new URL.

 

A screenshot of the permanent redirect checkbox in Magento

 

URL Rewrite Management

However convenient the above functionality is, there may come a time where you wish to alter some redirects you created, for instance, to reduce the amount of redirect chains occurring.

In order to do that, you need to know where all these redirects are stored. Head over to Catalog in Magento’s main navigation and click URL Rewrite Management. Here, you can alter any previous redirects you created. Simply use the search fields (Request Path and Target Path, in particular) to find the redirect that needs altering and click Edit (found on the left-hand side, underneath the Action column).

 

A screenshot of Magento's URL Rewrite Management field

 

Redirect plugins for Magento

Optimise Web’s Mass 301 Redirects for 404 Pages plugin for Magento is also a handy tool when you need to implement redirects on mass, for example, for legacy 404s. Hardly any knowledge of regular expression syntax is required, rather, you upload your redirect via a simply formatted .csv and let the plugin do the rest. Follow the link above for more information on using Optimise Web’s plugin.

 

Adding canonical tags in Magento

Adding canonical tags is essential when avoiding internal duplicate content issues across your Magento site. However, how do you go about configuring them across a CMS that’s so inherently large? Thankfully, it’s quite simple.

Setting global canonical tag configurations

Firstly, head over to System > Configuration > Catalog before finally clicking on Search Engine Optimizations amongst the drop-down tabs. Take a second to absorb the various other SEO options that are at your disposal here, but what we’re looking for is Use Canonical Link Meta Tag for Categories and Use Canonical Link Meta Tag for Products (found at the bottom of the options available).

 

How to configure canonical tags for Magento SEO

 

Ensure both fields read Yes to ensure your category pages self-canonicalise and your product pages canonicals to the root respectively.

Configuring canonical tags via XML markup

Similar to before, you can also manage canonical tags in Magento via XML markup. To do this, simply copy and edit the below XML markup into the Layout Update XML field within a Catalog or CMS page’s Design tab.

</action>
<action method="addLinkRel">
<rel>canonical</rel>
<href>https://demostore.com/perfect-category-name</href>
</action>
</reference>

For more information on this topic, you can read Aaron’s dedicated guide to creating custom canonical tags for Magento.

 

Optimising site speed for your Magento site

Although there are various ways of optimising your site’s speed, the two methods I’m going to discuss here are turning compilation “on” and combining your JavaScript/CSS files. Out-of-the-box Magento sites are notoriously slow, and with Google’s mission to make the web increasingly faster, it’s critical that your site is optimised for speed.

Enable Compilation

Depending on which version of Magento you’re running, you may have compilation turned off. To check, head over to System > Tools > Compilation and see whether Compiler Status is enabled or disabled. Simply clicking the Run Compilation Process button will serve to enable compression.

 

How to enable compression for increased site speed and better Magento SEO

 

Compilation needs to be switched off before a website change occurs and switched back on once the change is complete. Although this may seem laborious to your development team, this feature is known to increase performance by 25% to 50% (depending on the page requested) so it’s well worth the implementation.

Combining Javascript and CSS files

Aside from optimising images, combining your Javascript and CSS files is another simple method of optimising your site’s performance. Having several Javascript and CSS files means individual HTTP requests being made to call and load each individual file. This takes additional times for each asset to load. You’re therefore better off combining these assets into a singular file to ensure one request is made to load them all.

To combine your Javascript and CSS files, head over to System > Configuration on the main navigation. From there, you need to locate Developer under the Advanced panel on the left-hand side. Once the new page loads, look out for the Javascript Settings and CSS Settings tabs; you need to set these both to Yes to ensure these files are merged.

 

How to combine Javascript and CSS files for better Magento SEO

 

After you have combined your Javascript and CSS files, you may want to consider compressing and minifying these using the Speedster plugin by Fooman.

The above was researched and inspired by Activo’s 7 Easy Magento Performance Tips You Can Set from the Admin Panel. We recommend reading this to understand additional methods of bettering your Magento store’s site speed.

 

Switching Magento to https

Security whilst browsing the web is becoming increasingly important. Users actively look for the https protocol in an attempt to validify the trustworthiness of a site and Google is even set to update its Chrome browser so non-https domains are explicitly outlined. These considerations, in addition to https already being a ranking factor for some time now, make the purchase of an SSL certificate well worth making.

If your online store has an SSL certificate activated, you need to ensure it’s properly configured and acknowledged by Magento. To do this, navigate to System > Configuration from the Admin Panel and access Web underneath the General menu on the left-hand side navigation. After being presented with several tabs, you need to access the Secure tab that’s the fourth item down on the list.

 

How to configure Magento with https for better Magento SEO

 

From here, you need to ensure both Use Secure URLs in Frontend and Use Secure URLs in Admin are changed to Yes for Magento to be configured over SSL.

Finally, whilst you’re on this panel, it’s worth double checking that all relevant fields read {{secure_base_url}} instead of {{unsecure_base_url}} and the base URL field is set as the secure version of your domain, i.e. https://www.myonlinestore.co.uk.

 

Generating and Managing XML sitemaps in Magento

Implementing an XML sitemap on your Magento store allows search engines to find all URLs present on your site they perhaps wouldn’t have via internal linking. To begin, you need to go through the process of actually generating an XML sitemap.

How to create an XML sitemap

Creating an XML sitemap in Magento is a relatively straightforward process. From the admin panel, you simply need to navigate to Catalogue > Google Sitemap and select Add Sitemap on the right-hand side of the CMS page.

Here, you can define your sitemap’s filename, determine from which directory you want your sitemap to be navigable from and finally, which “Shop View” for it to apply to. We recommend following best practise here by simply calling your sitemap “sitemap.xml” and making it findable directly off your root domain, i.e./sitemap.xml.

How to change the settings of your XML sitemap

There are several items you can configure on an XML sitemap, for example, the crawl frequency associated to it as well as which URLs across your site you want prioritising. To adjust these items and more, from the Admin Panel, head over to System > Configuration > Catalog > Google Sitemap.

Please note, although Magento specifies their sitemaps as “Google Sitemaps”, they are actually regular XML sitemaps and applicable to all commercial search engines. 

 

Being resourceful

Above are the most commonly asked Magento SEO queries Impression has come across over the past few months. Although our list is fairly exhaustive, there’s bound to be more Magento SEO issues to encounter. At this juncture, it’s important to be resourceful and utilise the digital community around you. Google has a plethora of indexed content regarding the subject and even joining Reddit’s Magento community will allow you to troubleshoot and discuss problems with other like-minded marketers.

Can you identify any more Magento SEO hacks? If so, we’d love to hear some more in the comments section below.

If your business is in need of Ecommerce SEO support, whether that’s on the Magento platform or other Ecommerce-based platforms, then we’d be happy to hear from you. Get in touch with Impression today to learn more about how our Ecommerce SEO service can help grow and nurture your online business.

Petar Jovetic

SEO Account Manager

Petar is an Account Manager at Impression. If he’s not helping clients develop their organic search presence he can be found near the coffee machine, or better yet, bickering with Impression’s Edd Wilson.