Search engines are the most important applications on the Internet, and the cream of the crop is, without question, Google.
Not only does it have more than two-thirds advantage over its competitors, but other search engines also rely on its database for information.
Therefore, businesses who want to gain more customers should, at the very least, do well in Google search.
In order to gain a higher ranking on Google search, your Magento e-commerce website needs to be optimized – that is, you need to make it easier for the search engine to index it and, in turn, easier for people to find it when they make a search.
Using SEO to Boost Your e-Commerce Website
Search engine optimization, otherwise known as SEO, is a process in which keywords play an important role when creating content for your pages.
By matching the words and phrases that potential customers are likely to type when they use a search engine, your website has a bigger chance of appearing in the search results.
The higher your ranking in the search results, the more likely you will get visitors or organic traffic.
There are e-commerce software and platforms that make keyword research easier, one of which is Magento. Many companies and consultants utilize or provide Magento SEO services in order to find the most effective words and phrases.
In a nutshell, there are three major things that you can use as a guide for you e-commerce:
One; visibility or how easily you can be found and indexed by search engines;
Two, relevance or how well your keywords match the content on your site;
Three, popularity, which is the number of websites that are linked to your website.
Search engines use bots that “crawl” the web to index websites. These bots gather information, such as URLs or web addresses, as well as the content of web pages such as titles, headers, links, and HTML coding.
The bots can only index what they can find and read, and the rest technically gets ignored.
The latter is what happens to many e-commerce websites whose products and product descriptions are buried in databases or whose pages are too focused on the use of frames, Flash, or images that cannot be recognized by the bots.
Among the important aspects of a web page so it can be indexed are:
o Page Title. This includes the title tag as well as the page name, which, as the term suggests, is the name of the page that can be seen on the browser window. This is also what appears in the Google results page when potential customers use the search engine.
o Meta Description. These are the additional lines that appear after the title in the Google search results page.
o Meta Keywords. These are meta tags that help the search engine identify the topics of a web page, but they are no longer as important as they used to be.
o Headers and Content. These are also scanned by bots, so it’s important that they contain, in a natural way, the keywords chosen.
Websites built on the Magento platform are easily read by bots, which gives them an edge when it comes to being indexed and being included in search engine results.
For one, URLs are simple and do not contain special characters; in other words, they are flat, which makes them easy to sort.
For another, the software utilizes a well-structured HTML coding so pages are more easily read. It also generates Google sitemaps automatically, making it easy to navigate through.
Moreover, Magento allows website owners to take full control of their SEO assets, such as the use of keywords on the page title and other content. By using the software, you can set some site-wide rules for the page titles and meta data while also having the option to change them individually.
o To set generic rules such as a prefix and suffix that would appear in all the pages throughout your website, go to the Admin Panel [System > Configuration > Design > HTML] and fill out the field for Title Prefix and/or Title Suffix.
o By going to the individual category and the catalogue’s product pages in the Admin Panel, you can also set the page title, meta data, and URL for individual pages.
Google considers how relevant and consistent the different elements of a website are, in order to eliminate the possibility of site owners putting up a false keyword information to draw in traffic.
This means that if you are offering, for instance, pet care products and services, then your keywords, titles, and content should be aligned to what your business is about.
This way, Google will recognize you and your website as relevant when it comes to searches regarding pet care.
The keywords you use are compared to the page content, so the more relevant they are, the higher the page is likely to rank.
The difficult part is finding the right keywords that identify your generic position.
Generic keywords are used by numerous other websites, which can be hard to compete against.
For example, “eukanuba” is a specific keyword that draws up about half a million results, but “dog food” is a generic one, which generates almost 20 million results. “Dog food brands,” on the other hand, generates almost 9 million; while “dog food brands for puppies” retrieves 700,000 on Google search.
The strategy in the selection of keywords involves creativity and analysis as well as quality and quantity. In choosing, you need to determine several aspects, namely:
o What your current and potential customers are likely to type when they make a search.
o What your overall brand strategy and business values are.
o What can be achieved.
o What space your competition is aiming for.
Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner is a tool you can use. It gives an estimate of the demand and the saturation of your chosen keywords.
Chosen keywords need to be used and placed strategically in web pages.
In relation to this, the number of pages having relevant content should be increased.
For example, you can add “how to” guides or articles that are relevant to your business. These “content blocks” can be controlled through Magento’s Admin Panel.
Magento, by default, uses the names of products and categories for page URLs, but these can be changed to remove words that are repetitive or irrelevant to the content of that page.
Moreover, a site map will greatly help the Google bot. To do this:
o Go to the Admin Panel (System > Configuration > Google Sitemap) and set it up.
o Go to Catalog > Sitemap to enable it.
o Have your website verified with Google, after which you can upload the site map to Google Webmaster Tools. The verification tag needs to be copied into the HTML Heads section.
Magento allows you to control the elements of your website via the Admin Panel. By using the tools available, you can make it easier for Google bots to index your pages. Just make sure you have the right balance between visibility and relevance.
Popularity is part of the challenge in getting a higher ranking. You need to have other websites link to yours, but this requires work.
People will only voluntarily link to your pages if you are able to provide them with quality content that are deemed to be informative, meaningful, and beneficial.
Therefore, it is important to focus on what your webpages contain because great content generates more inbound links.
Apart from excellent content, you can also encourage people and companies to link to your website by:
o Having your site listed in directories such as Yahoo!
o Sending out press releases with a link to your website.
o Conducting a survey or poll.
o Encouraging user-generated content such as product reviews.
o Other strategies that would encourage people to refer to your site.
Since social media has become an excellent platform for giving out information, make sure to utilize it.
Also, real affiliates – not affiliate marketing groups, the links of which Google generally ignores – can link to your site and generate more traffic for a commission.
Google, through its Webmaster Tools, provides information on web ranking, which basically shows how popular your website it.
It lets you see how many people link to your site.
This is important since the more popular your website is, the more likely Google’s bots will index it, which could secure you a good spot on Google search.
As an expert had said, gaining popularity is 80 percent of the battle.
Therefore, support good content with methods to gain links from other websites and increase your popularity.
How to Improve Your Website
· Magento Body Copy
The main content of your page is the center of everything, including the relevant title, meta tags, and images.
The Magento Admin Panel allows you to be in charge of the copy you put on your web pages. You do need to remember the following:
o Your content should be at least 300 words.
o Put relevant information.
o Use your main keyword at the beginning of the article – in the first paragraph.
o Sprinkle important keywords all over the article, but do not overdo it. Keep the keyword density from 2-5 percent, and make sure the content is readable and that it makes sense.
o Use the words and phrases you are using in your title tag and other meta tags. While it’s advisable to use them as they are, you can also make some minor changes like adding a preposition when the phrase is awkward as it is.
o Add “how-to” pages, tutorial, tips, and other types of content relevant to your business. Not only will this help boost visitors and page rankings, it will also encourage other website to link to your pages.
· Header Tags
Heading 1 and heading 2 should be used in your content because search engines usually take note of important phrases that are in your page.
Therefore, emphasize these phrases – such as product and category names – by putting them in headings, formatting them in bold or italics, and making use of tags.
· Anchor Text
Man keywords or phrases need to be included in hyperlinks, both within the site and those that lead to other websites.
This is so that search engines would know what the target page is all about, thereby helping in ranking.
Magento automatically generates catalog-related links, but you can also control other internal links such as SEO-specific ones as well as footers.
· Image Alt-Tags
Search engines are unable to read images; therefore, it is important to include a descriptive alt text for each.
Not only do image labels carry weight in terms of indexing, they are also necessary for ranking purposes.
The Magento implementation uses product names as the default alt tags for images, but you can tag them as you deem fit because you can control content block images.
· Title Tags
When optimizing your website, it is vital to pay attention to page titles.
This is because the title tag is the most important head element when it comes to optimization.
After all, it is what is shown in Google’s listings. So when deciding to give a title to your web pages, remember the following:
o Make sure that the title is relevant to the content.
o Place the page content’s most important words or phrase at the beginning of the title.
o Use a maximum of 70 characters. Search engines do not pay much attention to the words beyond this number, and it’s often the case that they are not displayed in some browsers.
· Meta Description Tags
The meta description tag lets you give a slightly longer description of your page. Like the title tag, search engines also deem this as important and places it in their search results. Therefore:
o Place three to four of the keywords found in the content as well as the ones on the title. It is believed that the latter also helps when it comes to indexing.
o The most important keyword should be placed at or close to the beginning of the description.
o Keep them at 160 characters maximum.
· Meta Keyword Tags
The meta keywords tag no longer has weight when Google ranks pages because many website owners abused it.
Some other search engines like MSN and Yahoo! still use it, though. In any case, if you want to use meta keyword tags, here are things to remember:
o Use phrases, not just words, and these phrases should appear in the content itself.
o You can deliberately misspell words to target misspelled entries in searches.
o Less than 200 characters is best. It can go up to up to 500 words but it’s not advised.
For products and categories, always enable the canonical tags [System > Configuration > Catalog > Search Engine Optimizations].
This is because Magento tends to create more than one copy, most particularly though filters and on-site searches.
None of your pages should take more than three clicks to reach. This is important so search engines can index all your web pages. Thus, you need to make sure to have a good link structure by making a sitemap.
Avoiding Duplicate Content
· Indexing of Secure Pages
Google commonly indexes secure pages, or those URLs labeled with https – something that tends to result in duplicate content.
When the URL of a secure page is not absolute, then what happens is, the bots crawl the http version of a page.
To address this, you need to exclude secure pages, either by having a rewrite rule or by canonicalizing (converting data into a standard form) the secure pages to non-secure versions.
You should also change links.
· Pagination Causing Content Duplication
One thing that you should watch out for when using Magento is pagination.
Long lists of inventory items tend to get broken into smaller chunks; thus, the same products tend to be included in different versions of the page.
To address this, use the [rel next] and [rel prev] tags, as suggested by Google some time in 2011.
The HTML codes are as follows:
<link rel=”next” href=”http://website.com/searching?p=10″ />
<link rel=”prev” href=”http://website.com/searching?p=9″ />
These can either be added through the <head> or to the pagination links. Also, it is better to include the meta robots tag [noindex, nofollow] with the [rel next] and [rel prev] tags.
· Session IDs / SID Pages
When Session IDs are indexed, they usually generate a huge number of duplicate content.
This happens mainly when the website is moving to another domain, since Session IDs are used for recording a user’s session.
To keep these duplicate pages from being indexed, you can utilize meta robots tags or you can use a [robots.txt] file.
You can then send a request for removal for those pages that still get indexed.
More on Duplicate Content
· Maximizing the Magento robots.txt Configuration
While very useful, the robots.txt should be configured with caution because if it is used incorrectly, then it could result in a fragmented crawl.
In general, it is best to use it only to keep bots from crawling certain sections or pages in the website, such as:
o Admin pages
o Pages with web addresses that have session ID parameters
o Pages with sort parameters or order parameters
o Layered navigation pages in big websites or those with multi-select filters
o Pages with catalogsearch
o If the folder does not have CSS & JS and images, the URLs with /catalog/.
The robots.txt would appear in this way:
User agent: * (the * is for cases in which sub-directories have multi-store)
The robots.txt file, however, is not the only way to block certain pages.
· Setting Canonical Tags
It is important to keep problems from cropping up due to different version of categories being indexed.
To do this, make sure that the canonical tag is always pointing to the primary version of the product and category pages, something that you can set in Magento’s admin interface, in the configuration section.
The newer versions of Magento EE and CE canonicalize hierarchical product web pages – the ones with category path – to high-level URLs automatically.
But ordinarily, you need to manually add the canonical tag for CMS pages as well as for your homepage.
· Using Google Webmaster Tools for Handling Parameters
Even if you’re using other ways to address issues on duplicate content, it’s recommended to implement the Google Webmaster Tools in parameter handling.
You will be able to manage this more effectively when the MageWorx SEO Suite is used. This is because you can control a lot of things from Magento’s back-end, such as canonical URLs, robots.txt, noindex rules, and so on.
Solutions for Magento’s Shortcomings
Being rather slow, Magento can affect a website’s crawlability, and some of the most problematic cases tend to impact organic search rankings.
This is why Magento websites, especially big ones, need to be optimized for speed. Here are some suggestions on how this can be done, and it’s best to have your developer improve on these:
· Disable the Magento logs.
· For images, use a CDN and try to look into image compression services.
· Use a server that is both well-configured and optimized, and also optimize your front-end assets.
· Balance the caching of the browser
Measuring Your SEO Strategy
Another factor that you need to consider is measurement – that is, keeping track of how your e-commerce website is doing – analyzing traffic and visitor behavior as well as monitoring the return on your investment.
There are tools that not only allow you to determine the number of visitors your website gets but also where in the Internet they came from, their general location, and so on.
Tools like Google Analytics lets you see what generic keywords or phrases your visitors use to get to your website.
Google Webmaster Tools, meanwhile, allow you to see, among other things, the number of websites that link to yours.
Through measurement, you will be able to determine if your SEO strategies are paying off.
If you want you sales to increase, then your Magento e-commerce website needs to be able to attract more organic traffic. It is possible to do this by improving its visibility, relevance, and popularity.