Advance Magento SEO

In this discussion today we will try to cover basics to Advance Magento SEO implementations.  SEO makes sales happen. Let’s discuss briefly some basic requirements before digging deeper.

1. What triggers Clicks to your links?

We call this term, CTR (Click Through Rate), it means how many people find your URL/page interesting and then click on it.  CTR depends on the following points:

  • Meta Title
  • Meta Description

Most of the people take meta description field as the only factor, but both are important, most users will first watch the URL to see if it contains what they are searching for and then description.

2.      Foundations of Perfect Meta Title and Description

Some people will write Meta titles like this;

Android Apps | Android Widgets | Brand   

OR 

Android Apps, Android Widgets, Brand

There is nothing wrong with above titles except the huge wastage of space that can bring tons of more traffic. If used wisely these tiles can bring more keywords like as below:

Best Premium Android Apps & Widgets, Brand

This title is 42 characters long with more keywords and you still have more room to bring keywords like as below:

Download Best Free Android Apps & Premium Widgets, Brand

This title is still 56 characters long, perfect within a range. It includes many more useful keywords combination. Remember search engines can search in combination, not just an exact term that most people believe.

3.      How to Search and Pick Right Keywords

Always use exact match keywords when searching. The right way to pick keywords is as follow;

Example:

Android Apps, Download Android Apps, Free Android Apps, Buy Android Widgets, Latest Android Apps, etc.

Always take a mixture of keywords, a blend that people make when searching. 

Advance SEO Strategies

1. Avoiding Google Penalties – Penguin, Panda and Others

The following discussion will implement strategies that will make your website profile a perfect clean. These activities will ensure that your website is following White hat standards. So let’s kick off before your coffee gets cold :)  

2.      Which Domain Name to buy?

Now a days, the rising trend is to use TLDs like .com, .net etc. for local websites, and then optimize for state, city.  Google Webmaster tools now support Geo targeting. Login to your Webmaster account, open up the site you want to configure. Click on site settings (options drop down at top right section), and select the target country from the drop down.

If this is not preferred, then buy a local domain name for your country. Include the city, state information in meta information and within the site content.

3.      Sub-domains Vs Sub-directory

Create sub-domains preferably if you want to manage them separately e.g. if you need to do SEO for each sub-domain. Otherwise create subdirectory. On the whole both are almost same. Here are the differences:

Subdirectory vs Subdomain

4.      WWW vs non-WWW

Your website can be accessed with or without WWW. This can trigger duplicate content concerns for search engines. Although search engines like Google are smart enough to choose the preferred version like the one to which most people links to or visit, but it is preferred to set this feature from Google webmaster tools.

From the site settings in webmaster, select which version you prefer

5.      Website Coding and Load Time

How much this is important? The answer lies in the fact why Google loves WordPress. Search on Internet and you will find out the answer by yourself. The reason is simple, clean and bug free coding; it’s one of the major contributing factors in website ranking.

6.      XML Sitemaps

Many people still believe that it is must, but believe me, it is not. It is a complimentary aid, Google will automatically index the new URLs of your website whether you have it in sitemap or not. It uses sitemap to cross check its discovery. 

7.      Ensure that Website is Optimized for Right Keywords 

At the time of writing this post, Google’s Multi-Week Update is on-going. This update will target spammy queries like Payday loans. In simple words, these are the keywords for which a site is poorly optimized or are irrelevant. So you have to ensure that each page of your Magento website has relevant content and Meta information in place.

8.      Ensure Proper Google Indexation

Google will crawl and store each page of you website whether it is a code or CSS file. Huge indexation can cause crawl delays, especially crawling of valuable data. See below some steps by which you can eliminate unwanted indexation.

- Using Robots for Proper Indexation

Following Magento directories are of no use, so it is better to block them in robots file. This will ensure clean and healthy indexation.

Using Robots for Proper Indexation

 9.      URL Rewrites – Products and Categories

Modern versions of Magento allow store owners to define the SEF URL for any category or products. Whenever adding a product or category, use search engine friendly URLs, which can be set from the Meta tab.

10.  Eliminating Content Duplications

Products on ecommerce websites are accessible through different URLs. The reason is the use of filters, session IDs etc., see below example:

  • Abc.com/productA
  • Abc.com/cat/productA
  • Abc.com/tag1/productA
  • Abc.com/filter?country=usa&prod=productA

All above URLS are pointing to same product A, this will cause duplication of content. Although, as mentioned above, Google can automatically pick the right version of URL but it may be the wrong one. There are different ways to eliminate this duplication as mentioned below:

a)       Eliminate Duplication by using Robots.txt

This is a highly advance method, extreme cautions should be used, or otherwise you could get your data blocked by search engines. You can add entries like as below to eliminate the duplication, you can make different robots expressions:

Eliminate Duplication by using Robots.txt

This will block search engines from crawling and indexing of URLS having tags, session ids and filters.

b)     Canonicalization

 This is a way to tell search engines the preferred page to show in search results. Search engines will then use only the preferred version to index and serve users. There are different ways to implement this. The easiest one is to use any free extension for canonicalization (Download here).  Or you can add this tag manually to each product or category page (pretty cumbersome)

<link rel=”canonical” href=”preferred version” />

Learn more about canonical here.

c)      By using Meta tags

Certain meta tags are supported on page level such as:

<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW”>

<META NAME=”robots” CONTENT=”INDEX, FOLLOW”>

These tags tell search engines not to index and follow that page. You can add this tag to each required page. See more information here.

11.   Improving Search Results with Schema Tags, Structured Data

By using scheme tags you can communicate with search engines, tell them about meanings of specific words, so that they can better present your information in search results. Lets take an example, suppose you have  a page about a movie Avatar.  This page links to any video and provides more information about it. Typically, your html code will look like this;

Scheme Tags

Now, notice the change in next 2 pieces of code:

With Schema Tags

Schema Markup tags

The first line in above code tells search engines that this div in fact talks about a Movie. Similarly to give more information to search engines about the movie such as the director, actor etc. we can add more tags:

Structured Data

Search engines will now understand that this is not just a URL but in fact it is a trailer to science fiction movie Avatar, directed by James Cameron. You can add many more tags like reviews, stock information, events, authorship etc.

So schema tag allows you to speak to search engines. The better they understand your information, the better results you will obtain from them. See more on Schema tags. If you want to test your tags (markup data), login to your webmaster tools, click on Additional tools and then structured data testing tool. You can paste a URL or HTML to check whether your tags are perfect.

 Hint. Google has added a new feature Structure Data Markup Helper that can help you in adding these tags by just clicking important sections on website.

 12.  Highlight Website Data in Search Results

 Add more information to your search results by using Google Data Highlighter tool. Login to webmaster tools and then click on search appearances, find this tool under this section, it is a self guided tool. Just highlight the important information on your website and Google will automatically add this to your search results.

13.  Link Exchange, Reciprocal Links and Ads

 We are all afraid of this term. But relax, exchanging limited links within your niche is not bad, in fact it is valuable. Exchanging links to unrelated websites is harmful. At the same time, according to Google policies, any sponsored links must to be marked as sponsored. Customers should be able to know which links are paid.

14.   Pagination

 It is a common design element which breaks large data in to separate pages. Magento pagination can be optimized by adding special tag rel=’next’ and rel=’prev’” to paginated pages. This tag shows relations with other pages and by adding it to head section; search engines will send users to the most relevant page. Here is an example:

rel=’next’ and rel=’prev'

Read more about this tag here.

15.  Internationalization, Multi-Language

If your site serves data in different languages to user, you can tell Google to display regional URL or data to users. For example, if somebody from Spain searches for any query then Google will serve Spanish version of data from your website to him. To make this happen there is special tag “ rel=’alternate’ hreflang=’x’” that needs to added in the head section of URLs.

For example, you have English version at www.domain.com and Dutch version at de.domain.com. You can tell Google that de.domain.com is Dutch-language equivalent of the English page like as below.

In the HTML <head> section of http://www.domain.com/, add a link element pointing to the Dutch version of that webpage at http://de.domain.com/, like this:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”de” href=”http://de.domain.com/” />

Read more about this tag here.

16.   Create a Sitemap for Mobile

Sitemap for mobile is separate; it should contain only those URLS that serve mobile data. Mobile Sitemap uses sitemap protocol, a special tag and namespace. Google recommends that you change your Mobile sitemap in below format ASAP:

Mobile Sitemap

Each sitemap must have unique name and <mobile:mobile/> is an essential tag.

17. Video Markup and Sitemap

If your website serves video content, it is extremely helpful to add video markup and submit a video sitemap. We have already discussed scheme tags above and how to add them. Video sitemap provides more information to search engines about the video content such as description, title, duration etc.  For more information on how to create video sitemap, click here.

18.    Make Your AJAX content Crawlable

AJAX content is dynamic therefore it is difficult for search engines to crawl. There are many methods to resolve this problem but they require regular maintenance to keep the content up to date.  Here are the steps to make your AJAX content crawlable and to display it in search results.

Things to DO!

Google Ajax Crawling in Magento

a.      Support Hash tags

First indicate to crawlers that your website supports Google AJAX crawling scheme by using Hash fragments (#) and exclamation mark like as below:

www.domain.com/ajax.html#!key=value

If your URLS contain this structure, then your Ajax site is crawlable.

b. Setup your server to handle requests for URLS that contain “_escaped_fragment_”

Your server should send the HTML snapshot (an HTML snapshot is all the content that appears on the page after the JavaScript has been executed) to the crawler but it does not know whether it should send regular HTML page or snapshot. For this reason crawler modifies the URL to Ugly URL before requesting the server such as,

www.domain.com/ajax.html#!key=value (Pretty URL)

Becomes

www.domain.com/ajax.html?_escaped_fragment_=key=value (Ugly URL)

 There are several ways to product HTML snapshot such as by using HTMLUnit, Crawljax etc. If you are using PHP or ASP.Net you can only replace the JavaScript portion with static HTML.  Or you can create a separate static page for each Ajax URL. To test whether your HTML snapshot is made correctly you can use Webmasters tools “Fetch as Google Bot” tool.

c.       Handle Pages Without Hash Fragments 

Not all pages contain hash fragments such as home page; you would not like to use www.domain.com#!home for home page. Google has created a special tag that can be inserted in the head section of such pages.

<meta name=”fragment” content=”!”>

At the backend, crawler will automatically create its ugly URL to request HTML snapshot from server

d. Update Sitemaps 

Do not add Ugly URLs in sitemaps; enter clean URLS that crawlers should use in search results.

At the end, test your content in Google Webmasters tools by using “Fetch As Google Bot” to ensure that everything is perfect.

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