Much has been written about Magento, a very search-engine friendly platform for ecommerce that can be used straight from the box. The problem is, there are a few issues that need to be attend to if you are going to optimise your Magento SEO website in the best way.
With a vast array of menus, settings and drop-down options, it is no wonder that some people find themselves confused when attempting to optimise the platform for SEO.

To make things much easier, we have put together this basic guide covering the basics of SEO. By the time you get to the end, you will have discovered many ways that you can take advantage of what Magento offers.

General Configuration
First of all, ensure that you have the latest release as the platform is still being upgraded. Now log into the Admin Panel and go to System – Configuration – Web – SEO and be sure to enable SERVER URL REWRITES. Also check out the URL Options, making sure that ‘No’ is clicked on the ‘Add Store Code to URLs’.

Once you have updated these settings go to System – Index Management and re-index the site data. To do this, select all data and clock on ‘Re-index Data’.

Relative vs Absolute URLs
Another way of optimising your site is to select the www version, making sure that the non-www does not show up as a duplicate. To do this, go to System – Configuration – Web. Now open ‘URL options’, and ‘Search Engine Optimisation’, and ensure that the ‘Auto-Redirect to Base URL’ is set to show ‘Yes’.

Now people looking for your site will be sent to the www version and the confusion as to which is your main URL will be removed. You may also want to set the ‘Use Web Server Rewrites’ to ‘Yes’ as doing this will remove the index.php string from your URL.

Header Settings
Again go to System. From here head to Configuration – Design – HTML Head. Now you can personalise settings and remove the ‘Magento Commerce’ title. In order to increase the traffic to your website, remember that search engines focus on words at the front of your title tags. By putting your brand name into the ‘Title Suffix’ box it will be added to the end of every Title tag.
As soon as your website goes live. Set the Default Robots to INDEX, FOLLOW.

Google no longer refers to Meta keywords; Magento will use product names for Meta keywords so you do not need to put anything into this field.

Headings

Magento tends to add H2 tags to product listings on your category pages so it is a good idea to check these, particularly if you are using templates or themes.

Product URLs
A good idea is to set Magento to refer to top-level product URLs instead of including the category path.

Redirects
At the back end of Magento you can set permanent redirects if the URL changes. You should set this to ‘Yes’, but do remember to take account of rewrite issues if you are going to be amending the URL keys frequently. The same will apply if you carry out CSV uploads in the wrong way.

AJAX navigation

When you use AJAX navigation you can filter products on the site without having to change the URL. An experienced Magento website developer will be able to handle this. If you are doing it yourself, don’t make the change unless you consult with an SEO consultant in advance.

Sitemaps
Magento is not the best when it comes to producing XML sitemaps. It only allows one standalone sitemap which may contain pages that you don’t want to be indexed or accessed by search engines. If you create two sitemaps i.e. one for products and one for category/content, this provides better visibility of indexation of pages and makes it easier for Google to deal with all pages from a very large website. Again, due to the complexity, this is better dealt with by a skilled Magento developer.

Issues with URL rewriting
When it comes to URL rewriting, pages for products or categories can revert back to the originals which have not been created according to the page title, or to allow them to run parallel. It may be a good thing to block these URLs otherwise you may have issues with them reverting back to the old ones.

Secure pages
Secure pages can be indexed by Google and this can be irritating due to duplicate content appearing. To prevent this, get your Magento website specialist to canonicalising the https pages to the http versions or put in place a rewrite rule. Exclusions only need to be applied for pages that are https, such as checkouts.

Session IDs/SIDs
These are frequently used to record details of user sessions, such as when they move across domains. These pages may result in duplicate content problems if they are indexed. If this is the case, robots.txt file or Meta robots tags should be applied. You will then be able to put forward requests for removals of these pages.

Magento performance
Magento is known to be slow (due to bloating, misconfiguartions and other reasons due to not keeping the code streamlined) and this can be a big negative when it comes to organic search rankings. It will impact upon crawlability so that larger sites require performance optimisation to be applied. If this occurs with your site, your website developer may do any of the following:

• Make use of an optimised and well configured server
• Disable Magento logs, enabling log cleaning
• Enable merging of CSS and JavaScript
• Leverage browser caching
• Apply image compression via a CDN for images
• Optimise front-end assets

In order to provide your users with the best experience and to optimise conversions, it is well worth applying some of these techniques or asking your SEO agency to deal with them.

By ensuring that your ecommerce development plan takes note of the steps above, your Magento site should operate well when it comes to search engines, appearing where you want it to be in the results pages and heading towards the top of the rankings.