Common SEO Mistakes in Magento and How to Avoid Them

Having an online store means a constant struggle for more traffic, higher positions and conversion rate. SEO experts have covered to death the topics connected with search engine optimization of online stores but you’ll be surprised to know how many store owners neglect the tips and continue losing potential traffic and sales. Knowing the most common SEO flaws of Magento stores and following tips in this article will help you to stand head and shoulders above the competition in the tough world of eCommerce.

Magento and SEO

When it comes to SEO, Magento can’t boast of being well optimized out of the box. Actually, each CMS has its own SEO flaws that won’t let you win the competition without extending the functionality or at least changing the default settings. So let’s dig deeper.

Default meta tags

Have you ever visited a homepage of an online store with “Homepage” as the title tag? I have. I’m sure people behind such stores don’t mean to target this keyword and don’t need to rank for it. They just forgot to change the default Title. So make sure you changed the title into something more suitable and describing.

Many store owners also ignore meta descriptions and end up with hundreds if not thousands of duplicate descriptions. That harms SEO and can decrease your CTR in SERPs. So visit System -> Configuration -> General -> Design -> HTML Head -> Default description and make sure the field is blank.

Restricting indexing of important pages

Sometimes web-masters just forget to change robots.txt and meta robots directives to enable site indexing after staging. As a result, the site won’t get indexed and cannot rank in Google.

Check your robots.txt file to make sure you allow site indexing and check meta robots directives which are found in the <head> section of each page. They should be set to INDEX, FOLLOW by default, you can check it at System -> Configuration -> General -> Design -> HTML Head -> Default robots.

Sitemap with staging URLs

Usually all important changes are made on a staging site to make sure everything works smoothly. Once everything is checked, the changes are rolled out to the live site and here the tricky things begin. Many web-masters forget about the differences in the URLs of the staging and live sites and use the wrong ones for XML sitemaps. For example, I saw a few times that an XML sitemap for site example.com contained URLs with staging.example.com. This won’t work for Google.

If you want to ensure good site indexing, avoid this mistake and create your XML sitemap with the right URLs.

Homepage with different URLs

Quite often the homepage can be accessed by different URLs, including the ones with/without WWW as well as with/without /index.php at the end. These pages are duplicates and should be redirected to the canonical one, for example to yoursite.com. Google has become quite smart and can find the canonical page itself but there is no guaranty that it will choose the one you need to be canonical.

Set up 301 redirects in your .htaccess file to solve the issue of duplicated homepages.

Canonicals

You can hardly find an online store without URLs containing parameters like ?=sortby, ?p=5, etc. These are duplicate pages that shouldn’t be indexed by search engines. You can use rel=canonical to avoid indexing and ensure there is only one variant of each page indexed by Google.

By the way, it’s not enough to just set up canonicals; you should set them up correctly. Once I worked with a big online store which had many sorting pages indexed. I suggested them to use rel=canonical to solve the issue. They set them up on their side and we began to wait for Google to re-index the pages and de-index duplicates. A few weeks had passed but nothing happened. Then I decided to check the canonicals implementation and was very surprised to see this

<link herf=”CategoryURL ” rel=”canonical” />

instead of

<link href=”CategoryURL ” rel=”canonical” />

When it comes to such canonicals, one letter matters so check twice before making such changes.

Actually, there are much more types of duplicate content you should avoid, and the main source of this content is Magento layered navigation. It’s very tricky and needs special attention to be set up correctly.

Rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x”

If you have a multilingual store, and especially if it has 2 versions in the same language (e.g .com in English and .ca in English), don’t ignore rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x”. This code shows that all your stores in different languages are instances of a single store, so they won’t be viewed as duplicates.

Hreflang tags can be added either to the <head> of each page in your Magento store or indicated in your XML sitemap. You can find a detailed guide on their implementation here.

Images

Each online store contains a vast number of images to show products from different angles. But quite many stores forget to optimize these images and lose potential traffic and sales. Here are a few things you should pay attention to:

  • Images names. Forget about 890yup.jpg and the like names and make them descriptive instead. If you offer a yellow umbrella, name the image yellow-umbrella.jpg. This increases your chances on ranking for this keyword in Google image search.
  • Alt tags also add to your overall SEO optimization by describing the content of the image to Google. They can be similar to or the same as images names.
  • Site speed is an important ranking factor in search engines, and images optimization is an important step to faster page load.

Anything else?

Now you have a list of SEO tips for your Magento store. It’s time to go and check if you are doing everything right.

Remember that an online store is a dynamic system having many things you can’t predict. One day everything may be ok and the next day Google Search Console shows strange 404 errors. This means you should track your site optimization and mistakes to notice all important changes and solve the issues quickly.

 

Author Bio: Kristina pays careful attention to the latest digital marketing trends while developing detailed strategies for site performance improvement and conversion optimization. She is a marketing manager and SEO specialist at Amasty, a company that develops high-quality Magento extensions which make the lives of Magento store owners easier.

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Catalin Zorzini

I'm a web design blogger and started this project after spending a few weeks struggling to find out which is the best ecommerce platform for myself. Check out my current top 10 ecommerce site builders.