Magento is a powerful e-commerce platform, but it’s certainly not without its SEO problems.
Here are a few of the most common issues I run into with Magento sites. Let’s talk about how to fix them.
1. Default Title Tags
By default, Magento uses the product name as the title tag. Since the title tag is the only thing users see from the search results page (other than the meta description or snippet), and since the words in the title tag weigh more heavily on the search rankings than any other words on the page, these default tags are usually an SEO no-no.
It’s not that these title tags are necessarily “bad” for your SEO, but since they will only rank for searches directly related to the product name, they usually mean you are missing out on a lot of SEO potential. You should update the titles to include more general, unbranded information that will help consumers find your products even if they aren’t looking for the specific brand names. Ideally, this should be accompanied by keyword research.
Remember that the title tag is also the first thing users see from the search results, so make sure that it catches the eye and indicates relevance right away, rather than just listing keywords.
In order to update the title tag, just navigate to your product page on the back end and update the “Page Title” field. Magento will simply use the “Name” field otherwise, which is likely too short and uninformative for searchers.
2. Duplicates Caused By Simple And Configurable Product Variants
It’s not uncommon for people to use simple product variants for things like different product colors, since this allows them to be listed as separate products which are easier for users to find.
This can be a smart move from a UX perspective, but it’s important to factor in the SEO implications.
If your simple product variants aren’t customized with unique product descriptions, you don’t want the search engines indexing them as separate products, since this creates duplicate content issues which can dilute your rankings or, in extreme cases, get you penalized.
To deal with the issue, make sure to put a canonical tag like this on your product variants:
<link rel="canonical" href="https://example.com/the-primary-product-page-url/">
This should go within the <head> section of the page HTML. You should include it on every product variant, including the primary product page itself.
There are three ways to add canonical tags in Magento.
First, you can go to System > Configuration > Catalog and click “Search Engine Optimizations,” then make sure both “Use Canonical Link Meta Tag For Categories” and “Use Canonical Link Meta Tag For Products” are both set to “Yes.” This won’t handle every situation where you should be using a canonical tag, but it will take care of the low-hanging fruit.
A second option gives you more granular control over your canonical tags. Go to Catalog > Manage Products and locate the products that have duplicate content. Click on the product and select “Design” from the Product Information menu. Add the following to the “Custom Layout Update” field and you’re all set:
You’ll need to do this for each duplicate page, including the primary page URL for each of them. Obviously, this is a more time consuming method, but it’s the only way to take full control over which pages are canonicalized to which.
Finally, you have the option of simply using FTP to directly update files with <link rel="canonical" href="https://example.com/the-primary-product-page-url/"> in the <head> section.
3. Duplicates Caused By Filters
Filters that simply append a query string (the stuff after a question mark) to your URLs aren’t much of a problem, as long as you have configured Magento to canonicalize these pages to the version without the query string.
Unfortunately, some themes use filters that generate entirely new URLs. Watch out for this, because it creates duplicates of the primary pages and can make you susceptible to Google Panda (an algorithm that could flush you out of the search results for using too many identical pages).
Do NOT attempt to deal with this by creating dynamic titles that go along with the filter. This only enhances the problem.
Instead, you should politely ask the search engines not to index these pages using the <META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX, FOLLOW"> tag within the <head> section.
Make sure that you are using “noindex, follow,” and NEVER “noindex, nofollow,” since the “nofollow” tag does nothing but needlessly throw away PageRank.
The canonical tag may also work but I would advise against it in this particular case. The search engines often ignore the canonical tag if the pages in question are too different from each other, and filtered pages are in that (not so) “sweet” spot where they are duplicate enough to bring on the wrath of Panda while also being different enough that the canonical tag won’t work.
4. Duplicates Caused By SSL
Installing SSL is a very good idea if you want people to take your e-commerce site seriously, but since it also creates an HTTPS URL for every HTTP URL, this can create a duplicate for every single page on your site.
We highly recommend implementing site-wide HTTPS, since Google considers this a positive ranking factor and it eliminates the duplicate content issue. To do this, go to System > Configuration > General > Web, change your “Base URL” field to your HTTPS homepage, and set “Use Secure URLs in Frontend” and “Use Secure URLs in Admin” to “Yes.”
5. Indexed Search Result Pages
Search result pages are actually, explicitly called out by Google as something that they don’t want to have in their index.
Make sure that your search result pages are set to “noindex, follow” so that they don’t end up in Google’s index and drag down your site’s quality score with the search engines. Since there can be thousands of search result pages on your site, sometimes more than product pages themselves, this is something you want to make sure search engines aren’t weighing.
6. No Redirects For Changed URLs
There is a Magento setting to do this automatically. Without it, if you change a product URL, all previous links to the page will go 404. This is incredibly frustrating for users and it throws away PageRank.
To set this up, go to System > Configuration > Catalog and click on the “Search Engine Optimizations” section. Click on it, and make sure that “Create Permanent Redirect For URLs if URL Key Changed” is set to “Yes.”
7. Themes With Poor Heading Use
A proper theme uses one and only one H1 tag, no more, no less. The H1 tag is meant to be the headline of the page. It doesn’t always need to be exactly the same as the title tag (since the title tag is a call to action and the headline is a greeting to users), but it has an equal importance and should include your keywords.
You will need to edit or change your theme if it places your page headline in an H2 tag or simply a large font without a heading tag, as well as if it uses an H1 for every subheading and not just the page headline.
Make sure that the remaining subheadings are also used appropriately: H3s should always be nested inside of H2s, H4s inside of H3s, and so on. These hierarchies are important for the search engines to understand the semantics of your site properly.
Make The Most Of Magento
If your e-commerce site is running on Magento, I’d suggest you give your site a checkup to make sure none of these is an issue for you right now. It’s a great opportunity to tackle some low-hanging SEO fruit.
* Adapted lead image: Public Domain, pixabay.com via getstencil.com