TMCnet Feature
February 12, 2021

Magento SEO checklist: How to optimize your store for search engines



Magento makes running an ecommerce website easy. However, there are many aspects to an online business that require careful consideration. Perhaps the most important of them all is reaching your target audience.

You could spend thousands of dollars on pay-per-click ads for traffic, but as soon as you stop, you will lose most of your traffic and sales. So how do you get around this dependency on ads for sales? The answer is search engine optimization (SEO).



Optimizing a website for search engines helps it rank higher in search results and makes it easier for the audience to discover the website organically. Fortunately, Magento websites are capable of being SEO-friendly out of the box. But if you’re running a store with default settings, you will probably never realize its true potential.

Before you hire a Magento SEO company, follow this checklist to optimize your Magento store for search engines.

Magento SEO checklist

Use HTTPS

HTTPS is essential for establishing trust in a visitor’s mind and ranking on search engines. In 2014, Google (News - Alert) announced that they would begin using HTTPS as a ranking signal and continue to do so even now.

Before enabling HTTPS on your Magento website, make sure you have an SSL certificate installed on your server. Once you’ve installed an SSL certificate, you can enable HTTPS using the Magento admin panel by following these steps.

  1. Log in to the Magento admin panel and go to Stores > Configuration > General > Web. Once there, head over to the ‘Base URLs (Secure)’ and update the entries under ‘Secure Base URL’ and ‘Secure Base Link URL’ from ‘http’ to ‘https’.
  2. After this, change the following entries in the same section from ‘No’ to ‘Yes’.
    • Use Secure URLs on Storefront.
    • Use Secure URLs in Admin.
    • Enable HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS).
    • Upgrade Insecure Requests.

Use SEO-friendly URLs

SEO-friendly URLs help search engines and website visitors understand what a page is about before visiting it. An ideal URL is descriptive and easy to read, yet concise and unique at the same time.

Even Google recommends using simple URL structures. A heading like www.example.com/men/black-tshirt.html is much more readable than www.example.com/men/product12345.html.

In addition to this, you can follow these steps to make your URLs search engine friendly.

1. Configure URL rewrites

In the admin panel and head to Stores > Settings > Configuration > General > Web. Expand the Search Engine Optimization section and set the ‘Use Web Server Rewrites’ to ‘Yes’ and click ‘Save Config’. This will remove the ‘index.php’ that you find in all Magento stores’ URLs by default and make it more user-friendly.

2. Optimize URL structure

In the admin panel, head over to Stores > Configuration > Catalog > Search Engine Optimization and update the following entries to ‘Yes’.

  • Use Categories Path for Product.
  • Create Permanent Redirect for URLs.
  • Use Canonical Link Meta Tag for Categories.
  • Use Canonical Link Meta Tag for Products.

Use titles & meta descriptions

The importance of using titles and meta descriptions is often understated. Even if a search engine were to rank your product on the first page, poorly written titles and meta descriptions would be the difference between a customer clicking through to your website or scrolling past it.

Magento gives you complete control over the metadata of each product. Using compelling titles and meta descriptions with relevant keywords that speak to your customers will improve your website’s click-through rate and boost its rank on search engines.

You should avoid keyword stuffing and ensure your titles are under 55 characters and meta descriptions are under 255 characters to effectively utilize your real estate on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Optimize images

Images are a great asset for every ecommerce website. However, the use of unoptimized images can be detrimental to both website performance and search engine rankings.

You can optimize the images for your Magento store in three ways.

1. Resize images

Using appropriately sized images reduces the size of the page. Cropping and compressing images before uploading them to your store is one way of doing it. Another one is to use the Frontend Resize feature in Magento.

In the admin panel, go to Stores > Settings > Configuration > Advanced > System, and under Images Upload Configuration, set Enable Frontend Resize to Yes.

2. Alt tags

Search engines cannot read images. Alt tags provide search engines with information about an image so they can index and display it for relevant searches. An added benefit of using alt tags is that you can add more relevant keywords to your website.

3. File names

Using descriptive file names makes image URLs easier to read for both search engines and customers. Instead of using images with filenames like image.jpg, use a more descriptive filename like white-tshirt.jpg.

Set canonical tags

Google prefers websites with unique content and using duplicate content is a sure-fire way to get your website de-indexed or your rankings thrown to the unseen depths of SERPs. When you have products that display across multiple categories, using canonicalized URLs will inform search engines of the preferred URL for a product that must be indexed and which it should ignore.

To enable canonical tags for your Magento store, head over to Stores > Settings > Configuration > Catalog > Catalog and update the following entries to Yes.

  • Use Canonical Link Meta Tag for Categories.
  • Use Canonical Link Meta Tag for Products.

The first option will instruct search engines to index category pages using the full category path. The second option will recommend them to index product pages to use the domain/product-URL format.

Improve your website speed

Website speed is highly critical to ensuring a website ranks high on SERPs. Google places a great emphasis on delivering a great user experience and has now started focusing on metrics like Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) and First Contentful Paint (FCP) as they are critical to providing a high-quality user experience.

Here are a few ways you can improve the loading speed of your Magento website.

Use a good host

What is the best Magento hosting? An ideal host is the one that offers servers optimized for Magento websites and is located close to its audience. A web server’s location from its target audience affects how long it takes for the client’s device to communicate with the server and load pages.

Opting for a host with high-quality infrastructure and servers located close to your target audience will improve your website’s FCP timing.

Use proper caching

Although a new Magento install uses file system caching by default, it can be detrimental to web performance. Configuring Redis to cache session data and Varnish for full-page caching will boost website performance tremendously.

Varnish is an extremely fast caching system. Enabling it for your Magento store will improve its LCP timing.

Besides these, minifying CSS (News - Alert), merging JavaScript files, and using a content delivery network will also help improve website performance and boost its search engine rankings.

Configure sitemap and robots.txt

Using a sitemap is the best way to influence and improve how a website is crawled and indexed by a search engine. Magento can automatically generate sitemaps in both XML and HTML formats for a website and even submit them to the robots.txt so bots and crawlers can access them easily.

Here’s how you can configure the sitemap settings for your Magento store.

  1. Head over to Stores > Settings > Configuration > Catalog > XML Sitemap and configure the frequency and priority of the category, product, and CMS pages of your website.
  2. Once configured, you can generate a sitemap by following these steps in your Magento admin panel.
  3. Open Marketing > Seo & Search > Site Map.
  4. Click on Add Sitemap
  5. Set ‘Filename’ to sitemap.xml and ‘Path’ to /media/
  6. Click ‘Save & Generate’

You can use the path from the ‘Link for Google’ column to submit your sitemap to Google Search Console.

Also, you can automatically add it to the robots.txt file by expanding the ‘Search Engine Submission Settings’ section and setting ‘Enable Submission to Robots.txt’ to ‘Yes’.

Next, configure the robots.txt file of your website by following these steps.

  1. Go to Content > Design > Configuration.
  2. Here click on ‘Edit’ in the first row for the ‘Global’ configuration.
  3. Expand the ‘Search Engine Robots’ section.
  4. Set ‘Default Robots’ to ‘INDEX, FOLLOW’ and click ‘Save Configuration’.

Configuring your sitemap and robots.txt will also help avoid search engines indexing pages incorrectly.

Add a blog

Using a blog is the easiest way to add more content to a website, provide value to its visitors, promote products, and increase keyword density. Although Magento doesn’t offer blogging functionality natively, you can use a free extension like Magefan to start a blog for your website.

Writing blog posts targeting long-tail keywords and search queries based on buyer intent will help you bring more relevant traffic to your website and improve your domain authority on The final words on Magento SEO

Following this SEO checklist is a great way to get started with optimizing your store for search engines. However, increasing organic traffic requires a long-term strategy. 

You should analyze and improve your website performance regularly. Keeping up with the latest industry changes also helps you stay a step ahead of your competition.

Contrary to popular belief, using an extension to improve SEO ranking isn’t a sustainable plan. search engines.

A better alternative would be seeking help from companies offering Magento SEO services.

Author: Jan Guardian

Jan Guardian is the Chief Business Development Officer at Staylime, a Magento development company headquartered in Redwood City, California. He is responsible for developing and leading the sales and digital marketing strategies of the company. Jan is passionate about sales, marketing, and emerging technologies.


 
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