Magento is the leading eCommerce platform. That’s a big statement, but it is true. According to Datanyze, there are 174,938 merchants using Magento, making it second only to WooCommerce in terms of merchants. But popularity is not the reason why the Magento platform leads.
Magento is superior to WooCommerce in its performance with search engines. And search brings you unlimited power to grow your revenues and attract new customers. That means SEO.
If you don’t know how to achieve great SEO with Magento, then read on. We’ll give you the best tactics for gaining more customers via organic search engines.
Benefits of Using Magento
In case you hadn’t noticed, we are crazy about Magento because it helps us be SEO superstars. It can help you be an SEO superstar too.
Magento is one of the best eCommerce platforms for online businesses whether they are bootstrapped or well-funded.
The Community Edition (CE) is completely free and has enough features to make an eCommerce business successful. The subscription based models include the cloud-based Magento Go, and an enterprise version.
Each of these editions are loaded with features that are designed to take online retailers to the next level within a user friendly interface.
Magento is also written in PHP, making it much easier to add new features and custom solutions to scale your business in ways that would be extremely costly using a different method.
Thankfully, there are literally thousands of extensions for Magento that helps reduce the need for having to contract a developer for a custom solution in most cases. If you did need a custom solution, there is a gigantic, fast-growing community of developers building new solutions for Magento.
In addition to these generally valuable features, there are some absolutely must-use benefits of Magento:
- Keyword-rich site URLs
- Customizable interface, and
- The ability to create exceptional site structure.
At Imagine Commerce 2015, our CEO, Ronald Dod, spoke about how the Magento CMS is a great mix between being an advanced platform with all this great functionality, but still easy enough to use without unknowingly making catastrophic mistakes.
Keep in mind, the talk was in 2015, which is a long time for SEO. But it is still very relevant for modern day SEO with Magento.
The fundamentals are the same as they were in 2015. There are two sides of Magento SEO:
One Page Optimization – where we optimize the web pages, the Magento CMS, and the content on the page for better visibility in organic search engines.
Off Page Optimization – where we optimize external factors, such backlinks and social media signals to acquire higher organic keyword rankings.
Do not let bad information fool you. Backlinks and external factors are one of the top three factors in organic search engine rankings. Referring domains or the number of web pages pointing to you is number 1:
From Brian Dean, “Backlinks remain an extremely important Google ranking factor. We found the number of domains linking to a page correlated with rankings more than any other factor.”
With that being said, let’s move into it and start with On-Page Optimization.
On-Page Optimization for Magento
Technical CMS SEO for Magento
Now it’s time to get technical. Remember: this is what you came for!
We’ll start with a brief summary, dealing with:
- Technical Heading Issues
- Canonical URLs
- Configurable Products and Simple Products
- CMS Pages
- Category Optimization
- Heading Sizes
Technical Heading Issues
If your site is using a template, your back-end code might not be meshing well with Magento. Sometimes Magento can get a bit screwy when it comes to headings, especially if not monitored manually.
This simple list is only the start of a myriad of technical issues that can arise when using Magento. As powerful as Magento is, there are still many kinks that must be learned. Fortunately, much of the trial and error has been done and documented by several reputable authorities. Many of these issues have been addressed in the update to Magento 2.0, but one should still cast an attentive eye on all the potential problem areas to avoid issues in the future.
Here’s a refresher on canonical URLs. Canonical URLs essentially point search engines toward the version of the content is most likely to be the original or best option to show search engines. For the best SEO, you can utilize canonical URLs to tell search engines which piece of content is a duplicate of the original page and where to redirect.
As you can imagine, having multiple configurable products with multiple variants could quickly lead into a labyrinth of dead ends and split traffic on your page. Magento allows you to set a canonical tag to appear on category and product pages in the configuration section inside the Magento admin panel. Magento 2.0 automatically uses the canonical tag in hierarchical product URLs, but you should still double check to ensure that it is doing so to avoid a technical headache in the future.
Configurable Products and Simple Products
If your site offerings include configurable products, you must take a few extra precautions than you would with simple products. The duplicate variants should not be allowed to be indexed since they are identical products but in different colors or versions, unless you want to index these variations separately.
By adding a canonical tag, engines will be able to understand that those simple products with different colors are just different options of your primary configurable product, which is incredibly useful.
Magento’s CMS functionality may come off as cumbersome at first glance, but after some experience, it is a very powerful and flexible system. To streamline the learning process, you must first insert content into each CMS page, pick an SEF URL Identifier and a relevant page title, and then click on the “Meta Data” tab to flesh out the description of each CMS page that you want to rank in search engines.
You don’t have to load the “Keywords” section, since the CMS description will do a good enough job at urging users to click.
*Put some personal attention into the meta description; auto-generating the meta description will not yield the best results.
The meta description is important because if you don’t use it, the search engine crawlers will find the specific keyword searched and pick a string of text around it, leaving only a few words on the results page that searchers won’t be able to understand.
The first version of Magento doesn’t support the functionality of adding category names for product URLs, so it is best to disable this. First, go to System, then Configuration, then Catalog to lead you to Search Engine Optimization. Set the “use categories path for product URLs” to “No.”
Our work here isn’t done yet, though. We need to set the details correctly for each category. This can be done in Catalog, then Manage Categories.
URL Key: Brevity is your friend, but make sure your URL is keyword rich. Get rid of stop words like “and”, “the”, “for”, and other articles.
Meta Description: This is what pops up in the search engine, and is often a new user’s first impression of your store. Write an enticing, attractive description.
Page Title: Leave this blank since it will use the category name including parents categories.
Get the title of the content in an <h1> tag. Since your logo is by default an <h1> on the front page, you don’t want it to gravitate search crawlers on subsequent pages. So, make sure that your logo is nothing more than an <h3> on other pages. Avoid over-optimization of header tags by either bolding or adding <strong> tags as a replacement.
When asked about his preference for Magento for SEO, Ron Dod, CEO at Visiture.com replied:
“Magento has always been a very strong platform for SEO due to solid site structure, keyword rich URLs, and the customizability. For instance, with other platforms like Volusion you need a URL string https://example.com/c849023. Google sees this and says, “What is c849023”. However, in Magento you can use https://example.com/dog-walking-kit and then Google know the page is about dog walking kits. It seems simple but is very powerful. In addition to Magento being customizable so you can optimize for site speed and other various technical SEO factors. The biggest pitfall we see when someone uses Magento is not using the right canonical tags and making URLs too long. Google loves short URLs so if your category is http://example.com/the-best-ever-dog-walking-kits-known-to-man Google will not like it. Overall, Magento is a great platform for SEO and will mostly likely always be a leader in the eCommerce space for the foreseeable future.”
On-Site Content for Magento SEO
First things first. First, you need great, searchable content. Then you can master the art of distribution and content promotion.
Here are some of the technical aspects that go into content.
Meta Title: This is the title that pops up in search rankings and if a certain post is shared. It needs to be created with the intent of intriguing customers to click on it to read more. List titles and questions tend to perform better.
Meta Description: This meta description should provide users a follow up statement of what they can expect in your article without revealing too much. This will allow users to confirm whether or not clicking the link will yield satisfactory results. The meta description must be accomplished in a brief sentence or two or risk being cut off by search engines.
Body Content: This is where your high quality article gets inserted. Although body content strategies can vary, your goal is to provide visitors a worthwhile experience while giving them the information they want. Breaking up your content into small, digestible sentences rather than huge blocks of texts is the standard of most successful articles. Inserting relevant pictures, infographics, and other relevant media adds to the experience.
Product Page Description: If this piece of content is a product page, a merchant must be able to articulate the value the potential customer will get from the product, as well as establishing the product as something of quality. This is often the last thing potential customers read before making their decision to go through with the purchase, which makes it exceptionally important to focus on if you want the highest conversion rate possible at this step of the process.
Keyword Research: Keyword research is the foundation of great content and great SEO. You must conduct a data-based analysis to know which keywords to target. These keywords must be integrated seamlessly into your content to get picked up by search engines, but too many keywords, or “keyword stuffing”, can kill the entire process. Using tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, and more can produce solid data to help you understand what keywords to target.
Off-Page Optimization for Magento
The content on your blog must be superb in order to attract visitors and to keep them on your site. In addition to having stellar articles and case studies, you must also have a good link acquisition strategy in place to build links to your site and increase distribution of your on-site content. The importance of good on-site and editorial guest posting content cannot be understated, and the key is in creating high quality, organic content.
Spammy backlinks won’t do much for your site, and could actually end up doing more damage than good. High-quality backlinks will increase site rankings significantly.
For high-quality backlinks, create high-quality content.
Editorial content ultimately comes full circle back to your on-site content. If your site doesn’t have high-quality content, you don’t leave interested visitors much to work with and are ultimately letting critical link juice go to waste.
Don’t do that.
Is Magento 2.0 Better for SEO?
The first version of Magento played a huge role in shaping eCommerce for thousands of online retailers, but it was not without a handful of small, albeit frustrating, errors. Magento 2.0 was released in November 2015, and has not only fixed these issues, but has continued to impress the eCommerce community with its extensive features and user-friendly interface.
As we know, user experience with user interface is very important in SEO because Google can tell how a searcher interacts with your page. If they leave right away, Google gives you a lesser value. As user experience lifts, we see decreased bounce rates, increased time on page, and extra traffic from Google.
As a bonus, there are aspects of Magento 2.0 that construct a superior user experience, new features that will help you as the merchant or help consumers have a great experience, leading to more revenues.
“Have your cake and eat it too.”
Online retailers often hit growing pains where their site starts to slow down at a certain number of users or products and can miss out on thousands of customers willing to check-out, but who are unwilling to put up with long wait times. Magento 2.0’s architecture is designed to handle heavy traffic and to manage thousands of site visitors and products at a time.
The Magento performance toolkit helps to optimize system performance by speeding up loading pages and reducing the server load. Magento 2.0 fixed several issues that made the first version slower. Sites sped up quickly and site performance greatly improved with the more consistent and efficient updates of new indexers.
Editing Made Easy
The Magento 2.0 editing interface includes a visual design editor that allows users to drag-and-drop elements where they want them on the page. This eliminates the need for any hard technical knowledge, changing the game almost to the same degree as WordPress did in site development. Modifying blocks and containers can be done in a few clicks, instead of clunky back-end code editors.
Admin Panel and Product Manager Interface
Magento 2.0 unveiled a new admin panel that is user-friendly and intuitive. The dashboard allows you to see your best-sellers and best customers, revenue, taxes, lifetime sales, top search terms, average orders, and a handful of other extremely important data points, all at a glance.
The product manager interface is equally as intuitive, making editing and creating product details much easier. These are big changes.
Prioritization of Security
In the last five years, the Internet saw over a billion accounts exposed to hackers and third party auctions in the dark market. Big, trusted names such as LinkedIn and Yahoo had major security breaches, ultimately increasing customer apprehension when entering secure information online. This was felt in the world of eCommerce as customers started to distrust sites and bought less from unknown companies.
Magento 2.0 comes with integrations with Braintree, PayPal, and Authorize.net to ensure that not only your system is safe from being leaked, but also that your customers feel secure in purchasing from you. The Magento 2.0 Enterprise Edition integrates with CyberSource and WorldPay.
Each Magento 2.0 version upped its security game and allows users to pursue the easiest level of PCI compliance.
Improved Shopping Experience
The Magento 2.0 shopping experience is far more engaging and personalized for each customer. It allows for a seamless omni-channel experience with responsive design reference themes that cater to the tendency of most shoppers to browse on one device and complete the purchase on another.
Magento 2.0 also allows users to share products through integrated video and showcase items in a way that truly entices online shoppers. The benefits of incorporating video in your product pages cannot be understated. Product videos not only increase sales and decrease returns, they also help increase site traffic.
Videos help products get discovered, and the team behind Magento 2.0 engineered the shopping experience to help users get their products in front of more people.
Consumers stay on a retail site with a video two minutes longer than on sites without one. This time on site can dramatically improve SEO.
Users tend to be 45% more likely to go back to sites with video, since those videos gave them value. This return traffic tips search engines off to the quality of your site and helps them index ahead of comparative sites without return traffic.
By incorporating a video, online retailers give their visitors the opportunity to share their products in a non-intrusive way. Videos tend to get shared way more often than images and text, so why not put your product pages in the best possible condition for attracting traffic?
Marketers who use video grow revenue almost 50% faster than users who don’t use vide.
Still unconvinced? A study by Cisco estimates 79% of all global consumer traffic will come from video in 2018.
Less Barriers to Checkout
A slow, clunky checkout process is the reason thousands of American consumers made the change from shopping in brick and mortar locations to online retail.
Anything more than a two-step checkout process makes customers get impatient. It only takes one or two extra steps for customers to stop dropping out your checkout like a flock of quail over a hunting lodge.
The Magento 2.0 checkout is easy to customize and has greatly minimized steps and the required information to make a purchase. It also allows users to create an account and customer profile for future purchases with one click.
Magento vs. BigCommerce for SEO
Magento and BigCommerce are two of the very best platforms for SEO. When it comes down to the details, both are almost flawless when it comes to technical SEO and you cannot go wrong with either platform. So really what you should look at is the differences between the two for functionality, which we have outlined below.
Pricing: Magento Go is a cheaper starting point than the comparative starter plans on BigCommerce. Even though BigCommerce’s starter “silver” plan allows users to sell unlimited products and provides unlimited bandwidth, most merchants don’t necessarily need unlimited products or bandwidth to get started. At less than half of the cost, Magento Go provides users with more value. Each next pricing step is generally cheaper with Magento, as well. None of Magento’s four plans charge transaction fees, whereas users would have to be on the $79.95/month gold plan with BigCommerce.
Templates: Both services offer a good range of free templates, but BigCommerce does come with more free templates than the first version of Magento. Magento has the potential to catch up since the community of developers around Magento is rapidly growing. Magento 1.0’s templates will require some significant customization to get the full value on mobile. Magento Go’s paid-for templates are generally cheaper than the BigCommerce ones. Both platforms offer templates that are extremely customizeable via HTML and CSS.
Essential Features: Both platforms come with comparable features across the board, but BigCommerce’s tend to be more expensive.
- BigCommerce has one of the best abandoned cart functionalities (automated emails to customers who abandon their cart) on their premium plans, but this can be added to Magento through a third-party solution.
- Magento Go comes out of the box with multiple language functionality with their 65+, whereas BigCommerce would have to use a third-party developer.
- Since Magento Go is owned by eBay, it provides seamless integration where both your Magento store and eBay store can be run from one control panel. BigCommerce also has a similar high level of integration, so it generally comes down to an interface preference here.
- The first rendition of Magento does not provide great built-in blogging functionality, and BigCommerce does.
- Magento Go also doesn’t have a Facebook integration to business pages yet, either.
- Overall, BigCommerce was the preference for ease of use when compared to Magento Go, but Magento 2.0 has worked to remove all kinks in the interface and user experience to bring it up to a very competitive position.
Magento vs. Shopify for SEO
The competition between Magento and Shopify is close, but it ultimately comes down to the functionality and interface preference. When asked about what the main differentiators were from a functional and utility standpoint, Tyler Slocum, SEO specialist at Visiture.com, noted:
“The biggest difference between these two platforms is the price. Magento offers a free service, while Shopify has a minimum of $29 for their product.”
“Shopify uses liquid, which most people aren’t familiar with. Magento is open source, which uses PHP. That’s something most people in the industry have some experience with.”
“In the past, Shopify was the clear winner for best site speed. But with the introduction of Magento 2, there really isn’t much of a difference.”
“Magento is a clear winner. Their open source code allows you to use basically any plugin of your choosing, and it also allows you to use any hosting service.”
Ultimately, Shopify is a rising star in the eCommerce space and Shopify Plus is a really good platform. However, currently Magento offers a lot more functionality than Shopify for SEO and functionality. Magento is perfect for larger eCommerce businesses which require the robust functionality and support that comes with Magento.
“Shopify is great for small stores that don’t have many products. Their user interface isn’t customizable so it sets up a lot of different store settings for you. If you want a store that has thousands of products and SKUs, Magento is the clear winner. Very large stores require frequent customization. Magento might come off as more complicated because it allows so much customization. This could scare off some business owners, who would likely choose Shopify for it’s simplicity.”
When it comes to working with eCommerce clients, Magento is preferred among industry experts. Tyler Slocum from Visiture.com said:
“I like Magento because of its user interface. Everything you need is easy to find within clear navigation. When I first used other platforms like Shopify or 3DCart, it was very hard to find their SEO tools or products. Magento’s navigation is clear cut and simple. I obviously like their offering of free services. Most importantly, their customer service team and security teams are unmatched. It might cost some money to have their security team fix the problems you encounter, but they’re experts and can resolve any problem that arises.”
Magento 2.0 can be an extremely user-friendly platform, but in order to utilize it to its potential you must be aware of all the potential pitfalls that many have made before you. Luckily, you have now finished this resource, which puts you closer to Magento perfection, creating better user experiences, enticing more customers and selling more products.