7 common Magento SEO mistakes

7

When dealing with Magento store’s SEO, these are the 7 most common basic mistakes I encounter. Some of these are inherited from the development stage of your projects. I hope this checklist will be useful for anyone launching a new store or checking their live site:

1. Homepage title “home”

If I had a dollar for every Magento store out there I’ve seen with a homepage title “home” I’d be a rich man. The homepage is usually a CMS page. Go in there and change the title of the page into something more suitable such as “Blue Widgets Online Store – Example.com”.

2. Using “default description” field

System > Configuration > General > Design > HTML Head > Default description – Leave this blank or you’ll have such a mess of duplicate descriptions on your store that don’t really describe the given URL that it will be unbelievable. Also, please make sure your meta keywords are not “magento, magento commerce” etc.

3. Not turning on rel=canonical

Save yourself from lots of duplicate content issues. Turn canonicals on for both products and categories.

4. Logo title and/or alt “Magento Commerce”

Logo, usually in the top left of your website. Don’t have it say “Magento Commerce”. I’ve seen that a lot of times.

5. Forgetting to turn meta robots to “index, follow” and remove robots.txt disallow after a move from staging/dev site to the live site

System > Configuration > General > Design > HTML Head > Default robots “INDEX, FOLLOW”.

Sometimes people leave this as noindex, nofollow on dev server and forget to change it when they migrate to the live server.

6. Having a default layered navigation

Layered navigation is a hell for the SEO. For more detailed explanation on this issue, read my guide on how to handle Magento layered navigation SEO issues.

7. Building a sitemap with sample products and sample categories

I’ve seen this one as well. Check what’s in your sitemap.xml before you submit it to Google. No sample products please! :)

Can you name a common Magento SEO mistake number 8?

If you need any help, we can do a Magento Website Assessment for your site.

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Author

Toni Anicic

E-commerce Consultant

SEO. Professional gaming. Home-brewed beer. Billiard.

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Discussion 45 Comments

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  1. Piotr

    oh I could give you mistakes 8 to 100 :) The most common are:
    - leaving default favicon of Magento
    - leaving default Magento branding/content in transactional emails
    - not styling 404 page
    - not styling exceptions pages

  2. Toni Anicic

    Piotr, all common mistakes indeed, but not really related to SEO ;)

  3. Piotr

    Right, i noticed just after i posted but did not know how to delete my comment :)

  4. for mutli-store installations using the same product descriptions names URLs etc across multiple stores.

  5. Hans Kuijpers

    I’ve created an expansion on the sitemap. It also provides the image location.
    http://github.com/hans2103

    - SEO mistake and unnecessary resource sucker is allowing search engines index pages that don’t need to be indexed. TAG, Searchwords, Searchresults… and more. Use your theme local.xml to set meta tag robots noindex,follow to these pages.

  6. Toni Anicic

    Hans,

    That’s a great suggestion. I’m particularly impressed you wrote “noindex, follow” and not “noindex, nofollow”, which shows a really deep understanding of on-site SEO on your part!

  7. John Ramsey

    Great suggestions. But what about NOINDEX for simple products? I would like to get rid of a bunch of duplicate content caused by Simple Products that are a part of Configurable Products but still be able to push the simple products out individually to shopping feeds/comparison feeds etc.

    But I don’t want my simple products being indexed by the Search Engines. How do I do this?

  8. Toni Anicic

    John, just don’t make them visible individually. You can do that from admin.

  9. One of the SEO issues I faced, was that Google indexed both https and http versions of the product pages. I ended up using two robots.txt files. One for the https pages, which disallows all pages and one for the http which allows all pages. See: http://www.seoworkers.com/seo-articles-tutorials/robots-and-https.html

  10. Toni Anicic

    Martijn,

    That’s exactly where you should use rel=canonical (http to https or other way).

  11. Now you mentioned it, I realize rel=canonical can be used for this. But disallow all https pages works fine for now.

  12. Thanks for this this article, it really saved my bacon!

    When I set up my store I had a real problem with my products being indexed, I had really short descriptions and google saw them all as duplicate content. Turning on rel=canonical for categories and products sorted this out for me.

  13. Hi Toni, thanks for your article.
    I just started to manage a new site, buonoegiusto.it, but I noticed that there’s something wrong with title’s suffix. If you take a look at the title you’ll see that the site’s name is duplicated: “Buono e giusto – Buono e giusto”. How can I fix it? I put title’s suffix in Configuration ==> System ==> Design in default field. Is it right? Thanks in advance, I’m new to Magento.

  14. Toni Anicic

    @Matteo,

    First of all that homepage title is too long, Google indexes only the first 12 words of the title.

    Why the suffix is duplicated on every single URL of the store, I have no idea. It’s most likely just a miss-configuration, go through the admin and try removing it on one place and see if both or just one disappears.

  15. @Toni thanks for reply.

    Unfortunately both desappear of I remove it once from “default settings”.
    It’s strange and I don’t understand why.

  16. Tony

    “I don’t want my simple products being indexed by the Search Engines”

    Tony, so after I choose visibility for simple products “Noware” they won’t be indexed by search engines? I have 5 simple associated products. All 5 have same names and descriptions.

  17. All great points, but it really is a good idea to use no index no follow until you are completely happy with the way magento is running, too many title changes in the fisrt few months will have a detrimental affect on your websites googles trust factor and this will reflect in your rankings.

  18. Hans Kuijpers

    @Web Design Malaysia :: perhaps the mouse ran out of cheese.
    I’m sorry but I can’t see any relation between your comment and the initial blogpost from Inchoo.
    Perhaps you should visit the help files from Google. Good luck.

  19. @Hans, I deleted their comment, looked very spammy :)

  20. Hi Toni,
    I am just wondering about your point 2

    If I remove the default description, I will avoid duplicate content for many pages, but I won’t have any meta description on my home page ??

    Thanks for your answer!

  21. @laurent,

    Your homepage should be a CMS page, and you can set its meta description on CMS page level.

  22. Toni,

    Thanks for your quick answer ! I removed the default description and default title from our website and nothing is coming up. Meta tags are empty !
    My home is not a pure cms page but a XML (

  23. Well if your homepage CMS page meta data is not showing up, it’s poorly developed by your developers. Not much I can do about it.

  24. I understand and will see why the meta are not showing up. (actually there are showing up but still empty)

    Thanks for your help.I wil check with our developper.

  25. We recently upgraded our site and to prevent duplicate content-punishment we added meta noindex to the updated site during development.

    Don´t you think we forgot to remove that after we made it live! And we did not notice it until several weeks. We got totally deindexed. The sad thing is that google webmaster did not say anything about it either. Everything was fine according to webmaster. Only less pages was indexed.

    Well we have fixed it now but now we have to wait and see if we get our precious ranking back. We had some 1 place rankings on some quite high-volume search-terms.

    Anyone have experience with this. If and so how long it will take to return. Or did we totally lost all our trust at goole now?

  26. @Glenn,

    Don’t beat yourself up, it’s a common mistake, it’s in the slides :)

    You should eventually get back on your feet. To accelerate the process, go into Webmaster Tools > Health > Fetch as Googlebot.

    Over there, fetch your homepage. Now you’ll have a button “Submit to index”. Click it and choose “URL and all linked pages”.

    This should get you back in index faster.

  27. @Toni Anicic
    Thanx for the tip and comfort :) I will report back just to let people know how long time it takes when next person does a similar mistake.

  28. It took some days (witch made me quite worried) But now we are back :) Lets ad content!!! (Was really no point before since google ignored us :))

  29. @Glenn,

    Nice to hear you’re back in index already :)

  30. Alan

    It seems that Magento is using the start of the product description for meta description if no meta description is set, which is really bad

  31. @Alan, yea, that happens, it’s not perfect but it’s better than having the same description on all pages (using default description).

    The best practice would be to write your own meta description for each product.

  32. Alan

    @Toni Yeah but the trouble is that alot of my clients products start off with the same content and Google is flagging a ton of content as duplicate meta description cause of it, there is some 1700+ products. Guess I will need to write some custom conditional code so that if there is no real meta set then dont show the tag.

  33. Hey all, I see lots of you come here searching for “Magento robots.txt”, you should read my friend’s post over at ICG – http://icg.inchoo.net/e-commerce-seo/magento-robots-txt-best-practices-google-image-crawler/

  34. Really great points here, I’m in the process of working on some SEO updates for my work and I’m doing all the research I can for Magento SEO. I’m having a bit of trouble with the “label” tag under Images in the the product directory. I need to try to figure out a way to turn those into “ALT” and ‘TITLE” tags separately, when I find out this I will write a blog post on my site.

  35. Srdjan

    Hey Toni, What is your view on the fact that Magento
    generates sitemaps with empty categories? How does that impact SEO?
    Thanks

  36. @Srdjan, why would you create a category if you don’t have any products for it? You can always delete empty categories.

  37. Srdjan

    Let’s just allow for the posibility that there are enabled empty categories in a site. In one case, ERP might be controlling whether there are products in a cat or not, and there might be periods of time when the category is empty, or all the products in it are out of stock. Or any other reason. I think that guys at Google SERP analysis team would not like a website that pops up in a search with zero value.. ? For me, it’s just an empty search result page, and if there are a lot of those cases for a single website, I would report it as spammy.

  38. @Srdjan, I think the case you described is very related to the problematic of out of stock products and SEO – http://icg.inchoo.net/e-commerce-seo/what-to-do-with-out-of-stock-products-seo-video-tutorial/

    You could 302 that category to its root category if it exists until it gets products, just like you’d do with out of stock products.

  39. Srdjan

    That again is questionable from SEO pow – in SERP you’re advertising you have a page that holds value for a certain query, but then you redirect searcher to your homepage, which has nothing to do with what person has been searching for.
    Few years back I was working as a member of SERP quality team at Google, and these are the situations we were instruct to monitor. That’s were my doubts come from. If I was to percieve a website showing up in result pages, and offering zero value for different queries (in example, someone would search for Basketball shoes, and your website pops up as a result, but holds no products , or redirects to homepage, that would be marked as “Not Relevant”), I would report it.
    Concrete example: while working on SERP analysis, I noticed website vesti.rs popping up every now and then with a zero result search result page, for many different queries. I reported it, and it got hammered. Website owner understood the issue and corrected it, but still it took months for it to get back to it’s former strength.
    All things said, I think Magento should offer the option to exclude empty categories from sitemap.

  40. @Srdjan,

    There’s no way an empty category would rank high enough to be clicked especially if it’s 302 redirected.

    It is possible, though, on google.rs where competition is not that high and if it wasn’t competitive keyword you searched for.

    Members of SERP quality team are not directly responsible for “hammering” the websites as Matt Cutts explained, they just give feedback that engineers use to fine tune the algorithm, it has nothing to do with specific websites but the ability of algorithm to figure out those empty searches.

    Also an empty search result page is in no way similar to an empty category page. Search pages should not be indexed at all according to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

  41. Srdjan

    Understood, thanks.
    My example is exactly very low competition keyword, and the site architecture is such that there are many empty categories, so I was concerned that if 0 result pages start showing up, someone would take interest in it.

    On the point of SERP team, yup, that’s what they do, but if there’s an incident, they can escalate it, and proper action would be taken (like in case of vesti.rs). I’ve personally been a part of that procedure in several cases. But that’s how it worked 5 years ago.

  42. Ok…I only had 4 of the 7 most common mistakes:) Most of
    them are simple fixes that you just do not think about when you
    setup the site. I am having trouble with the fact that Google
    thinks we have 2 home pages, a page called http://www.sitename.com and
    another page called http://www.sitename.com/home – not sure how to get rid
    of the /home – should I just forward /home to the domain or is
    there a setting in Magento that I am missing? Any suggestions are
    appreciated.

  43. @Bill DeCamp,

    Since /home is not linked anywhere from the front-end of your store, just disallow it using robots.txt or add canonical to the homepage or 301 redirect it to the homepage using .htaccess or Magento’s rewrite engine. All of the solutions will work :)

  44. Hi
    I love you guys tips but unfortunately i did not find it soon enough and have a MASSIVE problem with duplicate meta descriptions, every page indexed with Google has the default description which has nothing to do with my site. i have removed default meta description like you said but that now.

    HOW DO I FIX THIS, PLEASE HELP!!!

    Thanks

  45. In reference to John Ramsey post on the 04-06-2012 at 21:19, Toni Anicic said to keep the simple products live but not making the invisble. Surely this will cause lots of duplicate content issues. They will be listed in the sitemap (they are even listed when invisible). Google will search and you will have duplicate content. Should you just make the product, nofollow no index. You customers browse the site and see the configurable product but then in google shopping they see configurable and simple.???

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