We are happy to have Steven Wu, the Co-Founder & Technical Director of R&W Media, here again with us. In the previous interview, Steven kindly shared his insights on running a successful Magento agency and building a productive Magento development team.
Today, we are lucky to get him to disclose some secrets of Magento 2 SEO. Read on for more insights.
Table of Contents
Interview with Steven Wu
Q: Steven, we all know that R&W Media is a significant player in the niche. Your company focuses on designing and developing Magento solutions that deliver an engaging and user-friendly shopping experience. What was this year like for your company? Any inspiring project you could share with us?
This year, we have been focusing on a lot of migration from Magento 1 to Magento 2 and redesigns. Yes, there are still a lot of merchants who have yet to migrate their store over to Magento 2. This is because their stores are extremely large, with thousands of products, complex integrations, and functionality. Even discussing the migration to Magento 2 with some of our clients has taken almost two years of conversation and planning.
Now, our team has become very proficient in accomplishing this challenge and has pioneered our own in-house tools and scripts to make migration a smooth transition.
Besides migrating to Magento 2, many of our clients have taken the opportunity to remodel their storefront. Some lacked focus and wanted to transcend their eCommerce store to a modern, fresh look with a focus on user experience.
One of our latest redesigns is Sarah Chapman, a luxury skincare brand. They have seen positive results since the launch of the new redesign this year.
Q: Given that you used to be a Magento Developer and know the platform inside and out, does Magento 2 SEO deserves special attention, in your opinion?
Absolutely. I don’t know of any eCommerce store that doesn’t require some sort of search engine optimization. Out-of-the-box, Magento 2 comes equipped with some awesome SEO features, which rival a lot of competitors. However, using only what is provided will only get you so far. If you want to compete with your competitors, you’ll need to go all the way. This requires further optimization of your eCommerce store.
Secret #1. Anatomy of SEO-Ideal Product Pages
Q: With all that said, let’s dig into Magento 2 SEO specifics and start with creating a product page that is ideal from the SEO perspective. What anatomy should it have?
It’s important to cover the basics. This includes implementing the meta title, meta description, and ensuring you enable rich snippets. When writing content, make sure you have done your keyword research. You need to understand what kind of keywords your customers are using to search for your products.
Write high-quality content, and break up text with descriptive headings (h1, h2, h3), use alt attributes for images, and use internal linking to create a good internal linking structure. Make sure you don’t duplicate content across the website, or copy content from competitors, provide unique content for all your product pages.
Look at incorporating videos, such as embedding YouTube videos, that reviews the product or provides clarity through a product demonstration. Studies have shown customer reviews help increase conversions, so ensure you display them here.
Try to prioritize content and ensure the most important content is above the fond, such as the title and price. Make sure your price is bold and clear. If it’s on offer, highlight this and possibly show the savings you’re making if it’s on sale.
Show if this product is in-stock or out of stock so as not to disappoint customers. A very important aspect is to have a strong call to action, to allow customers to quickly and easily add the product to the cart.
Magento offers some fantastic recommendations, in the form of cross-selling and upsell relations. Make sure you add related products on the product page.
Finally, a slow, clunky web page will have your customers running. With Magento 2 performance improvement, you should be able to launch a lightning-fast website, with ease.
Secret #2. Tactics to Use if Competitors Sell Similar Goods
Q: What SEO tactics can be used in case the competition is selling similar products?
To help stand out amongst the crowd, you want to have unique content. Something that your competitors don’t. We have clients who spend a lot of time and effort in creating their own video reviews of their products. This includes showcasing the product in an engaging fashion, discussing the product in hand, highlighting product features, and providing insightful advice.
Besides producing your own video reviews, you want to include your own product photography. We notice some lazy merchants will just use the same branded imagery as everyone else. Instead, invest time and money in producing your own ones. Have different angles, shots, and even a 360-degree rotation of the product. Providing high-quality photos and videos will help customers see the product in a light like no competitor does and helps you to increase conversions.
So many stores use the same plain product description that isn’t particularly descriptive. Instead, write up a description that describes the product in detail, so customers know the product inside and out. A customer shouldn’t be left wondering or have questions. The more information you provide, the better it is for the customer.
From our experience, product reviews have an enormous impact on customer purchasing decisions. Always encourage past customers to leave a review for your products. Reviews can help increase customer confidence when deciding on a product purchase.
Besides presenting unique content, merchants should also highlight the service they provide. If you offer a 30-day money-back guarantee and fast delivery service, make sure you highlight this to the customer. Providing excellent customer support and service will help customers decide between buying from you instead of buying from a competitor. With excellent customer service, rather than buying someplace cheaper, customers would rather pay a little more from a respectable store that promises outstanding service.
Secret #3. Dealing with Removed Product Pages
Q: What is the best way to deal with a page if a product has been removed from the market?
In the past, we’ve had clients come to us with issues highlighted in their Google Search Console. They periodically have hundreds or even thousands of 404 errors appearing. This is because when a batch of products gets removed from their catalog, the listings that Google had indexed are now completely removed. Losing out on potential landing pages and possibly seeing rankings dropped.
The best way to combat archived products is to (1) redirect them to a suitable landing page―possibly to a similar product page or to a category page. Option (2) would be to keep the unavailable product page still present. Instead, offer customers a list of related products they can select from. If this product may come back in stock in the future, allow customers to sign up for email notifications, so customers know when the product is back in stock. This all helps to capture that lost revenue.
Secret #4. Category Filters & Long-Tail Keywords
Q: Is there any specific way of getting more traffic thanks to category filters?
Category filters are handy for customers when they are looking for something specific. We’ve seen our clients take advantage of the Magento layered navigation by using long-tail keywords. For example, a customer could be looking for ‘Blue Nike Air Max Trainers, size 11’. With filters, it can help drill down to specific brand, product type, and shoe size. Ensure you fully optimize these long-tail keyword pages by adding the keywords into the URL string and creating a copy to reflect this landing page.
Long-tail keywords are a great source of landing pages and can collectively yield a high return for customers looking for something specific.
Secret #5. eCommerce Blog Specifics
Q: Any SEO specifics when running an eCommerce blog?
A lot of online stores have a blog only simply to please Google and not seeing it as an opportunity to generate additional traffic sources or revenue streams.
It’s disappointing to see the blog content merchants publish, which is typically rather weak and uninteresting. Instead, produce engaging content that is interesting to read, i.e., related to your industry, possibly having product highlights and reviews, and always link it back to your products, so that you can use the blog as an advertising platform to readers.
Google always appreciates content, so ensure your blog is rich with quality content that helps draw customers in and help boost your rankings. Remember not to write for bots but always focus on real readers.
Secret #6. Site Usability to Influence SEO Rankings
Q: Does Magento 2 site usability influence its ranking? Is there anything in particular you could share with the readers?
Usability is a secondary influence on search engine ranking decisions and should not be neglected. How often have you been on a website and found it difficult to navigate, hard to find the product or information you are looking for? Or noticed how slow and clunky it is to use. All of these annoyances come from poor usability and website performance, which will impact your SEO rankings and see an increase in the bounce rate.
One of the reasons we redesigned Sarah Chapman’s website was to focus on improving the overall website usability. With the new redesign, the navigation is now cleaner and less cluttered, making navigating through the website easier. If customers cannot find a product they are looking for, the improved search suggestions on the website make it faster to find the products.
Providing responsive feedback after significant actions―such as when a customer adds a product to the basket―ensure you give some sort of visual clue. Thus, customers are not guessing whether the action was processed. This is why we have an ajax function when adding products to the cart now and show the product successfully included into the customer’s basket on the Sarah Chapman website.
We completely revamped the Sarah Chapman checkout process by incorporating a one-step checkout process. No more long and complicated multi-step process. The checkout should always be focused, direct customers through the checkout funnel without distractions, and with a smooth linear process. There should never be any complications or redirects involved.
One frustration customers have on the checkout is when an error occurs, and they do not know why. Make sure to always provide clear error messages on how to resolve the issue at hand. If a customer cannot resolve the issue within three attempts, they are unlikely going to try again. A useful feature would be to include tooltips to provide helpful hints on what is required or why particular information is required.
A slow website will frustrate customers and drive them away. Magento 2 is much faster at load times compared to its predecessor, but you will still need to optimize your Magento 2 platform correctly.
Secret #7: YMYL Algorithm & Magento 2
Q: Last but not least, it’s a YMYL algorithm. What shall Magento 2-based merchants consider when optimizing their sites for it?
Magento 2 websites fall under the YMYL algorithm and should adhere to the concept of E-A-T (expertise, authority, trust). Google’s QRG guideline explicitly mentions, ‘High-quality stores want users to feel comfortable buying online.’
You will want to show expertise and present your brand as an authority in your industry. Specializing in a niche or selling unique products is evidence of this. Our client’s website Sarah Chapman sells and manufactures its own branded products. Having a good reputation and selling exclusive products is evidence of an industry expert.
You don’t have to be in a niche or sell exclusive products to show you are an expert. Having recommendations from industry experts, or even customer reviews, and producing your own content with credible information can be classed as an expert. If you are a marketplace selling a large range of products produced by different manufacturers, you want to show you are affiliated with those manufacturers and that you are an authorized merchant.
To build customer confidence and to provide customer satisfaction, your store needs to be trustworthy. Besides providing high-quality and extensive product material, you want to demonstrate your customer service and address any buying process customers may have.
Shipping costs or additional charges, including taxes, should be clear and transparent. If you have a returns policy or money-back guarantee, make sure you clearly display this. Contact information such as live chat, email, phone number, and an address are vital and should be accessible, easy to find, and not hidden.
Magento 2 SEO Automation
Q: Is there any automation available in Magento 2 when it comes to SEO optimization? Would you recommend going for a 3rd party extension or some other means to deal with Magento 2 SEO?
There are few automation features in Magento 2, such as auto-generating a full website sitemap. However, the Magento default features are rather limited. Instead, you will want to automate more of the process.
If you have thousands of products and categories or even pages, editing them one by one can be a daunting and time-consuming effort. You can automate this by setting up template tags for the meta title and meta descriptions to help attract relevant traffic with targeted keywords.
Having a strong internal linking structure will help increase visibility to other relevant pages. Incorporating an automated cross-site linking feature will look for relevant keywords and replace it with links to a natural page, helping to spread the link juice and attain higher ranking.
If you have any archived products, rather than having it go to a 404 page, use automation and have it redirected to a relevant page instead.
One of the best SEO extensions we recommend to our clients is the MageWorx SEO Suite.
SEO Advice for Merchants Who Launch Sites on Magento 2
Q: And finally, what SEO-optimization pieces of advice would you give to Magento 2-based merchants, who are just launching their eCommerce websites? What about those who wish to improve their positions?
We find when launching a new Magento 2 website, a lot of merchants focus on SEO post-launch. This is rather too late, and you will likely see rankings delayed or see a drop. Create a plan prior to going live, do your keyword research, update and clean up content, including product descriptions. You need to put a strategy in place, don’t just hope that upon launch of your new website, you will magically receive a surge of traffic.
A lot of clients re-use previous old content, which is rather weak or has existing problems, such as poor friendly URLs, and just do an up and lift over to Magento 2, in the hopes things will be better. This is delusional. Instead, you will want to replace your content with high-quality content and clean up URLs before going live.
If you are migrating from a different platform, you want to ensure you have 301 redirect all of your old URLs to the new Magento 2 URLs. We’ve faced clients who neglected this and saw a massive drop in their rankings.
A checklist could look as follows:
- Include a robots.txt file
- Upload your new sitemap to Google Search Console
- Implement product schema
- Include meta title and description on all necessary pages
- Add href-langs if applicable
- Optimize images, and
- Set up canonical URLs where applicable
Once your new website has launched, make sure you continue to monitor it through the Google Search Console and Google Analytics.
We thank Steven Wu for taking the time and sharing his expert insights into Magento 2 SEO, and wish lots of success in his career!