Launching a new ecommerce website is an exciting process for a business, whether that is expanding an existing business into the digital marketplace or starting a new business from scratch to trade online.
In this post I want to share some Magento SEO tips for launching a new website; in a future post I will provide some tips for launching a new Magento store to replace an existing ecommerce website.
Make sure your content can be found
During the development stage the developers may set the Meta Robots tag to “NO INDEX, NO FOLLOW” – this tag provides instructions to search engine spiders on how to treat a website when they arrive at it.
The “NO INDEX, NO FOLLOW” setting will tell the spiders to not index the content, and they will turn around and back off into the internet!
When your new Magento website is ready to go live it is vital that the Meta Robots tag is set to “INDEX, FOLLOW” if you want the search engines to spider and index your content.
The Meta Robots tag settings can be found in the “HTML Head” section of the Magento admin system; this can be found via:
System – Configuration – Design – HTML Head
It takes a few minutes to locate this setting and change it (and save the settings change) but the impact of forgetting to make this update is huge and could stop your site being indexed regardless of your on-page SEO efforts!
You should also check the contents of any Robots.txt file as this can also provide signals to the search engines about whether to index the website or ignore pages.
Start collecting data
For an existing business or a new online venture collecting data about your website is crucial and understanding your visitors’ behaviour and where they have come from to arrive at your site is vital knowledge that will help you develop your site and business.
Before your new Magento store is ready to launch get yourself a Google account set up; using this log-in you will be able to create Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools accounts.
This account will help you monitor visits to the store and the users’ behaviour once they reach your site. The initial account is simple to set up and once you have filled in the basic contact and domain details you will need to make a note of the UA number provided for the domain. Typically the tracking code generated for the Google Analytics account will need to be added to the site (and the code needs to be added to every page you need to track) but thankfully Magento makes adding the code very easy. All you need is the UA number rather than the full snippet of code and you need to add this to the “Google Analytics” field of the “Google API” section; this can be found via:
System – Configuration – Google API (under the Sales heading)
Simply add the UA number and set the enable drop-down to “Yes”. This will now add the tracking code to each page of your Magento site and is a fantastic feature of Magento that makes collecting traffic data via Google Analytics easy.
In order to track e-commerce data you will then need to head back to the Google Analytics account and identify the website as an e-commerce site. Log into your profile and follow the steps:
Admin – Profile Settings
Scroll down the page and under “General Information” set the currency to be displayed as “British Pound Sterling” (assuming you are operating in the UK). Under this section is “E-Commerce Settings” you need to set this drop-down field as “Yes, an e-commerce site”.
Google Webmaster Tools
This account provides you with a wealth of information about your domain from Google but for the purposes of this post we will focus on verifying the account and submitting an XML Sitemap.
Using your Google account log-in to Google Webmaster Tools and begin the process of adding a site. If this is a new account and you are verifying your first site then once logged in you simply need to add your domain to the “add site” field.
As Webmaster Tools provides data about a domain it needs to be verified to ensure that you are the owner/webmaster for that domain. There are a number of verification methods but Magento can very easily help with the site verification if you choose the “verify by Meta Tag” option. If this is not shown on the screen then select “Alternative methods” and select “HTML tag”; you will be presented with a Meta tag that you need to copy. Keep the Webmaster screen open but now log into your Magento admin system in a separate window and follow the steps:
System – Configuration – Design – HTML Head
Within this section is the “Miscellaneous Scripts” field; paste the Meta tag into this field and Magento adds the tag into thesection of the site once the Configuration settings are saved.
Head back to your Webmaster Tools window and click the “verify” button (just make sure you saved the Magento settings change). The account is now verified and you will have access to the data.
Give the search engines a helping hand
If you have launched a brand new website you will not have an existing link profile or any inherent domain strength that this brings so the search engines are not going to know that your new store exists online. In order to give the search engines a helping hand we can create an XML Sitemap (which can be viewed as a list of your website’s pages) and submit this to Google via the Webmaster Tools account to point them in the direction of your new Magento store and its content.
Creating an XML Sitemap in Magento
Magento makes creating an XML Sitemap nice and easy for us and with a few short steps we can generate the Sitemap and it will be uploaded to the domain.
XML Sitemaps have a number of attributes and using Magento we can control some of the values for some of these attributes. To find the XML Sitemap settings follow the steps:
System – Configuration – Google Sitemap (under the Catalog heading)
In this section we can update the “Priority” and “Frequency” attributes for the XML Sitemap that will be generated. These attributes can be set individually for the Category, Product and CMS pages.
To generate the Sitemap follow the steps:
Catalog – Google Sitemap
Select “Add Sitemap” and here you will need to enter the filename for the Sitemap; sitemap.xml is often the standard name. You will need to add the base URL for where the Sitemap will be located, by choosing “/” you will have your Sitemap added at: example.com/sitemap.xml
We have now created our XML Sitemap; the next step is to submit it to Google! Log back into the Google Webmaster Tools account and under the “Optimization” heading select “Sitemaps”. On this page we can select “Add/Test Sitemap”.
If your Sitemap has been added at the location in our example (example.com/sitemap.xml) then we just need to add “sitemap.xml” into the field and click “Submit Sitemap”.
These are just a few tips to give your new Magento website the best start at launch and to get your site and its content found. We have recently launched a new store for iCookGreek who have a new online store offering Greek produce for sale in Greece and we used these tips to make sure that the site is set-up to aid the indexing of its content.
The hard work now follows as you begin to think about your on-page optimisation, your content strategy for the website, developing your brand online and the link profile of your domain – but these are future posts, one step at a time!
Thanks for reading, I’m Ben Pethullis and write about SEO and digital marketing for ecommerce websites here at The Distance