Currently, around 250,000 merchants are using Magento to power their online stores. However, only 11,000 (4.4%) of those merchants are using Magento 2.
This begs the question, what’s holding everyone back from upgrading?
One potential area of concern is search engine optimisation. It’s no secret that SEO flaws plagued Magento 1.X. Which led to many site owners relying on potentially expensive third-party extensions to meet the cut.
So with Magento 2 boasting a whole host of SEO improvements, we decided it was time to take a closer look.
General Magento 2 SEO Features
This includes aspects of SEO that don’t fall within a specific category.
Magento 2 supports the configuration of meta titles, meta keywords and meta descriptions for product pages. The inclusion of meta keywords is surprising, considering that the keyword meta tag hasn’t been supported by Google since 2009.
You can generate metadata dynamically using three placeholders (name, description and SKU). This should be a huge time saver for larger sites. Though, be mindful that your product description is likely to be longer than the recommended 155-160 chars for meta descriptions.
This has been a staple since Magento 1 with product URLs generated using SKUs. You can now achieve similar results with category pages. However, be mindful that auto-generated category URLs may result in duplicate meta titles and descriptions.
Title Tag Suffix/Prefix
Useful for adding your business name (or anything) to the start or end of your page title tags. Remember that this will result in additional chars on your existing page titles. For reference, 55-60 chars is the recommended length for page titles.
Image ALT Text
Accessibility is still a major factor in SEO, so it’s good to see Magento 2 offering ALT text customisation for screen readers. Though, they still automatically set your company logo ALT text to “Magento Commerce” so make sure you change that first!
Microdata / Schema
The default microdata settings in Magento 2 should be enough to help you generate basic rich snippets in Google search results. Though, for anything more advanced, such as being able to generate breadcrumbs, you’ll need an extension such as Rich Snippets for Magento 2.
Technical SEO Features of Magento 2
Technical SEO is anything that impacts the crawling and indexing stages of the Google ranking cycle.
This is where Magento 2 really shines. The developers have rebuilt the whole platform using the latest versions of MySQL and PHP, resulting in significant speed improvements across the board.
In Magento 2 you can edit your robots.txt file directly from the admin panel. This means you can perform useful functions such as blocking access to specific URLs or linking to an XML sitemap.
You can generate an XML sitemap directly from your admin panel. This can then be automatically added to your robots.txt file for Google to find. Unfortunately, there are limitations, such as having no way to exclude/include specific pages or file types. So, for example, if you wanted to include a link to a PDF file, you would need to add it manually.
Magento 2 Content SEO Features
This includes any SEO features that have a direct impact on how Google handles the content of the site – specifically content that is thin or duplicated.
Canonical Tags for Categories
A common e-commerce SEO challenge is the number of duplicate content issues that result from filtering and pagination. Magento 1 already addressed this to a degree, but Magento 2 takes this a step further. For example, URLs with “product_list_mode=list”, and “product_list_order=name” are now properly canonicalised.
Canonical Tags For Product Pages
Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of customisation for canonicals. So you couldn’t, for example, specifically set ‘Product Page B’ as a canonical of ‘Product Page A’. For that, you would need to use an extension such as Improved Layered Navigation.
Magento 2 SEO Drawbacks
While this list is not exhaustive, we did run into two frustrations with Magento 2’s SEO.
A Lack of Image Optimisation
Currently, there is no optimisation of images taking place during upload. This means that a single bloated image could negate all of the page speed improvements. So it’s best to optimise your images using a free image tool such as TinyPNG before you upload them.
No Page Level Meta Robots Tags
Magento 2 allows you to control the INDEX, FOLLOW robots tags on a global level. However, there is no option to manage these tags on the page level. This is a shame as there are plenty of situations where it’s useful to be able to exclude individual pages from the Google index. Thankfully, the solution is to use an extension such as the creatively titled Magento 2 SEO Extension.
Magento 2 SEO vs Shopify Plus SEO
The short answer is that Shopify Plus does have a strong technical SEO foundation right out of the box. However, SEO is always changing, and the limitations of Shopify’s hosted platform will restrict you from being able to counter these changes. Leaving you entirely reliant on patches from the developers.
Magento 2 may need a little tinkering to get the most from its SEO performance, but at least the freedom to tinker is there.
Out of the box, Magento 2’s SEO performance is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor. These improvements are particularly noticeable when it comes to site speed – which is still a major SEO ranking factor.
Of course, you will still need to review all your settings and make adjustments for your specific use case. You may also need to invest in additional extensions to gain access to more advanced SEO functions.
As always, if you require any expert assistance with your e-commerce setup, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.