When it comes to ecommerce, search engine ranking is one of the most important things. You might have the coolest design and the best performance, but it hardly matters if your site is not shown up on the first pages of search results. According to statistics, 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. When SEO is neglected, potential clients are passing your site by and, at long last, business owners lose revenue.
Magento 2 out-of-the-box SEO features
Magento developers strived to make Magento 2 SEO-friendly. They have introduced new features that among other things allowed merchants to:
- Automatically generate an XML sitemap;
- Create search engine friendly URLs;
- Take full control of URLs with URL rewrites;
- Add tags with Google Tag Manager;
- Automatically fill in product metadata with Field Auto-Generation.
What’s nice is that these features are available out of the box. Thus, migrating from Magento 1 to Magento 2 is the next logical step for merchants willing to make their products easy to find. But don’t rush. Magento migration is more complicated than you expect, and without a professional Magento agency, you risk messing up your SEO completely. Every change that occurs to your web store during migration might lead to problems like broken URLs, duplicate content, lost pages, or redirect issues. As a result, you might face a drop in your rankings.
Even if Magento migration runs smoothly, you’re not immune to SEO issues in the aftermath. Changing too many things makes it difficult for search algorithms to understand why these changes occur and they react with an immediate decrease in your site rankings.
Keep reading this article to learn Magento migration SEO tips that will prevent your online store from losing traffic when re-platforming.
Magento migration SEO tips
Set up redirects
While migrating your store from Magento 1 to Magento 2, you need to make sure that site visitors get redirected to the new URLs, otherwise, you’ll lose traffic. On top of that, Google might penalize you by removing pages from search results, if old URLs aren’t redirected to the new ones. Therefore, take it seriously.
First, set up 301 redirects, especially when you’re looking to change URLs to the product or category pages. They are used to tell search engines that the given page has been moved to a new location and that the old page should be dropped from their index. 301 redirects can be configured manually or automatically with URL rewrites.
In addition to 301 redirects, you should also remember to redirect the following:
- Non-WWW to WWW URLs and vice versa;
- HTTP to HTTPS;
- Trailing slash to a non-trailing slash.
Minimize SEO changes
For the sake of your store’s SEO health, don’t make any alterations to the content, structure, and metadata during migration. Search engines are likely to respond to substantial changes made on your website by moving you down in search ranking. The more changes you make, the greater is the likelihood that your organic traffic will decrease.
Additionally, if you don’t know SEO well enough, you risk messing everything up. If there is still a need to restructure the catalog during the migration, you’d better ask an expert to do it to avoid issues.
Protect staging environment with a password
The staging environment is a replica of your site where the migration team carries out all changes and works, and you, as the client, can access it to see the progress or to test your store as if it’s live.
A good Magento migration SEO tip is to set the basic access authentication for a staging environment. This will hide the staging site from Google, Bing, and any other search engines and won’t allow them to crawl it. Otherwise, the pages may accidentally get indexed and search engines will think that your new Magento 2 store has content duplicate to your staging.
Another option to hide your staging environment from search engines is to close it from indexing in robots.txt. However, this method is less reliable and doesn’t guarantee that your staging site won’t be indexed by Google as the latter treats robots.txt as a recommendation rather than a directive.
Choose a theme and extensions carefully
A theme and extensions contain content too. When selecting third-party extensions and a theme for your Magento 2 store, pay attention to how SEO-friendly they are:
- The font size should be 14px and larger;
- Different heading levels (H1, H2, H3, ...) should be used to structure the content well;
- The h1 tags shouldn’t be cloaking (i.e. hidden with the display:none, opacity:0, or otherwise invisible);
- The content shouldn’t be hidden with an Ajax command.
Submit sitemap to Google Search Console
In Magento, one can automatically generate the sitemap — an XML file that lists the URLs of all pages on your site and the last time the pages were modified.
When the new Magento 2 store is launched, it’s important to submit its sitemap to Google Search Console to allow search engines to recrawl your site. Further, Google Search Console allows you to see if something goes wrong with your site indexing and fix possible issues. For example, Googlebot might fail to index some of your pages for whatever reasons. In this case, you’ll be able to submit each of such pages manually.
Make sure dynamic and low-quality pages aren’t indexed
Dynamic or parameter-based pages, such as layered navigation, sort parameters, and search pages, shouldn’t be indexed as they can cause duplicate content issues. Identify such pages and close them from indexation.
The same goes for low-quality pages — prevent them from being indexed by Google to avoid a drop in rankings. These are:
- Search pages,
- Account pages,
- Checkout pages,
- Wishlist pages,
- Sort pages,
- Review pages,
- Tag pages,
- Alternate layout pages (for example, grid).
Verify structured data markup
Structured data markup and metadata allow Google and other search engines to understand the page content better. Into the bargain, it is used to enhance the way users see your pages in the search results and, thus, attract more potential buyers to your store. For example, it allows displaying your product in shopping results with its name, photo, and price.
Keep in mind that Magento migration services rendered by an incompetent vendor might sometimes lead to the loss of structured data markup, in whole or in part. As a result, your product will lose its visibility in search results. To prevent this from happening, verify that all structured data is in place before you launch the Magento 2 store.
Any modifications to your store during migration risk sabotaging your HTML markup as well. After the migration, make sure that the following HTML elements are intact:
- Hreflang. The Hreflang attribute allows displaying your site in the language native to its visitors if the content is in multiple languages. In case it’s lost, the number of visitors and, consequently, the amount of traffic will decrease.
- Alt tags. Alt tags are used to describe images to help search engines understand their contents.
- Canonical tags. Canonical tags help Google to understand which page is the original source of the content to avoid duplicate content issues. When you have identical or similar content on more than one page, set up a canonical tag to indicate which of them you want to have indexed.
Manage deleted pages correctly
As your business is migrating, you might want to delete some pages that aren’t needed anymore in your Magento 2 store. To do it correctly, remember to set up a 404 status code and submit a Webpage removal request to Google Search Console.
When items go out of stock, it’s not recommended to delete such product pages from your store or to set up a 404. For the sake of your SEO, opt for displaying the out of stock product status in the Magento 2 settings.
It should go without saying that your site’s performance should not be lower than that you used to have on Magento 1. Load time has a big impact on search ranking and crawlability, apart from the fact that it matters to your potential customers too. Therefore, test your performance and optimize it to the max.
When migrating from Magento 1 to Magento 2, it’s important to draw special attention to how the changes you make might affect your store’s search rankings and eliminate possible SEO issues on time. Follow the recommendations above to make sure migration produces the business outcomes you want, and does not bring you additional problems.