Boost your Google ranking with this guide for an appropriate search engine optimization of your Joomla website.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important aspect of a website's development process, as it provides valuable info to both search engines and visitors of a website. Joomla, as a complete Content Management System, features most of the settings you will need to optimize, in order to achieve better Google rankings. Let's examine them, one by one :
Enable Search Engine Friendly URLs
This option is enabled by default on a Joomla installation, but it can be tweaked even further by enabling URL rewriting. To enable URL rewriting you will have to rename htaccess.txt to .htaccess (mind the dot before the filename). With this option enabled your website's URLs will not contain the 'index.php' part, thus making them more user-friendly, therefore more search-engine-friendly. You may also enable "adds suffix to URLs", an option that will add a .html suffix to all your website's pages. There is an ongoing discussion whether this option will enhance your website's SEO, but we prefer to keep it enabled.
Use your aliases effectively
This is a feature that is often being disregarded by most new Joomla users. In fact, the alias is used as the url for each article, hence it will have to contain the article's title, with all spaces replaced by dashes. You should never leave an article's alias empty, as Joomla will autocomplete it with the article's publication date and time – certainly not a very user-friendly information. Further more, if you create a menu item for an article this will override the article's alias, so you will need to set the menu item's alias accordingly.
Use your page titles effectively
Page titles are a major factor for a website's SEO, hence you will need to define them with care, making sure they include your main keywords. Again, pay extra attention to menu items, as their page title settings override the article's page title. This is a very important step, especially for your website's homepage title – it certainly has to be something more specific than "Home".
Do not forget the meta descriptions
Meta descriptions are not visible to your website's visitors – unless they are proficient source code readers. But still, search engines consider them as an important factor for your website's ranking, as meta descriptions provide valuable information for your website's content. Actually, a meta description is the text appearing beneath the link of your website on search engine result pages. You should use this setting to gain an advantage for your desired keywords.
Avoid duplicate entries for your category items
Search engines do not like duplicate entries – especially as meta descriptions. In the case of a category, you should avoid setting a generic meta description on the category's menu item. You should define this meta description on the category settings (in the Publishing tab of the category settings), thus letting each article to have its own meta description.
Never leave the alt-text of an image file empty
Alternate text of image files has a great impact on your website's SEO. You should never leave it empty, or – even worse – autocomplete this field with the image's filename. Use your desired keywords with care, in order to describe each image in a way that even a screen reader can help a user to understand the role of an image within an article.
Enable gzip compression
A website's performance has a great impact on search engine optimization. One of the first things to do, in order to boost your website's performance is to enable gzip compression on the Global Configuration. This will shorten the loading time of your pages, thus making your website faster.
Joomla comes with a handy cache feature that is disabled by default. As caching affects the overall loading speed of a website, it actually has a major impact on search engine optimization. To enable cache you will have to :
- turn on Conservative Caching on the System tab of the Global Configuration, under Cache settings
- enable the System – Cache plugin (where you might leave 'On browser caching' disabled)
- enable the cache of your template (where available)
For websites that do not get regularly updated you may also increase the cache time, significantly (e.g. to 120 mins or even more).
Use a sitemap extension
Search engines are relying on sitemaps to analyze the structure of a website. As Joomla does not come with a sitemap generator, the best option is to use a free extension for this task, such as Xmap – a free, reliable and highly recommended Joomla extesion. With Xmap you can have automatically updated sitemaps (even multiple ones, for multilingual websites) and you may also use a 301 redirection for the sitemap.xml file that needs to reside on your website's root directory.
Use redirection to eliminate 404 page errors
Joomla features a redirect plugin, which needs to be enabled, that you can use to provide redirections for any URL pointing to a non-existing page of your website. This is particularly important, in cases of a website re-design or a migration from a different CMS (such as Wordpress), to make sure that you maintain your old Google ranking.
Avoid content modifications
Content modifications (in article's content, titles or even the meta-descriptions) have a negative impact on your Google ranking. Make a good research for your desired keywords in advance, plan a nicely distributed use of those keywords, among your content, and stick to this plan without being tempted to make any modifications to further enhance your current SEO.