When comparing to other CMS like Drupal or Magento regarding SEO aspect, Joomla is a little bit underrated for its weak SEO out of the box. And Joomla needs additional SEO extension to support this shortcoming. However, in Joomla 3x, you can take advantage of the SEO relevant settings to improve your Joomla site ranking.
You might think: Why not just install a SEO module for Joomla instead (and you’ll escape from this administrator’s setting thing?). Well, let me tell you, although there’re plenty of good SEO extensions (both free and paid) for Joomla, they always require additional codes in your site as well as fetch data from your site’s database. So, using SEO extensions bring both positive and negative impacts for your site.
Making your site friendly with search engine doesn’t necessarily require SEO extensions. It’s true, if you follow these best practices and SEO settings for Joomla 3. If you understand that SEO isn’t made for search engine, but for your site’s visitors, you’ll see SEO has much more to do than just installing a SEO module into your site. It’s a long-term strategy, not just a quick fix.
Now, let’s look at what we can do in Joomla 3 dashboard to have a search engine optimized Joomla site!
I’ll go through a list of settings in Joomla backend, and then add some tips for better SEO performance.
SEO SETTINGS IN JOOMLA 3
1. Global Settings
To access this section, go to Joomla 3 Dashboard, in the left menu, click on Global Configuration located under SYSTEM heading.
1.1. SEO settings
1.1.1 Search Engine Friendly URLs
It’s highly recommended to turn this setting on. If you select YES, all the long and “ugly” URLs such as http://www.abc.com/index.php?option=com_content&Itemid=101 will be turned into a friendlier and shorter link such as http://www.abc.com/index.php/page-title. More importantly, it will display in highlight in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) the keywords in page title when people search these keywords so your site’s SEO will benefit from this. Furthermore, the clear and short title helps both readers and search engine robot understand more clearly what the page is about.
1.1.2. Use URL rewriting
This setting only takes effect if Search Engine Friendly URLs is set to YES. Using URL rewriting will shorten your links as short as possible. For example: http://www.abc.com/page-title. This adaption makes your site’s links look much more professional and easier for reader to read. To make this setting work, your Joomla site needs to run on Apache or IIS7 software.
For Apache users: Rename htaccess.txt to .htaccess before activating this setting.
For IIS 7 users: Rename web.config.txt to web.config & Install IIS URL Rewrite Module before activating this setting.
1.1.3. Adds suffix to URL
Joomla 3 allows you to turn on/off this option so you can add or not add the .html suffix to the end of your URLs. The link will turn to: http://www.abc.com/page-title.html with this option. Previously, the .html suffix has some value in benefiting SEO ranking for a link, but since it’s very easy to add this suffix at the end of your link, it’s possible that this setting has been attached no value. So, NO for this setting is ok enough.
1.1.4. Unicode Aliases
Enabling this option helps your links which contain non-latin character will be preserved. For example, http://www.abc.com/νέα/παράδειγμα with Unicode Aliases turned YES will be displayed as http://www.abc.com/νέα/παράδειγμα on your address bar. If this setting is NO, then the non-latin characters will be turned to number or latin characters.
Should you enable this setting? Yes, ONLY IF your customers/target visitors are living exclusively in specific location/region and use non-Western script.
1.1.5. Include site name in page titles
Your site name is highly recommended to be included in page titles. However, it MUST he placed at the back of the title. Why? Because the first words are considered more important words than those at the back, and since site’s name is the same for every page, only the keywords in page’s titles are different, so you must put your site’s name behind.
So, select AFTER for this setting is the best choice if you want to include your site’s name in every title’s pages of your site.
1.2. Metadata settings
1.2.1. Site Meta Description
Site Meta Description is the snippet information that displays under page’s title of your site in SERPs. Search engine will display this meta description if it can’t find any other description provided for the category or menu item. This information is the cover of what the content of the page is about.
Remember that in SEO, description containing keywords of a site is extremely important. It helps the site to be more easily indexed and identified by search engines. Note that your site description should not be longer than 150 words, and must include some of the keywords related to your site’s content.
1.2.2. Site Meta Keyword
Similarly, Site Meta Keyword is also an important part in SEO. Meta keywords help visitors find out whether the site has the information/keywords they want, however they doesn’t contribute much value in a page’s rank. So, you must fill in some keywords here for your site, but keyword stuffing is pointless.
The default setting for this section is “Index, Follow”. You should not change this default setting unless you need to in very special cases.
Index, Follow: Search Engine Robot can index this page and crawl through all pages of the site
Index, No Follow: Search Engine Robot can index current page and stops at this page. It’s not allowed to crawl through other pages.
No index, Follow: Search Engine Robot can’t index current page but can crawl through the rest of the pages.
No Index, No Follow: Search Engine Robot can’t index this page and can’t continue to crawl any other pages.
1.2.4. Content rights
Leave this field blank is my suggestion since this setting is not necessary for both site’s visitors and search engines.
1.2.5. Show Author Meta tag
Like Content rights, this setting should be displayed on the site visually, so there’s no need to turn this on in Joomla dashboard.
1.2.6. Show Joomla! version
I strongly don’t recommend you to enable this option for the sake of your site’s security. You’ll learn why here: How to optimize your Joomla security
2. Menu Manager
2.1. Menu Title
Menu title will be displayed in the browser’s title bar and also shown in the search results of Google.
When a user searches for a keyword that is contained in your Menu Title, that word will be highlighted in bold. This is an important element of your site presented in search result, but you should name and target you Menu title for your site’s visitors, not search engines. However, remember to optimize it for SEO.
The Alias in Joomla is automatically generated when you leave this field blank before saving an item. Alias will be used in the URL when option of Search Engine Friendly URLs is enabled.
For example, my Menu title is: Events Booking Pro in category Joomla components, then the automatically generated alias will be events-booking-pro which displayed as follow in URL: http://www.joomseller.com/joomla-components/events-booking-pro.html
So, alias will have the keywords for SEO if the menu item contains keywords.
2.3. Browser Page Title
The value entered in this field will be shown in the browser title bar instead of the menu title. Therefore you should make sure that the Browser Page Title contains important keywords. Note that the title should not be longer than 70 characters.
2.4. Page Heading
Since page heading doesn’t take much credit in SEO for a page, you can leave its default setting by Joomla. The only advice is that you should set your heading tags correctly so both search engines and visitors can easily catch the subject of the page.
3. Article Manager
Now go to Article section, you’ll see there are two things you should notice to practice a good SEO for your article.
3.1. Article’s title
Your article’s title has to be not only a cover of its content, but also has to be a unique and short title. The title should not be longer than 10 words, and you should put keyword here. Make sure that there isn’t any duplicate content on you site so Google won’t underrate you for that.
3.2. Meta description
Though it’s an effort and time consuming process, writing unique and targeted meta descriptions for each of your article is recommended for higher click-through-rate and better SEO performance.
OTHER TIPS FOR BETTER SEO FOR JOOMLA SITE
1. Add Google Analytics to your site
Google Analytics (GA) provides a valuable insight into how your website traffic. Create an account on GA, add the code GA provided to your site and then you’ll have access to know your site’s traffic, speed, new/returned visitors, bound rate, etc. Based on this information, you will know what to do to improve your website’s ranking. Take a look at the video tutorial below to add Google Analytics to Joomla site:
2. Build backlinks
Try to build as many inbound links as possible to improve your SEO ranking (inbound links or backlinks: links that placed on other site and pointed back to your site). However, spamming links or creating fake links doesn’t do the trick. You must create organic links – which means that people themselves choose to share your links from their site. The best way of getting inbound links is to create compelling, relevant and helpful content that the readers want to share with others.
3. Create a blog for your site
Blogging is the main and most efficient way to get backlinks to your site. For SEO & modern marketing in general, content is King and backlink is Queen. Create a blog, make good, educational contents (topics are various: research, tutorials or news, solving a popular question by customers, etc.) and keep the routine of blogging every week so that your blog will leverage your visitors, audience and new customers.
Fact: “Study Shows Business Blogging Leads to 55% More Website Visitors” by Hubspot:
Companies that blog have far better marketing results. Specifically, the average company that blogs has:
- 55% more visitors
- 97% more inbound links
- 434% more indexed pages
4. Create an XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is an XML file showing all pages in the site. This helps both visitors and search engines easily know your site’s structure. You can create XML sitemap for free here xml-sitemaps.com.
5. Use the robots.txt File
The robots.txt file is in your site’s root folder. This file lets search engine robot know should be indexed and which folder should not be indexed.
Note: You should remove the line excluding the Joomla /images/ folder so your site’s images can be indexed on Google Images search.
We’ve gone through a list of SEO settings in Joomla 3 as well as some other tips to help you improve your site’s SEO performance without having to install any SEO extensions. Of course there are many other methods to improve your site’s ranking, and your job is to try different ways and select the best one that effective with your site. I’ll be waiting for your own experience with SEO for Joomla to be shared below