Get the best out of your Joomla website and boost your search engine rankings
Joomla is a great CMS for building websites, which is why we ofen use it. But its 'out of the box' package can be a bit limited. So when setting up your Joomla website, it makes sense to get a little help from Joomla SEO specialists who know what they're doing and can help you get the best out of it to make sure it’s optimised to perform as it should in the search engines.
We are Joomla SEO Experts
Our extensive experience of Joomla Search Engine Optimisation here at Channel Digital means we know what the key issues are and have the skills and knowledge to fix them quickly and efficiently. We know exactly where to focus our efforts, what plugins to use (from the proliferation of ones, good, bad and indifferent, that are available in the community) and what to build.
Joomla’s Most Common Issues
- Canonical URLs
- Duplicate content
- SEF URLS
- Google Analytics codes
- Site search tracking
- Site speeds
Key Joomla SEO Features
- Title, Heading and Meta tags
- Automatic sitemap generation
- SEO friendly navigation
- Remove/hide content
- Additional plugins
And because we’re marketers as well as developers, we stay focussed on the end result, which is to drive traffic and sales through your website.
How do I achieve SEO success?
Add our Joomla and technical SEO expertise to our specialist content optimisation and outreach and linkbuilding services, and we have a holistic solution for helping owners of Joomla based sites achieve SEO success. A testimony to this is the number of sites we have ranking for high positions against competitive keyphrases.
As you would expect from one of the most widely used, powerful and flexible CMS systems in the world, Joomla is finely tuned to work well for SEO. With over 10,000 extensions in the Joomla Community, and used by some of the world’s larges and most successful sites, most of these features are very finely honed for best positioning in the search engines.
How does good content help my SEO?
SEO is not really about extensions and tools within a website. At heart it is about providing great content which users and therefore search engines will want to access. It is about making that content dynamic, interesting and authoritative, and this is where Joomla as a platform really excels. Few other platforms allow you the flexibility to combine and customise so many advanced interactive features AND use the power of the developer community to keep up with the latest developments and technologies, AND empower your internal and external users to interact with your website and content. Putting these features together allows you to access that SEO sweet spot, where you don’t appear to be doing SEO at all, where the engaging and topical nature of your site makes people want to interact with your site and build links to it, and where your SEO effectively 'does itself'.
But to reach this zenith of SEO and web experience takes significant creativity and commitment to quality content, plus a great understanding and empathy for your community of stakeholders. Many sites, and particularly those involved with less glamorous products and companies (the 'hand-cleaner' type product vs. the 'Harley Davidson') will still need to engage in traditional SEO in order to achieve the type of exposure that will help support and grow their marketing efforts.
So what are the tools and tricks within Joomla that help you put the nuts and bolts of your SEO campaign into place?
How often should I update my content?
Content has always been the key to great SEO, but since the Google Penguin and Panda updates of the last two years it has now even more firmly cemented its position as your No.1 priority. Joomla excels here, as both admin and other approved users can readily add and update content from anywhere in the world, keeping the site as fresh and up to date as your workload allows for. As well as regular text and image articles within the site, you can easily promote content to the home page for a given period, and archive older content so that it remains within the site and passes SEO and user benefit. Joomla’s flexibility in this area is extreme.
Can I use different types of content for my SEO?
Other content types can easily be published within the same site structure. There are just as many, if not more, options within Joomla for displaying these types of content within Joomla as any other CMS currently available. Just some examples of what is possible include:
- Forums (you can integrate the login and styling within the rest of the site)
- Shopping carts and catalogues
- Video galleries
- Blogs (comments and all the usual features)
- Market-specific features like property listings, booking engines and classified ads
How should I use title and heading tags?
Setting your page titles and H1, H2, H3 headings correctly is crucial for successful SEO because this is what Google uses to index your web pages. The title is also what will display in SERPs, so from an SEO perspective it's essential to ensure it contains relevant content, based on your keyword research, rather than obvious phrases like 'Home Page' which we see so often across the internet. These can be easily set in Joomla as can the meta descriptions.
How do meta descriptions work?
The meta description of a page is what Google will display on its results page, underneath your page title. So it’s really important to create something that is compelling enough for people to want to visit your website, by telling them, as a response to their keyword search, exactly what is on the page.
Common Issues with Joomla
Our expertise means that we understand the technical side of Joomla's own particular nuances which can potentially result in issues with SEO, so we also know how to work around them. Sometimes these are easily resolved using readily available community plugins, but sometimes they will need our own bespoke solutions developed by our own Joomla developers.
Joomla undoubtedly has issues 'out of the box' where SEO is concerned, but Channel have experienced all of these and developed our own methodologies for overcoming them. Our years of experience 'at the coal face' building Joomla websites, means we know exactly where to focus our efforts with SEO for the platform, what plugins to use (from the proliferation of ones, good, bad and indifferent, that are available in the community) and what to build.
Why do I get duplicate content and what are 'canonical URLs'?
One of the quirks of using a CMS like Joomla is that it can generate multiple URLs for different versions of what is essentially the same page. So for example, if your page is also rendered as a pdf, or in resized versions, multiple additional URLs can be generated.
The issue here. Besides having more than one copy of a page, is that search engines like Google cannot differentiate between the ‘original’ URL and duplicates. This can lead to a possible dilution of your page rank, or the promotion of the ‘wrong’ page by search engines. To help resolve this problem, the main search engines have given website owners the ability to identify their ‘canonical’ URL.
How does site structure work in Joomla?
Good SEO also relies on a meaningful site structure. This is sometimes described as a 'Silo' structure, where a site is almost made up of a number of mini-sites, each containing an area of specialist knowledge within a group of closely related pages. This Silo structure works well for SEO, with the closely related pages adding to one another’s ranking power, and creating possibly a number of different 'authority sites' within the overall umbrella of your domain.
Joomla supports this particularly well, with its flexible structure of content categories. These allow you to navigate to a category, view and navigate between its various elements, use pagination and 'next / previous' navigation to navigate within a category or breadcrumbs, to work your way back up the tree towards the parent category level. Category-specific menus can also be published on any page or category, which further enhances this silo structure and improves navigation.
Similar principles operate within most well designed shopping carts, which, as described in the content section can also be great for SEO.
What are SEF URLs?
A web page URL can take many forms, but using relevant keywords within the page URL is an important ranking signal.
So if you want to rank well for 'my phrase' in Google, you will have a better chance with URL 1, then URL 2, for example:
When you install Joomla you get the 'Native URL' type 2, but by throwing a couple of simple switches we are able to switch on Joomla’s native 'search engine friendly URLs' (SEF URLs), like type 1.
However we can do more than just switch them on. A finer level of control allows us to have greater impact on your SEO results, so we prefer to use some of the Joomla extensions which allows you additional control over your URLs.
In the examples given above, the SEF URL would basically be made up of section name / article title - however you might want to refine this.
Our preferred SEF extension is probably the Joomla community’s most advanced SEF product, its name just trips off the tongue: “sh404SEF”. See?
Some of the additional features that an extension like this adds to your site include the ability to:
- Further customise URLs
- Redirect old URLs (perhaps from an old website) to new ones
- Create SEF URLs for almost any Joomla component (or write your own plugin to integrate with other Joomla add-ons is required)
- Create short URLs (great for Twitter or emails)
- Enforce lower case URLs or append a file extension (like .html, .php or no extension at all)
- Manage all the Meta data (page titles, keywords, and descriptions), all in one place.
- View and manage “404” errors (page not there) and redirect users to suitable alternative content
And the list goes on - this is only a part of it. In Joomla most of this functionality can be up and running in perhaps half an hour, a far cry from the workload that would be required to build all this from the ground up. So fine grained and reliable control of your URL structure is a given with Joomla, even more so when using advanced extensions like this.
How do I insert Google Analytics codes in Joomla?
Good SEO relies heavily on good information, and Joomla has some great features here. Firstly it is possible to include Google Analytics code on every page of the site within minutes, for great data acquisition. This is a common feature of modern CMS systems – you just put the Analytics code in the template, which automatically places it on every page. This type of thing could be very difficult with older “static” sites, where adding code to 1,000 pages could perhaps take hours, particularly if no standard template had been reliably used.
What is site search tracking?
Another nice in-built Joomla feature here is the tracking of site search (site search is build into Joomla as a matter of course). This can integrate nicely with Google Analytics as well, but the core principle here is to log all the searches that your users make, see what they search for the most (what they want to know) and then work on your content and structure to make sure you are doing a good job of providing the information that they want.
How can I improve my site speed?
Site speed is increasingly an SEO ranking factor. It is way below quality content in the overall scheme of importance, but both for happy users and happy search engines it remains important.
As you add more and more features to a site it can start to slow down, with the number of scripts, images and stylesheets growing every time you install a new feature (and adding new features is very easy to do in Joomla).
So good practice dictates that you do the following:
- Only add features that you need
- Use Joomla’s inbuilt GZIP (page compression) features to keep your pages small
- Use Joomla’s caching features to serve the same page more quickly a second time
- Resize and optimise your images before adding to the website (then specify its size and “alt text” for good measure)
- Host your site on a good quality server
- Keep the site well optimised and the tables clean of unnecessary overhead
- Switch off Joomla’s in-built logging and debugging features when not required
- Select and use a high quality and fast loading Joomla template for the site styling. This can make a great deal of difference to the overall page speed.
As ever all the features are there to be used within the Joomla CMS, for those who know how to make the most of them.
Additional useful Joomla SEO functionality
One of the reasons Joomla is so popluar as an open source CMS is that it has a great deal of functionality, enabling customisation through many many tools, plugins and extensions. Below are just a few more examples of what we can do with Joomla.
Automatic sitemap generation
Another important Google service which sits alongside Google Analytics is their Webmaster Tools. As well as providing a wealth of information about your site, visitors and how it is indexed, it also allows you to submit a sitemap to help Google understand what all your pages are and make sure they are all in its index.
Traditionally you could create a sitemap by hand, or by using some nice tools like XML-sitemap.com. However, these have the disadvantage that every time you add a new page, post or product to your site, it isn’t added to the sitemap, so you would need to re-generate it manually every time. Clearly, this would be an impediment to progress.
Joomla, on the other hand, allows you to automatically generate a sitemap from the latest content every time it is requested, so that your newest page is instantly made available to Google. The same sitemap can be:
- Displayed for visitors on the website
- Submitted to Google
- Automatically updated every time you add content
- Styled and customised
- Used to include content from other components (like the shop, forum, directory or blog)
- Altered to change the priority of each page. Therefore if you consider a page particularly important you can give the page a rating of 1 in the sitemap. If you consider it unimportant you can make it 0.1.
There is no point making all your pages 1 in pursuit of better rankings, as this does not have the desired effect.
Our preferred tool for provisioning sitemaps is called Xmap, and as you would expect it contains many more useful features than just these.
What is SEO-friendly navigation?
The key to good and SEO-friendly navigation includes:
- Having enough of it so that your internal content can readily be accessed from more than one navigational route. Many sites in the search for simplicity include navigation. The correct blend is important.
- Keeping at least one type of navigation text-link based and therefore readily crawlable by search engine robots.
Joomla delivers this type of text-link based navigation as its standard route, with most of the main menu systems working as you would want. The developer does however have considerable freedom to alter or remove certain navigation types, and if SEO is not borne in mind while developing a site, you can end up creating a less SEO-friendly structure than Joomla carries out of the box.
At Channel we feel we have a good system here, as having both development and SEO teams working closely together, it is pretty much a given that all our sites are going to be SEO friendly in their very DNA.
Remove or hide content from search engines
There are times when it works best to prevent content from appearing in Google. Where there are multiple versions of a similar page they can be redirected to a main one using a tag called “Rel= Canonical” which indicates to the search engine which is the best version. This can be important when you have various versions with similar content, perhaps a web page with duplicate versions as PDFs and print-friendly pages.
These tags, as well as “ROBOTS= NOINXEX, NOFOLLOW”, and a little file called “robots.txt” are all useful ways of telling Google NOT to show content, or dealing with unwanted duplicates. Again, Joomla provides the tools for doing this.
Use 'tagging' for additional navigation
A few search engine friendly features include tagging, where pages can be tagged and found using a common topic or subject, or alternatively by the name of the author of that page. On some sites where the main navigation is not well developed, tagging can be the SEO saviour of a site. Whether tags are accessed from a list, a tag cloud, or just from the articles themselves, this creates another way of linking related content which can add value for your users, and which search engines love.
Joomla social media plugins
More and more, social media is moving towards the heart of SEO, with social sharing signals joining links and link quality as one of the main SEO metrics. So how can you persuade people to share your content with their friends? Well firstly it has to be great content, but having created that, it still needs to be easy for people to share it. There is a great range of Joomla plugins that make this process easy, typically adding sharing links to your chosen social channels, so that your visitor can share your content with their friends and associates, but all the time creating and publishing that important link back to our original page.
Adding a social display to a Joomla site is also very straightforward, with a Twitter or Facebook update “Widget” being simple to publish anywhere on your website.
Joomla RSS feeds
This brings us on to feeding content out from your site to other places, including social media. The jury remains out on the benefits of this approach, but while conventional wisdom is that personal contact is always better than automated content, there can be a case under the right circumstances to feed content out from your site.
RSS is the main tool for this, and again RSS is a built-in feature of Joomla.
Some of the uses of RSS include feeding:
- Blog content to a social channel
- Shop content to Google products and other shopping sites
- Content out to Feedburner to create email alerts
- Your latest updates to the email inboxes or social profile pages of your followers or subscribers
- Your news onto other websites
Nothing indicates your authority as much as other websites displaying your news. Typically this works with RSS, and financial type sites often like a live feed from the FT, share prices, or Forex rates. But what if the content were yours? While Joomla can’t guarantee that your content will be this desirable to others, it does provide the tools should you want to share.
As you can see, there are a large number of factors that contribute to SEO, and Joomla both out of the box, and through its huge developer community is well able to provide them all. However I want to end by restating a point made at the very start of this article.
Good SEO is not really about extensions and plugins, but about your commitment to developing high quality useful content and topical news for your users. If you can manage this then your site will SEO itself. If you can’t then no amount of features and trickery will save you.
But you do need a good platform to work on and Joomla is among the very best in this regard.
We can also offer bespoke training in Joomla for SEO and for web development, provided by one of our team if you would like some help with getting up to speed.
If you have a Joomla website please do get in contact with us by clicking the button below to discuss how we can help you achieve the optimum SEO for your site: