This is the first in a series of tutorials I’ve decided to put together to share my knowledge of Optimizing Joomla 1.5 For Search Engines.
The information below is an outline of a number ot techniques and tools you can use to perform on-page optimization, but off-page optimization is also a very important part of Joomla 1.5 SEO, and I encourage you to check out my other posts on this.
We’ll look at the whole process in depth so grab a cup of coffee and lets get started.
For the uninitiated Search Engine Optimization, usually abbreviated to SEO, is the art of getting your website ranking in the search engines. When we say a website “ranks” it means your website appears preferably in the first few results when a person searches for keywords related to the topic of your website. It means the Search Engines think your site is extremely relevant, and an authority, on its subject matter.
Why do we want to optimize our websites for search engines? Well the more often you appear in the search engine results pages (often abbreviated to SERP’s) the more traffic will come to your site. Visitors are the currency we deal in on the world wide web. They make you, or the lack of them will break you.
Most of us don’t have enormous amounts of time to invest in optimizing our websites so I’m going to try to provide you with clear, concise information and we’ll start with the techniques that will benefit you most for the least effort.
There are a couple of things to understand before optimizing your website.
Firstly there are only 3 search engines you need to worry about; Google, Yahoo and MSN/Live.
Google has about 60% market share – meaning 60% of all searches performed on the internet, Yahoo approx 30% and MSN/Live about %5. These statistics vary depending on whom you talk to, and they also fluctuate a little. Regardless these numbers are ok for us to work with as they are indicative of where our energies should be placed. Many people believe that there is only one engine you need concern yourself with… yes that’s right… Google. I actually disagree with this as I run a number of sites which Yahoo and MSN have both been very good to. However Google is the dominant player and therefore we will focus more on it in this series.
The second thing you need to know is that good SEO relies on only two factors:
- On-site Optimization
Good content, keywords relevant to what your desired visitors are searching for, and clear paths to your content that google can follow when it is indexing your website. Important: Good on-site optimization will only get you so far!
- Off-Site Optimization
This quite simply boils down to Backlinks, and this my friends is where it’s at. Again for the uninitiated, backlinks are simply links from other websites to yours. This is how Google really ranks your website. Each link to your site is counted as a vote. Some votes are stronger than others depending on where they come from. A link from an authority site with a good reputation will be worth more than a blog someone setup yesterday. More on backlinks later.
I said we’d keep it short and simple and we are – the above wraps up what you need to know before we get started on technique Don’t worry if it’s a lot to take in – we’ll be going over, and expanding on, many of these topics before the tutorial series is finished.
Getting down to it, On-Site Search Engine Optimization
As mentioned this is the first tutorial and for this session we will focus on a number of Joomla Extensions that will help you succeed in getting your site to rank on the search engines and drive traffic to your pages.
What we will focus on for the first few tutorials is on-site search engine optimization . This is really about making sure you have good content and then showing the search engines what your site is about and helping them to index as much of the information as possible. If you are very new to all this and are wondering about terms like Title Tags and Meta Tags don’t worry, we’ll go into these in detail soon!
Lets get started! All I want you to do this session is get an idea of the tools you will need – All the tools we will use are free.
Extensions we’ll be investigating and using in different combinations are:
There are three routes you can take.
- The Lazy Approach To Joomla SEO
This technique relies heavily on an excellent extension called Joomseo created by Phil Brown. We’ll also use sh404SEF and one of the sitemap components.
Joomseo will take the pain out of optimizing your Joomla site for earch engines as it dynamically creates many of the necessary ‘tags’ and ‘meta tags’ that we want for good SEO. What it does is it takes the title of your article/content item and uses it for the Page Title Tag – You don’t have to enter this yourself manually. Joomseo takes care of this and many other things for you. Z
The only problem is that SEO elements dynamically created by a computer running a script are never quite as good as taking the time to do it yourself. As a human being you have the power of rational thnking and can add your own experiences and creativity into the mix. More on Joomseo technique in the next tutorial.
- The Logical Approach To Joomla SEO.
This approach involves installing the Search Engine Friendly Patch from Joomlatwork. This is an excellent option and works just as well as my ultimate option below in many cases.Keep in mind we’ll also use sh404SEF and a sitemap as per the above.
So what does it do? It lets you manually enter Title Tags and all Meta information for articles, front page and all menu items.The thing I really like about this option for optimisng your site is that it’s Logical, You enter the essential SEO information where and when you would expect t, in the parameters of each article or in the menu when you set it up.
The downsides are this – The SEF patch is not compatible with all other components. As an example I have tested it with Virtuemart and unfortunately it doesn’t help much here – shop items are not covered (though this is not the fault of the SEF patch developers).
Additionally the Patch is actually more of hack, which in this context means you are overwriting core Joomla files. This isn’t a major issue or concern really (don’t worry about the term “hack”) except when it comes time to update your Joomla it will overwrite the files you changed with the patch. The Joomlatwork guys are pretty good though and release new patch files very soon after any Joomla update – You’ll just need to re-patch your Joomla.
- The Ultimate Joomla Search Engine Optimization
In some ways this is the most complex of all the options to setup and get your head around, but in other ways it is actually the most simple once you get it running. It also only requires the one main component: sh40SEF which does all the grunt work by itself! (You will want to bolt a sitemap onto your site.)
sh404SEF is truly amazing and indispensable. Something I have not even touched on here is that sh404SEF is going to handle your URL re-writing in this SEO method and the above two. This is the task it was designed to do and I have not even got to singing it’s praises for this yet. We’ll cover this in a separate tutorial.
Like the SEF patch mentioned above sh404SEF lets you create your Title Tags and other meta individually – however where it differs is in that it lets you create this per URL, or web address. This means that this method is actually compatible with any and all other components you have installed on your Joomla site. This is because you can assign the additional meta to the URL. It’s so clever! It does not rely on any communication between itself and other components – It simply comes along afterwards and cleans up the mess.The only thing that takes a little getting used to with sh404SEF is that the workflow is not completely intuitive. Once you have written and published your content items you’ll then need to visit the sh404SEF component, browse a list of URLs, select the one you wish to modify and then add in your tags. This can be confusing especially when you have not got your content right in front of you to reference when creating the page title, etc.
In spite of the final tiny gripe this is my preferred option and is the most powerful for the reason already mentioned – that any URL or address on your site can have a custom Page Title Tag, meta descriptin and all the rest. Fabulous!
Well I think that is enough for one session, I’ve been writing for about 3 hours… We’ll wrap up with a quick summary – I want you to have a think about what method above suits you best. Now that I have explained in minor detail how each option works I can quickly add a couple of other pointers to help your decision making.
Joomseo suits sites with large amounts of content, perhaps with new items being added daily or hourly. If you don’t have the time or resources to do manual tags for each content item then this is a good option for you. The sheer quantity of your content may help you win with the search engines.
Option two - The SEF patch is the most logical to use – the parameters are added while you are creating each page of new content. It’s sensible and intuitive and although more labor intensive than the Lazy Option it is faster for the average user to go with this option than option three. Don’t forget to factor in re-patching after each Joomla update!
The Ultimate Search Engine Optimization is what I use on 90% of sites I maintain. It takes more effort but the results are great and you can add your custom information for all additional components like Virtuemart or Sobi (note that sobi lets you enter meta but does not give you complete control over title as this is partly generated by the Joomla core. sh404SEF will let you customize these settings completely).
I hope you found this useful, thanks for stopping by, and I look forward to your presence on this site again soon.
If you have questions or suggestions please share your thoughts in the comments.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the feed or email updates – I know you want to read the next installment when we’ll dive into configuring these components and look at some techniques for writing good titles and descriptions!