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Joomla 1.5 SEO

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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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:

  1. Joomseo
  2. Search Engine Friendly Patch
  3. sh404SEF
  4. Xmap/Joomap

There are three routes you can take.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 ofย  hack, which in this context means you are overwriting core Joomla files. This isn’t a major issue or concern reallyย  (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.
  3. 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!


 Add your comment
  1. Great guide. I read every line and am about to install sh404sef, you convinced me.

    I still cant find a decent sitemap generator for Joomla 1.5, they all seem to half work, any ideas?


  2. I would take a look at Xmap – has worked fairly well for me.

  3. Thanks, going to try it now. In the latest Joomla, 1.5.7, it looks like alot of the sh404 features are included?

  4. Thanks for the great summary! Just what I needed!
    I used Joomseo which was easy albeit as you pointed out not perfect.
    Maybe I’ll give sh404SEF a try when I have more time!! Thanks!!

  5. Nice short list. Definitely Xmap is a great extension. But most of the SEO in Joomla IMHO must be unfortunately done by editing tags etc. Especially when you are running multi language websites. If only I wouldn’t be so lazy doing it.

  6. Thanks for this interesting story

    But,don’t use the SEF Patch if you also use Joomfish for site translations.
    You will not be able to translate the metatags and titles and on the frontend the language selection will not work correctly.
    It is a pity
    I have read that the SEF Patch will be implemented in Joomla 1.6.0. Then Joomfish will work with the new sef-options.

    Never te less, this was an interesting journey to install the SEF Patch, edit all my pages and finding out that the translating went wrong.

  7. I have Optimized my site using the patch, and submitted my sitemap via google webmaster tools using XMAP, which seems to work great. My only issue with xmap is not being able to individually select the priority level, and only being able to set it via group.

    But it has been weeks and I still have not been indexed by google. I used the htaccess rewrite along with the built in sef url option to get URL’s that are named the same as the article, section, or category without the .html, .htm etc.

    Should I consider using 404sef? Or should I stick it out with the patch for some more time. Also, what do you recommend for getting quality links?

  8. oops the link in my name above is not the one I am referring to, it’s the one in this link. I figured you might need it to give a better evaluation of my situation.

  9. Hi Matt,
    Indexing with Google is a funny one isn’t it – I had a quick look at your sites and I think you’ve done a good job. The actual part about appearing in Google’s index is tricky – It often takes up to 30 days if you don’t have any sites linking to you. A high quality (high PageRank) website linking to you can get you listed very fast.
    I recently opened up the comments on this blog and made them “dofollow” links so I’d be interested to know if you see your site in Google in the next couple of days.
    The home page of joomlabear.com has page rank 5 and I’ve generally found that anything I link to from here ends up in Googles index within 48 hours.
    In terms of getting links read my posts on ConnectContent – one site I have been working in the CC network has received 8 backlinks since I put it up 5 weeks ago and now gets 70-100 visitors per day from Google. The site is 5 weeks old… backlinks work.

  10. Wow I didn’t actually except a response so soon. I will be sure to link to you as soon as my site is worth anything lol. I can’t believe you really made the links “do follow” That is rare. That is an awesome perk, I don’t know many blog’s that do that. This is a really useful site.

    I have designed hundreds of sites for clients and done seo for them, but they have always been html of some sort. I used some databases but never search engine pertinent information. Being that this site was a portal I just thought that I better dive into the world of CMS.

    It is the first time I haven’t had a site indexed within 48 hours, and to the top of google within a few months. The reason being when I design a business site the first thing I do is submit it to an array of quality directories some paid, some at the price of reciprocal links, this always seems to make the site fly up the google rankings.

    Only problem is there really isn’t a directory for directories, so I will spend the next few weeks trying to figure out how to get the site out there. Thank you so much for your help.

    Ps I’m going to put up a free ad for joomlabear, would you rather me link to the blog or main site? Do you have an ad script?

  11. Hi Matt,
    Really nice offer to help promote JoomlaBear and would be much appreciated. I’ll email you and see if we can sort something out that is mutually beneficial.

  12. Thanks for the post. We haven’t used Joomla yet in our search engine optimization practice, but I think you have convinced Arizona SEO to give it a whirl. We’d like to revisit your post and let you know how it goes! Thanks again.

  13. Hey BigBear,

    Thanks for the great intro post on Joomla SEO. We haven’t done SEO on a Joomla site in 3 years (pre 1.5, using OpenSEF — which doesn’t look like it’s supported anymore), so your quick reference has been a good guide for me in my research on what’s required. The way you’ve broken down the options (lazy, logical, ultimate) is quite handy as well.

    MattM: I don’t know if you subscribed to comments on this post, but I took a look at your site and figured I’d add in my $0.02 since I’m already here… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    It looks like you’ve been indexed, probably mostly due to BigBear’s generous use of dofollow (about 23 of your 28 backlinks come from pages on this joomlabear.com):

    Going through your sidebar nav, only 2 towns out of the 9 you have listed actually have any content. Essentially, each of those other pages are just duplicates, with the only things changing being the title tags and headings of each page.

    This’ll do you no good from an SEO perspective as the SEs are looking for content to serve. Without any content on your pages, no (technical) SEO will ever help you. Besides, if you actually were able to rank for “millerton restaurants”, visitors would just bounce straight out of your site cuz there’s nothing there… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Since you’re just starting up, my recommendation would be to just have ONE page of restaurants with headings for Fishkill and Wappingers and unpublish all the other pages. Once you’ve got enough listings for each town (maybe 5 per?), then have pages for each town. Do the same thing for your restaurant categories as well… Kill the subcats (diners, fine dining), until you have enough listings to make them useful.

    I don’t have time to get into diluting your PageRank but, in essence, that’s what you’re doing. Well, not really because your site doesn’t have any PR, but look into it.

    Good luck with the site!

  14. Thx for the great feedback and the tips for MattM.

    I’m going to be writing a little more about Joomla SEO shortly.

    I just want to stress that option 2 is sufficient for most peoples needs – the Joomla SEF patch will give you perfect control over all standard Joomla content items. You only need to go to the ultimate option if using a component, for example Virtuemart, when you want control over the shopping cart SEF aspects as well.

  15. Hey BigBear,

    Nice (and extensive) update to your original article!

    Agreed that option 2 would be sufficient for most, but we’ll be going with option 3 and use sh404SEF.

    The site only has 5 or 6 pages, and we’ll probably add another 4 or 5 to effectively optimize for some keywords, so sh404SEF might seem like overkill, but it looks like there are other benefits.

    I was scanning through sh404SEF’s features and saw “Duplicate Content Reduction”, especially important for handling URL canonicalization. Right now, the client has (at least) 3 different URLs for the homepage alone:

    Horrible. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Even worse, they’ve got the Events Calendar up on their site as well. We’ll be taking that down as soon as we start. I checked Google to see what pages on the site were indexed, and found that they’ve got yearly event archive pages indexed all the way up to 2019 — all with no content. Not to mention the daily listings that all read “No event for [this day]”. Blargh.

    The worst part is, the company that built the site for them was supposed to “optimize” it. LMAO.

    Now that I think of it, those are a couple of additional topics on Joomla SEO that you can write about:
    – Components and Modules That Are Bad for SEO
    – Duplicate Content is Bad (Well, Not Horrible; But Not Good)


  16. Thanks for the help John. I’m sure a great deal of my reason for being indexed so quickly was the joomlabear blog. I do understand a little bit about diluting pagerank and “link juice” so to speak. I guess I was hoping that I would be able to put the content up over night, but unfortunately that takes a great deal of time and energy. Getting the information back from all of my reviewers etc.

    That is a pretty good idea though, I will for sure start by scrapping the sub cats, I’ll see if I can get enough content up to warrant the categorized towns, because that is something the advertisers that I do have lined up really want to see- targeted advertising.

    I really appreciate your two cents, and it puts the volume of empty pages into perspective. Knowing what I know about PR and links I don’t know how I could have overlooked that flaw. I was just thinking of good site function rather than seo. Thanks for your help.

  17. My review about this tutorial, is that you have a huge talent, you manage to explain it pretty easy, and if I can’t do it, anyone can… thanks for helping us a bit more with Joomla.

  18. After reading this article, I was really enlightened by the capabilities of Joomla. It’s very tough to make a decision as to which kind of backend to use, because migrating around from one to the other until you find the right fit can get costly, irritating, and very much time consuming. So to add the other details such as SEO work that must be done for any new websites… it really is a very big decision that takes much time to do homework on. I have for a while been pondering a Joomla migration, as I’ve been told times over that its SEO addons are fantastic.

  19. Just finished installing sh404SEF great add on for Joomla. Its been a real pain in the arse to get my site to appear on a good keyword. Thanks again for the tips!

    • justvr.com appears to be down – if you have setup sh404sef I would go for the mod_rewrite option and change htacess.txt to .htaccess in the site root.

  20. Very nice article. I’ve been using sh404SEF and xMap in about every J! 1.5 site I’ve created in the last 5 or 6 months. Glad to know other professionals agree with my choices. :p

    I’ve found the best way to get sh404SEF working for me is to actually use the default, bone simple, .htaccess file that comes with Joomla! 1.5’s install package. The index.php/ or index.php? methods work but I can’t help but feel the .htaccess file builds a nicer url.

  21. Nice list of Joomla SEO components. With sh404sef being used so much, its nice to see how the other seo components are being used when sh404sef doesnt fit certain niches.

  22. nice tutorial. I have tried the sh404SEF, but it really mess up a lot with the website, maybe is not working with the 1.5.9 native sef component

  23. can i use a Tag Cloud like this on your web on my joomla 1.5.
    help me plss..

  24. thankes bigbear..but i need someting…big problem..i need search engin.. i have site for clothes and i like to on the search accros to have to select: 1 tab-collor; 2 tab – mans,womens and kids and 3 tab – jeans,T-shirt,trainers… can you halp me man..thankes!

  25. Beautifully said BigBear.
    I finally understand.
    I have inherited a FP site, a portal, and have wanted to re=create it in Joomla.
    The URL SEO issue has been turning me off, but I so want to use joomla because of it’s other abilities. Perfectly suited to a portal site.
    Will keep an eye out for future articles.

  26. Excellent post. I’m a huge fan of Joomla! Looking forward to the next release.

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