Magento Blog


Proper SEO Implementation on Your Web Store Can Make a BIG Difference

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Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a long-used, vague term that elicits a set of conflicting emotions for merchants. In its most general sense it defines a set of actions merchants take to make sure their site shows up when customers search for their products via a search engine.

Proper SEO implementation on your web store can make a big difference in its visibility and sales. Ragan.com put together a list of SEO statistics that should help you understand its value. To highlight a few key points:

• Search is the No. 1 traffic driver to sites - 3 times that of social media
• 75% of search engine users never scroll past the first page
• Almost 40% of customers come from search

While Google claims that having relevant content that users love is the key to ranking high on searches, SEO practitioners will tell you that there are other things you can and should do in order to improve your search engine rankings.

Content Checklist

● Product names and descriptions
Do your products contain the search keywords you want to attract? If you have a large catalog and tend to upload your product names and descriptions from your suppliers, you should make sure that you are customizing the product names, descriptions and short descriptions to include important keywords. The same rules apply to category names and descriptions.

● CMS pages
A lot of time goes into writing and creating content for the web. Making sure that your site has informational pages with well-written, keyword-rich content will help you attract customers interested in your products. CMS pages in Magento are a great place to feature product guides, videos with descriptions or summaries of their content, and other types of information that are important information. One company that uses the CMS format to their advantage is Kirby Allison’s Hanger Project. His shoe-care guide is an excellent example of high-value, keyword-rich content.

● Blog
Blogs are important places to feature high-velocity content, which can help improve your rankings. Ideas for the holidays, comments on topics trending on twitter or in the news media are great subjects for your blog and will help you attract short-term search engine traffic. While Magento itself does not offer blog functionality as a core function, there are several extensions available that allow you to incorporate a blog in your store.

● Reviews
User-generated content is a magnet for search engines, and product reviews by actual purchasers are a great way to encourage users to add information to you site (besides the fact that shoppers find them useful). You can either use the built-in review system that comes with Magento or a service like YotPo that helps solicit reviews for you.

Meta Data: Use Title and Descriptions Effectively


Meta Data is information on your web pages that is not visible to your users (though the title does show up in the browser tab) but is used by search engines to display results. While optimizing your meta data only has a nominal effect on search engine results, it does help improve your click-through rates when your results are displayed. The meta-title shows up as the link text and the description is the text below it on most search engines.

Meta-titles should be about 60 characters in length and descriptions should be limited to 155 characters (Magento shows a 255 character limit, but search engines have recently decreased the number of characters they display in search results.).

While the meta-data is not visible on your web site, it is in the html section of the code that creates the pages. If you want to see the metadata on your page without viewing the page’s HTML source, visit Exadium’s Meta Data Analyzer and type in the url of the page you would like to see. If you use Google Chrome, you might want to install an extension called META SEO Inspector, which produces a pop-up window showing your site’s meta data.

Kill The Keywords

In Magento and many systems there is a space to enter keywords about a specific page. In the old days of the web, search engines used this information when determining page rankings. However, all major search engines have disavowed the use of this field because of rampant abuse by keyword spammers. In fact, that keyword field is now a negative as it signals to your competitors what your keyword strategy is. We highly recommend you remove any text you have in the keywords field.

Use Canonicals, Please!

If you don’t know what canonical tags are, don’t worry. Magento will take care of them for you automatically. Just make sure you have them turned on in System > Configuration > Catalog > Search Engine Optimizations.

Be sure to choose YES next to both Use Canonical Link Meta Tag selections.
And, by the way, canonical tags simply help you avoid communicating duplicate content to Google and the other search engines… a major faux pas!

Focus, Focus, Focus

By focus, we mean focusing the search engines on the relevant sections of your site. Let’s face it, you don’t want Google to crawl your site and index your account log in, cart, checkout and other pages as they confuse Google as to what your site is about.

You should have a 3-pronged strategy for this
● A good Robots.txt
● Submit an XML sitemap
● Use robots meta tags

A well-crafted robots.txt file should be sitting on your server. Google has a nice explanation if you aren’t familiar with it, but it basically tells search bots to ignore parts of your site. If you don’t have a robots.txt file on your server, the search engines may get confused trying to index your site. To find out if you have one, simply add robots.txt to the end of your url, e.g., "www.yourstoresdomainhere.com/robots.txt". If you get a 404 error instead of something that looks like this, you don’t have one!

You should also be submitting a sitemap to Google and Bing webmaster tools accounts. There is a great blog article on the mechanics of it. It doesn’t require any tech knowledge to set up, though you may have to adjust the permissions of a folder on your site. Your xml sitemap will help the search engines focus on the important pages of your site.

image Research has shown that page load times on retail sites are increasing. As we cram more and more code and content into a single page thinking to increase appeal, we may actually increase bounce rates and erode search rankings. Google has been very public about its initiative to speed up the Internet and punishes pages that take longer to load. We recommend our recent post on page load times to explore this area more.

There Is More To It

As a merchant, you should develop a passion for SEO but realize that you don’t have to be an expert at it (or, even hire one) to improve your site’s search engine visibility. For a slightly more technical review of Magento’s SEO capabilities, Yaost has provided a nice overview.

If you need assistance with these or other SEO tasks, you might want to consider reaching out to a certified Magento developer for help. We also encourage you to take a look at “Growing Your Business with SEO on Magento”, an on-demand course hosted by Magento U that’s ideal for merchants.

Learn What You Don’t Know – Top 10 Questions for a Business Leader to Ask His Technical Team

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Magento merchants tend to be dynamic, energetic and resourceful people. They pride themselves on their ability to research and learn the technical knowledge required to manage and grow an online business. However, because there is so much to learn, most people on the business side have only a surface understanding of the technologies and terminologies.

Even the most adept merchants often feel they are speaking to someone from another planet when dealing with developers. Almost every merchant has been in a meeting in which they were buried in a deluge of indecipherable acronyms and buzzwords.

While one article cannot solve the merchant-developer communication problem, we would like to present some questions (and the RIGHT answers) merchants should ask their technical folks to help ensure their site is in top running condition.

1. What is our current resource load and how much of a spike in traffic can we handle?
Merchants who run promotions need to be prepared for spikes in traffic. If your server is already running close to capacity, it may slow down, deny access to some users, or, heaven forbid, crash during an important marketing campaign. To make sure you have sufficient CPU power, RAM and disk space, you should provide traffic forecasts to your developers and ask… can we handle it?

2. What are we doing to keep our pages loading fast?
Page load time is critical! Your developer should be able to tell you which caching methods they are using. If you are on a cloud resource pool you will maximize your speed if you are using Nginx (rather than Apache) and have implemented APC caching. If you get a lot of traffic from other countries you should probably be using a Content Distribution Network.

3. What benefits of Magento Enterprise Edition are we using?
It is surprising how many Enterprise Edition users are not taking advantage of full page caching, one of the key features available to improve page load times. Most often, it is turned off because your design (theme) conflicts with it. If that is the case, you should be asking how you can modify your design to allow for it. You should also make sure you your team knows how to segment customers, add banners to timed promotions, set up private sales, stage content and other features unique to Magento Enterprise Edition. It’s important to test, test and test again to determine what works best for your type of products and services.

4. How can a non-technical person update an image or content on my site?
Your developer should have set up CMS blocks that are easy to update for content like banners that are updated frequently. You should also have special users roles set up for designers, writers and other content creators and make sure they understand how to use them.

5. How are we keeping the server secure?
If you have not had this conversation with your developer or server administrator, have it soon! They should make sure only the ports necessary are open, that all passwords are not default and are unique, and, wherever possible, user access should only be allowed from specific IP address.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

6. How are we set up to handle cases when we need to roll the site back to a stable, previous version?
If the answer is, ‘we aren’t,’ you may want to consider a new development resource! The best answer is that a version control system of some kind is in place. You should also have both a production server and a development or ‘staging’ server in place. All of your experimentation should be done on the staging/development server. Changes should only be passed to your production server when it has been thoroughly tested.

7. Who has access to my server?
If your developer or server manager doesn’t know, it is time for them to find out. Ideally, only they will have root access. If FTP access is set up, each user should have their own user name and password. Whenever possible, SFTP not FTP access should be granted and only to trusted users. Access to the staging/development server can be a little broader, while access to your production server should be limited to a highly-trusted core of users.

8. Which version of Magento are we using?
If you're more than 1 version behind the latest Magento release, you may be missing out on some important features or security patches if you are running an older version. Visit the Magento web site to see the latest version of Enterprise Edition. If you are more than one version behind, you should ask why.

9. What modules/extensions have been installed on the store and what do they do?
It's important to know which extensions you have installed to make sure you are using each one to its fullest extent. You may have functionality available to you that you are not aware of. Also, if the list is very long, you may want to look for extensions that handle the functionality of more than one extension. Extension conflicts do happen and managing your portfolio of install extensions will help keep your Magento site lean and mean! Your developer can easily find these by looking in the appropriate folder on your server and if they are maintaining your web store, they should know what each one does.

10. Is any core code or templates overwritten?
Overwriting core code is at the heart of many performance problems and can lead to problems when making any upgrades in functionality (new extensions or when moving to a new version of the platform).

To ensure that you are getting the most out of Enterprise Edition, make sure you are working with a certified Magento developer. Developers spend hundreds of hours learning the Magento code in order to become certified and show their dedication to the Magento platform by taking (and passing) a rigorous test.

Magento Community Edition 1.8.1.0 Is Here

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Magento Community Edition 1.8.1.0 is here! This latest release includes many contributions from the Magento developer community and empowers merchants to operate their online stores more easily and efficiently by delivering significant tax calculation updates, functional improvements, and security enhancements, including:

image Tax Calculation Updates
Building on tax improvements made in our most recent release, Magento Community Edition 1.8.1.0 provides more accurate and consistent Value Added Tax (VAT) and Fixed Product Tax (FPT) calculations for the Magento admin, invoices, and credit memos. It also improves tax calculations for cross-border transactions, bundled products, and multi-tax scenarios, as well as supports the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment recycling tax in the EU.
 
image Functional Improvements
Magento Community Edition 1.8.1.0 includes important improvements across the shopping cart, checkout, content management system, and product import and export. Many of these updates came from Magento community hackathons (see photos of the events below). Please give a big “thank you” to the contributors highlighted in the product release notes for making the Magento platform better!
 
image Security Enhancements
Magento Community Edition 1.8.1.0 delivers several important security enhancements, helping to further strengthen the platform against potential threats. These enhancements were identified through a rigorous process that included comprehensive internal testing, quarterly penetration testing by expert consultants, and engagement with the Magento developer community. Additionally, one improvement from Magento Community Edition 1.8.0.0 is now available for download for earlier Magento Community Edition releases.
 
image How to Upgrade
We know that you are eager to start testing out Magento Community Edition 1.8.1.0. But, before you do, please take a few minutes to carefully review the upgrade instructions. We strongly recommend that you do not upgrade Magento Community Edition 1.8.1.0 in the same directory on the same server as your current deployment to avoid any post-upgrade errors.
 
image Get Started
See how Magento Community Edition 1.8.1.0 can help improve your operations by downloading the software and reviewing the release notes today!
 

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L.A. Bugathon

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Zurich Hackathon

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Top 5 Magento Coding Recommendations to Optimize Site Performance

In eCommerce, customer satisfaction and conversion hinge on site performance. Yet how do you implement all the bells and whistles to attract today’s elusive consumer without impacting site speed? According to Radware’s Tammy Everts, the average web page has grown 151% over the past three years, with over half that bulk coming from images. No wonder retailers around the world find the industry’s 3-second page load benchmark so elusive! Studies find over 92% of retailers are failing to hit this mark and running as high as eight seconds or more.

Yet with pre-holiday shopping off to a fast start already, the 3-second bar takes on even greater importance, as shoppers just want to get their shopping done to spending time with friends and family.

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While web performance best practices abound, Magento’s Expert Consulting Group (ECG) identified the top five Magento coding issues, which represent 84% of all performance issues, encountered in 96% of our client codebases. Most of these are related to inefficient operations, redundant or useless computations, and memory misuse:

  1. Calculating the size of an array on each iteration of a loop
  2. SQL queries inside a loop
  3. Loading the same model multiple times
  4. Redundant data set utilization
  5. Inefficient memory utilization

To learn more about these five issues as well as how to fix them, see the full ECG report Conquer the 5 Most Common Magento Coding Issues to Optimize Your Site for Performance.

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The Magento Expert Consulting Group (ECG) is a team of experts within Magento that provides expert insight, reviews, validation, and best-practice recommendations across the Magento project lifecycle to both merchants and partners alike. The group applies its deep domain expertise and experience across thousands of unique use cases and hundreds of implementations to be an impartial facilitator ensuring alignment between multiple entities within the Magento ecosystem.

6 Tips To Pull Off Holiday Shipping Without a Hitch

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Shipping can sometimes feel like the bane of a small business’s your existence, but with sufficient time spent outlining a shipping game plan for the holidays, you can pull things off without a hitch. Here are 6 tips to help you avoid the rush and pull off holiday shipping:

1. Plan ahead. There’s no way to pinpoint what your holiday sales will be, but you can estimate a potential range so you have enough inventory and extra help with packing and shipping. Preparation is one of the only variables that you have complete control over as a shipper. Own it.

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2. Don’t delay. Try and ship products out the same day you receive the order to keep you, your carrier and customers happy. Also remember that shipping times will vary because of the high volume over the holidays. Use this helpful printable shipping calendar from ShipWorks that will provide “ship by” dates for all the major carriers so you get it there on time.

3. Communicate in advance to customers and carriers. December 17 is “Free Shipping Day.” If free shipping isn’t a standard option for you, consider providing free shipping on the 17th as an extra incentive for customers. Also, communicate to carriers and let them know any changes you may have to your business during the holiday so that they can handle your pickups.

4. Manage customers’ expectations. During the holidays, you want your shipping terms to be more crystal clear than ever. Misunderstandings about the finer details of shipping can breed unhappy customers and take up valuable time to smooth over on your end—time that could be spent on other important tasks.

5. Pack wisely. Remember, carriers’ process more boxes during the holiday peak season than at any other time. Extra packaging is worth it to avoid possible damage en route.

6. Protect your investment. Thousands of packages will be sent this holiday season. Chances are, your packages will arrive at the destination, but you also don’t need to take undue chances. Consider using insurance on larger shipments.

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ShipWorks is a Magento Gold Partner and supports Magento Enterprise and Community Editions. ShipWorks helps thousands of merchants ship more in less time by automating post-sale tasks, including processing hundreds of shipping labels with one click. Learn more

Developer Spotlight – Sergey Ostapchik

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In the spotlight today is Sergey Ostapchik, Magento Certified Developer Plus at aheadWorks, and a Magento Platinum Industry Partner based in Minsk, Belarus. His recent projects include the aheadWorks Advisor Project, an eCommerce Gamification Module, and the OnePulse mobile administration extension.

How did you make a decision to become a Magento developer? Was it made by chance?

I decided to be a programmer about eight years ago. The choice was not accidental, because I’m that kind of a person who is always eager to simplify, accelerate and automate processes.

I got acquainted with Magento while applying for a job at aheadWorks. Now it makes me smile, but back then it was not particularly fun. I had to deal with a great flexible system containing a bunch of components and options and at the beginning I got really scared. Over time I reached a “comfort zone” in relationships with Magento.

That initial experience enriched me with an excellent knowledge of Magento functionality, the most common mistakes and good practices that I still try to use in my work.

What types of projects have you worked on?

Usually I’m busy with various projects as long as we release several extensions per month and constantly update 100+ modules in aheadWorks.

The last project of mine was the Magento Product Color Swatches module. It allows merchants to replace configurable product options with swatches and show different product images according to selected attributes.

You passed Magento Developer Plus Certification in April 2013. What changes has this certificate brought into your life?

Now I feel that my Magento knowledge base, proved by the certificate, is truly solid. This milestone gives confidence to me and sets the bar, which I’ll try to outperform.

What dreams do you have as a Magento certified developer?

I am planning to make a tool to simplify the development of Magento Enterprise Edition modules—so-called “two clicks” for generation and configuration of a new module database. Currently, there are two issues Magento developers face every time they create new modules manually:

  1. Too many similar actions.
  2. Very often logic blocks need to be overwritten anew, despite the availability of numerous ready-made solutions.

We can observe a slight improvement in this field. Several modules have been already created on the basis of such a tool.

Do you have funny stories related to your Magento experience?

Once, when I was too tired after spending the whole day focused on a new module, I began to talk in my sleep. The most amazing thing is that my answers were absolutely meaningful and clear. My wife told me about the night talk the next morning and specified it was something about stores reinstall connected to the move to a new server. That moment I realized how deeply Magento affected my daily life.

What is your favorite quote? Of course if you have any.

I have several, but my favorite one says: “The most severe illness in the world, it is the habit of thinking. It is incurable.”

What could you advise to junior Magento developers?

I would recommend looking for solutions in the Magento code, not in Google. As practice shows, most of the Google search results are not optimal and are often obsolete.

Don’t create interfaces and processes that are too complicated. Try to follow the principle of one click, one button and so on.

Read a lot and spend time on self-education. Browse through web-based resources covering Magento-related news (like aheadWorks Magento blog) and stay tuned to Magento community.

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Mothercare Turns to Magento For Global Expansion

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Mothercare, a U.K. retailer and longtime provider of specialty products for expectant mothers and their children, has recently completed another milestone of their global expansion by launching their Mothercare Ukraine storefront on Magento Enterprise Edition. The newly launched website is fully localized with language, currency, checkout, and shipping, reflecting local market needs and serving as the platform for a seamless brand experience–online and offline–through Mothercare Ukraine’s loyalty system.

Mothercare International was challenged with building a local presence through integration with the local line of business systems and operations. Magento Solution Partner Crimsonwing was engaged to design, build, and implement a global solution for Mothercare International that can provide common functionality via a core system to enable swifter international expansion for all franchisees. In addition to online expertise, Crimsonwing demonstrated a key understanding of Mothercare’s business operations and business model to deliver a dynamic, scalable solution that could demonstrate consistency across Mothercare’s global footprint.

Chris Hodge, Mothercare Group’s International eCommerce Program Manager commented that, “This is a true example of a real international project involving multiple third parties across four locations and three countries. The project has included implementing the eCommerce solution, setting up a new team in the Ukraine, and all operational changes to support a new eChannel in the Ukraine for our brands.”

We’d like to congratulate Mothercare International, Mothercare Ukraine, and Magento partner Crimsonwing on their successful collaboration that serves as a true testament to the power and innovation of Magento products and the Magento community.

Three Ways Free Shipping Can Help You Grow

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When it comes to your online store, there are many factors to take into consideration when you want to increase your sales. Undoubtedly, the actual value of what you are offering is the most important aspect of your business. However, just because you have a great product doesn’t mean it will sell like hotcakes.

Other factors such as the design of your website, a competitive market cost, and customer service are also vitally important. But when it comes to online sales, how you offer shipping can be either a source of costs, or a driver of profit for your business.

One of the most important sources of sales for your store is free shipping, so here are three ways free shipping can help you grow.

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1. Free Shipping Will Increase the Volume of Your Sales

Today, convenience is king. If you are not making the shopping experience easier for the consumer, then there are few reasons why someone should come to your online store. According to Compete.com’s Online Shopper Intelligence Survey, 93% of the people surveyed said that free shipping is the biggest source of encouragement to buy online.

When you offer free shipping, you are cutting out the alternative costs that are attached to the shopping experience. For example, if I am shopping at a brick-and-mortar business, then I will have to pay for gas to get to the actual store. When I shop online with free shipping, then I save on the cost of gas, which can save me some big bucks over time.

Moreover, shipping costs are the most common reason for abandoned carts. Whether you are shipping domestically or internationally, it is the idea of unexpected costs that will deter even the most loyal customer away from future purchases.

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2. Free Shipping Increases Order Value

Unless your products are rare or truly unique, free shipping will instantly increase your order value. Because of the nature of incentives, consumer psychology says we are more likely to take action and buy when promotions are offered. This is evident by the fact that shoppers spend 30% more when free shipping is available. We want to know that we are receiving the most value for our hard-earned money.

When we are offered free shipping or a promotion, we feel as though we are being treated in a special way. This shift in the consumer’s perspective stirs up positive emotions towards the merchant, and will thus be more likely to spend more as a positive relationship has now been established.

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3. Free Shipping Makes Your Company More Competitive in a Global Marketplace

As internet usage and online shopping continues to grow each year, new markets and industries are beginning to emerge and grow even faster than ecommerce in the US. According to eMarketer.com, in 2013 online sales in China and Indonesia grew by close to 70%. Furthermore, by 2016 the Asia-Pacific region will exceed North America in online sales by 2014.

Free shipping will be one of the most effective way to get into and stay competitive in international marketplaces.

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Shipwire provides eCommerce fulfillment services, shipping software, and cloud-based logistics from warehouses around the world for companies of all sizes. Shipwire's industry-leading enterprise logistics platform helps you grow sales, expand into new markets, and delight your customers by eliminating the hassles of shipping and storage.

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