SEO: Adjusting the Magento System Configuration

Before I get into this post, I will put a bit of a disclaimer on it and say it is a bit more technical than some of the other SEO posts.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing these more technical tasks yourself, you can hire a freelance developer, or even contact me.

A truly speedy and simple alteration we can make to our entire website URL structure is to remove the default index.php string that is appended to the base URL—for example,—and also auto-redirect to our base URL if the non-www version of our domain is entered.  You can have a base URL of www. or non-www.

In order to achieve these small fixes, we ought to perform the accompanying steps:

  1. Navigate to System | Configuration | Web | Search Engines Optimization and set Use Web Server Rewrites to Yes to remove index.php.  Just select it and press delete.
  2. Within this same section but under URL Options, set Auto-redirect to Base URL to Yes (301 Moved Permanently).

As long as your server has been configured correctly and our default .htaccess file is in place (.htaccess is available on Apache and not nginx), Magento will naturally remove the index.php string from our URLs and continue to serve our typical pages.

As said already, Magento comes outfitted with the ability to rewrite URLs for category and product details pages. Contingent upon the design we have chosen, Magento will create entries within its core_url_rewrite table (in the database) to make changes to the URL key of a category or product inside our store.

To alter how Magento modifies our URLs, we can change certain options by navigating to System > Configuration > Catalog > Search Engine Optimizations as shown in the following screenshot:

Magento Search Engine Optimization

In the event that we examine this config section, we will notice that there are many options, all of which require a little explanation.  I will go into more depth so you can understand each section.

Autogenerated Site Map: If you enable the autogenerated site map you will create two pages on our Magento website that display links to our categories and products: and  If you want, you can submit these urls/sitemaps to Google Webmasters and Bing Webmasters to better index your website.

Popular Search Terms: This enables a page that displays your most popular search terms. This is not hugely relevant for SEO and should only be used as a tool aimed at your visitors rather than for search engines.   This creates a word cloud and visual shows search terms.

Product URL Suffix: This adds data to the end of the URL for product pages; the default is .html.  It probably makes sense to remove .html from your url.  This will help shorten urls and if you ever migrate your site it will be a lot easier to not have to parse “.html” out of every url string.

Category URL Suffix: This group of settings is pretty much the same as the preceding item but for category pages only.

Use Categories Path for Product URLs: With this enabled, Magento will include the category URL key within the URL structure for our product pages (for example, When used in conjunction with Use Canonical Link Meta Tag for Products, this setting may impact our link building capabilities for our cached product pages.  I have seen both of these methods used.  Again, it is typically easier and wiser to shorten your URLs on your site, however if you do include the category path, it may help Google find out how to categories your site (with broad search terms)

Create Permanent Redirect for URLs if URL Key Changed: This setting will automatically create a rewrite if we ever change the URL key attribute for a CMS, category, or product page.  For those that don’t know, rewrites are basically 301 redirects.  For example if our ‘contact-us’ and then you want to change it to ‘contact-me-now’ you can change the URL and the system will automatically forward people that go to ‘contact-us’ to the proper page url.

Page Title Separator: This is a character that separates the specified page title when browsing through categories and subcategories.  An example of this would be a “-“, “|”, or any other kind of separator.

Use Canonical Link Meta Tag for Categories: With this setting turned on, all categories will contain another tag within their HTML educating search engines where the primary version of the current category page can be found.

Use Canonical Link Meta Tag for Products: This is the same as the preceding item but will instruct the search engine to look for a primary version of any given product page.    I have included an example snippet of how Google would see the product canonical in the source code.  Here we can see that Google will always give the link juice to “/aurora-top” no matter how many pages feature the same product.  This is useful if you put products in many different categories, such as clothes, tops, shirts, sale, and clearance at the same time.

Use Canonical Link Meta Tag for Categories

In my next post I will get into more on duplicate content and how you can steer clear of this SEO mistake.