SEO for Magento – Optimizing Category Hierarchy

Typically, the most competitive keywords on your website (regardless of how huge or tiny) will be classified as broad keywords, implying that their relevance could be attributed to an assortment of similar terms. This is the reason it makes sense to use top-level or parent categories as a basis for our broad phrases.

To utilize an example, Lighting would be an ideal top-level category to contain subcategories such as ”LED Lighting”, “Overhead Lighting”, and “Lamp Lighting”, with content on our top-level category page to highlight these subcategories. Within the Magento admin panel, go to Catalog > Manage Categories so we can arrange our category structure to match our keyword relevance and broadness.

In a perfect world, we would plan out our category structure before implementing it; unfortunately, that is not always the case (actually it is typically not the case; most eCommerce managers don’t even consider this). If we need to change our category structure to better match our SEO strategy, Magento provides a straightforward approach to adjust our category hierarchy (layout).

For example, say we currently have a top-level category called Lighting, and within this category, we have LED Lighting, and we decide that we’re only optimizing for LED Lighting instead of simply “Lighting”; we can use Magento’s drag-and-drop functionality to move LED Lighting to become a top-level category.

To do this, we would have to perform the following steps:

  1. Navigate to Catalog > Manage Categories.
  2. Drag our LED Lighting category to the same level as Lighting.

SEO Category Magento SEO Category Magento Structure

Well lookie there! Look at your URL bar in on the front-end of the website and you will see that our URL has now changed from to  

We will also notice that our old URL now redirects to our new URL; this is due to Magento’s pretty awesome internal URL Rewrite System (but it does have it’s quirks that I can get into later in another article). When moving our categories within the hierarchy, Magento will recall the old URL path that was specified and automatically create a redirect to the new location.  You don’t have to do anything if you are properly dragging categories around.

This is fantastic for our SEO strategy as 301 redirects are vital for passing on authority from the old page to the new.

A 301 redirect is one of the most useful tools in maintaining a search engine’s understanding of our website pages. 

If we wanted to have a look at these rewrites ourselves, we could perform the following steps:

  1. Navigate to Catalog URL Rewrite Management.
  2. From the table, we could find our old request path and see the new target path that has been assigned.


Not only does Magento keep track of our last URL, but any past URLs also become rewritten, meaning you can make infinite category changes depending on the top level keywords you want to rank for. It is therefore not surprising that a medium to large Magento store with many SKUs, products, and categories could have thousands upon thousands of rows within this table, especially when each URL is rewritten on a per-store basis.  If you have a smaller store it isn’t going to be a big deal, but depending on the size of your catalog one single change to a category could take longer to save.  Keep things simple if possible.

Another important point to note is that your category “URL key” (attribute url_key) may change depending on whether an existing category with the same URL key at the same level had existed previously in the system. If this circumstance happens, an automatic incremental integer is appended to the URL key, for example, led-lighting-2.html. Magento Enterprise Edition has been enhanced to only allow unique URL keys.  You can’t have duplicate URLs.  While that does help your SEO inherinly you might not know why you are being denied the ability to save a category.  Stop and look if there is already a category named LED lighting.

Well that is it for optimizing your category hierarchy and what you should focus on.  Take a look at your category structure and make sure that the broad keywords you are trying to rank for are as close to the top of the hierarchy as possible.  You want them to be Level-0 (top level) or Level-1.