Increase your Joomla site's SEO score with sh404SEF

If you think, that is enough to build a nice site with a great content to have lots of visitors flowing to your site you're wrong. There are millions of webmasters trying to do the same. And Google and other search engines simply can't find, index and sort all of these sites, and show them to your potential visitors. So you need to do a little more to help these search engines - and to help yourself!

You have chosen Joomla - and that's great, you have one of most search engine friendly CMS-es under your fingertips. But you need to do some more small steps to reach the search engines first 3 result pages for your potential clients. One of most important things you should do is to unleash the SEO capabilities of Joomla, then add the best SEF component written for it, the sh404SEF, and tweak it to become a preferred target of search engines.

Where to start?

If you have not enabled any type of SEO on your Joomla installation you are probably getting really weird URLs like this. http://yourwebsite.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=26&Itemid=19

If you have enabled the native Joomla SEF URLs option then the above URL is probably something like. http://yourwebsite.com/customers-corner/great-news/5251-the-next-best-thing-since-sliced-bread.html

You already can see a big improvement - and also some weak points of the native Joomla SEO engine:

  • No Title Tag Support – You cannot customize your title (in Joomla 1.5) or you have very limited tools to do it (in Joomla 1.7+).
  • You cannot customize the Meta Description per page, or you can do it on Joomla 1.7 only per menu item level.
  • Joomla, as any other CMS-es is plagued by multiple URL's problem - the different URL parameters used to control the site's behavior and look are ending up on multiple URL's pointing to the same content. And you cannot point these duplicate URL's to one URL
  • URL’s cannot be customized
  • Sitemaps are not built in
  • NON Existent built in 404 pages on pre-Joomla 1.7 versions, and on newer Joomla sites these 404 error pages aren't customizable, and are offering as little as a link back to your home and another one to let users contact you.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Even with spectacular advances in Joomla native SEO, you still need a pro-level tool to address the above issues and do even more tweaks. and here enters in the scene sh404SEF, our preferred Joomla SEO component. BTW, it's not the ONLY one. It's just simply the best ;). Let's see how we can maximize the benefits of using it!

Steps to be done

Enabling Joomla SEO

  • In Joomla backend go to “Global configuration”
  • On the right hand side in SEO Settings options you will see three options, you will need to change 2 of them
    1. Select yes for “search engine friendly URLs”
    2. Select yes for “use Apache mod_rewrite”
    3. Leave “add suffix to URLs” at no
  • Grab your preferred FTP client, log in to the site, locate in WEBROOT the file named htaccess.txt, rename it to .htaccess

with these simple steps you have enabled the built in Joomla SEO engine.

Adding the sh404SEF component to the mix

I know, it's a commercial component. But, believe me, worth every penny you will spending on it. Purchase it, download it, and install it as any other Joomla component. There are no special tricks there.

Configuring the sh404SEF component it's a bit trickier, we highly recommend doing only one setting at time, then check the result, see if the outcome is what you expected, roll back or fine-tune if needed. The component is terrific, you have an arsenal of high impact SEO tools. Fortunately most of them are unleashed out of the box.

  • Go to the menu item labeled “components” and click on the SH404sef component
  • On the right, on the Quick Start pane you have couple of options. Change these to YES:
    1. Enable URL optimization
    2. Enable remote configuration
  • From the dropdown below select the value "with .htaccess (mod_rewrite)
  • Hit the Save button below

You just launched your missiles: the sh404SEF engine is up and running. Clear your cache, and go to the frontpage to see the results. If everything is OK, the go back to the sh404SEF's main interface, the fun just begins.

Configuration tab

  • On the left, select the tab Configuration, then from the icons you will see click on “sh404sef configuration”
  • ON this page you will see quite a few options and we are going to cover a basic Joomla install SEO setup
  • Choose yes on the radio button labeled “Enabled”
  • Next scroll down and make sure file suffix is “.html”
  • below that choose “index.html” as your default index file
  • Choose a 404 page on the next row. On install sh404SEF probably created and preselected his default 404 error page, and you are ready to go with. But later you might want to go back and create your own, customized error page in your articles manager. Something like this. Can be very useful - and fun - when someone lands on your website and the page is no longer available

The rest of settings can be leaved out for now, the defaults are generally the recommendable ones. But let's note couple of interesting things.

Advanced Tab

  • Activate Url Cache should be set to yes and will help with page load times. But it's highly recommended to change this setting to YES only when you finished your tweaks, and you are ready to launch your site with new settings. Otherwhise you might see some misleading results.
  • If you are using Linux and you did the basic out of the box Joomla seo setup, then you should stick with the above settings, and keep the drop down selected at “with .htaccess (mod_rewrite)". If you are on a windows platform then you will need to choose one of the other two. Test either one out until it works right. I cant say for sure unless I know exactly what type of configuration your host has for the IIS env.
  • It's recommended also to choose yes for the “301 redirect from non-sef to sef URL” this option is pretty much a safe guard against duplicate content and it makes sure your URLs are all re-written
  • Choose yes for “301 redirect from JOOMLA SEF to sh404SEF” Same explanation as the last point except this will convert the ‘OUT OF THE BOX JOOMLA SEF URLs” to SH404SEF URLs. Did i confuse you?
  • Choose yes for “301 redirect www/non-www”. This is very important. You need to decide, what is your preferred setup, then go and create a “Google web master tools account” and follow the instructions here to change your “preferred domain. Then change tis setting accordingly.
  • The rest of these options are optional and you should read the info question marks.

SEO configuration applet

These are the settings where personal taste has an important role, but here are some guidelines/ideeas to help you to made the best choices.

  • "Activate Meta management" set this to yes.
  • "Remove Joomla Generator tag" set this to yes
  • "Use table-less output" set this to yes
  • "Insert h1 tags" set this to yes. Unless you have already setup your template to have only 1 “h1″ tag on all of your Joomla pages.
  • "Change multiple h1 in h2" should be set to yes. Having one h1 tag on each of your pages is a best practice. Multiple H1s is kinda like spamming.
  • "Insert title in Read more" should be set to yes. This will add keywords to the “read more” link when you hover your mouse over it. This is good for seo and keyword density on your page.
  • "Insert outbound links symbol" should be set to no unless you want symbols on your internal pages that show links going outbound. This is normally used if multiple novice users are adding content to your website, you can in turn click through their articles and remove links that go to other websites or add “no follow” tags to the links.