The practices in search engine optimization are changing. With recent developments, Google has taken some initiatives to improve website ranking mechanism. There is also an ongoing debate about SEO now being dead. With so much happening, SEO seems to be a boiling point.
As the trends are changing rapidly, SEO experts, including Rand Fishkin, Dr. Pete Mayers, and others have come together to ponder over the future of SEO industry. It seems that the year 2015 holds promising future for SEO and all those involved.
We always want our clients to have successful businesses and that is the reason we continuously invite industry’s best professionals for interviews to tell us about the latest trends of app specific search engine optimization.
A web designer par excellence, a core PHP developer, an astute SEO, a celebrated and bestselling author on Magento, Robert Kent has been associated with Creare from the very start of his career. Passion, dedication, and enthusiasm define Robert’s highly successful stint at Creare. He continues to contribute his valuable ideas and serve the Magento community at large through social media and his insightful blogs.
Today, we are extremely happy to have Robert Kent, the author of Magento Search Engine Optimization on board. Currently, Robert is working as Development Manager at Creare Design.
Cloudways: You started as a web developer. How was that experience? What enticed you to switch your career to search engine optimization?
Robert Kent: I always have been and probably always will be primarily a web developer. I love the feeling of being able to create something usable out of nothing – be it a system, a website or even a simple snippet of code. However the role has shifted with the times and I believe that as a developer you always need to think about how Search Engines are going to react with your developments. Both industries change on a daily basis and it’s becoming increasingly important to keep up to date not only in these two fields but within Digital Media as a whole.
Cloudways: Magento has now become the leading Content Management System (CMS) for ecommerce websites. How did you come across Magento? Do you think that Magento is optimized for search engines?
Robert Kent: I first started playing around with Magento back in 2009 when it first because popular. In those original releases (1.3+) we had lots of problems – not just SEO-related but in the running of e-commerce websites. SEO was a different ball-game back then, links were key and the integrity of the software came second. With the changes in the way SEO has evolved we started to notice that perhaps Magento was not quite as SEO-friendly as we had first believed. It has improved considerably since those days but still where there is a change in one industry there are improvements to be made in the other.
Cloudways: Search engine optimization is here to stay. What changes will you suggest to make Magento more SEO friendly?
Robert Kent: The main SEO improvement that could be made to Magento is to reduce the impact of duplication. Typically a Magento product page can be accessed via 4 or 5 separate URLs – not to mention any parameter-based queries. The canonical link element is one technique that has been employed to alleviate this issue however we all know that canonicalisation is never a guaranteed fix. Removing duplicate URL’s or even redirecting automatically to the canonical should be the way forward.
Cloudways: Everyone of us loves to follow influencers and industry trends to keep oneself updated. What’s your practice in this regard? Do you follow people? How do you keep yourself updated?
Robert Kent: Twitter is my main source of information – I always keep a tab open with the search #Magento and #PHP. I tend to follow people who live and breathe the industry – not just the developers but the heads of companies. I think it’s important to keep an eye on the industry as a whole – new releases by major companies such as Apple or Microsoft could change the way we code or think about our websites in the months to come.
Cloudways: Magento offers a host of user friendly extensions. Which Magento extensions do you recommend the potential Magento lovers to use on their websites?
Robert Kent: Our own extension – CreareSEO I’d recommend to anyone – we don’t make any money off it so I’m not just plugging our own gear. It’s a great little extension that fixes a lot of core SEO-related issues inherent to Magento. I’d also recommend Fishpig WordPress integration (WordPress is still the more superior blogging platform) and also any extension made by Aheadworks.
Cloudways: There are several myths in connection with Magento SEO. Do you believe in them? Please suggest any remedy to counter these myths?
Robert Kent: People shouldn’t be put off with the size of the platform. Yes it’s tricker to optimize than other platforms but it’s only because it’s a comprehensive framework full of lots of useful administration elements. The simple fact is: if your Magento website has been developed correctly (by Magento certified developers) you’ll have a much better chance of your SEO working efficiently.
Cloudways: You have written a book, “Magento Search Engine Optimization.” How was that particular experience? For whom you have written this book? Is this a guide or an expert’s manual?
Robert Kent: Magento Search Engine Optimization was my second book on the Magento platform. It was a great experience putting into words what our company has been discussing, researching and developing for over 5 years. It’s designed as a cross between a user-guide and a manual – not just for experts but for those who wish to perform some level of on-page optimization themselves. I didn’t want to make it too exclusive to developers or to SEO experts but rather (as mentioned previously) the new breed of developer who needs to know a bit of both.
Cloudways: Ecommerce stores usually suffer from internal and external duplication, as products have similar descriptions. What will you suggest to safeguard against duplicate content penalty?
Robert Kent: There’s only one true way of avoiding a duplicate content penalty – writing unique content. The only factor that stops this from happening is TIME. Yes it can be arduous and expensive but if you put the time in – the results speak for themselves. I accept that sometimes it’s not feasible to do this – in those cases you should avoid releasing those pages to the search engines. At the very least a store owner should be writing unique content on their CMS and Category pages.
Cloudways: Responsive sites have now become a trend. Do you think that site design for being responsive is beneficial to rank better on SERPs?
Robert Kent: Absolutely. There are so many factors that are taken into account for SERP rankings and having a responsive web design ticks a lot of those boxes. It has to be done correctly however, masking content on mobile devices is not encouraged. Content on a website should be visible no matter the device, there’s nothing more frustrating than loading up a stripped-out responsive website on your mobile and then realising the content you wanted can only be seen on desktop! Responsive web design improves the user experience across devices, improving all manner of Google Analytics Metrics such as bounce rate, time-on-site, average pages per visit etc etc. Having a responsive website is not just about the SEO, it’s about improving the conversions on your website.
Cloudways: There is a debate that SEO is dead. Share your views on this statement. Do you think that hosting affects SEO?
Robert Kent: As long as there are search engines, SEO will never be dead. SEO is search engine optimization – the act of optimizing your website’s pages for being prominent and visible within SERPs. Search Engines are always going to favour certain listings above others, it’s just what they favour that changes. People say that SEO is dead because it has become difficult – not because it no longer works. The trick is to stay on top of the changes, especially when dealing with a third-party who can change their mind at any time.
As far as hosting is concerned – there are many hosting-related factors that impact the user-experience of a website. I use ‘user-experience’ in this instance here rather than SEO because essentially that’s the diving force behind this topic. The time it takes to load a page has long been known as a ranking factor – but it’s because Google (and other search engines) want to provide a good ‘user-experience’ to it’s own users. If every time we were to use Google and click on the first page of results – then only to be taken to a slow loading website, it’s only a matter of time before we associate this poor user-experience with the search engine that provided these results.
Cloudways: Google Analytics is on the roll here. With consistent algorithm changes within the Google search mechanism, do you think that investing time in setting up schema.org really benefits an ecommerce website? Does Google benefit websites with better onpage structure?
Robert Kent: As developers, it is our job to make sure that whoever is using the website has the clearest, easiest experience possible. This includes both users and search engines. The purpose of Schema.org structured data is to pin-point specific elements on our pages that Search Engines really want to know about. We are essentially giving them a helping hand when crawling our website. The result of this is that Search Engines grant us a ‘rich snippet’ within the SERPs – prices, ratings, stock levels etc. Whether this improves our positions in the SERPs is up for debate – but what we can’t deny is that it makes us stand out (well for now anyway – until everyone conforms). In general terms, if a website is well structured and both users and search engines enjoy the browsing experience then it can only benefit the SEO campaign as a whole.
Cloudways: Magento has now become an integral part of Ebay. What are your thoughts about Ebay’s acquisition of Magento? Will it help Magento and its community, or does it spell Magento’s downfall?
Robert Kent: Great question. It looks as though Ebay is right behind Magento – pushing along the community and enterprise level solutions and discontinuing the other products that aren’t performing well enough (such as Magento Go). Like all large companies Ebay is interested in expanding it’s client base and increasing it’s profits. By backing Magento they have quite smartly presented to all Magento users the inherent ability to use PayPal as a default payment gateway. Why take a one-off fee or small monthly fee when you can take a chunk out of each transaction? I think as long as the usage of Ebay’s products continues then Magento will continue to grow. My only hope is that the community edition stays as strong and competitive as it is currently.
Muhammad Saad Khan is a Director of Product Marketing at Cloudways (by DigitalOcean), a Growth Hacker extraordinaire, and a force to be reckoned with on the table tennis court. He's spent a decade building innovative customer-led growth strategies that helped Cloudways grow from 0 to 89,000 customers & is a regular at WordCamp events worldwide.