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There are many, many things you can do to a website to improve the Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, for your website.

With a Joomla site, there are several steps that you can take for improved SEO and hopefully higher rankings with search engines such as Google and Bing. There are also other steps to take to improve traffic to your site that go beyond search engine results. 

Set up Search Engine Friendly URL's in Joomla

The URL is the web address that shows up in the browser's address bar. For most websites, each web page has a unique URL that contains the domain name followed by other information unique to that particular page.

The first step: Before you create any menu items is Joomla, you want to enable Search Engine Friendly URLs in the Global Configuration section.

System -> Global Configuration -> Site tab -> SEO Settings section

With Joomla 3+, the friendly URLs are created from the category name and/or the title of the article.

You want to make sure this setting is done first thing and correctly so each new page you add to your site has Search Engine Friendly URLs. You can take this step after the site is up and running, but at that point the search engines may have already indexed pages with the other type of URL. This is also why you want to be careful in setting up the names of your categories and article titles, so they adequately represent the information for those web pages. If you don't have Search Engine Friendly URLs enabled in the Global Configuration you can see URLs such as this:

This type of URL can not be interpreted by a human in will also not provide any information for Google.

How to set up Search Engine Friendly URL's with Joomla 3+

Pull down System -> Global Configuration and be sure you are on the Site tab.

Under the SEO Settings heading there is an option for Search Engine Friendly URL's. Set this to Yes and Save these settings.

Screenshot of the setting for Search Engine Friendly URLs

Your URLs should now reflect the Category and Article titles.

Having problems with your website after enabling Search Engine Friendly URLs?

If you are having issues with your menus and navigation after enabling Search Engine Friendly URLs, there can be a number of causes. 

Read this article for troubleshooting tips with SEF URLs: What settings are required for SEF URLs to function properly? 

Redirect non-www to www

By default, if someone types in your web address with the www in front or if they don't, they most likely will still end up on your website. So why should you be concerned with which version Google is indexing your site?

There is a risk that the Search Engines will think that the www site and the non-www. site are two different sites with the same exact duplicate information. This is not good as Google does not like duplicate information on websites. It also splits up the total number of page views for the pages and this can harm you rankings.

Add the following code to the .htaccess in the root directory of your site (with your own domain name of course):

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^(www\.mysitename\.com)?$
RewriteRule (.*)$1 [R=301,L]

If your site is built for a sub-domain, this is not something you need to do as the name of the sub-domain replaces the www.

The Alias for Menu Items, Categories and Articles 

Whenever you create an Article, a Category or a Menu Item, you give these items a Title. Right next to the Title form field is another form field for the alias. By default, Joomla will fill in the alias form with a lowercase version of your title when you save the article. The words in the title will be separated by dashes and any other characters will be ignored. You may type in your own alias, all lowercase, no empty spaces, if you wish.

Joomla Article Alias

This alias will appear in the URL for the web page that displays this article. If the article is in a Category Blog or Category List, the Article alias will follow the alias for that Menu Item. 

If the title is very long, or not very descriptive of the content, you may want to change this alias to something more appropriate.

If you do a Save as Copy of another article, be sure to erase the alias name from the prior article. 

The alias is important for SEO. It should make sense to humans (ie be readable) and be a good representation of the content on the page. 

Warning about changing the alias on an existing articles

If your article has been published for some time and the search engines have already indexed the article, be careful about changing the alias. If you change the alias, you will alter the URL. If someone clicks on the link to the old URL, it will result in an error. If you want to still change the alias, you can set up a redirect in your .htaccess from the old URL to the new one to avoid the error.

Using Browser Page Titles for your menu items

The Browser Page Title is set up when creating the Menu Item in the Page Display tab.

By default, Joomla will use the title of your article, or the title of the Menu Item, for the browser page title. This may be acceptable, but it may not always be the best description of the article. The title may be too short, so it fits into your navigation menu. It may also be too lengthy or it may not describe the content well.

The Browser Page Title will appear on your web page if you choose to have Show Page Heading set to Yes.

The Browser Page Title will appear in the search results for someone searching for web pages. It is important that it represents the content well, without being too lengthy. If you go through and change the Browser Page Title, you may not see it in the Search Engine results for several days.

Create a Site Map for your website

A sitemap is an .xml file with a listing of the pages on your site. You keep this file in the root of your Joomla installation files. This is not a document for the general public, but search engines use this data as a guide for indexing the pages on your web site.

There are 3rd party Joomla Extensions that will create a sitemap.xml file of your web pages. There are also site map generator websites that will create the sitemap.xml file for you.

Always review the sitemap.xml file after it is generated. You may wish to edit out pages that you don't particularly want to see in the page listings for your site. You may also see that there are pages that are not listed, but you want them to be in the list. This may be because of navigation errors with your site. It is a good way to see if everything is being accessed properly. The sitemap.xml is not a guarantee of the search engine listings for pages on your site. It is just a guideline for them to follow.

A sitemap.xml file can guide the search engine to pages on your site that do not have adequate navigation, or interior links, or are deep into a subdirectory.

If you see a lot of pages in your sitemap.xml file that don't make sense, you add use something like Disallow: /components/ in your robot.txt file that suggests that search engines do not index pages under those folders.