A lot has changed in the past year with Magento. Like all software programs, the eCommerce platform has evolved to give site owners and their audiences a better experience all around.
Throughout the last 12 months, I have taken a look at the best practices for Magento. Going into 2019, here are the highly recommended things to do for your Magento site.
Migrate to Magento 2
Magento’s biggest announcement in this past year has been that in 2020, support for Magento 1 will end. This means that Magento will stop providing security updates to all websites running on Magento 1. This also means that if your website is run by Magento 1 by 2020, your site may be vulnerable to cyber attacks and viruses.
To only way to avoid this is to perform a Magento 2 migration for your site. It is a time-consuming process, but it is entirely possible to carry out the migration on your own.
Before going into the migration, it is best to consider the following:
- Make sure you have a sense of how Magento works
- Watch and read tutorials on the best way to conduct a Magento 2 migration and take notes
- Keep a backup of your Magento 1 website handy
You may also want to hire a Magento Certified Developer to conduct the migration if you are uncomfortable doing it yourself, or for any other reason.
Do not edit core files
There are many articles and tutorials out there that will show you how to edit Magento’s core files. It is best to stay away from those articles – not only because they generally refer to Magento 1, which will be completely outdated in 2020 anyway, but there are many risks associated with editing a Magento site’s core files, even for developers.
There are two main risks that come with editing a Magento website’s core files:
- You may not be able to update your Magento site. If you are able to update your Magento site, the core files that you modified will be erased along with any and all updates.
- Your website may mess up and it could be confusing to fix. On occasion, you may end up deleting very important components of your website, which can be even messier than fixing the core files itself.
If you must go into the core files, the best advice is to consult a Magento Certified Developer or credited Magento forums to find out how you can override core files.
Remember to keep a copy of your original website so you can make any fixes, but also be sure to override files in the local pool so that you can continue to have the option to consistently update your website.
Do not edit default theme files
When you migrate your website to Magento, you will find yourself with two themes: Luma and Blank.
The Luma theme is what’s known as a ‘demonstration theme’ – it is meant to be a simple theme that you can install for your website, but you can also use it as a guide map for what your theme should look like. On the other hand, the Blank theme is meant to be a basis for customising your theme.
Whether you would like to work with either of these two themes or create your own theme, Magento recommends that you do not change or edit the core default files on any of the two themes. When you edit the core files of the Luma and Blank themes, your changes will be overwritten when you upgrade Magento 2 in the future.
What this means is that the changes you made in the core files will disappear when you upgrade to the latest version of Magento. This could leave you with the choice of potentially messing up your entire website or staying in the same Magento program until you inevitably have to upgrade it.
Either way, the best idea is to just not touch the default theme files. That way, your site can keep running efficiently for a long time. In fact, it would be easier to just inherit from either the Luma or Blank Theme.
Always do performance benchmarks before you make changes to the site
Before you do anything, it’s always important to know how your site was working before any changes were made. Always conduct site audits to your website so that you are aware of site problems beforehand and take note of important site analytics before you give your site over to a developer.
Knowing these analytics can give you insight on where your site stands and how to improve it. Some of the key analytics to make note of are:
If you choose to hire a Magento Certified Developer, make sure you know what to look for in the hiring process. Knowing what makes a good Magento Certified Developer can make a huge difference in building a better site and, ultimately, a business.
Keep the number of custom extensions to a minimum
The more extensions your site carries, the longer it will take to load. The reason for this is that when a site loads, it needs to also load all of the extensions that make your site work.
There is no real answer as to how many extensions should be on a Magento site. But it is absolutely necessary to keep your third party extensions to a minimum.
It is strongly advised to conduct an extension audit for your Magento site. To do this you would need to:
- Make a list of all of your extensions and find out how big they are.
- Evaluate how important all these extensions are to your website.
- After you have decided what your most important extensions are, delete all of the other extensions.
- After deleting each extension, load your site and make sure not only that your site loads faster, but that it loads without complications.
Get a Free SEO Audit
Regularly Check for Duplicate Content
Whether it is on the frontend or the backend, having duplicate content on your site can means that your site has to load the same content twice. This could definitely make your site loading time longer.
Aside from that, duplicate content hurts your website’s SEO in more ways than one – it can confuse the indexers and make your content look like spam. This can get your website penalised and affect your rankings.
It is important to conduct site audits regularly, so that you are constantly aware of this information. If you find yourself with duplicate content, be sure to do the following:
- Consider whether you want to keep the duplicate content or not – having to add redirect links can actually harm your website’s SEO.
- Create a canonical tag to put all of your duplicate content under one URL.
A canonical tag strictly means that different links will be filed under the same link. Therefore, each page of duplicate content will be counted as one link.
To implement a canonical tag, you simply have to do the following:
- Pick a page as the canonical page and get the link
- Add the canonical link to the non-canonical page. Your code should appear as follows:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://example.com/link/canonical/” />
Alternatively, Magento 1 and Magento 2 can do that automatically for category and product pages. Once you have done that, you won’t have to worry about duplicate content on your site because it will all follow back to the same URL.
Since many Magento site owners are migrating to Magento 2, it is important for every store owner to check their URLs. During a Magento 2 migration, URLs tend to duplicate because the rewrite functionality creates URLs for categories at the time of saving them.
This means that when you import a category, Magento 2 will write a URL for the category, regardless if there has been one already written. As you can imagine, this has caused countless duplicate URLs in a Magento site, which has created many issues for SEO.
The following code should be able to take care of that:
Enable the code in the config.xml file. Doing this will alert your code that there are URL rewrites and it will show the resolution result in your command line interface.
Use one-step checkout extension
Some developers will tell you the Magento default checkout is too long and complex. It’s simply easier to use the one-step checkout extension.
Your site will have less pages to load, which means that it will concentrate on making the other pages of your site load faster. It’s also beneficial for your customer, who will only need to fill out their information on one page to place their order. This means that your customers will be able to make their purchase faster and easier, which will make them happier and more likely to shop again with you in the future.
Perform Magento speed optimisation tests regularly
Every Magento site owner needs to know that their site is running fast at all times. That’s why it is vital for site owners to perform speed optimisation tests on a regular basis.
It is important to calculate the following factors:
- Time to first byte (TTFB)
- Hosting/server plans
Implement PWA mobile template
71% of internet traffic comes from mobile use – this statistic alone means that a good chunk of consumers are looking for your services on smartphones and tablets.
If that is not enough to sway business owners, search engines like Google have spent this year warning us again and again that websites need to be mobile-friendly if we want to keep our site rankings high.
Today, it’s more important than ever to have a mobile-friendly website but, surprisingly, not every company has a website built for mobile. Having a mobile website may not be as difficult as other developers make it seem. A simple Google search will run up some free tools to give you the mobile site that you want.
Many of these websites provide you a mobile-friendly site because they provide you with a Performance Web Application (PWA) template. A PWA template essentially gives you a mobile website that looks like a mobile app.
Apply security patches regularly
Keeping your website secure is one of the most important things you can do for your website. Be sure to update your Magento site with the latest security patches as they come out – this will ensure that your magento site stays safe from hackers, viruses and other dangers out in the internet.
It also helps to keep your software up to date. This is especially important for Magento 1 users because in 2020, Magento will stop updating security patches for Magento 1.x programs.
This means that, after 2020, if your Magento website is still running on Magento 1, you will no longer have new security updates for your website, leaving it prone to cyberattacks and viruses from hackers. This means that a Magento 2 migration is inevitable.
Other ways that you can keep your website secure are to:
- Make sure your site has the secure https:// encryption and not http:// – the latter is an outdated security line and does not insure the safety of site visitor information.
- Perform security audits on a regular basis.
- Keep all backend login information in a safe & secure location.
Konstantin Gerasimov is a Magento Certified Developer with Goivvy.com. He specialises in Magento backend development, performance optimisation and extensions development.
Want to know how to properly handle your sold-out products and maintain your eCommerce store’s SEO? Click here for our comprehensive guide to managing your Magento SEO for out of stock products!