This article focuses on the first few steps in the Web Development and Design of a decent search optimised website in Joomla. Okay lets get into it. Once I have setup the standard Joomla installation there are a few component types that are mandatory to install and I believe these to be:- a sitemap component and a SEF URL changing component. These are by far the most important components to have on any Joomla Installation.
What is a SEF URL changing component and how does it relate to Web Design in Joomla? SEF stands for Search Engine Friendly and a normal installation of Joomla has a URL like this: index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5&Itemid=6
When it comes to search engines they are really smart in many ways but the normal Joomla URL describes nothing about the web page and its contents and so they really do dislike it in many ways. It is what I call, Search Optimisation Stunted (SOS). I like this term because it describes exactly what it needs; some help! This is where a SEF URL changing component comes into play. These types of components take the normal Joomla URL and change it into something more meaningful to both us and the search engines. eg: buy-blue-widgets-here.html
From my Web Design & Development experience this is the single most important component installation you can make on a Joomla Website. I want to detail my personal best picks. There are a few available to us but I believe the JoomSEF component to be the best of the best when it comes to Search Engine Friendly URL's. There is only one drawback to choosing this component and that is a hidden advert in the code from the original makers. Given I use this component all the time I have taken the time to remove this component and make the whole new Patched SEF component available for download on my web site - Joomla SEO. So if you want to use this component then please do visit this link and grab the latest version with these hidden adverts removed - for free of course! Looking at the "best of the rest" of the SEF components we find a new component (May 2007) called sh404SEF, if you search on the Joomla extensions website you will find this one. I believe it to be strongly based on JoomSEF; in both look, feel and functionality I have noticed this. Another SEF friendly component for Joomla is OpenSEF. When it was release about a year ago it was great. Since that time there have been no updates and the project has lagged way behind. Having said that it still does a reasonable job of converting all Joomla URL's to look nice and friendly.
Which ever one you choose, download the component and then using the Joomla Administration interface install the component. Then go to Site->Global Configuration->SEO (tab) and ensure "Search Engine Friendly URL's" is set to yes. Ensure your htaccess.txt file in the root directory of the Joomla installation is changed to .htaccess and follow the directives in the file in how to turn on "mod_rewrite" - this is straight forward. Then just go to the JoomSEF component and configuration and turn it on. Once this is done you should be generating friendly URL's on the front end interface so you should go and check. It's as easy as that!!
Okay so lets move on to what I consider the next most important thing to do to your Joomla installation once the SEF component is installed and working a Sitemap.
In my books there is really only one legitimate and decent sitemap component and it is called Joomap. Again the standard version of this component does not output decent XML files so I have enhanced the Joomap component so that it produces greater XML output. You can find the enhanced version on my website using this link Joomla Search Engine Optimisation - Sitemap Joomla SEO - Sitemapundefined. The installation of this component is the same as before, through the Joomla Administration interface. With no other config after installation we can just go straight to the component and select it. Now we just choose the menu's we want to include in our sitemap. Generally these are main menu and top menu. Now we just create a new menu item and select the component to link to it, being Joomap and the rest takes care of itself. Easy!!
One other advantage of Joomap is that it allows you to hook in to Google Sitemaps. On the admin interface these is a Google Sitemap URL given. All we need to do to generate a dynamic google sitemap is to copy paste this URL into google webmaster interface and now whenever google wants to download your whole website sitemap it gets a dynamic version - which is significantly better than just hoping google will find all of your pages! With this sitemap it tells google all of your pages and where they are so it can scan them more affectively.
Okay now I have covered off the first two steps in Search Engine Optimisation for the Joomla Content Management System. These are the first two steps every Web Designer and Developer should take when they want to Search Optimise Joomla. Until the next article you can gain more Web Design hints and tips on my website.