The ultimate SEO guide for Joomla titles, descriptions and URLs

If you have a Joomla website and want to know the best way to optimise your titles, descriptions and URLs, this ultimate guide runs you through everything you need to know.

So you’ve launched your Joomla website. It looks fantastic. You’ve got great images and a cracking homepage that clearly outlines your business and what you offer. It loads fast, and search engines have discovered your pages, but your phone isn’t ringing, and you’re not getting as many enquiries as you would like. What can you do?

One of the best ways to generate more traffic to your website is to ensure your SEO is working for your Joomla website. There are many different approaches to SEO and how it should be done. Here at the Marketeam office, we take a content-centric approach towards our SEO. This means we write many articles and update and add content to clients’ websites regularly to help them generate traffic from search engine referrals.

Below is a general guide of all the elements that make up good SEO practices for Joomla websites. Please note we will be focusing on the core Joomla functionality in this article, not SEO plugins or components. These types of features aren’t necessary if you are consistent with your content development and smart about how you structure your Joomla website.

Title tags

Joomla has several different areas where you can add title tags to a page. The thing to remember about Joomla is that it’s a menu-driven Content Management System so anything you add to a menu item will override SEO elements added in the article.

Adding meta titles via the article in Joomla
By default, Joomla will use the article title as the meta page title IF you don’t have a menu item allocated to the article. In many cases, if you have a range of articles that don’t have their own individual menu items (like your blog, for example) Joomla will use the article title as the meta title on the page.

This means that for your blog articles, you will need to think carefully about your page titles as these will be displayed both as the meta title (which displays in Google’s search results) and also as the blog title.

Adding meta titles via menu items in Joomla
The other way you can add meta title information is to add them to a menu item linked to your page in the ‘Page Display’ tab in the ‘Browser Page Title’ field. This will override the article title.

This is handy as sometimes you may want your article title to be named in a useful way for editing and reference; however, you may want a more optimised title for SEO. Adding meta title information via the menu item enables you to easily read the page title and the optimised meta title, so you get the best of both worlds!

SEO for Joomla 01

How long should a meta title be?
Generally speaking, title tags should be no longer than about 65 characters, as this is all that Google will display in their search engine results pages. You can have more characters than this; however, Google will not display them on their results pages, which may harm your rankings. Aim for between 55 and 65 characters for your title tags.

Description tags

Similar to title tags, there are two areas where you can add meta description tags to your pages.

Adding a description tag via the article in Joomla
When you’re editing the article, navigate to the ‘Publishing’ tab, where you will see the ‘Meta Description’ field. This is where you can add a description tag.

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Adding a description tag via the menu in Joomla
The other place you’re able to add a description tag is via the menu item. This will override any description tags that have been added to the article. Description tags can be added in the ‘Metadata’ tab in the ‘Meta Description’ field.

SEO for Joomla 01

Search engine friendly URLs

The other thing you will want to do is enable search engine friendly URLs on your website. This will change the structure of your URLs to be easier to read and much more search engine friendly. Without this enabled, your URLs will look like this:-

www.mygreatwebsite.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&Itemid=127

With this feature enabled, your URLs will look like this:-

www.mygreatwebsite.com.au/services/service-type-A

Joomla SEO friendly URLs not working?
If you enable Search Engine Friendly URLs and they’re not working properly (the website shows a 404 error or a 500 error), this is likely due to your .htaccess file not being enabled. Joomla, by default, will install an htaccess file onto the root folder of your server; however, the filename will be htaccess.txt.

To get search engine friendly URLs working (particularly if you have ‘Use URL Rewriting’ set to ‘yes’), you need to rename your htaccess.txt to .htaccess.

Content structure and categories

Joomla has great built-in facilities for structuring your content and URLs in a logical and consistent manner. If you have search-engine-friendly URLs enabled, your URL structure will typically follow the flow of your menu items. If you have a menu item called services, with several sub-menus, the menu structure will look like this:-

  • Services
    • Service Type A
    • Service Type B
    • Service Type C

The URL structure for this type of menu structure will look like this:-

  • www.mywebsite.com.au/services
    • www.mywebsite.com.au/services/service-type-A
    • www.mywebsite.com.au/services/service-type-B
    • www.mywebsite.com.au/services/service-type-C

Creating search engine friendly URLs when there are no sub-menus
Occasionally, you may have a page structure with sub-articles (like a portfolio for example). You want to display multiple article elements within one page without having associated dropdowns from the main menu item.

A portfolio or a case studies page is a good example of this. You may have a single menu item called ‘Case Studies’ where you’re pulling in multiple articles from a particular category (via a menu item, module or page builder addon).

This enables you to have a page nicely laid out with multiple elements displayed in a category. This also creates an issue with menu items because these sub-pages don’t have menu items, so they won’t follow the menu structures URL pattern. There is an easy way to fix this.

To have your sub-pages follow your menu structure’s URL pattern, you can create sub-menus (which will cause the Search Engine Friendly URL structure to kick in) and simply hide them. Since Joomla 3.5.1, there’s been the ability to choose if you want a menu item to ‘Display in Menu’. This enables you to create menu items for subpages so they follow a logical URL structure without having to display them as dropdowns in your menu structure (not great for a case study or portfolio page).

This feature can be found in Menus / Your Menu / Link Type / Display in Menu.

Joomla gives you a very high level of control over URLs, meta titles and meta descriptions out of the box and really won’t require any additional plugins or components to manage.

If you’ve got a website with thousands of pages, components like SH404SEF can help you manage your title and description tags more easily; however, for most websites, everything you need to have search engine friendly titles, descriptions and URLs is baked right into the Joomla core.