The Joomla SH404SEF component is a useful way to translate Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) into more user-friendly formats for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Making Joomla 1.5 more Search Engine Friendly (SEF) increases its value as a content management system (CMS) for Web sites, which are all interested in attracting more customers.
Google, Yahoo and MSN Live control 75% of the Web search engine market. Understanding their criteria for Web page prominence can be vital to Internet success. Web masters are continually developing new ways to increase SEO. The SH404SEF component is powerful in satisfying many of the key needs in Web page SEO.
The Google PageRank (importance estimation) is dependent on keyword placement, meta tag factors and links. Search engines emphasize “clear and concise” descriptions for content, Web pages and sites. Unfortunately, some source code is jumbled, duplicated and confusing, reducing SEO.
SH404SEF is a great tool for making Web pages more search engine friendly. Its most basic features include viewing and editing SEF URLs, creating 404 error “File not found” logs for tracking broken links and establishing 301 “moved permanently” custom redirects.
The main tab configuration allows for removal of non-ASCII characters from URLs, using a “title alias” (this can be helpful when the actual title is not search engine friendly) and setting the file extension suffix to .html or .php. These flexible options allow for Joomla to be used by more platforms and for more circumstances around the world.
The plug-ins tab can be used to change the default table and blog views name. It also allows for insertion of product IDs in URLs to maximize e-commerce traffic through keyword searches.
The advanced tab permits dual URL cache management (memory and database), logging of 404 errors, multiple 301 redirect options (including non-SEF URL to SEF URL and Joomla SEF URLs to SH404SEF URLs). Users can select either the mod_write mode or .htaccess file mode for 301 redirects. Some Web addresses need to be 301 redirected so they can inherit PageRank.
The Meta SEO tab activates meta management, removes the Joomla generator tag, inserts H1 tags into contentheadings and componentheadings, inserts outbound links symbols and inserts the title in “Read more …” links. All of these meta adjustments can improve SEO by creating more search matches.
Empowering users with more control over Web page meta tags is a great feature of SH404SEF. Customized meta tags allow for replacing duplicate keywords in URLs. These can muddle up “crawling bots” and lead to SEO downgrades.
SH404SEF allows for switching Joomla output to tableless; according to author Yannick Gaultier, this “improves accessibility” by permitting pages to load faster and improves SEO ranking by removing unessential elements. Making sure that multiple languages were supported was also very important for Gaultier.
There are also many important security features incorporated into SH404SEF including the following: running checks for possible red flags (such as the presence of a mosConfig_xxx variable, command or base_64 injection). It verifies the incoming Internet Protocol address. It also has an anti-flooding protection and allows for matching activities against a known list of spammers called the “Project Honey Pot”.
Many free Joomla extensions are compatible with SH404SEF (like the Fireboard bulletin board forum, Virtuemart e-commerce and Community Builder workflow management). Joomla and the open source community have a good support forum for discussions concerning this extension.
Some Web developers have reported recurring SH404SEF glitches and offered solutions to fix them. Sometimes, when the new 404 error log is displayed, the old URL is missing. Other problems involve H1 tags causing template problems and the global configuration not being reset for Joomla 1.5.
Another drawback with SH404SEF, is that it doesn’t create a Google sitemap (an XML file that lists URLs and metadata for crawling purposes).
As the newest beta version of Joomla 1.5 has been delivered, customers are moving their Web pages over from the older Joomla 1.0.12 version. Most elements in Joomla 1.0.12 work well with Joomla 1.5, although Joomla 1.5 is still in beta testing; most components can run on legacy mode. Some third-party developers are waiting for the release candidate Joomla 2.0.
The Joomla 1.5 SEF Patch was constructed to correct specific bugs and gaps discovered during development. These include problems with links, page titles and “category blog” SEF URLs. Time constraints prevented incorporation of these “code overwrites” into the Joomla 1.5 release.
Both a free and paid version of the Joomla 1.5 SEF Patch are available for consumers. Consumers have been concerned over whether the best attributes and functions of their Web pages will transition over with the newest Joomla version.
PageRank has been a key concern. Over time, Web masters have assembled pages with precise keywords that have gained hierarchy prominence by satisfying key Internet search criteria. These Web masters don’t want to lose customers.
The Joomla 1.5 SEF Patch satisfies a number of these consumer concerns. It fixes .html head section problems by allowing for manual customization of the title field SEO; it permits creation of an additional customized .html title field separate from the page title and page header.
It empowers users with control over meta keywords and descriptions for items and articles. There is also a robot.text file for robot meta tags. Direct control over the Google cache and Google snippet (which give brief Web site descriptions) improves SEO exponentially. These attributes increase communication effectiveness.
The Joomla 1.5 SEF Patch permits customized meta descriptions for articles, front pages and menu items. It allows for the display of the Joomla meta generator tag and supports static pages. It is also easy to install.
This patch is not compatible with all other components; it doesn’t work effectively with Virtuemart. It tends to overwrite core Joomla PHP files and standard Joomla default meta tags. Some developers have discussed removing meta tags before installing the patch, then adding them back thereafter, as a fix.
The Joomla 1.5 SEF Patch is a powerful stop-gap. When used in conjunction with other tools, it is a great SEO tool. It gives more customers a valid reason to transition to Joomla 1.5 by demonstrating essential support.
The Joomla default meta tags use the Web site name and add the page title thereafter. Multiple pages with similar titles might lead to duplication. Sometimes these jumbled, duplicated descriptions can be search engine hostile. Web surfers need clear, concise Web page descriptions.
Google has created a number of instruction manuals and resources to aide Web developers in creating more SEF Web pages, (i.e Google Webmaster Tools). Google has stated that while its Google Bot will look for meta tags, it does not use meta data for indexing. Google will penalize Web pages with no meta data or duplicate data. Thus, the presence of relevant, unreplicated meta data is very important for SEO.
By itself, Joomla 1.5 doesn’t maximize SEO. It has established basic default meta tags and a meta tag “generator”, which are functional for code purposes. As SEO has advanced, so must the tools used to maximize these characteristics. Working together, the SH404SEF extension and Joomla 1.5 SEF Patch can improve default meta tags by managing the Joomla meta tag “generator” default settings, so it is more precise and concise.
Since, some have reported problems with keywords, descriptions and tag info while installing the Joomla 1.5 SEF Patch, it might be recommended for users to clear tags before installing the patch. The patch overwrites code gaps. Once the patch has been installed, the SH404SEF component can be used as a robust manager of day-to-day SEO.
Some customers have noted drops in site visitors when upgrading to Joomla 1.5. When links are broken, customers simply go to the competitor’s Web page. Before SH404SEF and the Joomla 1.5 SEF Patch, Web masters resorted to manually entering 301 redirects. Now, with these two extensions, they can automate the process. These tools also fix behind-the-scenes keyword, description, meta tag and link problems.
Other customers have noted that “blogcategory” and “component” elements were not working. The combination of SH404SEF and the Joomla 1.5 SEF Patch can help plug these holes too. They allow for easy customization of Google snippets. Now users can rewrite these metatags as little advertisement brochures to attract Web visitors.
Once these extensions have been installed, you can customize your Joomla default meta tags easily. Access the SH404SEF extension through the Control Panel, select the Components tab, click on the “View/Edit SEF URLs” button. After modification, you can check the “View/Edit Custom Redirects” area to ensure that all your Web traffic is being sent to the proper location. These extensions act like traffic cops.
After you have made your URLs the way you want, click on the “SH404SEF Configuration” button, select the “Main” tab, choose “Yes” where it says “Enabled”.
In the SH404SEF configuration section, follow the “Meta/SEO” tab, choose “Yes” for “Activate Meta Management” to empower your search engine friendly tools. Many more options are available for SEO.
Generating Web traffic is key to Internet success. SH404SEF, the Joomla 1.5 SEF Patch and default meta tags work in tandem to make Web pages more search engine friendly.
About the Author: MyWebGuyTaylor is an seo specialist in Santa Barbara, CA and founder of The Search Engine Pros. Taylor is actively involved in local humanitarian efforts in the Santa Barbara area (Greenpeace, Fonkoze Microloans, HUB.) Taylor has been providing web and search engine optimization services and advice for 11 years. Taylor can be reached at 800.605.4988 or by email taylor [ @ ] mywebguytaylor.com