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In earlier Joomla 3 versions we have seen some big jumps with regards to SEO. In the latest release, Joomla 3.4, these changes were a bit less obvious (except for a new .htaccess and robots.txt). Another change that was a bit hidden is the new possibility to stop logging 404-errors in the Redirect Component. Though small, this is actually a significant change, which makes the tool really usable now. The hottest topics that were awaited though are Microdata and the new Joomla Router. I checked with 2 developers who are very active with the code behind it to ask them for the latest updates and what is to come.

Joomla Router / canonical URLs

This is a subject that is very active, and actively supported by developer Hannes Papenberg. He has raised a crowd-funding campaign to advance the Joomla Router and the way Joomla generates URLs (indiegogo.com/projects/advance-the-joomla-url-router). Joomla 3 uses canonical URLs from the start, but the current implementation is not yet perfect. Up till Joomla 3.3.6 canonical URLs were included in any page, whether it was the referring page that pointed to the preferred URL, or the preferred URL itself. This does not make sense, as the preferred URL should not have to point to itself as the canonical URL. This has now been implemented in Joomla 3.4. I asked Hannes about the details:

According to Google, the canonical tag should only be included on pages that display content that has a different canonical URL. In Joomla terms: if we have this URL:

http://domain.tld/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=42&Itemid=21 

It displays an article, but that is not the canonical URL that we expect from the system. The canonical URL would be:

http://domain.tld/something/42-answer-to-everything

So the page with the first URL gets the canonical tag that points to the second URL (in theory) and the page behind the second URL does not get a canonical tag, because it would only point to itself.
In previous versions, the SEF plugin ALWAYS added the canonical tag to the header and it also always pointed simply to the current URL. The change now is, that it doesn't add this tag if the URL that Joomla is called by and the URL that Joomla thinks is the right one, are identical.

And what can we expect for the near future?

The 3.4 update does not solve everything, because as we all know, the Joomla router is broken in several ways. This is something that I would like to tackle in 3.5, if the PLT lets me. 3.5 will contain radically different component routers, which properly generate and parse the URLs and prevent something like that from happening.

So, let's hope many good things come from this!

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Microdata

Especially in Joomla 3.2 and Joomla 3.4 we saw big improvements with regards to Microdata. Most of this work was performed by Alexandru Pruteanu. I asked him about the current status of the project, as it seemed no obvious microdata improvements were introduced in Joomla 3.4:

As far as I know I'm the only one working on integrating microdata dynamically in the CMS, and I don't have any news regarding the topic, It's 2 years that the story goes up and down, I see a lot of interests from the non-developers (SEO, Designers ...) and some scepticism from developers, so the Pull Request is still there. Now the Pull Request is out of sync and it needs to be updated. I will work on that feature the last one month starting from today, so or it goes in or it closes (the PR can't be there for ever)

So, let's hope that also this work can be continued, it would be a shame if the Microdata implementation stops at the current stage.