Magento Blog extension: An in-depth review of the aheadWorks Blog module

Magento Blog extension

The Magento blog extension review

A blog extension is an essential module for any Magento-based website. The Magento CMS (even the latest Magento 2.0) doesn't offer any kind of blog extension in the standard package, which is normal, since the main target of this CMS is to create a friendly ecommerce website. However, it should be understood that a user-friendly ecommerce website is also an informative source about products. If you want to get on the top of Google search results, you have to fill your ecommerce website with a lot of content. Using a blog extension, you could create short news as well as huge posts and reviews of your products to draw customers' attention and to increase conversion as a result. “So, which Magento blog extension should I use”, you ask? Well, we tried an effective solution, namely the Magento Blog extension developed by aheadWorks. Right off the bat, we want to show a real example of Blog. As you might know, we work with the Hardware.eu website, an English version of Hardware.nl. The website owner has bought the Blog Enterprise Edition for its ecommerce store based on the Magento CMS. Simply visit the Hardware.eu blog to get an idea of how this Blog might look like for a customer.

AheadWorks blog extension for Magento: Versions and pricing

AheadWorks is an official Magento enterprise developer. Their module for blogging is named simply Magento Blog, and it exists in two versions–the Community Edition and the Enterprise Edition. The latter is designed for Magento Enterprise and it has a price (unfortunately, quality work should still be paid for:-). If you haven't visited any of the links above, here is the price tags: $0 for the Blog Community Edition and whopping 999 evergreen bills for the Blog Enterprise Edition (the price may be changed), even though the smaller package has the same functionality. The Blog Community Edition is available in exchange for your registration. Blog isn’t all you may get: AheadWorks offers extended support periods, help on installation, Priority Support, and Personal Account Manager. Actually, Blog Enterprise Edition has all enumerated features in the standard package, and you can only order an extension of the support period up to a year. The smaller package is obviously designed for Magento Community Edition.

Main features of the Magento blog extension from aheadWorks

The aheadWorks Blog module has almost maxed out its specifications. We do acknowledge that the developer has done a tremendous job when creating it. Magento Blog brags about having a very long list of features, and we don’t think it’s feasible to name them all in one review. But we will mention the essentials. To start, the blog has five separate pages that will lead you to different settings and tools. Here is their order:

·         The Add Post tab;

·         Blog Post Manager;

·         Blog Comment Manager;

·         Category Manager;

·         Global Blog Settings.

Magento blog extension - the Blog tabs

Their names speak for themselves. Now let’s probe into each and every tool.

Blog Settings

Magento Blog global settings

The Blog global settings panel will be your first stop after installation of the module. It goes last in the list of tabs, but that is logical: Once you set it up as you wanted, you will not visit it regularly. Blog has many global settings for the entire module (you can change specific settings for each article or news on the Add Post page). The global settings are divided in five sub-tabs that you can fold and unfold by clicking on the right arrow. The Blog Settings part is, obviously, the most important here. You are able to define the blog title (which is obligatory, because this will also be the link for your blog), set up the page layout, allow breadcrumbs, add Meta keywords and description for the entire blog, etc. Everything is very easy to set up. The best idea would be to turn on a setting and check the result on the website. In such a way, you will test everything as a client.

Category Manager

Magento blog extension - Category manager

You will have to add necessary categories for your future content. Remember that you have to create at least one to be able to post articles. The Blog Category Manager has built-in search functionality. Therefore, if you create, say, 50 categories for the content, you will be able to find any of them faster. If you click on the button Add Category, the extension will show you to another tab where you can create a new category. Each category will have a separate title and identifier. Optionally, add a description and keywords that are specific for the exact category.

Add Post

Magento blog extension - Add Post

The Add Post page will be the most visited–we assume that you will juice up your Magento blog with articles each day. This tool has two tabs. The first one lets you change the post main information. Here is the list of what-you-can-do on the page:

·         Add and change the title and identifier (link);

·         Choose the store view (the website version where the article should be available);

·         Choose and change the article category;

·         Hide, enable or disable the article;

·         Allow or disallow comments;

·         Add and change tags;

·         Add and change the short content;

·         Add and change the main content.

The Magento blog module will not let you save any changes if the first four details are not entered/selected (mark small red asterisks next to the setting). On the flip side, any other information can be omitted. But we do not recommend that you leave unfilled fields. Now let’s talk about the Short content (shown in the screenshot below) and Content fields. They are the same regarding their functionality. But they present different parts of a post. You can charge both content areas with texts, images, videos, and tables–all you need to make an informative article on a Magento-based website.

Magento blog extension - Add Post - short content field

When you hover over each button, a prompt appears letting you know what this button can do. Most functions are easy to understand because any normal word processor has them. You can make the text bold or underlined, change fonts, add and delete headings, make bulleted and numbered lists, and so on. Nevertheless, a better option is to type and stylize the text in a word processor, and copy it to the content field.

Magento Blog has plenty of settings for adding images and videos. For example, when you add an image, Magento Blog will let you:

·         Set up its dimensions;

·         Add and change the 'alt=' attribute, as well as the 'title=';

·         Add and remove a border and vertical and horizontal spaces;

·         Write specific CSS styles, like 'img { float: right; }';

·         Swap images on mouse hover, etc.

The Insert/Edit Embedded Media tool will definitely impress you with its settings. Have a look at them:

·         Choose the media type–Flash, HTML5, Shockwave, Windows Media, iframe, QuickTime, etc.;

·         Set up the dimensions of video;

·         Align the media;

·         Change specific settings for different media types.

Certainly, a proficient content editor should allow you to learn and correct the HTML code, and you do have such a possibility with this Magento blog extension. This means you can write individual styles (the CSS code) for a separate article and amend the HTML code as you want, if necessary. All mentioned settings are shown in Post Information. The Advanced Options tab has several additional fields. Each article should have a list of top keywords in the Meta keywords field (SEO-guys and search engines love them)–there is a useful area on the top. Under it, the Meta description is located. Finally, you can change the poster name and the posting date.

Magento blog extension - Add Post - Advanced Options

Blog Post Manager

Magento blog extension - Blog Post Manager

Blog Post Manager will come handy when you want to change or disable some articles. The advanced search filter will help you find any post by its title, identifier, poster name, ID, date created, or date updated. Magento Blog extension enables you to work on multiple posts. Say, you need to disable 10 posts simultaneously. Just pick them (click on the boxes on the left) and apply a bulk action (this function is located on the right).

Blog Comment Manager

Magento blog extension - Blog Comment Manager

There is nothing truly interesting in the comment section. Blog Comment Manager looks nearly the same as the Post Manager. The only difference is that you can visit the article with a comment directly from this tab. Certainly, irrelevant comments can be deleted or corrected.

What we don't like about the Magento Blog extension

To be honest, we can't find truly bad or non-working features. It seems that aheadWorks hasn’t failed anywhere. Nevertheless, this is not 100% true because you will definitely notice some minor issues here and there in their Magento blog extension. For example, take a look at the screenshot below. This is the HTML Source Editor with some code.

Magento Blog - HTML Source Editor

You may not know HTML perfectly, but you will easily notice that the source editor can break a word into two parts and apply the same styles to each one (we underlined them in the picture). So, instead of this code:

<h2><span style="font-size: 1.5em;" lang="en-US">What is a s</span><span style="font-size: 1.5em;">moke detector</span><span style="font-size: 1.5em;" lang="en-US">?</span></h2>

Magento Blog from aheadWorks should have done something like this:

<h2><span style="font-size: 1.5em;" lang="en-US">What is a smoke detector?</span></h2>

This can happen when you copy your text from an external word processor, such as Microsoft Word, LibreOffice Writer, or GoogleDocs. If you slightly amend the text in the Content editor by changing the word order, such an issue will occur. Any SEO-specialist will immediately say the next, “The redundant HTML must be deleted to improve the text-to-HTML ratio, plus to let the page load faster.” We say, it is not difficult to fix the code manually, but it takes valuable time. In all fairness, it must be said that this issue is "available" in Wordpress editor, too.

A second shortcoming, which will compromise SEO, concerns the title and headings. Any SEO book tells that the title should be pretty short and concise. Each page (including blog posts) of the website must get a single <H1> heading. In order to check how this Magento blog works, we used a famous browser tool SEOQuake to analyze the same article. You can see the results in the screenshot below.

Magento Blog - Title and headings

The blog extension adds irrelevant “Blog - ” to the title. There is no <H1> on the page either. Normally, when you enter the title in a post manager, it becomes the main heading (H1) too. This will help search bots to determine the page relevance for the user. If the article doesn’t have an <H1>, its weight may be decreased. Unfortunately, aheadWorks Magento Blog doesn’t provide means for you to resolve this issue immediately. But there is no need to panic: Our web-developers can get to the responsible PHP code and deal with it. Besides, it is not really decisive whether some page has any <H1> or not. Remember that the content quality matters the most!

We have played enough with this Magento blog extension to spot another problem. This time it’s rather trivial. Yet, it might force you scratch your head. Let’s get back to the blog settings: In the next screenshot, you will see how you can set up Short Content Field.

Blog settings issue

It goes “Yes” by default, which means “additional ‘Short Content Field’ is taken instead of truncated main post”. In case you forget to add a short content description to an article, Blog will show the entire article in the main flow. This will look unpleasant to eye if your article is very long. And here is another thing: You might think that if you disable this feature, all articles will be truncated… but they won’t! Instead, each and every blog page will present five, ten, or fifty articles in full (you can change the number of shown articles per page). This is not convenient for a user, because he or she will have to scroll for a long time to the bottom of the page. Eventually, the navigation becomes a real mess. Therefore, we suggest that you leave this setting unchanged. Plus, always add an appropriate short description for your article.

Here are some other thoughts. As for the end-user performance, we wanted to see some evaluation incorporated into the Magento Blog extension. We want the Meta description field to show the number of symbols we entered. We want this Magento Blog to automatically create the article link (Identifier) from the title, etc. Overall, aheadWorks definitely has several issues to work with.

We are sure that we could find other somewhat illogical functionality in this Magento blog extension. Still, we are sure that any other small Blog problems are not difficult to resolve.

Bottom line

Magento Blog by aheadWorks is one of the best blog extensions you can get for the Magento CMS. It is high quality, it works fast, and it has an extensive collection of features. This tool has all ingredients that will please a content manager and SEO specialist. Needless to say that you will be satisfied with it. That being said, a fly has got in the ointment anyway–we have found several small issues with aheadWorks Blog. All we can say is that these issues do not really mean anything if you post quality articles on your ecommerce website each day. More than that, our developers may correct or set up any Magento extension for you. The last but not the least, if you have a question about the Blog extension for Magento, you are welcome to use the comment section below.

Comments (8):
Posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 by :
hey, any idea how can get the meta keywords and the meta description of advanced options on my phtml?
Posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 by :
carolina, If you are searching for the tabs location, go firstly to any article you posted. Click on 'Blog' link in the navigation bar of your Magento backend. Then select 'Posts' and click on a post that you want to change. On the next page, look on the left - there you will see Post Information with two links. The second link will lead you to the Advanced Options tab. There, you can post your Meta keywords and Meta description. If you want to know about how to write a Meta description, well, it is simple - write a sentence or two with a keyword. Look for keywords in other articles on the same topic, check their value with Google Adwords or www.keywordspy.com and use them in the description. Also think of a person who might read this description. Your description should attract this person.
Posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 by :
Thanks for the the in depth review! I am looking for a possibility to edit the meta information, especially the image is important for social media sharing. In another blogpost I found out that the following should be entered in the header of the html-code.
Posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 by :
Nice post. Great to see and thank you for sharing. Know more about magento and magento 2 at our magento development company at www.eglobeits.com
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