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January 10, 2007

Is Your Shopping Cart Software SEO Friendly?

By Li Evans

GoshoppingMy friend and Search Marketing Gurus guest blogger, David Wallace had a great post about Search Engine Friendly E-Commerce Shopping Carts last week at his Search Rank Blog. He has some great points for web developers to look for, such as:

  • Title Tags - Does the application allow for unique title tags?
  • Meta Description Tags - Does the application allow for unique meta description tags?
  • Navigation - Is the navigational structure dynamic or static?
  • Navigational Breadcrumb Trails - Are they available and if so, are they dynamic or static?
  • Site Map- How is site map formed, if there even is one?
  • URLs - Are category, product and even product detail page URLs search engine friendly?

Why do Shopping Cart programmers make things so “unfriendly” for search optimization? When we asked a current vendor we deal with “Do any of your other customers care about search?” and their answer was “NO, no one cares about search,” I was floored. I find it extremely hard to fathom that none of their clients care about search. My personal opinion is that they just haven’t thought about search and the consequences of what their shopping cart software does with product pages and don’t bother to ask their clients.

So while this is all still fresh in my mind, and after working with a client whose shopping cart service is extremely unfriendly for Search Optimization, I wanted to add a few more things to look for in a E-Commerce Shopping Cart to Dave’s list

  • Multiple Pages For Products – Products could have several different target markets, and marketers may want to try and reach all of those target markets, but can’t do it with just one page for a product. Offering a way to display the product with different pages, each having its own unique content, title tags, descriptions, etc. could help market the products more effectively to specific customers. Remember: Not all customers buy for the same reasons.
  • Product Sell Outs / Discontinue Products / Items Not Available – How does your shopping cart handle this situation? Does it give you a generic page when a product is sold out, does it do a 401 redirect, does it keep the page and not tell a customer until they click to buy? These are important to search and should be important to you.
  • Variables In The URL – How many variables is your shopping cart passing in the URL? If it’s more than 4, the search engines could have a problem crawling through to all your URLs.
  • Images – Does your shopping cart software allow you to name your own images with keywords. Does it also allow you to add alt text, and perhaps caption content directly around the picture? These are important factors in being able to utilize the image vertical searches to drive traffic. Remember, most customers are visual! Image searches tend to be higher converters and don’t have paid ads in their results.
  • Meta Keywords Tags – Does the application allow for unique keyword tags? There could be misspellings of product names you would want to include with the page, just not in its content, title tag or meta description tag. Although the meta keyword tag is commonly thought to be “degraded”, in the case of using it for misspellings, it can be quite helpful.
  • Login or Register To View Products – Does your application make your customers login or register in order to view your products? Do they have to fill out a form that forces them to provide a username and password to get to a product view? If this is your application, a spider from a search engine will never get past the form. Why? Because it can’t fill a form out nor can it press the “submit” button.

Shoppingcart Hopefully, one of these days a search marketer will design a shopping cart service with the idea that the site needs to be found in order to sell the products through the shopping cart system! Maybe these two lists will help someone design a shopping cart that won't leave a world of opportunity behind for its clients.

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