There is one thing that is at the top of the list for any business that has an online presence: making sure that their e-commerce store is found in search engines when customers look for keywords that are related to the products and services sold in the store.
The reason is obvious: the higher the store ranks, the greater the number of people that will visit it and (possibly) buy from it.
So the questions are:
- What can you do to improve your search engine rankings?
- Does ProductCart have features that can help you with that?
- What do you need to do outside of ProductCart?
Here you will find a series of ideas and recommendations on things you can do to optimize your search engine rankings, a technique called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. This is in no way a comprehensive guide to SEO, which is a complex and ever-changing matter. However, here you will find some useful tips on ways to make your ProductCart-powered store (and the rest of your Web site that contains it) more search engine friendly.
SEO and good store design
Well-designed web sites rank betterMaking your ProductCart-powered store search engine friendly starts with ensuring that the graphical interface that wraps around the dynamic shopping cart content (product pages, category pages, content pages, etc.) is designed correctly and with search engines in mind. Please refer to Integrating ProdutCart with your Website for detailed instructions on how to perform such integration.
Here we will focus on tips and tricks that can make your store’s graphical interface (header.asp and footer.asp files) more search engine friendly.
Let’s start with an often forgotten, basic principle to search engine optimization: a Web site that is informative and easy to navigate typically is also a Web site that is liked by search engines. Let’s see how you can apply this basic principle to your store design.
Search engine friendly navigationGood navigation not only means that your customers will be able to easily find what they are looking for, but also that you will help a search engine spider crawl and index your store pages. This indexing of your site's pages is critical to showing up on a search engine's results pages.
Remember that an image-based (or Flash-based) navigation system is typically less search-engine friendly than a text-based one, even if the ALT tags added to your image files can help a search engine understand what your images stand for.
If you want to include a graphical navigation, a good idea might be to do so at the top of your page (horizontally), and then include a text-based navigation area on the left side.
ProductCart contains a feature that allows you to create a text-only, search engine friendly navigation tree that is at the same time visually appealing and quick to load on the page. Using this feature makes a lot of sense:
- Search engines will be able to crawl and index all the pages listed in the navigation tree as your store is pointing to them with simple text links.
- Customers will appreciate the ability to collapse/expand your category tree to quickly locate what they are looking for.
- Performance on your store will not be negatively affected because the category tree is a static file. Once you create it using the Generate Navigation feature in the ProductCart Control Panel, the navigation tree is just a text file that is included on the page (header.asp), without querying the database or doing any kind of intensive processing on the Web server.
A good footerIt’s a good idea to have a simple, text-only navigation section at the very bottom of your store design (so the code would appear towards the bottom of the file footer.asp). Include text links to significant areas of your store and Web site, that make sense on every page (e.g. “Customer Service”, “Why shop with us”, “About us”, “Site Map”, etc.). Here are a couple of examples of items that should be included in your footer and why:
- Link your site map
Make sure to include a link to a well designed Site Map. We are not referring to the XML sitemap to be submitted to Google and other search engines, but rather to a page that lists text links to most of your Web site's main areas. In addition to giving your visitors a page where they can get to most of your site's content, this is also another way of allowing search engines to crawl and index your site's content.
- Address and phone number
Adding your address and phone number to the footer provides visitors (and search engine spiders) with information that is geographically relevant and that sets your Web site apart from pages that contain spam. Having contact information (name, address and phone number, often referred to as a NAP) is also very important for local search results. So, if you also have a brick and mortar store, it's extremely important to have this information readily available on your site.