Search engine optimization means creating web pages that are easy for search engines to index properly and that rank high in customer searches, ideally appearing in the first couple of pages of search results. As shopping cart software becomes a more complex part of online stores, often generating online catalogs and web pages, it is important for the shopping cart software to create web pages that are search engine friendly. Customers often use search engines when they are browsing the Internet looking for products or services. Shopping cart search engine optimization helps to ensure that a web page created by shopping cart software will appear when customers perform a relevant search for the products or services it offers.
While some shopping cart software simply provides a way for customers to select the items or services they wish to purchase, most shopping cart programs today also help to create a storefront or online catalog and to manage the online store. This can be a great asset to web site owners who want to simplify the job of managing their web site, but it can create a problem if the shopping cart software is not search engine friendly or does not allow for search engine optimization. Shopping cart software that does not include search engine optimization may decrease the number of potential customers who reach a site.
Search engine optimization allows a web site to be easily found when search engines crawl and index their page. In this process, the search engine sends a program called a spider to crawl through a web page and gather information about key words and phrases found on the page. The page is then indexed according to the information the spider provides. If a web page is updated, the index will be updated soon after. When a potential customer performs a search, the search engine uses the information from the index to return web pages that appear to be the best matches for the search. Search engine optimization is creating web pages that are more likely to be pulled up, and ranked among the first results, when relevant searches are performed.
The exact formula used to find and rank web pages varies according to search engine, and changes over time, but there are some things that generally help web pages to rank well:
- URL that contains descriptive words and not a series of number or symbols
- Title of the page reflects the keywords and description for the items on the page
- Keywords are found frequently on the page, in text that is user-friendly
- Meta data like tags and descriptions relate to the search keywords. This is information about the web page that users rarely see, but search engine spiders may read through.
- Quality links to the page from other relevant web pages
This applies as much to web pages created by shopping cart software as any other web pages, but shopping cart software does not always support search engine optimization. For instance, if your shopping cart software automatically creates a web page for a purple kitchen gizmo with a URL like www.yourstore.com/catalog/4739nr8, this URl will not rank as high as one that is www.yourstore.com/catalog/purple-kitchen-gizmo. So for search engine optimization, shopping cart software should automatically create URLs, titles, and meta data that are relevant to the search keywords that apply to the page, or they should allow the web site owner or designer to do so. It is also helpful for search engine optimization if the shopping cart software creates pages that can link to each other and to the store’s home page, if the structure or navigation of the pages are easy for search engines and users to follow, and if the pages are heavier on well-written text and HTML, and lighter on Flash or other media.
Some web site owners prefer to hire a web designer or SEO specialist to help them with their web page design or shopping cart software selection. Though this can be a good solution for web site owners who don’t have the time or experience to design pages for search engine optimization, it can lead to problems for the web site owner if the designer or SEO specialist uses unscrupulous tactics for search engine optimization. These may cause a short term improvement in rankings, but can lead to a web site being removed from search engines indexes. Research the reputation and track record of anyone you are hiring to do search engine optimization with your shopping cart or web pages, and watch for red flags like designers who claim to know insider secrets or promise too-good-to-be-true results. Ask for details about what they will do, and do your own research to find out if any of the tactics they use are restricted by the major search engines like Google, Yahoo!, or MSN.
Beware of search engine optimization shopping cart software that promises to be search engine friendly but doesn’t specify how it will accomplish this. Also, it is always wise to be cautious about shopping cart software that promises amazing results, like top placement in search results or a special inside track for certain search engines. Because search engine rankings are based on a variety of factors that change from time to time, the best way to achieve search engine optimization with your shopping cart software is to create web pages with good text and content, and then build your web site with shopping cart software that allows you to use appropriate keywords and phrases in your URL, titles, and meta data.