Optimize Shopping Cart Product Pages for SEO
  Last Edited - 05/1/2013 8:37pm PDT
  Category Path - Editorial > Blogs > Tips, Tricks and Astounding Revelations
ecommerce product pageProduct information pages are, arguably, the very heart and soul of any online store. Unfortunately, the way that most shopping cart software is set up gives Google, and other search engines, difficulty when they try to index them.

Modular Merchant includes a suite of features that give an ecommerce site an advantage when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization). However, even with the odds stacked in your favor, there's still more steps that can be taken to make life easier for the search engines that browse the product pages in your store.

Following is a checklist of several things that you can do to optimize your store's product pages, so they're ready and waiting when the search engine spiders come a'crawling. This checklist is geared towards making it easier for the search engines to find, index and rank the storefront's product pages — without sacrificing usability for your customers.

don't neglect customers for the sake of seo
Neglecting customers when you're making optimizations for search engines can lead to changes that may make search engines take notice, but make it more difficult for potential customers to find the products they're looking for and purchase them from your website.

An example would be making improvements to a page's title and keywords, but overlooking the page description that will be displayed to customers in the search engine results. This can result in the page being found and listed by the search engine, but the lack of a compelling description prevents the user from clicking its link.

One of the tricks to search engine optimization is to strike a balance between the changes "under the hood" that the customer will never see and those displayed on-screen — while keeping the page coherent.
The Objectives

The target is to increase the storefront's traffic and sales. To achieve this, focus on the following.

Get Crawled 1. Get Crawled
A search engine must be able to find the product page in your online store in order to index it. One of the ways Modular Merchant provides this functionality is by generating a comprehensive XML sitemap containing all of your store's products, categories, vendors and custom webpages. This gives search engine spiders a list of the content that's available for indexing.
Get Indexed 2. Get Indexed
However, just because a search engine finds a webpage doesn't automatically mean that it will index it. The odds of being indexed can be increased by improving the website's reputation, obtaining more inbound links on quality websites, publishing unique content and removing duplicate content.
Get Ranked 3. Get Ranked
The good news is that you can have a direct impact on having your storefront found and indexed by search engines. The page rank issued by the search engines is a bit trickier. A page's ranking can be positively influenced by focusing each page on a small set of keywords. Each page's keywords should be determined beforehand.
Stay Relevant 4. Stay Relevant
This is an ongoing process of improving each product page's content, including: titles, descriptions and adding rich snippet markup (see info on rich snippets below). Continual improvements to the online store's product pages will make them more appealing to search engines; resulting in higher rankings and more traffic.

Adjusting Store Settings
Following is a list of several settings in the shopping cart software that can be used when adjusting product pages for search engine optimization.
Search Engine Optimized URLs

First, set the shopping cart software to use SEO-friendly URLs for the product, category, vendor and custom webpages in the storefront by following these steps:
  1. In the store's Administration Area, go to [Admin > System Settings].
  2. In the Display Settings area, enable the setting titled Use SEO-Friendly URLs In Storefront by setting its value to "YES".
  3. In the field named Separate Words in URLs With, select your preference: either separate words with a hyphen or an underscore.
    hyphen or underscore? the agony of choice.
    Is there a difference between separating words in your website's URLs with hyphens vs. underscores? Do search engines prefer one over the other? Our research suggests not. However, some users have been adamant about using one format over the other, so the option to chose the desired format has been made available.
  4. Click any of the Save Changes button at the bottom of the page. These changes will take effect in your storefront immediately.

All the cool stores separate words in their SEO-Friendly URLs with hyphens.

Once this setting is saved, all of the product links that the store generates will be changed from the default format to one that is optimized for search engines.

For example, a product named "Robot Butler Repair Kit" would have its storefront URL change from the default format like this:
to an SEO-friendly format like this:

The URLs for category pages, vendor pages and custom webpages will also be changed to this format.
Search Engine Sitemap

Next, enable the automated sitemap. This will create a sitemap of your entire store catalog in XML format, making it easier for Google and other search engines to find and index the pages of your storefront.
  1. In the store's Administration Area, go to [Modules > 3rd Party Integration > Google Sitemap Integration].
  2. On that page, set the option titled Include Products in Sitemap to "YES".
  3. Optionally, you can also include the pages for the categories and vendors in the sitemap too by setting those options to "YES".
  4. Click the Save Changes button to record these settings.
noindex/nofollow Commands

You can further improve your store's search engine optimization by preventing them from crawling non-optimized storefront pages. This can be achieved by adding a "noindex/nofollow" meta tag to those page's HTML templates. Common pages for this procedure include the: "My Account," "My Wishlist," "My Cart," "Checkout," and "Login" pages, since those pages don't usually contain valuable content for search engines.

For example, this is how the "noindex/nofollow" robot tag could be added to a store's "Wish List" page:
  1. In the store's Administration Area, go to [Design > Template Package Sandbox].
  2. Select wish_list.tpl from the list of templates available in the package. Clicking on the name of the template will load it in the editor.
    adding missing templates
    If the wish_list.tpl template is not present in the Template Package that you are working with, you can add it easily by using the Populate Templates tool that's available within the Template Package Sandbox.
  3. In the Template Editor section of the page, add the following within the <head>...</head> section of the template's HTML code:
    <meta name="robots" content="noindex, follow">
  4. In the File Options section of the page, select Save and click the Save Changes button.
The store's Wish List page, which uses the wish_list.tpl template, will now instruct search engine spiders that they are not to index that page, but they will still be allowed to follow any links to other pages it contains.
Optimizing Product Information

Once a search engine finds your store's product pages, make sure that it likes what it sees. Some tips on improving a product page's content to entice search engine spiders include:

Product Descriptions
Make the descriptions for each product unique and engaging. Avoid using any generic product descriptions that were provided by vendors.

Edit each product's Short Description and Long Description in the Product Editor to make them at least one hundred words long and informative.

Editing the short and long descriptions in the Product Editor.

Product descriptions also include the "description" meta tag. Even though this tag doesn't carry the SEO clout it once did, it can still be a useful way to inform search engines of the preferred content to display about the page in their search results. The meta description should motivate users to click on the link to your page!

Related Products
The list of Related Products tool is an excellent way to generate a list of links to similar products to a product's storefront page. A series of links to similar items can improve a page's reputation rating. However, the list of related products shouldn't be abused. Making the list of related products too long will damage the page's reputation.

Product Reviews
Product Reviews add valuable content to a product's storefront page. Better yet, it's content that you don't have to write yourself! Modular Merchant allows the product reviews to be included right there on a product's storefront page, instead of being listed on a separate page. This approach benefits your product's search engine optimization.

Product Names and Other Characteristics
Make sure the title of the product's page is the product name, and that the product name is present on the page and is encapsulated within an H1 tag. (Modular Merchant's shopping cart pages do this by default.) There should also be only one H1 tag on the page. For most ecommerce sites, the product name is best keyword the product detail page can rank for.

The second best keyword is generally the Part Number/SKU/ISBN — or any unique product identifier that might be used to search for the product. This part number can be a key identifier for a search engine spider, so it should be wrapped within an H2 tag. (Modular Merchant's shopping cart pages do this by default.) As with the H1 tag, there should only be one H2 tag present on the page.

Rich Snippets
Provide search engines with the raw facts about each of your products by adding rich snippet markup to each product page in your online store. Rich snippets are invisible elements that provide search engines with pertinent information about your product, such as: name, price, category, availability, etc.

If rich snippets are present in the source code of your online store's product pages, then it will help them to stand out to search engines. (Modular Merchant's shopping cart pages include rich snippet data by default.)
In Summary

Product pages may be the most important pages in your online store to optimize for search engines. It doesn't happen overnight, and it should be a continuing, ongoing process. Putting the suggestions above into practice will be a good first step towards making your ecommerce website more attractive to search engine spiders.
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