ViArt - PHP Shopping Cart

Internet Shopping Carts and SEO - A Small Business Guide

Internet shopping carts can be user-friendly, enticing to the eye and abide by every standard for web accessibility and usability going.  However, if its target audience is not seeing it, it may as well not exist.  This article recommends guidelines you may follow when pursuing efforts to achieve higher rankings for your chosen keywords.

When ranking Internet shopping carts and web portals, the search engines take 3 factors into account: Onpage SEO factors, Accessibility SEO factors and most importantly Off-page SEO factors.

On-Page SEO factors

On-page SEO refers to what can be done on the page of a website to improve its performance in the SERPs for target keywords entered by a user.   

By efficiently optimising a website for popular keywords related to the on-page content, a website has a better chance of ranking well for keywords relevant to the content of the site. 

Before pursuing SEO strategies like those explained below, it is extremely important to get your keyword strategy right. When selecting the right key phrases to optimize each page on a website for it is necessary to start with what your targeted visitors would type in.  While broad phrases such as ‘watches’ may bring more traffic to a shopping cart selling watches, than more specific keywords such as ‘Leather strap watches’ and ‘Rolex watches’, the traffic will not be as focused and will generally not convert.

More importantly, broad phrases are very competitive - They are extremely hard to rank effectively for.  To get your keyword strategy right it is worth doing some research; there’s lots of information available across the web and there’s many tools available to help you with this task.
Once you have a selection of key terms you are happy with, I would recommend analysing the following components on your website with a view of optimising them for your target key terms, taking into account that they should each be relevant to the contents of that page:

  1. Title Tags
  2. META Tags
  3. The anchor text of your internal link structure
  4. Heading Tags (< H1> to < H6>)
  5. URLs
  6. Content syndication

It is also very important to frequently add fresh content relevant to your industry to your website.  By doing so, the more often your site content changes, the more frequently the search engine spiders will visit your shopping portal.  In this case you may think about adding a web blog/ RSS feed to your website. 

RSS feeds enable others to syndicate your content and can increase brand awareness.  By adding closely themed news regularly to RSS feeds it means search engines are more likely to recognise the sites as being acutely themed.

Accessibility and SEO factors

The goal of accessibility in SEO is to make content accessible to search engines.  This refers primarily to the technical ability of search engine spiders to move through your site. 
Thankfully, if you design your shopping carts with accessability issues in mind from the start; making your site accessible to web users whom are blind, deaf and viewing your site using text only browsers, you will find you are already practicing effective SEO.

Amongst many, the following components are some of the most important accessibility issues that spring to mind.  You may consider taking a look at the W3C guidelines (http://www.w3.org/WAI/), and identifying those that can affect search engine spiders crawling your site. 

  1.  CSS

Search engines favour CSS based sites, and are likely to score them higher in the SERPs because there is more content compared to code.

  1. ALT Tags

By assigning ALT text the search engines will be able to understand your images and thus build up an understanding about the topic of your site.

  1. Sitemaps

A site map provides search engines with access to every main page on your website, and allows them to instantly index your entire site.  Sitemaps ‘Autodiscovery’, the new model recently launched by Google, Yahoo and Ask, enables you to submit your content to the search engines universally (http://www.viart.com/shoppingcartsoftware/2007/04/16/sitemaps-made-simple/).

Off Page SEO factors

With so many websites and shopping carts interested in ranking well for particular search terms, the search engines have learned that they cannot always rely on a website’s on-page content. 

The theory is that if hundreds or thousands of links are pointing to a website your site must be important.  If those links are from very popular and trustworthy sites that have thousands of links pointing to them, then their value is multiplied.  If a site is deemed popular and authoritative in this way, it has a greater probability of appearing highly in the SERPs for a given search term. 

The following strategies outline ways you may generate inbound links from external websites to your shopping carts. While each approach concentrates on generating links for the sole purpose of getting a better search ranking, each technique can also help to drive targeted traffic to a site from other relevant sites.

  1. Article Writing and Distribution

By writing articles and allowing them to be freely published in exchange for a back link, articles have the potential to be re-published multiple times; each time creating another back link to your website.

  1. Press Release Writing and Distribution

By sending news about your company through various channels of distribution it is likely to receive recognition by related sites, and thus be re-published and generate back links.

Press release and article distribution can also help to brand your business as an expert in your field.

  1. Social Media Optimisation

Social media optimisation is quite a complexed subject and does not involve one process like article and press release distribution.  In short it refers to optimising your website so it is more interlaced with online communities. 

Methods of SMO include syndicating your online content through RSS feeds and enabling means of social interaction, such as bookmarking capabilities.  Social bookmarking sites work in a very similar way to your browser favourites functionality. The list of most visited or bookmarked pages appear in the first page of most of the bookmarking web sites. This would give your web site very good exposure.

SMO may also include getting involved in communities that gather on popular website like Flickr and YouTube.  If you are able to build up a network of contacts and bloggers, links, traffic and conversions are sure to follow.

In conclusion, there is ample free advice out there in this field that will help you to achieve your shopping cart goals, however there’s no avoiding the fact that SEO is time consuming.  As a first step, it is important that you start building your shopping cart using software that supports search engine features.

About the Author

Viart (http://www.viart.com/) provide PHP shopping cart software worldwide.
 
The company are currently providing a fully hosted 30-day trial of their PHP Internet shopping carts.

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