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SEO friendliness - An overview

If you develop an eCommerce site, considering SEO and online marketing is as important as what you develop as the end product. Normally, People who wants to develop an eCommerce site for get to plan for making the site ready for SEO during the development, But making a plan for SEO readiness is as importent as developing the eCommerce site functions.

Unlike content sites driveing traffic to ecommerce sites which are database driven and quite often the products might be changingand hence may not get a good place in the search results. But the good news is an eCommerce site can be optimized the same way as a content site by adding related keywords. By identifying some of the key issues in a dynamic site that keeps the site away from Search results, we bring the eCommerce site also in better positions in the search result pages.

Creating static pages:

The first is to create a front-end site separate from the shopping cart. You will create a number of pages that can be easily spidered (assuming that they’re well organized and optimised for Search engines). The drawback to this course of action is that your website will forever be limited to the size of the front-end site, managing such sites with large number of products would be painful.

Off-the-self Shopping carts:

This drawback brings us to turn towards the second option: Choose a search engine friendly shopping cart system.

Finding a SEO-friendly shopping cart system is far easier said than done. There are many factors that have to be taken into account including the spider ability of the pages themselves, the customization capacity of the individual pages, the ease of adding products and changing the pages down the road, etc.

Electronic commerce over the Internet is predicted to grow at an ever-increasing rate over the next few years, with the on-line sales already heading towards several billion. Many companies are using this new sales channel, and a few retailers have now established major on-line sales sites. They have proved to be successful, particularly in technology, business-to-business.

A typical eCommerce homepage has the company logo, some company specific information at the top, side bar navigation at the left, more prominent navigation in the middle of the page and featured products and sales on the right side of the page. To achieve the target of your online-business and ROI, search engine friendly eCommerce sites should be developed.

The header, which is typically an include file on each page, contains the company logo and top bar navigation. The logo should be a link to your homepage, and contain an alt tag, and possibly a title attribute in the link tag. The remaining top navigation can be in neatly formatted text links. There is no real reason to make these top navigational links graphic buttons like many eCommerce sites currently do. Instead, use simple text links and format them with cascading style sheets to make them look nice. Another tip is to dynamically change the alternative text tag for the company logo for each page to represent the same text you have on the title of the page. This way, when you conduct a site: www.yourdomain.com lookup in Google, it will display all the pages of the site, and does not give you the annoying message of omitted results because they seemed to be duplicate. For usability and credibility reasons, always include the store's phone number in a location that is clearly visible on each page. Henceforth, many sites include this information in the header file.

How to develop eCommerce catalog considering search engine optimisation?


To Do 1: Dynamic Title & Meta Tags:

Page title should contain the category name, if you are on the category page. And similarly it should have the sub category name, if you are on the sub category page. For example, let's take a Web site that sells compact discs .So if we are on the audio compact disc page within the compact disc section, you might want to target the keyword phrase " audio compact disc " for the title of that page. The Meta tags can have this information as well.

The syntax for the Meta description you can be, "Find [sub category name] at [product store name]". And for the Meta keywords you can use the following syntax for the category and sub category pages; "[category name plural, category name singular, category name misspelling1, category name misspelling2, category name misspellingN, sub category name plural, sub category name singular, sub category name misspelling1, sub category name misspelling2, sub category name misspellingN]".

Control panel application at the backend can used to generate dynamic title and tags for Category product pages. Control panel application can be built with an option to create new product pages and to add title; Meta tag and alt tag features for creating product pages, so that each and every product page has its own unique title, Meta tag and alt tag according to product. On doing this, your page can be indexed to the major search engines according to category title and tags.

To do 2: Logo and Image alt tags:

The S.E. Friendly logo can be either text based or a graphic. Mostly the logo will be a graphic. When it's a graphic, dynamically insert the alternative text to read [category name from store name] with alt tags. The reason we use this is because when we check to see if the pages are indexed in the search engines, the search engines normally pull the top most content. If the top most content is the logo, and if the logo has the same alternative text on every page, the results will normally be filtered.

Each and every category and sub category product page has product images. And these Images should be added with alt tags related to product names. A backend control panel can be created to control these logo and images. Control panel application can be built with option to create new product pages images with alt tags related to product name, so that each and every product pages images have their individual names according to products. By this idea your product image alt tag page can be indexed to major search engines according to category and sub category.

To do 3: Header tags and dynamic breadcrumb trail:

It is recommended to have the category or sub category name repeated in the header tag (<h1>) and (<h2>) towards the top of the page.

Each category and sub category product page has its own product name. h1 and h2 should be added related to product names. Creating a backend control panel can control these h1 and h2 tags for product pages. Control panel application can be built with option to create new product page h1 and h2 tags to product name, so that each and every product pages h1 and h2 have their individual names according to products. By this idea your product name with h1 and h2 can be indexed to major search engines according to category and sub category.

Also towards the top of the page, you could place a "breadcrumb trail". A bread crumb trail is a little text based line that shows you the click path you took to get the current page. So, if you click from the home page to the compact disc page and then to audio compact disc page, the breadcrumb would read "home -> compact disc -> audio compact disc ". You should make breadcrumb text links to the appropriate pages. So the " compact disc " part of the breadcrumb trail will link back to that page. Not only is this a great usability feature, but search engines love it also. This way you are including keywords with links as internal links.

A sample dynamic breadcrumb code written in PHP can seen as follows:

Breadcrumb Code:

/* ---------------------------------------------- */
/* ------------ BEGIN PHP SNIPPET ----------------*/
/* ---------------------------------------------- */

// $this_cat_id: the current category id number
// $flarn: just a counter, call it as 0 in your
// function call and forget about it
// $keep_cat_id: the cat id number again - so that
// it can decide whether to make a
// category a link at the top while you're in the
// "product" page

function get_crumbs($this_cat_id, $flarn, $keep_cat_id) {

$link_to_page=$_SERVER['PHP_SELF'];


if (!isset($this_cat_id)) {
// if we are already "home", dont make home a link
$this_cat_id ="0";
echo "Home >> ";
}


// get the info and parent id for whatever category
// we're currently in
$sql = "SELECT id, parent_id, name from categories ";
$sql .="where id = $this_cat_id";
$show_crumb_<font class="highlight"><font class="highlight">trail</font></font> = mysql_query($sql);
$num_crumbs = mysql_num_rows($show_crumb_<font class="highlight"><font class="highlight">trail</font></font>);
// if we actually have some results....
if ($num_crumbs > 0) {
list($cat_id, $cat_parent, $cat_name) =
mysql_fetch_row($show_crumb_<font class="highlight"><font class="highlight">trail</font></font>);
$cat_id_array[$flarn] = $cat_id;
$cat_parent_id_array[$flarn] = $cat_parent;
$cat_name_array[$flarn] = $cat_name;
if ($cat_id_array[$flarn] > 0) {
mysql_free_result($show_crumb_<font class="highlight"><font class="highlight">trail</font></font>);
// increment $next by one
$next = $flarn+1;
if ($flarn == 0 ) {
echo "<a href="/">Home</a> >> ";
}
// now lets call the function again to loop through
// the other categories
// until we're left with none
get_crumbs($cat_parent_id_array[$flarn], $next, $keep_cat_id);
// Since $keep_cat_id is the id number of original
// category we're in,
// now we check to see whether or not we have to
// make the real category
// name a link or not
// (If we're looking at the main category display,
// we wouldn't have to,
// since we're already *in* the category. This is
// more useful for when you have a product
// display page, that way the link back to the
// category that item or product lives in
// will be created

if ($keep_cat_id==$cat_id_array[$flarn]) {
echo $cat_name_array[$flarn];
} else {
echo "<a href="/">";
echo "$cat_name_array[$flarn]</a> >> ";

}
}
}
}



You would call the function using something like this:
get_crumbs($_REQUEST['cat_id'], "0", $_REQUEST['cat_id'];

For more detail click the below link
http://www.snipe.net/content/view/11/34/

To do 4: Top, Side and Footer Navigations:

Repeated throughout the site, and always in the same location on the all the pages, your user should be able to find the site navigation easy. Consistent navigation will make Web visitors happy and such visitors are more likely to buy. Many eCommerce stores remove the side navigation from the checkout pages, in order not to distract the customer from the buying process. This side bar navigation should be HTML. It will act as a mini site map on every page. Search engines love it and so do your Web visitors.

Footer text links can allow you to use optimized text throughout your site to help search engines define what exactly different pages are about. Optimised text can be your product category name and sub category name.

To do 5: Left Side Navigation:

The specialty of the left hand side navigation is its ability to solve two common eCommerce issues.

The first being usability. Having a well-defined left hand side navigation bar can provide a level of clarity to the Web site. Visitors will know how to easily navigate throughout your site as long as you keep the navigation consistent throughout each and every page.

The second is search engine visibility. It is easy for search engines to crawl and then index your Web pages when you have a mini site map on the left side of each page.

Crawlers need a method of locating your pages. Many sites that exist today make it hard for crawlers to locate these pages on your site. If your left hand side navigation is designed in Flash, then most search engines will have a hard time finding the links within Flash files. The search engines will not be able to locate the pages behind the Flash files. A text based side bar will work well helping the crawlers to navigate throughout your site. It also provides an easy shopping for your customers.

To do 6: Homepage Content Area

Having content on the homepage will have an impact on your search engine rankings of the eCommerce sites. It is the content that the search engines look for while determining a page.The content should read well and contain your targeted keywords. Google will normally use the content on the page for your description in the results page when your homepage is being ranked for a specific keyword. Try to have an easy to read and catchy content.

A "footer" remains an important final touch to the site. At the bottom of the homepage and on every page throughout the site is the site's footer.

Remember the search engines have to click on links in order to find your pages. The right hand side products and specials are there to increase those products visibility for search engines and your customer.

To do 7: Dynamic URLs in Search Engine Address Bar

Dynamic server-side Web technologies such as Hypertext PreProcessor (.php), Java Server Pages (.jsp), Active Server Pages (.asp), ColdFusion (.cfm) and Perl are use to develop web sites with a large number of pages. These technologies provide programmers with the tools to build sites so that adding product or pages does not require extensive HTML work. In reality, all high volume sites must use one of these technologies in order to maximize efficiency and stay profitable.

However, the issues that are to be addressed in regard to the way search engines crawl a dynamically driven Web site. These issues do not have to do with the pages that are generated, but with the URLs these technologies generate.

In order to have a better understanding of what a search engine looks for, let us take a sample URL and discover it.

A simple standard URL would look something like:

http://www.yourdomain.com/yourproduct.html

A complex URL would look something like: http://www.Yourdomain.com/catalog.php?formid=4&id=8&bookrate=&bookno=§ion=book

The first thing you notice is the .php extension, and you might think that the .php extension is causing the issue. That is not the case. Next you will notice the question marks, equal signs, and ampersands within the URL. These question marks, equal signs and ampersands are what are commonly referred to as "stop characters" in search engine optimization terminology. They are named stop characters because they signal to search engines to stop crawling past a certain point, limiting the number of pages crawled on your site.

The search engine would like to index pages that are unique. Search engines decide to combat this issue by "pruning off" the URLs after a specific number of variable strings (i.e. ?, =. &).

For example, the URL http://www.yourdomain.com/client_portfolio_list.php?company=10
Might be pruned down to http://www.yourdomain.com/client_portfolio_list.php by the search engine in order to limit the number of repeated content.

For this case, there are numerous methods of finding the same product and with an unlimited number of pages, how do we get the search engine to find each product and each method of finding that product? Search engines want to keep the number of pages that a site contains to a minimum in order to (1) eliminate duplicate search results with the same content and (2) to make the crawling of the pages efficient.

The solution for php is the program called Mod_Rewrite on the URLs to remove the stop characters from the URLs.

A URL that once looked like

http://www.Yourdomain.com/catalog.php?formid=4&id=8&bookrate=&bookno=§ion=book
to something like
http://www.Yourdomain.com/catalog_section_book_id_6.html

All stop characters could be replaced with underscores and more friendly URL characters and names.

For more information on Mod_Rewrite please visit the Apache module mod_rewrite page at: http://httpd.apache.org/docs/mod/mod_rewrite.html

The solution for ASP.NET support for URL Rewriting

Void HttpContext.RewritePath(string path)

Which should be called during the Application_BeginRequest() event in the Global.asax file. This is fine as long as the number of URLs to rewrite is a small, finite, managable number. However most ASP sites are in some way dynamic, passing parameters in the Query String, so it requires a much more configurable approach.

The storage location for all ASP.NET Configuration information is the web.config file, so we'd really like to specify the rewrites in there. Additionally, .Net has a fast regular expression processor, giving free and fast search and replace of URLs.

For more information on ASP.NET URL Rewriting please visit
http://www.codeproject.com/aspnet/URLRewriter.asp

The solution for ASP support for URL Rewriting

( i) The ISAPI filter rewrites/replaces defined parts of URL from browser. It enables URL to scripts (.asp, .cgi, .idc) with parameters look like static html pages or specifies exact download filename generated by script. You can also create a simple proxy server with IIS and any script engine (.asp,. aspx, …) using URL replacer.

For more information on ASP URL Rewriting please visit

http://www.motobit.com/help/url-replacer-rewriter/iis-mod-rewrite.asp

(ii) You built an eCommerce Web site that is entirely dynamic, but you don't show up in the major search engines' results,

Take a look at the following URL from a Web store:

http://www.yourwebstore.com/products.asp?pid=1000

The above URL is ignored by search engines if found in a referring page. However, the URL generated by PortalPageFilter isn't:

http://www.yourwebstore.com/PPF/pid/1000/products.asp

All you have to do is call a function provided below to generate the URL on the referring page, but the calling page does not need to be modified. Refer to PortalPageFilter URL below

http://www.alfasierrapapa.com/Products/PortalPageFilter/

To do 8: The Category or Sub Category Pages

Category and sub category landing pages are not only a must have for usability purposes but a necessity for search engine visibility. The category pages are a way to break down your product offerings into a logical and meaningful classification. By classifying or grouping your products into categories, you will be able to help your user better locate the product they are looking for and help the searcher land directly on the page he or she is searching for.

For example, let's take same Web site that sells compact discs. The company can break down their products into three main categories. The main categories can be Video compact discs, software compact discs And Audio Compact Discs. Your goal, as an SEO, is to target the keyword phrases " Video compact discs ", " software compact discs and " Audio Compact Discs " respectively. Within these three main categories, you will most probably want to break down into several deeper sub categories. For example, the Audio Compact Discs can contain the following sub categories; pop, rocks, classical, western and so on. By now you can see why category and sub category pages are a necessity for both the customers and search engines.

To do 9: Product display/Sub category display:

In the middle portion of the page you should list out the products within that category or sub category. You can also have a breakdown of more filter options. So when you are in the category page, it is a good idea to have text links in that middle portion to the sub category pages. It is also important to have product on those pages, for those consumers who are not sure what they want. The product information should contain simple text based links to the product detail page. The link should contain the product name, a short product description underneath, and then an eye catching "buy now" or "more info" button. The product image should be clear, attractive and large enough to entice a user's action. The product image should contain alternative text with the product name and link to the product detail page. Filters for the category or sub category pages can work to your benefit. Filtering by brand, price, size, or any other product attribute will give you a better shot at ranking well for more keyword phrases.

To do 10: The Brand Landing Pages

The brand landing pages work much like the category landing pages. They provide an extra level of product navigation that is useful for your consumer and great for your keyword rankings. With a brand landing page you can target keyword phrases that are searched for daily. For example, I am looking for compact disc products, and I might search on " audio compact disc ". Your goal is to rank somewhere under the official audio compact disc. But you can target phrases even deeper then that, such as English audio songs, Engish pop songs. The on page construction works exactly the same way as the category or sub category pages but you should substitute the proper keywords in the relevant places. I have provided a mock up of a brand page that is targeting a specific sub category of a brand below.

To do 11: The Product Page

Product pages are the easiest pages to rank well because they target the most specific keywords. It is thus important to properly name the product by keeping your Web visitors and the search engines in mind. Your product pages are constructed similarly to the category or brand pages but they are focused around the keyword phrases that match that specific product. Let's start from the top of the product page and discuss what elements are important to include.

Other technique and solution to convert eCommerce site into search engine friendly


Why shopping cart is not search engine friendly?

It is extremely imperative that you setup your eCommerce site to use search engine-friendly URLs and if you can help it, meaningful identifiers. Most eCommerce sites are database driven and by default most shopping carts are not search engine friendly. This presents a very large problem because search engine may have trouble navigating to your product pages. Letting a search engine index your home page is not enough because people often search for exact products. For instance if you ran a golf store you would find that while some people do search for "golf clubs" they usually search for a specific brand or model club.

What Session Ids do?

This goes along with search engine-friendly URLs but it is so important it deserves it's own section. Most shopping carts end up putting session IDs in the URL in order to track visitors, something that is required for shopping carts to function. You'd be much better off storing the information in cookies if you can so that if someone wants to link to one of your products they won't end up linking to a URL with a session ID in it. However that doesn't address the issue of search engines because even if you use cookies by default in most cases you'll still end up putting the ID in the URL for a search engine because search engines do not accept cookies.
There are three ways you can handle this situation. One way is to detect search engines by accessing the HTTP_USER_AGENT variable and to turn tracking off for them. This is technically cloaking, however it is benign as you're using it to show the search engines what your visitors can see. Of course malicious cloaking is showing search engines something your visitors do not see.

The other way to handle this is to detect if cookies are turned on. You do this by writing a cookie and then immediately trying to read from it. If you cannot read from it then the client does not have cookies turned on and you can then turn tracking off. This has the benefit of working for all search engines, regardless if you know their user agent or not. However, this also means that if a real person doesn't have cookies turned on they won't be tracked either.
The third way to handle this is to simply turn tracking off for everyone until someone logs in, tries to view their cart, and or adds a product to their cart. Since you will make it impossible for a search engine to do any one of those things this means that users will all have the functionality they need when they need it, and search engines will not be hindered.

Why Some Ecom Pages don't need PageRank?

PageRank is passed from page to page via links and the more links on a page the less each link gets. So if you have 5 links on a page and 4 go to pages that you want to have PageRank and one goes to a page that you don't want to have PageRank then you're sending 20% of the possible PR from that page to a place that doesn't need it. This is a problem.

For an eCommerce site you have quite a few pages that don't need PageRank. For instance, every single "My Account" "Your Cart" and or "Add to Cart" link is potentially draining PageRank from your product pages. This is bad. There is no reason that a search engine needs to see these pages. A search engine isn't a shopper after all. The solution is to make sure the search engines do not see these pages. You can do this by using form or JavaScript based navigation to access these pages (which a search engine cannot follow) but by far the easiest way to do this is to simply use robots.txt to deny them access. Doing this will stem any potential PR loss, which will in turn raise the PR of the rest of the pages on your site.

Dynamic tags for product pages by control panel

In eCommerce sites, dynamic tags for product pages can be generated with the help of control panel application at backend. Control panel application can be built with option to create new product pages and to add title, Meta tag and alt tag features for created product pages, so that each and every product pages have their individual title, Meta tag and alt tag according to products. By this idea your page can be indexed to major search engines according to tags and link name with product id. Moreover title, Meta and alt tags for product pages with id’s can be created dynamic with the help of control panel.

Now Finalizing!

These issues are not unique to eCommerce sites. Once you address these issues you can work on SEO that is common for any type of site, such as increasing link popularity, using meaningful text links wherever possible for your internal navigation,adding keywords to your title and heading tags, and other things of that nature.

For more details click bellow link

I-Search Engine-Friendly URLs
http://www.sitepoint.com/article/search-engine-friendly-urls

II-Search Engine-Friendly catalog
http://www.nexternal.com/seocatalog

III-Search engine friendly eCommerce / shopping cart
http://www.zwebcommurce.com/index.html

IV-Creating search engine friendly URLs in PHP
http://www.codetricks.com/article.php?cat=&id=12

V-Making Dynamic and eCommerce Sites Search Engine Friendly
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/2161081

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