Find this page online at: http://developers.evrsoft.com/article/internet-marketing/seo/how-to-shop-for-a-search-engine-friendly-shopping-cart-solution.shtml

How To Shop For A Search Engine Friendly Shopping Cart Solution?

By Kamran Rizvi
Posted Friday, November 12, 2004

So you've finally realized that the best shopping cart solution, currently being utilized by your website doesn't answer an important question. How to attract the masses searching for related products on Google to your store?

The era for first generation of shopping carts is almost over. Where the basic purpose for programmers was to design a database solution for the netpreneur to deploy his e-business plan with ease. Shopping carts existed to automate most of the tasks for this netpreneur while providing a fast and friendly transaction-processing interface to the buyers. However the lack of advertising funds and conversion ratio analysis of visitors from search engines have shifted the emphasis from business automation to 'SEO friendliness' of the shopping cart itself. "Inquiries for a custom installation of search engine friendly cart have almost tripled from last year" says Abid Malik, CEO of ebanyan.com, a shopping cart solution provider.

Developers have also addressed this need by coming up with various versions of shopping cart solutions that build search engine optimized catalog of products. Some with solid features and some with just marketing hype. This article will help you differentiate the two.

The unfriendliest feature of a typical shopping cart is its url structure. Most of the pages are generated on the fly through a database query. The url's resulting from these queries have two basic problems. Firstly the very popular '?' mystery. Secondly, the less talked about loss of heirarchy in shopping cart's catalog.

The '?' in urls' is not that big mystery now, as it was a couple of years back. Google was the first to update its technology to make room for it, other engines have been following and catching up on this issue. However the second problem we mentioned above is the real reason why your catalog needs static urls.

We need to guide the spider where we have grouped our similar content. For example, it should know that there's a folder called 'routers' which mainly has files associated with cisco routers. Then within this folder, there are different series of routers, 2600, 1700 etc,. Compare the following two URL's:

Style1
(www.some-cisco-reseller.net/1700.htm)
(www.some-cisco-reseller.net/2600.htm)
(www.some-cisco-reseller.net/3625.htm)

Style2
(www.some-cisco-reseller.net/cisco/routers/index.asp)
(www.some-cisco-reseller.net/cisco/routers/1700.asp)
(www.some-cisco-reseller.net/cisco/routers/2600.asp)

Needless to say that the 'Style1' ignores the importance of grouping the content in specific folders (unless you are only dealing in one product category) and thereby will not achieve higher rankings for general category searches like 'cisco routers'. The more the spider familiarizes itself with your website, the folders you have for various categories of products, the chances are that it will increase your ranking for those product category searches.

This logic is also justified by the theme-based algorithmic elements of today's search engines. If the grouping of content is nicely laid out in catalog's urls', you make spider's life easy thereby gaining more points in the relevancy algorithm.

Apart from the SE friendly URLs', we need to customize a few html elements for each page. For example the 'title' tag should be different for each page. Instead of having a 'Welcome To XYZ Network Corp.', we should have the product name, category name and the company name in the title tag. Having specific product ID keywords like MEM-RSM-128M (cisco memory module) in the title tag will also boost your rankings. There should also be room for custom meta tags for each product page as well as some bolded text or headlines should be generated on each product/category main page using important keywords.

To conclude we can say that 'Not All SEO Friendly Carts Are Created Equal'. So make sure you check the SEO features in detail or get an expert's opinion before investing in a new solution.

You have permission to publish this article electronically or in print, in your Newsletter, on your website, or in your E-Book, as long as the author's Resource Box is included with the article.

About The Author:
Kamran Rizvi is a web marketing consultant and an expert at Google. Visit his website Alwaiz-Arts.com to learn more about the web marketing and offshore software development services he offers.