Feature Spotlight: Built-in SEO (Part 1)

14 July 2009

NitroSell eCommerce uses a number of well-recognized, safe techniques to ensure your webstore’s content is optimized for search engines. For purposes of this post, I’ll be using examples from Cork Art Supplies’ webstore. CAS was our very first customer and their web business has been growing steadily since they first went live in Decemeber 2003!

In part 1, I’ll explain each of the existing features and their implications. In part 2, I’ll be discussing some exciting, newly-added features, which were delivered in our SEO Updates Phase 1 milestone and are now available on the early adopters’ version of the webstore.

Search Engine Friendly URLs

Webstore URLs are “friendly” to both search engines and end users:

Optimized Page Titles and Heading Tags

The page title is the text displayed at the top of your browser window, and is also displayed as the link name in search results. The (h1) heading tag is the main heading displayed on a web page. We automatically generate both the title and heading tags to ensure they correlate and are representative of the content on the page.

Here are the title and heading tags for an example product from Cork Art Supplies:

<title>Sidewalk Chalk Bucket 20 Pack Details - Cork Art Supplies</title>

<h1>Sidewalk Chalk Bucket 20 Pack</h1>

Search result on Google showing page title:

Google Search result for product from Cork Art Supplies

ALT attributes for Product Images

Search engines have no way (yet) of fully understanding the content contained within images, so NitroSell eCommerce makes use of alt attributes in product image tags. This ensures search engines associate the images on your site with content relevant to what you’re selling.

Example product image tag with highlighted ALT attribute:

<img alt="Sidewalk Chalk Bucket 20 Pack" src="/product_images/238498.jpg" />

Furthermore, if you use our Product Attribute Manager (PAM) to assign images, the image names will be automatically set to either the item lookup code (barcode), or the product name, depending on your preference.

META Tag Generation

META tags are HTML tags used to describe the content of web pages. Your NitroSell webstore automatically generates and inserts META tags into department, category and product pages. Two types of META tags are generated – keywords and description tags – and they are populated with relevant data synchronized from your point-of-sale system.

For product pages, META keywords are taken from point-of-sale fields such as the department name, category name, product name, lookup code, brand, theme and sub-descriptions. It’s also possible to populate additional keywords using the Product Attribute Manager (PAM). The META description tag is composed of a combination of the product name and the extended description.

Example of generated META keywords and description tags:

<meta name="keywords" content="Sidewalk Chalk Bucket 20 Pack, Pastels And Crayons, Student Chalks, Pastels And Crayons, Student Chalks, A0030778, S02564, S02564, buy, shop, order, store" />

<meta name="description" content="Sidewalk Chalk Bucket 20 Pack: Colourful chalk perfectly shaped for little hands. Ideal for use on footpaths, schoolyards or playgrounds." />

The automatic generation of META tags ensures the web store has unique descriptions for each page and that each page’s content is accurately summarized for search engines. We never ‘stuff’ META tags with irrelevant keywords, and keeping them up-to-date is simply a matter of keeping your POS data current.

RSS Feeds of Product Panels

Product panels are used to display promotional items on the web store. Any products added to these panels are also automatically maintained in RSS feeds. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and it is a format that enables the syndication of content on third-party web sites.

For example, a customer might add the New Products panel feed to his iGoogle homepage, enabling him to instantly see whenever products are added to your web store.

This is how the New Products feed from Cork Art Supplies appears on iGoogle:

Cork Art Supplies' New Product RSS Feed on iGoogle

RSS is a push technology, in that updates are made available directly to customers, instead of them having to check for updates themselves, thereby helping to drive repeat visits to your webstore, without any additional effort or investment from you.

Automated XML Sitemap

NitroSell eCommerce maintains an XML sitemap that lists all of the URLs on your web store. The sitemap is based on the Sitemaps protocol, which was jointly developed by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask as a means to inform search engines of the URLs available for crawling.

The major search engines auto-discover sitemaps and expect them to reside at a preset location: www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml

You can see an example of a NitroSell sitemap here: http://www.corkartsupplies.com/sitemap.xml

Providing a sitemap ensures that search engines are aware of all the content on your site. What’s more, it’s updated automatically every time your point-of-sale is synchronized with your webstore!

Google Webmaster Tools Integration

As soon as your store is set live, NitroSell adds your site to its Google Webmaster Tools account, verifies it automatically, and submits your XML sitemap. By submitting the sitemap for review, it encourages Google to begin crawling and indexing your new content as soon as possible.

Once Google has begun indexing your site, it typically takes 3-6 months for it to become established, and to begin to appear in relevant search results.

We also continually monitor the Webmaster Tools service so that we are aware of issues that could arise with your site and could negatively impact your performance on Google.

A Small Disclaimer

Please note: the URLs and tags used in this article are for illustrative purposes only. Actual URLs and tags may vary depending on your content and on modifications you have made to your templates in NitroScript.

Although we have hundreds of live webstores and this post is based on empirical evidence, we cannot make any guarantees as to how, when or whether search engines, such as Google, will index your webstore. Search engines are third-party entities, over which we have no control. We do everything we can to get your content listed and ranked, but it is ultimately up to them, and their algorithms, practices and guidelines, as to whether your content is listed or ranked for your desired keywords.