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Why Should You Care About Search Engine Friendly eCommerce Stores?
By: Jessica Sudo, The Intersoft Group, Inc.
January 18, 2007

Most business owners who want to utilize the Internet as another outlet to sell their products or services look to web designers or "Do-It-Yourself" shopping cart software to create their online storefront. This is usually the best place to start, however, it may be the most frustrating. Trying to decide who or what software to use can be both time consuming and confusing. With so many different programming languages, databases and features available, how does one know the best value for their dollar?

As technology advances and more consumers are utilizing the Internet to search and compare products and services, business owners must keep another vital piece of technology in mind. This piece of technology is often what separates the online moneymaking eCommerce stores from those that will not succeed. This piece of technology called SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is marketing for the web. When looking for an eCommerce store, search engine friendly eCommerce software is a feature that any business owner should keep at the top of their list because of its ability to direct consumer traffic to their online store. No matter how visually attractive or easy to navigate a web site is, if prospective customers cannot find the store, the site's quality does not matter.

As a consumer, when you log online to find a product or service where do you usually start? Most consumers begin by utilizing search engines like Google and Yahoo. Have you ever wondered how these search engines get all of those links to different web sites to show you after you've entered in your keywords? Well, it's a very long and detailed algorithmic procedure, but basically search engines have a program called a "Robot" or "Spider". This program "crawls" web pages looking for unique and updated content to add to the search result listings that the search engines show you. In order for these "Robots" to crawl your site they need good links. Most links look something like: This is a high quality link because it is both descriptive and easy for the "Robots" to follow.

Most eCommerce stores have links like: This is because eCommerce stores have an updateable dynamic catalog. What this means is that the catalog of products is stored in a database. There is not an actual physical page that houses this information. So, when you go to the above link, the program then pulls the data that matches id=4 out of the database and display's it on the product.php page. You could not go to and view the product unless you add "?id=4" to the end.

This is a bad link because the "Robots" do not recognize question marks or equal signs very well, so the search engines cannot find the catalog of the eCommerce store. The result is that the search engines eliminate your store's entire catalog from the search engine's index, meaning prospective customers will not find you. It would be analogous to opening a brick & mortar store in the middle of some deserted island where no one lives and people can only reach your store by helicopter.

Search engines also like relevant content, so with a link like the example above you are not telling the search engine what your product is, but rather its identification number in the database, which the prospective consumer will obviously not know. Let's say this product #4 is a toothbrush. When a consumer searches online for a toothbrush you can bet that the search engines will not return a link to your toothbrush, at least not on the top 20 pages because id=4 is definitely not a toothbrush!

With a good search engine friendly eCommerce store, a link would actually look like: This would definitely let those "Robots" know that your site contains information about toothbrushes. A great search engine friendly eCommerce store would let you get even more descriptive with your links such as: Now that's a great link because it is so descriptive.

On top of displaying descriptive links without the use of punctuation such as questions marks and equal signs, there are many more features that make up a search engine friendly shopping cart. These features are unique and descriptive product & category Page Titles, Meta Tags (for those search engines that require them), Image Alt tags, H1 tags, and more. Also, don't forget navigational links (instead of images), Sitemaps and RSS Feeds. Search engines like constantly changing content.

To sum it all up, search engine friendly shopping carts can actually help increase your online sales as well as decrease your businesses online advertising costs. This of course can improve the ROI for many site owners. Some search engine friendly eCommerce stores may be a little more expensive than their counter-parts but they are well worth the cost to direct online customer traffic to your store. What business owner does not want a crowded store?

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