This article was updated on the 9th of September, 2015

The Out to Shop websites are a group of osCommerce Children’s Toys, Kids Toys and Educational Toys shops. The business has been around since 1999 and the site has had okay rankings and sales through the site.

osCommerce SEO

osCommerce websites are not “hard” to SEO, but they take a good deal of time to do. You reach a stage where close enough is good enough, and I could certainly spend far more time on it than I have.

So what have I needed to do:

  • Many rel=nofollows added - a full category page had 196 live links, and I was able to 60 of those links. That is a significant difference.
  • better onsite sitemaps. The main menu system is javascript. I decided to leave it there rather than changing it to a css based list menu as it would have added too many links to the page, and too much code bloat. However, we still needed to get static links to all the category and product pages. With thousands of products, having one sitemap was not the best thing to do, so I paginated one of the standard osCommerce contributions. There was also the complication of it being a multi-shop installation. One code base with symbolic links to enable the other shops to operate, more custom coding required to the sitemap.
  • I added sitewide footer links to the sitemap paginations. It is important to have the least number of clicks from any one page to pages that you want high on Google. Numbered footer links take up minimal room and are one less click than just one link to a sitemap system. Note that I have not included all the product sitemap pages in the footer. On category and product footers, I have a different series of links so as to get inbound links to each of the sitemap pages.
  • With so many pages, we have had to program in titles, meta descriptions and opening paragraphs. A further enhancement would be to add in the meta description plugin that allows custom metas/titles for each category and product. Already a good number of these pages have been cached for the OuttoPlay website with resulting high rankings on Google for the phrases. For powerful websites, all you need is the words on the page, and they can rank well, especially for non competitive phrases.
  • Initially the site could not be accessed via the non www url - ie did not work. Many users try and access a website via the non www, so it is an important usability issue. However, the subsequent non www/www redirect was a little painful. With the multi-store setup, the standard htaccess could not be easily used. I found it easier to just hardcode the redirects into the php.
  • The all important words on the home pages - I put the Google External Adwords tool to good use and found the most appropriate phrases, and spread them around the three websites. From Baby Learning Toys - learning focussed phrases per the domain name of OutToLearn, Play Toys was the only main phrase I could find relating to play for OutToPlay, and many toys phrases likeBaby Toys for the ShopForToys site. Words in the title, meta description, h1’s and opening paragraphs. It takes a while to get the wording right. It is hard getting that balance between readability and SEO.
  • Rewording of the categories and products - this is an ongoing exercise for the business owner. What are the phrases that people are searching for relating to a specific product? Products should be renamed based on those phrases.
  • URL rewrite - while having product and category names in the url looks nice and they are far more clickable, its actually a very small part of SEO. You can rank well with string url’s. So rewriting the url’s is being left to the developer and stage two.
  • Pagination - rather than totally fix this, I decided oning links that were double-up url’s. The products in category listings can be sorted, and have a default sort order that appears in the url - meaning two url’s for page one. The sort order can be changed via the control panel, so I was not keen on hard coding/omitting that parameter.
  • html validation - there are still around 100 warnings on each page, but its far better than the 500+ that it started with. It is always worth the exercise to check validation. There were multiple <body> and <head>’s in the content of the pages. It’s what can often happen when plugins are added to plugins. Good to have a tidy up every so often.

Yes, I have gone into this analysis in some detail. But I hope that it has highlighted some areas that can often occur in CMS’s, and in particular in the osCommerce package.

Now for getting some incoming links for the competitive phrases.

We will see some dramatic improvement over the next few weeks!!! But I expect that it will take a number of months to get to best rankings. The phrases are relatively competitive.