Brick-and-mortar stores benefit from foot traffic. 🏬 🏃 People pass by a store window, see something they want, and pop in to purchase. With ecommerce, it’s not all that different. Just like with brick-and-mortars, in order to get that traffic you have to be in a prime location — on the internet.
On the worldwide web, a prime location is at or near the top of the first page of a search engine, like Google. This is where shoppers look most often after they query something like, “little black dresses,” or ANY product or service they might be in the market for.
But getting your business to appear at the top of the list (and on the first page of results), takes time and a considerable amount of know-how to achieve. Hence, the art and science of Search Engine Optimization was born.
What is SEO?
SEO is a set of best practices — involving website content, design and layout — that increase the likelihood that visitors will discover your site via search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.
The more people who see your site in the search results, the more traffic you’re likely to have to your store, and the more opportunities you’ll have to convert browsers into buyers. Ka-ching! 💰💰💰
The task of optimizing a website can seem daunting, 😟 but never fear! We’ve simplified the process with the SEO page, located within your Admin Area. With a few mouse clicks, your store can be optimized for indexing by all major search engines based on site data, URLs and content. Woot! 🙌
To begin configuring your SEO settings, go to Marketing > SEO in your Admin Area.
Configuring Store Meta Tag Information
Meta tags are specialized HTML tags that contain information about the contents of a website or webpage, and describe the data being displayed on it. Meta tag content is specifically for the benefit of search engines and won’t be viewed by your customers.
Search engines cross-reference a web page's content with data in the site's meta tags when indexing the page. The more relevant the meta tags, the easier it is for search engines to index a page's content.
There are three basic meta tag fields that can be set up for each active server page. Fill in the fields to populate metadata for every page with blank SEO fields. You can also set up these default values if you don’t want to set up individual tags for all 25 .ASP pages.
Meta Tag Title: This title will appear in the title bar of any web browser window visiting the page.
Meta Tag Description: This should give a brief description of the page, including the store name and purpose (i.e. what it sells or specializes in).
Meta Tag Keywords: These should be keywords (as many as you find relevant) that are relevant to a particular page, as they will be indexed by search engines to help potential visitors find the page. Each keyword should be separated by commas (for example: term1, term2, term3).
For Advanced Users Only
If you’re an advanced SEO expert, you may consider overriding the default meta tags with HTML coding, to create custom meta information for specific SEO purposes.
You can do this in the Meta Tags Override field, also found under Default Values. Besides overriding all other default value meta tag entries, it will also override entries in all left-hand menu selection fields and corresponding fields in product, category, and article records.
Appending Custom Meta Tags
You can use the Globally Appended Meta Tags 🌐 field to append custom meta tags to all pages within your store. This won’t overwrite any meta information for products or categories, but simply append meta tags defined here to those pages.
This option requires HTML coding as well as the meta tag contents, so should only be used by advanced users. If you’re a novice, you can always call Volusion’s team of experts to help! 📞
Once you’ve configured these settings, click Save near the bottom of the page to activate these tags for your store.
Enabling Basic SEO Settings
Under the Search Engine Friendly URLs section, there are 4 settings:
- Enable Search Engine Friendly URLs
- Use Hyphens (-) Instead of Underscores (_)
- Enable Canonical Links
- Enable Full URL for Homepage Canonical Link
First, select Enable Search Engine Friendly URLs and click Save near the bottom of the page. This function essentially turns on Volusion's SEO engine, enabling subsequent SEO features within the software.
Specifically, if you want to use the Product URL Text field on your Product pages, and the Category URL Text field on your Category pages, you must have the Enable Search Engine Friendly URLs feature enabled.
1. Enable Search Engine-Friendly URLs
By default, each product, category and article displayed within your store is generated by a series of active server pages, eliminating the need for individual web pages for each item. This process creates a dynamic URL for each product, category or article in your store.
However, dynamic URLs are not the most SEO friendly. Because they’re generated based on queries to a website’s database, the URLs are delivered as the site as accessed and the content is subject to change based on the visitor’s queries.
While sophisticated search engines (like Google) are able to index dynamic URLs, not all can. To be sure your site is indexed by all of the largest search engines, it is best to use static URLs.
Volusion's SEO engine reformats dynamic URLs to appear as simple, static web pages, so search engines can better index your site. This URL reformat (or rewrite) is automatically implemented once the Enable Search Engine Friendly URLs option is made active and increases your website’s search engine optimization.
⚠️ Good To Know
In order for Volusion's SEO engine to completely rewrite a product's URL, the meta tags for the product, and any product categories to which it’s assigned, must be configured. See the “Search Engine Optimization” section of the Products article for more information.
Redirecting Non-SEO Friendly URLs to the SEO-Friendly Version
If you have enabled Search Engine Friendly URLs, you can have all search engine attempts to access non-SEO friendly URLs redirected to the SEO-friendly versions. To do this:
- Go to Settings > Config Variables
- Select 301 Redirect to SEO Friendly URLs
Now, if a customer or search engine spider/crawler tries to access an old link, such as http://www.myvolusionstore.com/productdetails.asp?productcode=abc123, they will be forwarded the SEO-friendly version: http://www.myvolusionstore.com/product_name_short_p/abc123.htm.
Note that the SEO friendly URL contains no database queries or notable characters to indicate the presence of a dynamic URL (?, &, %, +, =, $, .cgi, etc.).
2. Use Hyphens Instead Of Underscores
When it comes to using hyphens or underscores in place of spaces within your product or category names and article titles, it’s a matter of preference; the choice won’t affect SEO.
3. Enable Canonical Links
You may have several pages within your store that contain similar content — for example, the same set of products may be sorted by price on one page and by alphabetical order on another.
To help search engines know which page should be prioritized when there’s identical content, 👧👧 you can use a canonical link in the <HEAD> section of all your pages.
This way, instead of having different versions of this content appear as separate pages to a search engine (which dilutes the original page’s ranking), you can assign a canonical link on all pages, so that a single URL is used for all variations of the page.
Selecting Enable Canonical Links enables the canonical link meta tag for each page, inserting the following link into each page's <HEAD>:
4. Enable Full URL for Homepage Canonical Link
Selecting Enable full URL for Homepage Canonical Link will append "/default.asp" to the home page's canonical URL. We do not recommend using this feature, though it is available to merchants who need it. See Why is /Default.asp in My URL? for more information.
Configuring SEO for Products, Categories & Articles
After configuring the settings covered above, your store will be optimized for search engines. However, additional settings must be configured for individual elements such as products, categories and articles.
Within each product, category and article settings page in your Admin Area, there is a section titled Search Engine Optimization (on product and category pages, this section appears under the Advanced Info heading). All variables for that element's meta tags and other SEO information are located under this heading.
When configuring SEO settings for your store's products, it is highly recommended that you also configure SEO settings for categories and subcategories.
Tips and Special Settings
Content Is King 👑 for Product SEO
Configuring meta tags is not the only way to improve your chances of being indexed by search engines. While metadata is important, the content and information presented on your site also plays a crucial role.
Maintaining high quality, helpful and substantial information on your site will increase your chances your product pages being accurately indexed by search engines.
Disabling Search Engine Agents
By default, all Volusion stores contain the following meta tags to allow robots 🤖 to index and crawl your pages:
<meta name="robots" content="index,follow" />
<meta name="GOOGLEBOT" content="INDEX, FOLLOW" />
If you want more control over which robots can access specific pages of your store, you can disable the default meta tags and use the robot.txt file described below instead.
Using Robots.txt To Prevent Indexing
The Robots Exclusion Protocol, often referred to as the "robots.txt" file, is typically included in the root directory of a website to control or block search engine robot access. The majority of automated search engine applications are programmed to adhere to any exclusions listed within this file.
To edit your robots.txt file and disable search engine access:
- Go to Marketing > SEO in your Admin Area and expand the Robot Preferences section
- Deselect the Enable Robots Meta Tags check box
- Edit the code in the Edit Robots.txt File box (See the examples below or this Wikipedia article for help)
- Click Save
You maintain a directory of images within your store you don’t want to have indexed when search engines browse your site. This directory, relative to your store's root directory is "/v/vspfiles/spec_images/". In this case, you would enter the following into your robots.txt file and click Save.
"*" above is a wildcard character used to specify all robots (this exclusion would apply to all search engines).
You don’t want to allow one specific search engine – we’ll call it LameBot – to browse or index your site. To restrict LameBot from indexing your entire site, enter the following into the robots.txt and click Save.
"/" above indicates the lowest directory file content for Volusion stores, so "/" will block LameBot from indexing any of your store's content.
⚠️ Good to Know
During a free trial period, your store is automatically set to prevent robots from indexing your store. Once you purchase a plan for your store, you can edit this feature as you please.
Updating Your Sitemap
Your store’s XML sitemap, which is used by search engines to map your site, is automatically updated once daily. If you need to regenerate your sitemap, expand the Sitemap XML section and click Update Sitemap. But we don’t recommend regenerating your sitemap more than once a day.
Taking the time 🕰️ to properly configure your site’s SEO can give your store a big boost and help put you on the map 🗺️ of the world wide web.
Making your site SEO friendly can sound overwhelming, but we’ve done our best create a simple and straightforward process suitable for SEO newbies.
On the other hand, if you already know a thing or two about SEO, the Advanced mode allows much more customization to your SEO framework so you can really work some magic! 🎩
Or, if you just want to leave it to the experts, our team of SEO pros have got your back. Volusion offers a variety of Search Engine Optimization packages to fit any size business or budget. Check ’em out and see what might be a good fit for you.