Demo your CMS or Shopping Cart with an SEO

Get insight on your potential eCommerce platform

Posted by WebOfficer on Monday, July 4 2011

As I continue to branch out from working within organizations as an SEO, in creating my company's consulting, services and product identity, I am becoming aware of more things concerning SEO, marketing, software, CMS systems. Bandwangoning, copycats, bad advise, marketing facades and a bunch of people chasing trends and buying into poor guidance. For this post, I will speak to the marketing or overpromising that the shopping cart software industry displays. Take a look at any feature set and try to determine if each of the features is really that much of a benefit. Demo the software, find out if the marketing claims are true, while asking if they are simple to utilize and powerful.

Poor evidence is out there about what really matters concerning content management systems and shopping cart software SEO. The bandwagon effect is alive and well, seen in the form of super hyped bullet points and long lists of SEO features. Search engine optimization is about commuication in the way of words, data and the mechanics inwhich those elements are managed to comminicate with search engines. If a CMS does allow for total control of data feilds where data and content are placed, then the CMS is of little value to the website and business.

Search engine impacts driven from a content management system

The Internet has folks looking to sell software and services to those who don’t know better. Recently, after working on a proprietary CMS software built for SEO power features, I had to go looking for a CMS that would enable me to do the same work as I had done before, but on a bargain budget. I tried and tested over 10 shopping cart software’s and open source platforms to much regret. One of the first things I did was rush to the feature pages marketing the various software solutions. Quickly, I would scan over them to identify exactly where the marketers were coming from to get a better understanding to the level at which their feature set would meet my needs. One of my favorites highlighted feattures is “search engine friendly.” Custom URLs is another that leads the feature lists of acceptable bullet points to list as an SEO feature.

Selective marketing and entry level features are areas software companies hang their hats on, never specific unique features.  If I have zero website experience, custom URLs, might be great. The fact that this feature seems to be standard marketing is rather shallow in the way of a feature set to market a software. Don’t forget meta data for all products and categories to round out how great their platform is for SEO. Meanwhile, they ought to be listing as a negative feature: Harmful faceted navigation, that will produce thousands of duplicate pages with same page titles, meta descriptions and headers.

If a website claims their CMS is the best, show real seo tools and don’t put a potential company website in jeopardy with default settings, especially if there is no disclaimer telling them then need an experienced SEO to tweak the platform to ensure website health is optimum.

One size does not fit all when it comes to shopping cart software

Most people rarely know exactly the product they want. They know generalizations and category level search queries. Higher conversions start on deeper level cateogory pages and not on product specific pages. With this in mind, category control in most if not all CMS systems I have tested, makes it very difficult to optimize category level pages from an upload standpoint concerning the category database. Not to mention, to establish a wide range of categories and effect fields like the page title and meta description are sometimes not available without heavy lifting to the code. For SaaS versions, this can be an unattainable, while in circumstances where you can purchase the source code and scan the forums; it is a major task to get the software to perform in the best interests of a business that has thousands of products and hundreds of categories.

Most shopping carts mandate the use of their editing tools page by page to get the maximum data optimization done. Recently during a test, just uploading a page title that was not the breadcrumb trail took additional PHP keystrokes found from digging through the Internet. This really does not even compare with the fact that many shopping carts need you go through various import stages to get both category and product pages uploaded. To an average webmaster this can be a daunting process.

Seems most shopping cart software companies anticipate that customers will hand touch each and everypage by hand which takes so much time. Consider consumer electronics commodity driven products, the man power to process each page by hand voids much of the purpose of content mangement tools. The marketing that is used to promote and attract customers comes many times on the premise they have a small product database.

Things to test when looking at a CMS or shopping cart

  • Test the process of how the product and or category database is uploaded. Formatting can be an issue in both cell arragement and value arrangement within cells. Take a small snippet of your product database and test the process to make live website pages and edits. You will gain a good understanding of the amount of labor and planning needed to engage with the software. Many businesses are handycapped by cumbersome software rules.
  • Look for power features such as the ability to sort within the admin. Finding products and categories within the admin of a content mangement system to edit products pages should be simple. Grouping for mass insertion or installing banners, images, content or videos should also be available.
  • Price control without uploading a CSV or being tedious is a concern often over looked, make sure that inventory and price modification can be done with speed and precision.
  • Customization should be something to consider. Is the source code available? Are there existing modules or plugins that meet your business requirements. Not all eCommerce businesses are the same, thus not all data, product types and other online store goals are the same. The software shoud be able to accommodate the business, the business should not have to settle with the features the software possesses.
  • Quality support should be found. During any demo phase, engage with the software support team, check for knowledge and responsiveness. If you get a chance speak with someone on the phone, you do not want to asking questions to someone who barely knows the software and who will waste your time. Knowledge wikis, videos and easy to find documentation is are also plusses.

The bottom iine is businesses must validate and test the marketing hype surrounding the features of potential content management systems or shopping carts they might be investing in.