We're all well aware of the reasons behind the osCommerce platform's wild popularity with business owner's both large and small for Internet storefronts. Fairly secure by most standards, it's also highly flexible and can be customized to meet the needs of any Enterprise website. Beyond the basics, there are some advanced SEO and on-site optimization techniques that will both speed up website functionality for users and improve Page Rank. The major advantage of osCommerce over competing E-commerce focused platforms is the ease with which it can be effectively optimized for maximum performance and SEO.
Before building the house, ensure that the foundation is solid. Native settings that can be tweaked for quicker page loads and SEO are the place to start. Install Google's Sitemap feature to enable their search engine spiders to more thoroughly index your pages for a higher ranking. When configuring your the checkout cart for your online shop for the first time, make sure you set minimum and maximum character values for entry fields like first and last names, addresses and so on. Once you've set up the basics like time zone, phone number and any other information you can move on to adding modules for performance and SEO.
In addition to these settings adjustments, take a minute to consider your template and how it'll affect query speeds and overall site performance. Though osCommerce has a lot going for it, one area that's often criticized is the default template system. The prevailing wisdom dictates that users are far better of implementing their own from scratch or modifying the original rather than rely on the provided template. The STS (Simple Template System) is better left out. It's far better to have a custom-crafted template created by your web developer that's tuned specifically for your site without all the code-bloat.
Like virtually any CMS, osCommerce allows for a number of third-party, community developed “Contributions”, otherwise known as plugins, to be added to the core framework. While the specific roster of Contributions you choose for your site will vary, there are a few that will be essential in automating effective SEO practices to save time. SEO Contributions that handle meta-tags and keywords for maximum effect are a must. Ultimate SEO URLs is another helpful plugin for renaming URLs for search engine friendly addresses that can improve Page Rank. In addition, Page Cache will enhance speed optimization for a more responsive site. The SEO Manual is the best Community Contribution for far more in-depth discussion of osCommerce specific SEO modifications.
Though somewhat self-evident, it bears repeating that customers don't like pages that are sluggish and slow to load. It can lead to lost sales and missed conversions. There is no reason to have a slow Shopping Cart if you're using osCommerce. Server-side optimization really entails the same considerations that would apply to any other high-traffic, database-driven website. Fortunately, every website administration program from cPanel to phpMyAdmin features an easy to use GUI to optimize tables to avoid queries that take forever and slow down the site. These low end tasks can be easily automated through the GUI panel to be performed on a regular schedule
Every CMS and E-commerce framework has it's own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to SEO and osCommerce is no different. SEO concerns are largely addressed by the use of the above mentioned plugins and others available through the osCommerce Community Contributions page. The usual Page Rank boosting practices apply here as they would with any other site. Backlinks from a variety of sources always help, but internal, self-referential links within the site boost perceived value as well. Keeping visitors on your site by directing them to other potentially useful resources is never a bad thing and can cut down on bounce rates.
The osCommerce is malleable and stable enough to be used in almost any E-commerce scenario imaginable, which is why we use it in the first place. Deploying it effectively simply requires you to have a solid understanding of the basics, or at least enough background information to delegate required tasks to qualified underlings. While there isn't always an easy answer to every single question or concern you may have with osCommerce, more often than not community support through forums and the official documentation will suffice. Above all else, security is the top priority with any Shopping Cart platform. If you're not confident using it yourself, neither will your customers.
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