There are hundreds of millions of websites currently active on the Internet, so how do you make sure people find yours? Search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO is a set of best practices involving website design and layout intended to increase the likelihood that visitors find a website by searching for its content via search engines (for example, Google, Bing, Yahoo!).
As an online business owner, properly configured SEO will increase your chances of being found by shoppers, which should increase your chances of generating sales.
Note: The acronyms "URL" and "URI" in this article mean the same thing. The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium, the web standards authority) has responded to confusion surrounding the difference between URIs and URLs by deprecating the term "URL." Despite this, "URL" is still the more common terminology, so we will use "URL" whenever possible.
- Getting Started
- Configuring Store Meta Tag Information
- Enabling Basic SEO Settings
- Configuring SEO for Products, Categories, and Articles
- Tips and Special Settings
The task of optimizing a website can be daunting, but Volusion has simplified the process with the SEO page. With a few mouse clicks, your store can be optimized for indexing by all major search engines based on site data, URLs, and contents.
To begin configuring your SEO settings, go to Marketing > SEO in your Admin Area.
Configuring Store Meta Tag Information
This set of SEO functions configures the overall meta data for your store. Keep in mind that individual products, categories, and custom articles have their own SEO. There is also a global meta tag that can be added to all pages.
What are Meta Tags?
Meta tags are specialized HTML tags that contain data about the contents of a website or webpage. For example, a page will generally contain some type of data – whether it’s a news article, a table of financial figures, or information about a product for sale. Meta data, in this case, is data hidden within a webpage that describes the data being displayed.
Meta tag content is specifically for the benefit of search engines and generally will not 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 3 basic meta tag fields that can be set up for each active server page. Fill in the Default Values fields to populate meta data for every page with blank SEO fields. You can also set up these default values if you do not want to set up individual tags for all 25 .ASP pages.
Note that the meta tags defined here control meta data for the fundamental portions of your store. Product, category, and article meta tags are set up on their respective editing pages. See Configuring SEO for Products, Categories, and Articles below for more information.
Meta Tag Info
Meta Tag Title
This field sets the title meta tag for the page. This title will appear in the title bar of any web browser window visiting the page. Note that this setting does not affect other title settings within the store such as the business name that appears on shipping labels, etc.
Meta Tag Description
This field should contain a brief description of the page. You should also mention the store name and purpose (e.g. what the store sells or specializes in).
Meta Tag Keywords
This field allows you to enter keywords relevant to a particular page. These keywords will be indexed as meta data and help potential visitors find the page via search engines. Each keyword should be separated by commas (e.g. term1, term2, term3).
Meta Tags Override
The contents of this field will override the meta tags for a page. This field is recommended for advanced users who want to create custom meta information for specific SEO purposes using HTML coding.
Important note: The Meta Tags Override field under Default Values will override all other default value meta tag entries, as well as entries in all left-hand menu selection fields and corresponding fields in product, category, and article records. Therefore, it should only be used with caution by SEO experts.
Globally Appended Meta Tags
In addition to creating custom meta tags for each page, 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.
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 Home Page 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.
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.
For example, www.myvolusionstore.com/product_details.asp?ID=cnss597 is not conducive to SEO. Because dynamic URLs are generated based on queries to a website's database, the URLs are delivered as the site is accessed, and the content on dynamic URLs is subject to change based on the visitor's queries.
Sophisticated search engines (like Google) are able to index dynamic URLs, but to ensure that your site is indexed by all of the largest search engines, it is best to use static URLs wherever possible.
Volusion's SEO engine reformats dynamic URLs to appear as simple, static, web pages. This increases a website's search engine optimization – that is, search engines are able to better index your site. This URL reformat (or rewrite) is automatically implemented once the Enable Search Engine Friendly URLs option is made active.
For example, the dynamic URL listed above could be rewritten by Volusion's SEO engine to appear as www.myvolusionstore.com/Cosy-Night-Sheet-Set-p/cnss597.htm.
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 SEOFriendly 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.).
Hyphens vs. Underscores
The choice between using hyphens or underscores in your URLs is entirely based on your preference and does not affect your store's level of optimization.
Note that hyphens or underscores will be used to substitute for spaces within product or category names, as well as article titles. You should choose whichever looks best to you.
It’s likely that you will have several pages within your store that contain very similar content – for example, the same set of products may be sorted by price on one page and by alphabetical order on another.
A canonical link in the <HEAD> section of all your pages tells search engines which page should be prioritized when there are multiple pages with identical content.
For example, a category page:
has the following URL if you sort one way:
and this URL if you sort another way:
Rather than have these versions appear as 3 separate pages to a search engine and dilute the original page's ranking, you can assign the canonical link to http://myvolusionstore.com/boxes_s/30.htm on all pages so that this single URL is used for all existing variations of this page.
Selecting Enable Canonical Links enables the canonical link meta tag for each page, inserting the following link into each page's <HEAD>:
Note that you do not need to have Enable Search Engine Friendly URLs enabled to use this feature.
Additionally, selecting Enable full URL for Home Page Canonical Link will append "/default.asp" to the home page's canonical URL. See the /Default.asp in Store URL article for more information about this SEO feature.
Configuring SEO for Products, Categories, and 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 sub-categories.
Note on SEO for Products
The goal of search engine optimization is to increase the likelihood of automated search engine programs finding, browsing, and indexing your site, bringing more traffic and sales to your store. Configuring meta tags is not the only way to improve your chances of being indexed by search engines. While meta data is important, the content and information presented on your site also plays a crucial role.
Writing thorough product descriptions and features increases your chances of being accurately indexed by search engines when they gather information from your product pages. Maintaining helpful and substantial information on your site is the most important step in ensuring your product pages are SEO friendly.
Note that in order for Volusion's SEO engine to completely rewrite a product's URL, it is essential that the meta tags for both the product and any product categories to which it is assigned are configured. See the Search Engine Optimization section of the Products article for more information.
Enabling and Disabling Search Engine Agents
Conversely, you can keep your store information private and hidden from search engines using either meta tags or the robots.txt file.
Using Meta Tags to Prevent and Enable Indexing
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 and Enable Indexing
The Robots Exclusion Protocol, often referred to as the "robots.txt" file, is a method of blocking search engines from visiting all or certain parts of a website.
Robots.txt refers to a text file that is typically included in the root directory of a website to control search engine robot access. The vast majority of automated search engine applications are programmed to look for this file and adhere to any exclusion listed within.
For more information on the robots.txt file, see this Wikipedia article.
To disable the access and edit your robots.txt file:
- Go to Marketing > SEO in your Admin Area and expand the Robot Preferences section.
- If you want to disable the default meta tags, 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.
Note that if you're currently using a free trial store, you won't be able to select or deselect this check box; your trial store contains tags to prevent robots from indexing the site. You can modify Robot Preferences after purchasing a hosting plan.
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.
Updating your Sitemap
Your store’s XML sitemap, which is used by search engines to map your site, is automatically updated once per day. This is usually enough, as search engines rarely scan sitemaps more than once in a day.
If you do need to regenerate your sitemap, expand the Sitemap XML section and click Update Sitemap.
Volusion SEO Services
Take advantage of our experience and industry knowledge to boost traffic to your store, and ultimately, increase your exposure and sales. Volusion offers a variety of Search Engine Optimization Services for businesses of all sizes and budgets.
As a Volusion store owner, configuring your store to be SEO friendly is a relatively straightforward process – even if you aren’t an SEO expert.
If you are an SEO expert, the Advanced mode allows much more customization to your SEO framework. Taking the time to properly configure your SEO can give your store a big boost.