OpenCart is one of the most recommended e-commerce platforms used by online merchants to set up their digital store. This PHP based platform provides users with an open source solution, allowing users to download and integrate any additional features to optimize one’s e-commerce store. This software can be a great start for beginners, who have just started out to try their hands in the world of online retailing.
Why Is OpenCart A Great Start For Beginners In Small And Medium Scale Industries?
1 – It is user friendly and can be easily managed by someone, who does not have much technical knowledge for administering their e-store.
2 - It takes less time to install and configure the software, and so website owners can set up their store in no time.
3 - It is open source, so beginners can find almost any kind of plug-ins and other features that one would expect to get in popular e-commerce software platforms like Magento.
4 - One can find free software support and upgrade for any feature. You can even get an OpenCart web developer to develop a particular extension feature that is not available in OpenCart. These experts usually charge less, compared to other e-commerce software web developers.
5 - OpenCart is rapidly becoming widespread and is being customized to suit the needs of the large scale industries.
All these factors make OpenCart a viable option for starters. Here are some essential e-commerce development tips that you would like to know before hand, when optimizing your online store:
#1 – Optimize All The Pages Of Your Website
OpenCart enables the search engine bots, to identify and index every page of your online store. Therefore, you can make the work of the search engines easier, by providing information like Meta Keywords, Meta Title and Meta Description.
Here is what you need to do for optimizing your home page, catalog and your product pages:
Steps For Home Page Optimization – Click on the ‘Settings’ option from the ‘System’ menu and then choose to ‘Edit’ the tab under the ‘Store’ option. Once you are done filling out the Title and the Meta Tag Description, click on to save the changes.
Steps For Catalog Page Optimization – Click on the ‘Catalog’ option and choose ‘Category’ to edit or to insert changes in the ‘Meta Description’, ‘Meta Tag Keywords’ and the ‘Category Name’. Once you are done, click on the ‘Save’ option.
Steps For Product Page Optimization – Click on the ‘Catalog’ option and choose ‘Products’ to edit or to insert changes in the ‘Meta Tag Keywords’, ‘Meta Tag Description’ and ‘Product Name’. After you are done, click on the ‘Save’ button.
Key points you must note -
- Title tags must contain 70 characters only.
- Meta Descriptions must consist of 150-160 characters only.
- Do proper keyword research using ‘Google Keyword Tool’.
#2- Optimize Your Site’s URL Structure
In order to enable the search engine bots to rank you better, your site must have an identifiable URL that is easy and friendly. However, default URL can sabotage all your efforts to rank better in the search engine’s eye. Here is what you need to do, to ensure a shorter, friendlier and meaningful URL:
Go to the ‘System’ option from the OpenCart dashboard. Click on the ‘Setting’ to avail the ‘Edit’ option. After that, go to the ‘Server’ tab and click ‘YES’ on your website’s ‘SEO URL’. Save the changes.
Rename your site’s file name from the control panel. Change the name from ‘.htaccess.txt’ and rename it to ‘.htaccess’.
Enter the relevant SEO keywords in pages like ‘Information’, ‘Categories’, ‘Products’ and other areas where you want to rewrite the URL.
There are some good plug-ins that you can install to look for better SEO keywords. One such plug-in name is OpenCart SEO Pack.
#3- Ensure To Avoid Duplication Of Content
You can use two URLs to access your OpenCart website. These are – http://MyOpenCartStore.com and http://www.MyOpenCartStore.com. This could injure your search engine ranking, since the search engine bots would think that there are two sites displaying the same content. You need to redirect your links to the same place and, this you need to fix manually. Simply edit ‘.htaccess’ file from the same folder, where you have installed OpenCart on the site’s server and you can redirect your site from the ‘www’ version to the ‘non-www’ version and vice-versa. You may seek the help of an OpenCart web developer in case you are not aware as to what code to include here.
#4 – Create An XML Sitemap For Your Site
Though OpenCart provides an HTML sitemap, an XML sitemap might help you to earn better rank position. The XML sitemap enables the search engine crawlers to view the entire structure of your website, thus retrieving information efficiently. You can integrate a plug-in for creating an XML sitemap.
#5- A Clean OpenCart Theme Can Improve Your SERP
This is so because OpenCart themes come with a valid HTML code and a CSS style-sheet. This style-sheet can be easily modified. The search engine bots would be able to index faster, the available data on your website for better ranking.
#6- Add Google Analytics To Track Your Site’s Traffic Data
Google Analytics is a great way to improve your OpenCart site’s ranking position. It is free and is a powerful metric and reporting tool to keep track on your site’s performance. You can get valuable insight of the traffic inflow and also keep yourself updated about the potential keywords that are now on trend.
#7- Improve Your Site’s Social Network Presence
Social media marketing is a great way to improve your site’s ranking position. Even search engines appreciate it when you share your links via social sites like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc. The search engine bots tend to index the links faster.
#8 – Do Not Integrate Too Many Extensions
Extensions are a great way to customize your site and improve its performance. But too many plug-ins will tend to hinder your site’s performance. Keep your usage to a minimum level and download third party plug-ins only from trusted areas like OpenCart Extensions Library.
#9- Too Many ‘Categories’ Can Affect Your Site’s Performance
This is because, whenever you add, delete or edit a particular category, OpenCart would delete by default your cache files after one hour. It will then rebuild it again. This process would turn out to be time consuming if you have a number of product categories. You can use an extension for category caching that can help in category generation by modifying this caching behavior. Cached files don’t expire and will only rebuild when you edit a category in particular.
#10 – Use A PHP Accelerator
OpenCart is written in PHP, which is a popular scripting language. Every time you visit a web page, the PHP requires your website server to run through the script content and then execute it. This could hider your site’s performance, especially when there is a rush in traffic inflow. A PHP accelerator can reduce the server’s overhead in PHP code processing, by caching any previous request. This helps to avoid parsing and compilation of the PHP’s source code whenever someone visits a web page.
OpenCart is a growing e-commerce platform that is bound to touch the pinnacle in online business. So, having a proper optimization can help you stay ahead in the digital race.
About the Author: Sudeep Banerjee is the founder and CEO of B3NET Inc., a top notch orange county web design, development, mobile app and internet marketing company in California. A visionary of compelling ideas and strategies, his 26 years of experience has helped over 200 clients ranging from small startups to Large Fortune 500 companies.