OpenCart SEO – how to improve product visibility on search engines
There are lots of ways to improve sales in your store – you can organize large marketing campaigns, invest in advertising. It all cost you serious money and often does not work very well in the long run. One thing you can do to avoid big expenses in the future is to fill your store SEO data properly. And I’m not talking about OpenCart SEO extensions that generate random text for product metadata. It needs to be logical and client-friendly.
This tutorial will show you how to properly fill all the OpenCart SEO information. Here’s a short list what you’ll find here:
- How to add OpenCart SEO information for products
- How to add OpenCart SEO for categories and manufacturers
- OpenCart SEO for homepage
- How to know which keywords to use in meta information (including Google Keyword Research Tool)
- What is sitemap and how to add it to Google Webmaster Tools
- How to enable OpenCart SEO urls
- Making life easier with SEO extension by ImakeITwork
OpenCart SEO for products
When you’re filling product information in admin >> product form, you have various fields for SEO:
- meta tag title
- meta tag description
- meta tag keywords
Here’s the example:
Here’s how this information would look like in Google search results:
When you’re filling metadata for products in OpenCart, Meta Tag Title is shown at the top of search result – as a title. Meta Tag Description is a longer text at the bottom of the result. This text needs to be logical and appealing to the person who’s searching for the product, and at the same time it has to be seo-friendly. For example, if you want your product to be visible in Google search results when anyone searches for Canon EOS 5D keyword, this phrase should be mentioned in Meta tag Title, Meta Tag Description, and in product description.
Both Meta Tag Title and Meta Tag Description should not be too short or too long to be informative and look properly in Google Search Results. Almost a year ago I built an extension that generates a preview how your product and category will look like in Google Search Preview while you type it. It not only shows the preview but also shows how much characters are left for title and description:
You can get the extension here.
OpenCart product form also has Meta Tag Keywords field. This field is not so important for search engines – it was used years ago, and now it’s ignored in Google and other major search engines. But you may enter 3-5 word phrases that you think may be relevant for better search results. But it is not that important as Meta Tag Title and Meta Tag Description.
OpenCart SEO for categories and manufacturers
One thing that OpenCart users overlook most of the time is that they don’t fill descriptions and meta data for product categories and manufacturer pages. And that’s not a good path if you want your store rank well in search engines.
Category and manufacturer pages have the same fields – descriptions, Meta Titles, Meta Tag Descriptions. They should be filled in the same way you fill product page information. It may not only help for SEO. Most OpenCart themes can display category image and description in category pages. It can be helpful for customers who are not sure how to use some of your products. For example in one of my stores I sell nail care products. People often are not sure what products in certain categories do so I write short (2-4 sentences) description in the category page about the products in the category. It helps SEO a bit, and it has a huge benefit for potential clients.
OpenCart SEO for homepage
OpenCart SEO fields for homepage can be found in admin >> System >> store Settings page. Click Store tab, and you’ll find all the Meta tags as in product or category pages.
How to know which keywords to use in Meta Tag Title and Meta Tag Description
There are lots of tools online that will help you find relevant keywords for your products. One of them is completely free – Google Keyword Planner. To access it you need to register to Google Adwords (link here).
When you register to Google Adwords go to Tools >> Keyword Planner. Click on Search for new keywords using a phrase…
Enter your product title (your product or service field), select targeting (one or multiple countries you’re making business, one or multiple languages) and hit Get ideas. Google will show you average monthly searches, competition level, and relevant phrases that you may use in product description that would result in better rankings. If you want to know more how to use Google Keyword Planner you should read article How to use Google Keyword Planner Tool For SEO by Neil Patel.
Google Webmaster Tools and sitemap
Even if you filled all the SEO information properly, you should also register your store in Google Webmaster Tools and add your store’s Google Sitemap to it. Google sitemap keeps all the links that are in your store in one file so Google and other search engines will know which pages to check in your store.
How to add it to webmaster tools? At first you need to enable Google Sitemaps in your store. To do that go to admin >> extensions >> feeds page and install Google Sitemap.
After installing Google Sitemap click Edit, and then enable the module.
Register or login to Google Webmaster Tools (link here). Enter your store url and hit Add a property.
In the next page you’ll need to prove that the website you want to register is yours – Google will let you choose how to verify your ownership (detailed instructions will be included).
After you verify your ownership click on Crawl >> Sitemaps, and then hit Add/Test sitemap. Now you’ll need a link from Google Sitemap page in your store. Copy everything starting with index.php to the end of the line ( it should be index.php?route=feed/google_sitemap ) and put it in Add/test sitemap field. Hit Submit button. Google will scan the file in a couple of days automatically.
Note: if you have a huge product database (thousands of products) or a bit slow hosting server, it may take too long for OpenCart to generate sitemap with all the products. The end result will be that you’ll get error in Webmaster Tools that Google can’t read sitemap. There are lots of solutions in OpenCart extension store to avoid this. One of them is built by ImakeItwork (named Better XML sitemap). Instead of generating sitemap every time when Google asks it generates static file that can be accessed extremely fast. Extension can be found here.
How to enable OpenCart SEO urls
One more way to improve OpenCart SEO is to enable SEO urls. SEO urls mean “prettier”, easier to read product, category and other page urls. By default OpenCart product links look like this:
After enabling SEO urls product named MacBook Pro will look like this:
There are 2 steps to enable OpenCart SEO urls:
Go to store settings (admin >> store >> settings), and click Edit. Select Server tab, and select Yes to Use SEO Urls.
Login to your store’s FTP and rename .htaccess.txt file to .htaccess . If your store files are located in the main ftp directory (for example public_html), that’s everything you need to do. If your store is located in public_html/some-name/ directory, you need to open .htaccess file with text editor (notepad, wordpad, etc.) and change line from:
After making these changes your store will be able to show SEO urls.
Both product and category forms have SEO keyword fields. In order to show SEO urls they need to be filled properly – url should have only lowercase letters, numbers, and (recommended) dashes for any other symbols (like space symbol). For example, MacBook Pro SEO keyword could be macbook-pro.
One more important note – all SEO keywords in the store have to be unique. If you’ll have different products with the same SEO keywords only one will be shown in the store. So if you have several MacBook pro models, SEO keywords have to be different. For Example – macbook-pro-13 and macbook-pro-15-retina.
Making life easier with SEO extension by ImakeITwork
OpenCart developers made a good job with OpenCart SEO. And there are lots of third party extensions that let you generate, control and display SEO information better. But being a developer I still saw some tools missing that could make work easier for store administrators, so I built my own SEO extension that is available for anyone to download – Better SEO for OpenCart (extension available here). Here’s how it help:
- The same way as Google Search Preview this extension shows how your product will look like in Google search results while you’re entering Meta Tag Title and Meta Tag Description. It also count characters and notifies if title and description are too long.
- Extension shows SEO status in product list and in category list. If SEO tags are empty or too long you’ll notice while scrolling through the list in the admin section.
- Better SEO extension adds additional metadata for search engines and social networks – OpenGraph metadata (it gets filled automatically by meta tags, image links, data types).
- Extension automatically generates SEO urls for products and categories (it can generate SEO url for the product or category you’re editing or for all products and categories in one click).
Resources mentioned in the tutorial
- How to use Google Keyword Planner Tool for SEO
- Google Adwords (for Google Keyword Planner access)
- Google Webmaster Tools