6 Tips for Working with an OpenCart eCommerce Website

OpenCart is a PHP-based online store management system that uses a MySQL database and some HTML components. It is a cross-platform system that is free to use under the GNU General Public License. It is available in a wide array of languages and has a considerable percentage of users in the global eCommerce space.

If you are interested in using this store management system, you may want to take note of the following pointers.

1. Optimize All Pages

OpenCart employs search engine bots to index the pages of an online store in which it is installed. As such, it makes sense optimizing your pages to allow OpenCart to quickly have them indexed. This is especially necessary for online stores with a multitude of products and pages. It wouldn’t be good if customers are unable to find your newly added products because they haven’t been indexed yet.

Your homepage, catalog pages, and individual product pages should be well optimized. Take note of character limits (70 for the title tags, 160 for the meta descriptions). Also, do some keyword research using tools like the Google Keyword Tool so you can target the most viable keywords for optimization.

2. Find a Good Web Host for your OpenCart Website

Uptime equals money – you wouldn’t want to gamble on your eCommerce site hosting. With a meager expense of around 5$ a month it is a no-brainer as to picking a dedicated OpenCart hosting plan instead of an all-purpose program. Find one that offers a cost-efficient package (you need to do comparisons for this) and be mindful of the speed and reliability factors. Also evaluate the functions and intuitiveness of the control panel. Look for features such as having one-click installer, unlimited bandwidth (sans the extra fees), and a free trial period or a money-back guarantee period. Additionally, consider the technical support available. You should be able to contact the company for technical assistance anytime and be competently accommodated for your concerns or complaints.

3. Be Mindful of your www and non-www URLs

You may have set up your OpenCart online store to be accessible through www and non-www URLs (example: http://youronlinestore.com and http://www.youronlinestore.com). This might negatively impact your search engine rankings as search engine bots may see two websites with the same content. You have to address this manually by editing the .htaccess file in the same folder where you installed OpenCart. You have to redirect the www URL to the non-www URL and the non-www URL to the www URL. Consult an OpenCart web developer for assistance in case you are not sure how to go about with this.

4. Optimize URL Structure.

To achieve better rankings in search engine results, see to it that your OpenCart website has an easily identifiable and meaningful URL. Ideally, your URL should include keywords such that even humans can easily identify what the page is all about by just looking at the URL. Avoid using URLs that only show random strings of letters and numbers.

You can do the optimization yourself by going to the System section of your OpenCart dashboard. Find Setting and click on the Edit option. Then go to the Server tab and click Yes for SEO URL.

You then have to rename your site’s file name from the control panel. Remove the “.txt” part in the “.htaccess.txt” filename. Proceed to inputting relevant keywords for pages. You may use plug-ins, the OpenCart SEO Pack for example, so you can easily find good SEO keywords to use.

5. Use a clean OpenCart Theme and add an XML sitemap for better SERP Ranking.

Clean here means a theme that is minimalistic or limited to the basics. It is advisable not to do a lot of modifications in the HTML code and CSS style sheet of your OpenCart themes. Doing this is helpful in achieving a good search engine results page ranking.

Also, consider creating an XML sitemap for your OpenCart online store. OpenCart already provides an HTML sitemap by default. It wouldn’t hurt, though, adding another sitemap, an XML sitemap, to help improve search engine ranking. Doing so can help bots in indexing your store’s content or pages faster.

6. Avoid Having too many Extensions and Categories.

It’s good using a few extensions for customization and to add functional improvements on your site. However, having too many of them can degrade your site’s performance. Having more than 5 may just be too much. Also, be sure that you only use extensions or plug-ins from reliable sources like the official OpenCart Extensions Library.

Moreover, don’t create too many categories for your site or online store. As much as possible, limit your categories to the basics and just branch out to more if you already have too many products in a category. There’s nothing wrong with being forward looking (i.e. anticipating a multitude of categories in preparation for your site’s expansion); however you can’t do this with your categories if you use OpenCart. Every time you add, edit, or delete categories, OpenCart automatically deletes cache files after an hour and rebuild it later on. This process can be very time consuming.

Consider these tips as you build your OpenCart eCommerce website. Be sure that you have something properly optimized and something that is perceived well by search engines. Don’t just dwell on the aesthetics and the content you put in your site. You also need to optimize your OpenCart use.