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#1 Fitzillo

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 04:31 PM

Greetings All...

I am new to the forum and I have a couple questions about my personal ecommerce website where I sell stock illustrations.

My cart is in a subfolder of my domain and has over 750 products/items and is powered by pinnacle cart shopping cart software, which I am now in the process of upgrading... it’s sort of a ‘forced’ upgrade since my host upgraded to php 5 and the cart version I’m using is not compatible.

The old cart software created a lot of duplicate content... every category a product is in (including sub-categories) the software created a different page for it... example:

/store/products/ProductName-236-14.html
/store/products/ProductName-236-9.html
/store/products/ProductName-236-0.html

This has been like this for years and has always bugged me, but I have not worried about it since I didn't have a solution and I’ve seen no specific data that this has hurt my rankings, (though I am sure it hasn’t helped!) Now with this new cart software upgrade … they have finally fixed this issue saying:

“Pinnacle Cart's .htaccess file heavily uses mod_rewrite to accomplish search engine friendly urls.”

(which I believe is how wordpress does it) So now I guess this prevents the duplicate content problem and creates better SEO friendly URLS... BUT, it’s only good for new cart installs! NOT upgrades from older versions. The new software will not redirect old urls that the older cart software created! Totally frustrating and I have been through the ringer with them trying to find a solution, to no avail.

Their final suggestions for me were to either 301 redirect all of my old pages to the new urls via .htaccess, or just not do anything and let the old pages die and let the new ones get indexed and basically start over. Letting the old pages “die” does not seem like good advice, as pages are up to 6 years old and a lot have links pointing to them... not to mention rank loss.

Another person from the company told me that it would cause performance issues and really slow down my site with all of those redirects in the .htaccess file.... 750 product pages... multiplied by 3-4 with the duplicate pages would overwhelm the server or whatever... Then he suggested to only redirect the most important 50 pages or so... so I am not sure what the best solution is.... especially when I feel ALL the pages are important.

My primary concern is completely losing my rankings in Google for all of my 750 income-generating pages that I have had for years, therefore taking a huge hit financially if the new pages don’t recover.... or on the other hand, having a really slow site trying to hang on to those rankings by 301 redirecting them all..

I should also note that the majority of my traffic comes via Google images, where I rank very well, MUCH better than text search... and I am not sure how my new pages would be treated since the image names and locations will not change... will these new pages get found or will they just be 404 pages under the images? Will I lose my rankings in image search as well?

What would you guys do if this was your site? And do you have any other advice or suggestions on how to salvage and/or retain my current rankings?

Any help, advice, or other input would be greatly appreciated...

Thanks in advance!

#2 Jill

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Posted 10 August 2012 - 11:59 AM

What I recommend in cases such as yours is to use your Google Analytics to learn which exact landing pages from your site are getting organic Google traffic. You'll likely find it's only a small percentage of the 750 different pages you have on the site. Then you will only have to redirect those ones.

I'd also suggest looking at which landing pages bring any referral traffic as well. This will tell you if there are links out there bringing you traffic that you want to redirect. Do some additional checks on backlinks to make sure you haven't missed any other pages that might have direct links, and you should be in pretty good shape.

Hope this helps!

#3 chrishirst

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Posted 10 August 2012 - 12:06 PM

So now I guess this prevents the duplicate content problem and creates better SEO friendly URLS...

Not really, simply simply rewriting the URLs could create exactly the same "duplicate" URLs just in a different form.

And so called "SEO friendly" URLs are not necessarily "SEO friendly", human friendly would be a better term for them.

#4 Fitzillo

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 09:39 AM

Thanks for your help Jill... looks like I need to take my medicine. However, and this is a major source of my concern, a large percentage of the 750 page get significant amounts of traffic.... I'd say it drops off at around the 450 mark.

#5 Jill

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 11:37 AM

a large percentage of the 750 page get significant amounts of traffic.... I'd say it drops off at around the 450 mark.


Get direct traffic from search engines? Are you sure about that? You need to look at them as landing pages in Google Analytics. Not just how many pageviews or visitors any given page receives within your site.

Added: This Google Analytics Custom Report re: Landing Pages that Receive Google Traffic should help.

#6 Fitzillo

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Posted 17 August 2012 - 11:07 AM

Yes, I am sure... this is the crux of problem I'm struggling with. I understand pageviews vs. direct google traffic.

Every character/stock image product page is searched specifically in the search engines.. it is in fact like I have 750 landing pages. I don't get traffic for generic terms like "clipart", "graphics", "stock images" etc... my traffic is very specific, long tail targeted for (relatively) highly searched terms... enough so that there is a direct, valuable, revenue stream for each product page that could potentially be lost by this aggravating shopping cart issue if I make the wrong decision with upgrading.. Search for "Cartoon Gorilla", "Cartoon Bulldog", "Cartoon animals" (just a few terms which get a good amount of searches monthly) . I am at the top of the results for hundreds of these types of searches.. (mainly image search) times that by 750. Granted, not all of my images are highly searched, but like I said the drop off point is @450.

#7 Jill

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Posted 17 August 2012 - 11:18 AM

Are those pages linked to from many other sources? Perhaps the best thing to do would be to simply let the search engines reindex under the new names. Any that have referral traffic and those that are the most popular, 301-redirect.

You may take a small short term hit, but things should work themselves out pretty quickly. Be sure to submit a new XML sitemap (or a few of them) to GWMT as well.

#8 Fitzillo

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Posted 17 August 2012 - 01:00 PM

Not many links from other sources, no... mostly internal links and links from a few of my other sites which I can fix or just get rid of altogether, as they may be doing more harm than good these days.

I was under the impression that age has a lot to do with ranking well, which I'm realizing now is part of my mental struggle with this... My fear is that I have pages up to 7 years old and I'd lose all of the "age juice" so to speak... then not rank as well when the new pages resolve.

New product pages for less competitive, longer tail keywords do seem to get indexed quickly and rank well... but the more competitive keywords on new products aren't ranking nearly as well as old product pages with similarly competitive keywords. So I guess I'm most afraid of losing the rank and position of the more competitive keywords like "cartoon pig" and not be able to recover. I guess those are the ones I need to think about 301 redirecting.

I sound like a balding man not wanting to shave his head for fear that what little hair he has left won't grow back if he doesn't like the new look. :)

I also fear that the hit will be long term, but you sound optimistic by saying things should turn around pretty quickly. When you say quickly... do you mean days? Weeks? Months? (your best guess of course)

I'll also definitely submit a new sitemap when done.. good advice.

Thanks.

#9 chrishirst

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Posted 18 August 2012 - 06:43 AM

New product pages for less competitive, longer tail keywords do seem to get indexed quickly and rank well...

Do NOT take that as anything significant, it has ALWAYS happened, and will continue to happen if you continue to search like a "rank checker" hoping to find their own URLs.

#10 Fitzillo

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Posted 25 August 2012 - 09:25 AM

I just received some new information. It looks like there is a way to have my current cart software be compatible with PHP 5... therefore the upgrade to the new cart software is not crucial to keeping my cart functioning properly. Now I'm debating whether I am better off still going forward with the cart upgrade, or staying with what I have that's been working well for over 7 years.

I should also note that I am planning to invest a lot more effort into this store by adding at least another 1000 products to it over the next couple of years... so this issue is not just about what is presently in place, but also for significant expansion and growth into the future.

Pro's and Cons as I see them..( I certainly welcome others that I may be overlooking)

Upgrading:
  • Pro - Updated cart software that has more functionality and tools... none of which I can't live without.
  • Pro - One URL for each product no matter how many categories it is in.
  • Con - Basically starting over with my site, having new urls for all 750 products... losing 7 years of "age rank."
  • Con - Taking a hit in the search engines with the hope of fully recovering in the long term... who knows how long, if ever?
  • Con - 301 redirecting 50-75 of my most important pages, potentially slowing down my site significantly.
  • Con - Having to track down and fix many links.
  • Con - The time it will take to implement all of the above.
Not Upgrading:
  • Pro - Keeping my store the same.. not fixing something that's not really broken.
  • Pro - Not disappearing from the Search Engines, my primary source of customers.
  • Con - Having duplicate pages indexed (2-4 times on average).
  • Con - Using outdated cart software, not sure what the possible consequences will be, keeping in mind that my expansion plans could make this issue much bigger if I am forced to deal with upgrading it down the road.

So I guess the big questions/concerns now are:
  • How important is the duplicate page issue and how detrimental is it to the SEO health of my site? Is this is a major factor in keeping me from ranking better?
  • Do the string of "cons" in upgrading the cart listed above justify getting rid of the duplicate page issue that the new cart software (supposedly) solves?
  • Is it worth it or am I better off to stay with a cart system that I know is working and is profitable, and just accepting duplicate content as something I just have to live with?
Thanks very much for all your help so far, hopefully by hammering out these last few questions will lead me to the right decision... finally. :)

#11 chrishirst

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Posted 25 August 2012 - 02:47 PM

How important is the duplicate page issue and how detrimental is it to the SEO health of my site? Is this is a major factor in keeping me from ranking better?

It isn't particularly
most likely none at all,
unlikely

is working and is profitable, and just accepting duplicate content as something I just have to live with?

So why doesn't the first part of that statement tell you that the second part isn't that important??

#12 Fitzillo

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 03:52 PM

OK... getting the slight sense I'm wearing out my welcome.. no problem, I truly appreciate the help have received and I apologize if my questions seemed silly to some. Take care.

#13 chrishirst

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 07:35 AM

Not "silly", I'm always trying to work out how or why people (not just you) seem to have this disconnect between thinking there is a "problem" while the website is doing fine on what really counts, which is revenue.

#14 Jill

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 08:00 AM

I think it's impossible to answer in a free forum setting. It's something that would need to be carefully looked at to decide as its a major change to your site.

#15 Fitzillo

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 08:01 AM

Chris: As I touched on in my initial post, I rank fine in image search but I'm not ranking nearly as well in text search as I used to. I don't think exploring the possibilities of why that is or wondering if duplicate content could be a contributing factor negatively to it is a "disconnect."


I think it's impossible to answer in a free forum setting.


Got the message.. loud and clear.

Edited by Fitzillo, 29 August 2012 - 08:26 AM.





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