Google Ranks WPOnlineStore Websites Badly
Googlebot has Problems with WPOnlineStore
There’s a few problems Googlebot (Google’s search engine spider) has with sites using the WPOnlineStore osCommerce plugin for WordPress. These problems result in WPOnlineStore website catalogue listings ranking badly in Google SERP, or not being indexed at all.
One of these only affects a few sites, the another is common to all standard self hosted WordPress sites using the WPOnlineStore plugin for e-commerce websites. Both these problems are extremely serious, but neither is a fault or bug in the plugin. The third problem Google has with WPOnlineStore e-commerce sites is the store XML sitemap – there isn’t one!
WordPress Canonical Problem for WPOnlineStore Sites.
This is the problem that affects every WordPress site using the osCommerce system, and leads to very poor Google SERP for product listings in the online store. WordPress adds a canonical link <link rel=”canonical” href=”” /> to the header of every page. Normally this is something that is definitely wanted. However, because of the way WPOnlineStore works as a subsystem embedded on a single page of a WordPress site, the canonical link ends up pointing every store page back to the page using the WPOnlineStore shortcode.
So Google only ranks the basic page! Google uses canonical URLS to decide which page is more important. If your WPOnlineStore product page points back to the WordPress page using the shortcode, Google thinks that is the page that is valuable!
There is only one way to fix this problem – remove the canonical link from the page using the WPOnlineStore plugin shortcode. This canonical link must be removed. No arguments, no alternatives. If you want your store products found by searcher using Google, the canonical link has to go! To remove the canonical link you have to hack your WordPress theme. This can be relatively easy and quick, or a bit more complicated, depending on the theme being used.
NOTE: This “canonical link” problem affects all subsystems similar to this one – using a single page with a shortcode. One of my clients using a Real Etate IDX system (Dakno IDX) had his site completely de-ranked by Google for having hundreds of search result property listing pages all pointing back to the master search page (spamming). Only after ‘noindexing’ the page did his site start getting results from Google again – and is now getting top of page one SERP again for some search terms.
Googlebot 500 Internal Server Error
Several users of WPOnlineStore as well as stand alone osCommerce (and other e-commerce systems) are seeing Googlebot causing server 500 error codes, and find their Google Webmaster site manager reports Google cannot index the URLS because of a server fault.
The problem only occurs with Googlebot, other search engine user agents, e.g. MSN and Bing, are able to index the pages. If Googlebot cannot crawl the store, Google cannot index the WPOnlineStore products. The problem occurs whether or not WordPress clean URLS (‘pretty’ or custom permalinks) are set, ruling out any conflict with a combination of clean URLs and query string lookuop requests – and if this was the fault, all requests for those pages should fail.
Over the past several days I have tested this bug extensively, and have not yet found a fix, although a workaround seems to help somewhat with the problem. (The workaround requires every product in the WPOnlineStore catalogue cached in WordPress Cache – not the built in osCommerce cache – it doesn’t work.)
However, this caching “fix” doesn’t work reliably – Googlebot was able to access catalogue pages for a few hours when the server was not busy – the rest of the time it continued to receive the 500 error code. The problem must lie with server configuration. The problem has finaly been handed over to the hosting company’s technicians – the site is on a shared server.
WPOnlineStore Has no Sitemap
The WPOnlineStore plugin does not generate a sitemap. The plugin is a conversion of osCommerce for WordPress, and osCommerce also has no built-in XML sitemap generator – it needs an add-on module. For WPOnlineStore, there is an add-on SEO module (paid-for) to generate a sitemap…
If you haven’t purchased this module, the only way to add the store pages to the sitemap is using a plugin that enables manually adding custom links, e.g. XML Sitemap Generator for WordPress. Once these are added, a suitable cache plugin can pre-load the store pages to cached files.
You need an XML sitemap with the products listed – it’s the best way to encourage Googlebot to index your store products.
Store Owners Must Fix These Problems
There’s no shortcut folks, If you are an e-commerce store manager using WPOnlineStore, these 3 issues must be fixed one way or another, or your store will never rank as well as it should with Google.
- Googlebot 500 Error with Some URLS (tech.graphicline.co.za)
- Google’s Googlebot (cabreraimd405.wordpress.com)