Googlebot Error with WPOnlineStore Plugin
Googlebot triggers a PHP Fatal Error ‘function.require‘ error causing the bot to receive a “500” internal server error when trying to crawl the pages created by the WordPress WPOnlineStore plugin. In my previous post I mentioned this ongoing problem. Today I can provide some additional information.
The problem is not unique to my shop site; initial searches of the internet found only a few references to this problem. for the past two days the hosting company server engineers have been looking into the problem, unfortunately without any success. After disabling Apache mod_secure settings, which appeared to be causing the error, Googlebot still triggered this error. As previously mentioned in Googlebot has Problems with WPOnlineStore, it is only Googlebot – and there lies the first clue.
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!
WP Online Store Plugin Review
WP Online Store Plugin: The FREE WordPress e-commerce plugin integrating the osCommerce online store system with a WordPress website. WP Online Store is the WordPress integration of the Open Source osCommerce e-commerce platform.
The WP Online Store Plugin brings a full featured osCommerce site into a WordPress website framework. The plugin is not theme dependent like so many other WordPress e-commerce solutions. Some of the other solutions only work properly with themes specially designed for the plugin/system. This feature allows a store owner to create a great looking website for their online store.
WP Online Store Site Optimisation
The excellent SEO aspect of WordPress allows for a very strong website. E-commerce website are notoriously hard to get rated by search engines. With Google so content driven, any site needs a lot of good content. Short product descriptions and so on are not Google friendly. Strong, original product features however can be content rich, exactly what Google looks for.
While highly detailed content may added to an osCommerce store, too much of this makes the shopping experience somewhat clumsy. In my opinion, a well written and optimised page describing a product, winked to the product in the store catalogue is an ideal, if work intensive, option. Product descriptions in the store catalogue can be concise and to the point, a brief overview of the main features and the most important specifications, with links to the description page for more detailed information.
WP Online Store for Large Catalogues
The WP Online Store Plugin integration of osCommerce is ideally suited to large product catalogues. In the case of my store, a comprehensive range of computer products will be available aimed at Southern African buyers. The structure of the WP Online Store osCommerce solution permits products to be categorised by type e.g. motherboards, graphic cards and so on, placed in sub categories within these categories, as well as by manufacturer. Further Product Attributes (providing product options) can also be used, e.g. differentiating between different motherboard CPU sockets and chip-sets.
WPOnlineStore e-store for Graphicline
Finally, after several days trying e-commerce solutions, I am going to use osCommerce and WordPress for the PC store with the WPOnlineStore system.
As I mentioned, the Drupal 7 option requires several unstable modules; after running up a development Drupal system, there were clearly going to be some problems with the plugins that I don’t intend to spend time fixing.
WordPress commerce systems tried included WP E-Commerce, wpStoreCart and finally osCommerce which worked out the best of the lot, and is the easiest to set up as well requiring just a shortcaode added to a single page to create a full online store.
osCommerce is highly configurable with lots of functionality, and provided the appearance I was looking for anyway. A WordPress theme, probably Mystique, will be used on the front end; it looks good on the testing server, and matches some of our other themes (as well as this blog).
The Mystique theme is the Ajax powered version 3.1 from Digital Nature which also offers numerous options. Possibly using this theme is overkill as the WordPress part of the production store will be very basic, not much more than a front end for the shop.
The latest WordPress version will be used, version 3.3
osCommerce SSL Support
Another useful feature, osCommerce supports SSL (secure Socket Layer) adding security to the site for financial transactions. Although not required at the moment as only PayPal and Online transfer payment methods will e used, should the need to accept credit cards directly arise, the basics are already in place.