Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Header Tags SEO osCommerce

I received an email asking me to take a look at some code contributed to osCommerce called Header Tags SEO. I did take a look and intrigued at the output I decided to install it on a vanilla install of osCommerce. I was installing on an unmodified version of osCommerce. Most sites would not be and perhaps would not find the install to be a simple task.

Luckily (?) there is a paid option for install and as the general feeling is that this contributed code is much needed then one might pay without questioning the benefits. So what are the benefits of Header Tags SEO ? A standard version of oscommerce comes with no tags installed. Some are needed. This contribution outputs the following >

<title>Default title - Shop Home Page</title> <meta name="Description" content="Default description - Home page meta description snippet. This page allows the setting up of all of the pages in a shop. In order for this section to work on a page you must do this." > <meta name="Keywords" content="Default Keywords , _font color="#f0000"__b_osCommerce 2.2-MS2_/b__/font_Once that code has been added, the following options will allow for setting it up and applying whatever options are applicable to it." > <meta http-equiv="Content-Language" content="en-GB" > <meta name="googlebot" content="all" > <meta name="robots" content="noodp" > <meta name="slurp" content="noydir" > <meta name="revisit-after" content="1 days" > <meta name="robots" content="index, follow" > <meta name="no-email-collection" value="http://canig.com/" > <meta name="Reply-to" content="email@canig.com"> <link rel="canonical" href="http://canig.com//" > <!-- EOF: Header Tags SEO Generated Meta Tags -->
mmm and users are installing this on their sites in the belief it will advance them in Google rankings ?

 Let us not think seriously that users are installing this to advance in any search engine other than Google. » <meta http-equiv="Content-Language" content="en-GB" > Google does not use language tags to define language.
This is duff. » <meta name="googlebot" content="all" > This is the default setting.
This is duff. » <meta name="robots" content="noodp" > <meta name="slurp" content="noydir" > Whilst these can be valid you certainly do not need to install Header Tags SEO to include these lines in your home page content.>
This is nothing.  » <meta name="revisit-after" content="1 days" >
This is duff. » <meta name="robots" content="index, follow" > This is the default setting.
This is duff. » <meta name="no-email-collection" value="http://canig.com/" > What ?

  » <link rel="canonical" href="http://canig.com//" > Canonical tag, incorrect.

 That the canonical tags are not good are acknowledged in various places on the oscommerce forums eg http://forums.oscommerce.com/topic/298099-header-tags-seo/page__st__4480 http://forums.oscommerce.com/topic/298099-header-tags-seo/page__st__5000

Don't install anything with incorrect canonical tags.

They are very powerful and unless set 100% correctly you can cause more harm than good. In this instance with a code history of faults I would not touch at all at any time in the future. Any author's statement claiming resolution should be treated with caution if it seems that many have been allowed to install incorrect canonical tags on their sites for months with no recall or serious alerts.

 * Example shown is one instance of incorrect canonical tag usage. 3 more spotted. » <meta name="Description" content=" The description meta tag is not used by Google for ranking purposes. It can be good to have an enticing snippet in the search results. » <meta name="Keywords" The keyword meta tag is not used by Google for ranking purposes. » <title>Default title - Shop Home Page</title> Wayhey - A unique title is a good idea for ranking purposes ! 

This contribution encourages users to fill their header tags with the information already on the site, which is probably good that the page detail reflects the page content but to achieve this > Title Description You do not need to install Header Tags SEO contribution and if you do install Header Tags SEO then you must be sure not to 'buy into' the general feeling that this installation is a required one for your online store.

It is not. This review does not even cover the strange elements included of 'silo control' box or a column box that inexplicably redraws your already on page product description and features the same link to the page you are now.

What is remarkable further is that it seems like a whole mini-industry has grown around companies offering the installation of this code and all with the same inference that this is the magical panacea a store needs.

I am led to believe there has been some mild challenges to the value in the past but to no effect. It is the same as all junky low-level crap 'seo' of which the internet is abundant with - fighting against it is futile whilst the hope that it is a 'cure-all' is present.

Your site hopefully, would be as unique as you and the best approach would be to look at your products and categories and see how best you can deal with them. It could be as simple as echoing existing data for the page title and description and so on. Either way, be very wary of installing something that purports to offer so much by implication yet actually does little. osCommerce and SEO

Looking around since then in the forum at general seo suggestions given to new owners of osCommerce based sites, I dont see that much which would actually impact in a positive way and enhance an online store in Google's results. Installing any contribution, even a good one.. will not help your site if your contents are very poor. Duplicated product descriptions downloaded from manufacturers feeds will need alot of work and effort to give Google a reason to index and rank them highly and most of that work will centre around making your contents a unique and valuable source for users to find in their search results.

If you are having problem with indexing and ranking for your site, ask in Google's webmaster forum for independent, qualified input.

 (Update 23rd Nov 2010) Oscommerce SEO basics

» Secure your site.
  » Set the preferred domain in webmaster tools to either www or non-www
  » Avoid Header Tags SEO as a contribution.
  » Look for either a trusted canonical tag add-on to install or get one built that you can trust yourself.
  » Look for either a trusted friendly url rewriter script to install or - as above get one built that you can trust yourself.
  » Page titles. Look for a light easy script that will echo your product/category details as page titles.
  » Meta Descriptions. As above, same as the page titles. (Also note: Google will build search snippets to match the query searched)
  » Do not use currency as an option on your site without canonical tags or look to either block Google from seeing the currencies or set them as parameters in webmaster tools.
  » Languages - If offering a site in different languages and looking to rank bilingually, create new sites in directories, folders, sub domains or separate domains and avoid offering the language selection on the oscommerce url parameters.
  » Set pages like advanced search results, tell a friend and empty reviews to noindex. (Possibly delete tell a friend if not secured from email spammers)
  » Set pages with no content to return correct 404 responses instead of 200 okay responses. » Ensure that your most important aspect - content - is fantastic enough to be an asset in the search results which Google would love to return high to searchers. Duplicated drop-shipper/manufacturers feeds are not good for high scores in Google if you see many other sites with the same content. » Describe all your products in your own words and try to avoid simply swapping words around from existing indexed feeds or content. » Upload a sitemap to Google via webmaster tools and ensure you have email forwarding from Webmaster Tools set so that you can be alerted of any important messages.
 » Promote your site well and let others know you are in business.


  1. Well I have an OSC site and use Header Tags SEO. The author of HT SEO supports his work. Anytime someone uses one of his projects, he replies within hours and continues support until your issue is resolved. If someone points out a mistake, he corrects it and gives the person found the mistake credit. Then he issues a new release with the corrections made.

    I randomly select some of my products to study the page source and compare the page source of the same products sold by my way larger competitors. The meta tags of my products are quite similar to those of my larger competitors. So, I disagree with your comments about the canonical tags.

    I do agree that content is king but it's not the whole spectrum of SEO. Also, I agree meta tags have lost their weight in SEO but they are still useful to give the bots a handshake and tell those bots about the page. Each time my website is in full swing alot of my products rank among those of my larger competitors.

    The author of HT SEO also recognizes that other things are needed to compliment SEO endeavors so he has created several SEO contributions dealing with urls, linking and sitemaps for example. Thanks to Google, SEO is constantly evolving so what's popular today may be deprecated tomorrow.

    I don't know your experience and I do respect your opinion. However, I believe your analysis of HT SEO is a bit premature because I feel you haven't fully researched the contribution. High Pageranking in SERPs is a process just ask the webmasters from the larger sites. They're constantly making adjustments daily to move higher in the ranks. Some smaller sites will never rank high for popular keywords because of the high bids in Adwords. Although that theory is highly denied. We all know there's politics in every business and the limitless cash of the big wheels are influencing the pageranks. Therefore money is king!

    Thanks for reading.

  2. Thank you, though you post anonymously with anecdotal words, and they dont really mean much. I have looked alot into this 'Header Tags SEO' contribution and recommend that users avoid it for the reasons I have posted.

  3. I have to agree with much of, if not all, of what Squibble has posted. Header Tags SEO was at one time a good option for starting and working on an SEO campaign with, provided it was used as a tool that one would work with and modify to meet their needs. Don't get me wrong though, even at that one time it was still overkill and other more elegant methods, such as cDynamic metatags (originally a joint contribution of Chemo and Chris L.)generally covered the basics with minimal effort and no unnecessary markup of tag addition.

    With the advent of osCommerce 2.3 I have coded a dynamic metatag controller, released at the codecanyon market place, that is very simple for a user to install and continues with the simple principles of the original cDynamic meta tag contribution. It does not give a store owner complete control to add what they want to each and every page of thier shop, but it does cover the basics, unique page tiles reflecting page name, and if available category, or the store owners input where applicable by page type. Meta descriptions reflect a short snippet of the page and if no description is available then it will use a default site description. Keywords are generated using products within a same category, or use a list of categories within the shop, or the end users default list as input from the admin. And the canonical URLS keep it simple and do their job, they strip the fluff from the URI pointing making it clear what the most direct path is.

    Now with that description out of the way, there is a better way, but much like Header Tags SEO, it does take coding into the core of osCommerce, though can be done much easier than what HTSEO requires. What I do for sites I build is take the basics I outlined in my available Dynamic Meta Tag module above, and leave them as an option to use only if you choose not to use other options that I have coded into the product administration area. These options include new fields for the addition of a title tag input, a plain text metadescription, and a keyword controller, though keywords are little to NULL in many uses, the controller is built so that it may double as a tag system. This way is relatively simple to work with, once in place, and gives one a lot of control over their SEO campaign. The only reason I do not include the more extensive control in the module I earlier spoke of is because it then gets quite involved on adding code and new database tables and rows. For one that codes regularly it would not be much of an issue, but for many that want a quick start that provides the basic needed functionality to go with their SEO campain, dynamic implementation is a great start, and requires no major code knowledge or hours of debugging.

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