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Ecommerce Forum

Optimizing a SoftCart site
- the ultimate challenge?
Robert Charlton

 7:10 am on Apr 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

I'm consulting on a SoftCart site... actually several SoftCart sites... separate domains under the umbrella of a small mall setup.

If these sites were normally accessible, the possibilities of cross-linking the sites for search engines would be great.

Instead, the arrangement... and it seems to be pretty much dictated by the software... is that each site has a splash page, with only one link in, a button to invoke Soft Cart. The software generates all the pages dynamically, tracks site visitors, etc.

I had suggested that they see if an alternate arrangement is possible, where the visitor looks at product content until they click a shopping link, which would then invoke the cart, and that the operation be tracked by cookies. Not possible with this software.

So, the question is how to make use of these domains. The only thing that comes to mind is to build little doorway/preview sites, a few pages each, that the viewer could browse in before entering the shopping area.

I'm assuming that the directories would look at both the shopping and non-shopping areas. The search engines could only look at the non-shopping areas. Once the visitor entered the shopping area, there'd be no way back.

Any thoughts? Does anyone have enough experience with SoftCart to suggest how to generate some static pages out of the dynamic material? This will be important to the client, I know, in terms of labor.

The dynamic material is all framed in 5-panel nested framesets, with 10-mile long CGI strings, so it's maybe just as well to stay outside that anyway.



 3:16 pm on Apr 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

Softcart is definitely not a SEO friendly e-commerce solution. It sounds like you have the right idea. Build up your static content on pages that they can view before they enter the store. Try to work in the keyphrases and build a theme with pages like about us, faq, specials, etc...

Robert Charlton

 4:42 pm on Apr 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

One of the things the site owner likes about Soft Cart is how quickly it allows him to build a site. Unfortunately, none of his pages is viewable outside the Soft Cart environment.

Is there a way, when building up static content for him, to pull this content right from the (non-shopping) pages that he's already built?


 7:12 pm on Apr 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

It's been a while since I worked with softcart, but can't you still link directly to individual item pages within softcart? If so, it wouldn't be hard to build static product pages and just have them link to the individual items' softcart pages. The main problem you would face, is the static pages being out of date when he republishes his store.

Robert Charlton

 7:38 am on Apr 19, 2001 (gmt 0)

>>can't you still link directly to individual item pages within softcart? If so, it wouldn't be hard to build static product pages and just have them link to the individual items' softcart pages.<<

I don't really know the nuances of SoftCart myself. From what I see about how this site is set up, you pick up the Cart when you enter the site, and thereafter all your pages have long URLs with lots of ??s... and I'm guessing the URLs carry your shopping cart identifier.

I had suggested several possibilities to the webmaster who implemented some of the system on this site. My suggestions included:
- delaying the activation of SoftCart
- including static pages within the site
- or, since the site is framed, somehow including the dynamic content in frames that had static framesets.

I got back this reply:

"Per my understanding, you advocated we delay the activation of Soft Cart until a viewer/visitor actually clicked on a link that corresponded with a product they wished to purchase (e.g., "Add to Cart").

"The main problems with delaying or selectively invoking Soft Cart are (1) the invocation of Soft Cart automatically alters path calling, (2) once Soft Cart is invoked, you can't turn it on and off (or vice versa) and, most importantly (3), if not invoked, all Soft Cart-based dynamic content stops being placed within standing pages.

"Based on my experiences with getting the ever finicky Soft Cart mechanism to work properly in even minor workarounds, I don't see where we could possibly delay the invoking of Soft Cart. Far too much of the site's standing code, contents and functionality would be compromised. I am of the opinion that any attempt to suspend or tinker with Soft Cart on the site will essentially "break" it."

This seems to preclude anything but Soft Cart dynamic content after the splash page. If static doorway pages were to lead into the dynamic pages, the user wouldn't have a place to pick up a shopping cart.

Also, I'm not sure there's any way for a "static URL" to link to a page whose path name is dynamically generated. I believe this would even eliminate the frameset idea.

So all spiderable content and cross linking among sites would need to occur in static pages before the cart is picked up. The splash page is the index page, and it could link to other static pages, and some of these could cross link to the other domains.

>>The main problem you would face, is the static pages being out of date when he republishes his store.<<

Yes... this is a concern. My feeling is that web optimizing really isn't about creating an online product catalog anyway, and that what you want to target are the broader product areas that remain relatively constant, not the individual product pages. Even so, updating and site management become more difficult as soon as we introduce static pages.

I'm wondering if there's any way to automate the building of the static product pages, using the dynamic pages as a source, to at least simplify that part of the task... and whether I might be missing something obvious, or whether this "external" static section is the only way to do it.

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