Rewrite or Not

By Melanie Prough on Thursday, June 18, 2009
Filed Under: Zen Cart SEO

Anyone spending anytime at all on the Zen Cart forum can certainly see the huge buzz about SEO urls. So lets get you the information to make an informed decision about whether or not you should use SEO urls for your Zen Cart shop.

Originally, url rewriting or SEO urls were a huge and necessary practice. The case simply used to be that Google and other search engines could not manage all of those dynamic parameters in the urls properly. Things change and technology advances so that this is no longer the case. Google and other search engine spiders can and will correctly crawl and index your dynamic urls.

The next school of thought is that keywords in the urls of your pages will bring you a great SEO benefit. This is also not true and never was. Here are the facts….. There is a VERY SMALL amount of weight given to keyword rich urls. Matt Cutts made it very clear that the weight or advantage Google merits is quite small.

Usability has always been a strong argument for SEO urls. Whether its in the address bar or the search results it is believed there is some consumer comfort derived from seeing logical and related words for urls. The nuts and bolts of this is that searchers especially are somewhat comforted and can better establish relevancy when they see urs in search results which are in a readable format. While this is likely the most valid argument of all, it has some pitfalls and still a very slight click through advantage is all you are going to get.

Pitt falls of SEO URLs for Zen Cart

Just like anything else, everything in your business seems to have drawbacks as well as advantages. The trick as the savvy business owner is to carefully weigh your options.

Using a module to force your Zen Cart to have SEO urls can also have some bad drawbacks.

  1. Performance can be lessened as your Zen Cart works to rewrite these urls.
  2. Live, indexed stores will get a drop or be sand boxed when installing the modules, regardless of the 301 redirects. This is really called flux, and will be temporary.. But be prepared.
  3. Longer titles will mean longer urls. In this day of user submitted content and social media, longer urls can grievously take away the ability for users to link to you in trundicated form fields and such. Additionally, shopping feeds and other marketing venues have a title character limit… Some even a url limit still.
  4. The modules available for rewriting your Zen Cart urls all seem to have pitfalls as well. Make sure you investigate the SEO urls modules available very carefully and weigh the headache against the advantage.
  5. Rewriting urls causes many server side Apache redirects and such to be a very tall order to accomplish…. Somethings cannot be accomplished at all once these rules are in place.
  6. Lastly, and likely the biggest reason to carefully weigh this decision… One they are done, you are pretty much stuck with them. Changing back to your regular Zen Cart urls will likely be a huge undertaking and something most will need to pay to have done for them.

Zen Cart SEO urls Modules Review

  1. Ultimate SEO urls : USEO is the old standby and a very good module for rewriting urls. They largest issue with USEO is that the module has pretty much been abandoned and little or no support exists. The largest complaint from USEO is that keywords in urls are pulled dynamically from the category and product titles…. So later on if you would like to change the titles, it also changes the urls. Zenner Module Install Difficulty : Beginner
  2. Simple SEO url :This module is the new kid on the block and is really quite promising. It has the ability to alias urls, runs pretty smooth and really overall does a nice job. The module author has been providing excellent support and revisions for this module in the support thread. The drawback for this module is perhaps not a drawback at all… The module has much ability and with such tends to be perhaps overly complicated to configure for beginning Zenners. Zenner Module Install Difficulty : Intermediate
  3. Ceon URI Mapping : This SEO url module has some added ability, but some drawbacks as well. URLs are not generated by your Zen Cart, but rather when a visitor loads a page. CEON’s module even has the ability to name your pages by hand. This module is likely the most effective for most shops if you choose to rewrite your urls. Zenner Module Install Difficulty : Intermediate/Difficult

So whether you choose to use a module to rewrite your Zen Cart urls or not…. Carefully weigh the decision, as you are likely stuck with them long term.

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