Tribulant Shopping Cart Review and SEO Tips

Why I chose the Tribulant Shopping Cart for WordPress

Tribulant Shopping Cart LogoI’m a big fan of WordPress as a platform for small business’s. It offers an intuitive, inexpensive, easy to edit website solution. When I needed a WordPress Shopping Cart Plugin the Tribulant cart was one of the first I came across.

It is well featured, doesn’t cost the earth and offered support.

The deciding factor for me was that the Tribulant shopping cart was the only WordPress plugin solution on Realex’s list of integrated shopping carts. For those of you who don’t know Realex, they are Ireland’s top online payments service provider. In Ireland, if you don’t want to use PayPal, then Realex and a merchant bank account are pretty much the way everybody goes.

What I didn’t find when I was researching WordPress shopping carts was anything relating to SEO with the Tribulant cart…. So I thought I should rectify that with this post.

What I like about the Shopping Cart

The Tribulant cart is packed with features and only costs $59.99.

  • There are various shipping options including by weight or by quantity.
  • Products can be organised by Category
  • The back end is relatively easy to navigate and configure
  • Built in tax calculation
  • Support for product variations
  • Tiered pricing possible
  • Digital content download support.

For a full list of cart features have a look at Tribulants’ site.

Shipping

Complex shipping like using a courier service for an order over a certain weight but an Post for smaller items is possible. However if you wanted to add in free shipping for orders over a certain price as well you are out of luck. Frankly that’s just asking too much because you are trying to configure the program to deal with two types of shipping by weight and also by price. For those living in the US, Canada or Australia things are easier with built in support for shipping services like Fedex, USPS etc.

Design / Layout

Screenshot of the Wicklow Yoga Shop

Screenshot of the Wicklow Yoga Shop

I’m going to use a yoga shop I used the plugin for as an example. Wicklow yoga sell Manduka yoga equipment on their site. I like the look of the plugin for the yoga shop. I used a standard template with only a few small CSS changes to make the categories on the front page of the shop into animated buttons on hover with the use of drop shadows and positioning. I highly recommend creating a duplicate theme (shopping cart theme not wordpress theme) with a new name if you are going to make any changes – which you should be (see SEO Tips later on in this article). The design of the shopping cart is intuitive and easy to navigate for a user.  I also like the ajax add to cart.  The Yoga Shop has an added paid extension to zoom in on the pictures.

The back end is just as nice to use. A lot better than some of the shopping carts out there.

No Monthly Payments!

While there is an optional support charge which covers updates, the software is yours for life for one payment. My advice is get it working quickly and then you shouldn’t need support again unless it becomes incompatible with a WordPress update in the future.

I’m all for one off payments instead of monthly payments that can quickly add up to a lot more than Tribulant are looking for.

I’m beginning to sound like an advertisement for them now, but I for one really appreciate them not fleecing my customers every month.

What I don’t like about the Tribulant Shopping Cart

1. In theory the shopping cart should be plug and play. In practice, with both the installations I have done so far, it has not worked properly out of the box. These were all small niggling things like the ajax add to cart function not working properly. I had problems on two different versions and installs of the plugin.

In fairness to the staff at Tribulant they were great about sorting out any problems I had. They are based in South Africa so allow for time differences when dealing with support. I gave them temporary ftp access on all occasions and they fixed what needed fixing for me. In fact I almost feel bad about mentioning that it didn’t work straight off, but it wouldn’t be an honest review of my experience if I didn’t.

Tribulant Shopping Cart New Customer Form

Tribulant Shopping Cart New Customer Form

2. The checkout system. A new user has to give some basic information to register. This creates a user file in WordPress with a role of “Customer” rather than “Subscriber” or “Administrator”. The next two screens on the checkout are Shipping and Billing. It is possible to check a box to make the Billing details the same as shipping rather than filling it all out again. BUT, the details entered on the New Customer form are not automatically filled in on the shipping form. It’s very annoying to have to put in your name twice.

There is a Guest Checkout add-on available for the plugin which I have not used. It also costs extra. I would think that it would make the checkout experience easier though.

3. No Breadcrumbs. To get from a particular product to a category of products takes two clicks rather than one on the main navigation although I could have added a list of categories to the sidebar. A small niggle, but breadcrumbs would have been a feature that would have been easy to add in. In fact it’s easy enough that I’ve included how to do it later on in this post.

4. Inability to deal with multiple currencies. If you’re selling to multiple countries then it would be nice to be able to show them the price in their own currency. However, taking payments in multiple currencies is problematic for a lot of payment gateways. Realistically you are probably looking at a scenario of showing an approximate price in the users currency while still charging in a single currency. So I’ll let that one go.

5. You can’t create a draft product. This post has been written over the course of a few days. It’s one of the nice features of WordPress. With the Tribulant Shopping Cart you can’t do that with a product. So if you start putting up a product you’d better make sure you have time to do the whole thing or you’ll end up with a half finished product on your site.

6. Multiple SEO problems. There are a lot of things that could be done better from the point of view of up to date SEO technique. Things like links using the same text for the link and for the title are a bit spammy in my opinion. There are also duplicate content issues.

The layout of the front page (categories in my case) works from a users perspective, but it could be better from an SEO standpoint.

Out of the box SEO performance is not as good as some other shopping carts. Some of this is purely down to layout and thin content resulting from that layout. The rest is fixable if you follow my SEO tips further on in this post.

Dislikes Summary

It’s always easier to find fault with things than it is to list good things. I’ve stated some of the negatives of this particular shopping cart, but all shopping carts have negatives. A good proportion of them have significantly more problems than the Tribulant Shopping Cart. I may moan about a few features, but I’m still using it!

SEO Fix for Tribulant Shopping Cart

There are some fairly major concerns with the default shopping cart in terms of SEO. Not least of those is a huge amount of duplicate pages being created. These happen in three ways:

  1. Sorting products. (?sortby=price&sort=DESC) It’s nice to let your users sort products by price etc, but it’s not so nice to have substantially duplicate pages showing as a result.
  2. Tag Pages. Just like in WordPress itself, every tag creates a page that contains only posts with that tag.  The result is lots of substantially duplicate pages. This used to be a plus of using wordpress since it meant by adding tags you were creating more pages with different page titles (more keyword coverage).  This no longer works well and you will be penalised to some extent for it.
  3. Product Search Pages. Simply put, you don’t want your product search pages indexed at all. Quite apart from the potential for a truly massive quantity of duplicate pages there is another reason: What if I was your competitor. I could link to your site with a links like “http://yoursite.com/shop/product-search/?wpcosearchterm=gambling tips”. No results would be returned but the page exists (search results) and you could find yourself with indexed pages for things that could really get your site in hot water with Google et al.

Dealing with duplicate category pages and product search results

For Users that don’t have the Yoast SEO plugin installed

The Yoast SEO plugin will take care of canonical issues for you caused by giving users the option of sorting products by price etc. It will also help you create a breadcrumb for your shop.

A quick note on Yoast. For anybody who doesn’t have the Yoast plugin installed I would seriously consider it. There are lots of “SEO” plugins out there but this one has some properly useful features.

If you don’t have the Yoast plugin installed then don’t worry.  The following code inserted into the head section of header.php in your wordpress theme file will sort out the canonical issues by adding in a rel=canonical tag to any pages in your shopping cart that could potentially cause you duplicate content penalties.

It will also add a noindex tag to your product search pages.

For Users that have the Yoast SEO Plugin Installed

If you have Yoast’s wordpress plugin installed then you don’t need to worry about canonical issues in your shop that result from user sorting options. Yoast’s plugin will add in a rel=canonical tag for you.

You do have to worry about your search pages. The following code inserted into head section of header.php in your wordpress theme will add a noindex tag onto all your search pages.

You may be wondering why I used the curPageURL() function to get the url of the page instead of wordpress’s native get_permalink() function. The answer is that the get_permalink() function does not return the full query string. I’m not sure if that’s down to Yoasts plugin, the shopping cart plugin or just what happens in WordPress. Try it if you like, but for me the above solution was what worked.

Dealing with Tags (Stopping them from Creating Duplicate Content)

It is impossible to create a product without giving it a tag. In the past this would have been a really good thing. Add 6 keywords as tags to your product and there would be 6 more indexed pages with different keywords for your product to get found by. Unfortunately those days are drawing to a close.

Tags still works to some extent, but you are more likely to find yourself on the wrong end of a search engine algorithm now. In other words, it’s risky to use tags in a spammy way like that. It may work for you in the short term, but highly likely that not just those pages, but your entire site will be penalised at some (probably not too distant) point.

The solution is to get rid of tags for your shopping cart by removing them from your code. If you were paying attention at the start of this review you would have seen that I suggested you create your own Shopping Cart theme before editing. This means that if you make a mistake and break something you have a fallback theme ready and waiting.

The code you want to edit is in wp-checkout -> views -> your theme name -> products -> loop.php.

Search for the code below and delete everything I have commented out between the <!– and –> marks. Essentially that’s just everything in the div class=productkeywords. When I do this I save the code and make a marker (my name in a comment) so that I can find the spot again should I wish to reinstate the removed code in the future.

Creating Breadcrumbs for Tribulant Shopping Cart using Yoast

Breadcrumbs make this shopping cart a whole lot easier to navigate as you will have seen from the Wicklow Yoga site I gave as an example in the layout section of this post.

If you are using the Yoast SEO plugin then having breadcrumbs is a piece of cake. Simply go to the Internal Links section of the plugin, click on “enable breadcrumbs”, make and modifications you like and then add some code to your theme where you want the breadcrumbs to appear.

I’ve got an alternative version of the code here. It differs in that it only provides breadcrumbs on the shop pages rather than the whole WordPress installation. I prefer it this way because in general WordPress navigation is just fine and if it isn’t then you should probably look at how you’ve structured your site!

Anyway, here’s the code:

In the case of the yoga shop the shopping cart plugin is installed in a directory called “shop”. Yours may have another name and so you will need to change “shop” to whatever directory your shop is installed in.
If your shopping cart is your entire site then just stick with the code that Yoast provides without altering it at all.

Breadcrumbs CSS

The Yoast function creates breadcrumbs in a paragraph with an ID of breadcrumbs, so simply add to your CSS to style it.  This is all that’s in the Yoga shop’s CSS:

SEO Tips Summary

The two installs I have done so far with the Tribulant Shopping cart have both made significant improvements to their ranking as a result of making the above changes. The Yoga site mentioned has made the most marked improvement. There are a couple of possible reasons for this. One is that the Yoga site uses wordpress pages rather than posts for it’s products. The other is that the yoga site just sells yoga associated equipment (all products relate to the site as a whole) whereas the other site is a mix of all sorts of things.

Overall Summary

There are things I think could be done better.

For example, I have the yoga shop laid out with the categories on the front page. Although I’ve made each one look like a single button, there are two links per category – a text link and an image link with the same text as the title for both.

It would be so much better and richer to have a javascript rollover function that gave a description of the category. This would give Google and users something to read rather than just repeated keywords in links.

There are free shopping carts out there, but in my opinion it is worth paying the little that Tribulant are looking for and getting a decent product with good support.

There are also much more expensive options for shopping carts. I believe the Tribulant Shopping Cart gives most of them a run for their money in many respects.

I will definitely be using this shopping cart in the future. I wouldn’t recommend it if you are planning on being the next Amazon, but for a small shop as part of an existing site it’s a fine piece of software.

 

About Ian Wortley


Ian is one of Irelands leading SEO consultants with over 8 years experience in the Irish market. Ian discovered his love of all things internet related in 2005 and has been living nearly exclusively online since then, causing much worry to friends and family, but getting great results for clients. Contact Ian: Phone: 01 6854806 Mobile: 086 3817149