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XCart SEO: Comparing SEO/Search Engine Friendly URL mods for XCart

Search Engine Optimization is a crucial component of any online business and is particularly important in the world of e-commerce where competition is often fierce. Since the beginning of x-cart, xcart owners had to rely on HTML catalog, custom hacks, and/or third party modules to SEO optimize their sites. We’ve decided to review commercially available x-cart modules geared towards improving your xcart installation in the eyes of search engines. These modules are: CDSEO Pro from WebSiteCM, DSEFU from safetynetweb.com, and XCSEO Pro available for purchase at xcart forums.


Be sure to read this review until the very end as we’ve negotiated an incredible deal so you can get the most out of your xcart at the best price.

About the Mods

CDSEO Pro for X-Cart CDSEO Pro for X-CartCDSEO Pro (Custom Dynamic Search Engine Optimization Pro for X-Cart) $199.99
Being the most expensive of the bunch, this mod is marketed by its developer as a complete SEO toolbox for your xcart. It replaces the XCart HTML Catalog with ability to define what the URL of each page will be. You do not have to manually regenerate HTML catalog every time you make any change on your site and helps to avoid duplicate content penalty from search engines where your site can potentially have the identical pages accessible via different URL. This mod also allows you to define a custom title tag for each and every product, category, manufacturer and static page in your site, as well as define custom link anchors, meta keywords, and meta descriptions.
XCart SEO DSEFU Pro DSEFU Pro (Dynamic Search-Engine-Friendly URLs PRO) $49.95
Being the cheapest this mod is a replacement of XCart’s HTML Catalog. It is made so that your store has only one version (live) eliminating the need of manual HTML Catalog regeneration every time there is a change in the product catalog. It will help avoiding duplicate content penalty from search engines.This mod doesn’t have any additional built in functionality.
XCSEO Pro XCSEO Pro at $120.00
Just like the CDSEO Pro this mod is a replacement of standard HTML Catalog with allowing you to define resulting URLs in your store. It is marketed by its developer as the fastest of the bunch.

How we’ve tested

We’ve compared these modules using the following criteria: Price, Features, Ease of installation, Ease of use, and Performance. Then we’ve compared these modules against the standard x-cart features. We loaded up a development server, installed copies of x-cart, and purchased and installed the mods: DSEFU, XCSEO Pro, and CDSEO Pro, while leaving one installation untouched. We then compared the interfaces of each mod, how easy and intuitive it was to use the available features.

For performance testing, we’ve used the software AdventNet QEngine Application Load Testing Software to load test all three x-cart search engine optimization mods on a default x-cart store simulating 20 concurrent users. We did five tests on each installation and calculated the averages. In addition to performance testing, we benchmarked using x-cart’s internal benchmarking software by enabling it in top.inc.php.

Installation

Installation process of each of the modules required you to upload new files to the server and change some of the existing x-cart files.

To complete CDSEO Pro installation you need to launch the installation wizard, which will help you to configure product features. As last steps you will have to manually modify 7 files, adding in total, approximately 34 lines of code into your standard xcart out of the box files. Additionally we had to create a new .htaccess and robots.txt files according to the instructions given by installation wizard. The installation process took us about 10 minutes to complete.

To complete DSEFU Pro installation requires you to manually update 7 files with 63 lines of code. Being a simple HTML catalog replacement it doesn’t have any configuration settings. It does require the ability to change file permissions to load your license. Lastly we had to manually change paths in .htaccess and robots.txt files as we’d installed to a subfolder. Total installation process took us about 10 minutes to complete.

XCSEO Pro was supposed to be simple as it provides file patches to run via the admin area of xcart (note this does require the ability to change file permissions), however when we attempted to apply the patch to our fresh of the box xcart (4.1.10) it failed. As a result we had to manually patch a file which takes knowledge of .diff files. Like DSEFU, we then had to manually modify paths in .htaccess and robots.txt. Lastly we ran the sql php file and updated the the database. Install time for us was about 15 minutes.

For the technically savvy these installations didn’t take much time to complete and were relatively simple, however if you don’t have technical expertise we strongly recommend purchasing an optional installation together with the mod of your choice as making a simple mistake during installation process may render your xcart non-functional.

Ease of use and feature set

Each of these mods has a different approach to replacing standard HTML catalog of x-cart. Sets of features differ greatly from none with DSEFU to many of SEO configurations in CDSEO Pro, with XCSEO Pro being in the middle.

DSEFU provides search engine friendly urls automatically, based on the category/product/manufacturer/page name. This process is essentially a creation of the html catalog without the creation of secondary static pages and avoiding duplicate content penalty while presenting visitors with the relevant version of the page. The reliance of URLS on the product, category or page names means that if a product title, category name, or page changes the URL changes. This can cause search engine fits due to broken links.

The home.php values are not automatically filtered to the root directory to consolidate page rank and while some manual edits are provided to change the major links to home.php, they don’t go far enough to consolidate your page rank to root. Beyond automatic url writing, the module offers no additional options or SEO features.

XCSEO Pro goes beyond DSEFU giving you custom control over your URLs, so that you can manually specify URLs appearance via your x-cart admin section. Module controls are logically placed in the appropriate areas of xcart admin. You can customize category URLs by navigating to “Categories Management”, page URLs via “Modify Product”, and static pages URLs via “Static Pages” interface. The custom nature of these URLs prevents broken links when items are renamed and if you decide to change a page URL, the module will place instructions on the server so that visitors and search engines can find a new page automatically.

One thing we didn’t like about the XCSEO Pro is that when you have large amount of products in one category spread across pages these secondary pages URLs are not rewritten in an SEO friendly manner. A category with 10 pages of products for example, will have an SEO friendly url of http://www.example.com/category.html but then secondary pages have dynamic urls of http://www.example.com/category.html?pageid=2, http://www.example.com/category.html?pageid=3, etc. As a result, secondary pages and thus products existing on those secondary pages, are much less likely to be indexed well.

CDSEO Pro has the richest set of features. Like XCSEO Pro it extends x-cart search engine optimization, by performing custom URL rewriting. It also providing the ability to modify the following key components of SEO: page titles, meta keywords, meta descriptions, and link anchor tags. Unlike XCSEO Pro controls, CDSEO Pro controls are placed in a separate interface, which is very intuitive and very easy to use. We like the import/export feature, which allows you to export settings and configuration into CSV file (which you can then edit in Excel) and import it back into your xcart. This can be very timesaving for large stores.

URL rewriting options provide custom URLs entered via an admin section, and also allows folder structure and/or .html extensions, configurable on a category/product/manufacturer/static page level. It provides SEO friendly secondary pages regardless of your format. CDSEO Pro has options to automatically and safely redirect the default php pages and/or the html catalog pages, and allows you to input a custom home page title. Like XCSEO, when URLs are modified, 301 redirects are also automatically applied from the old URLs to the new.

Performance

We used AdventNet QEngine Application Load Testing Software to load test all three x-cart search engine optimization mods on a default x-cart store simulating 20 concurrent users.

Mean statistics under load testing

Default X-Cart DSEFU XCSEO Pro CDSEO Pro
*Mean Response Time (ms): 4508 5323 6314 5652
**Mean Page Download Time (ms): 5.6 5.8 24.2 6.6

*Response time is one of the most important characteristics of load testing. Response time reports and graph measures the web user experience as it indicates how long the user waits for the server to respond for his request. This is the time taken, in seconds, to receive full response from the server. It is equivalent to the time taken by the client to connect to the server and receive the response including image, script and stylesheet.

**The page download time is the time taken, in seconds, to receive the full response of the page including image, script and stylesheet from the first byte of the server response.

X-Cart benchmarking

Home Page Load

Default X-Cart DSEFU XCSEO Pro CDSEO Pro
Load Time (seconds): 0.8402 0.8583 1.3967 0.8697
Used Memory (Mb): 4.699 5.112 5.561 5.033

Category Page Load

Default X-Cart DSEFU XCSEO Pro CDSEO Pro
Load Time (seconds): 1.0622 1.2547 1.3082 1.1657
Used Memory (Mb): 4.745 5.162 5.212 5.042

Product Page Load

Default X-Cart DSEFU XCSEO Pro CDSEO Pro
Load Time (seconds): 0.7785 0.8600 0.9214 0.8611
Used Memory (Mb): 4.698 5.110 5.043 5.017

Stress Test Page (with 4000 urls)

Default X-Cart DSEFU XCSEO Pro CDSEO Pro
Load Time (seconds): 1.7332 8.1023 16.9432 3.0918
Used Memory (Mb): 3.504 3.998 38.925 3.816

On default x-cart pages DSEFU and CDSEO Pro ranked comparable for loading time, while XCSEO was consistently slower. CDSEO Pro was the best on memory usage and by far the best under stress testing, ranking 250% better than DSEFU and more than 550% better than XCSEO. XCSEO Pro’s memory usage under stress testing was over 1000% more than the other two modules.

Conclusion

DSEFU is a cost effective, and easy to use and install alternative to the HTML catalog. It has no additional options to optimize your store.

XCSEO is a good replacement for HTML catalog. It gives you the control if you need to create keyword reach URLs in your store. Beyond custom URL input it doesn’t have any SEO options. Despite the fact that it is being marketed as the fastest of the bunch – it was the slowest module according to our performance tests. We cannot recommend it for busy stores.

CDSEO Pro was easy to install and provides the best set of SEO features. We loved the control it gives over the URL. We loved the fact that you can have custom title and meta tags for each page of your store. If you are serious about SEO your store when using DSEFU or XCSEO Pro requires a great deal of further customization for SEO purposes, while CDSEO provides the majority of everything you need for onsite SEO in an easy to use administration. CDSEO Pro is clearly a winner and makes a complete SEO solution for your xcart.

HTML Catalog CDSEO Pro DSEFU Pro XCSEO Pro
Cost/Installation Free $199.99/$50.00* $49.95/$25.00 $120/$30.00
Installation n/a
Performance
Features (overall)
Custom URL
Automatic 301 redirect
Custom Title Tag
Custom Meta keyword
Custom Meta description
Overall score and value for money n/a

Note: Accurate as of June 24, 2008

Limited Time Offer

Performing search engine optimization on x-cart’s since for over 10 years, resulting in millions of dollars in increased revenue for clients, we at ASF Design Inc. will use CDSEO Pro for our xcart SEO and recommend that you use it also. In fact, we were so impressed by the CDSEO Pro product, that we didn’t want price to be the only reason you used one of the competing modules. For that reason, we have negotiated a deal with WebsiteCM to offer CDSEO Pro to you at the price of $120.00 as a limited time offer (installation not included)

To apply for your discount, visit Custom Dynamic Search Engine Optimization (CDSEO Pro) for X-Cart and enter ASFDESIGN as your discount coupon during checkout

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