It’s been a while since our last update! Therefore, I’m especially happy to introduce MultiMerch 8.10.
In addition to various bugfixes and minor things, the new release consists of two major parts: search engine optimization as part of MultiMerch and custom fields and field groups.
Here’s about these things in detail:
Search engine optimization for MultiMerch
OpenCart isn’t great in terms of SEO out of the box. Its SEO setting fixes some of the issues, but even with SEO enabled in OpenCart, it’s still not perfect.
In earlier versions, MultiMerch used to introduce some changes to OpenCart’s SEO system to permit custom SEO-friendly URLs for vendors, but the features were pretty limited.
It was possible to make OpenCart and MultiMerch marketplaces optimized for search engines, but usually through various SEO extensions for OpenCart, which are almost always quite intrusive, cause issues and require extensive integration to make it possible to use them with MultiMerch.
This changes starting with MultiMerch 8.10. From now on, we’ll try to keep MultiMerch as SEO-friendly as possible out of the box!
MultiMerch SEO controller and SEO-friendly URLs
The most important SEO feature that’s being introduced as part of MultiMerch 8.10 is our own SEO controller, which is used instead of OpenCart’s default SEOURL controller.
The main reason we decided to take this route is that OpenCart’s SEO controller isn’t great and requires quite a lot of changes, most of which can only be implemented via vQmod.
Instead of going this way and causing conflicts, we decided to keep it as is and implement our own controller instead, which supports:
- custom SEO-friendly URLs for all pages (both MultiMerch and OpenCart)
- overrides for developers for SEO-friendly URLs for third party extensions such as blogs
- proper URL rewrite blacklist to exclude certain URLs from being rewritten
Let’s take a closer look!
SEO URLs for OpenCart
When enabled, MultiMerch SEO controller rewrites all of the following URL that are part of OpenCart core, such as:
- product pages
- category pages
- account pages
- affiliate pages
- information pages
- contact page
- product comparison
- search results
- customer reviews
MultiMerch SEO controller also makes it possible to specify a custom prefix for products, which we usually prefer. Here are a few examples of rewritten OpenCart URLs:
We find that these URLs not only make the marketplace much more search engine friendly, but also user-friendly (OpenCart does not rewrite internal account URLs by default).
In addition to this, it's possible for developers to modify base OpenCart URL rewrites without much effort, as well as add custom rewrite rules if needed.
SEO URLs for MultiMerch
Since vendors were the main reason behind using our own SEO controller, we now also rewrite the following vendor-related pages:
- list of vendors
- vendor’s profile
- vendor’s store
- vendor categories
- vendor account pages
Here are a few examples:
We also make it possible to specify vendor URL templates via MultiMerch settings, something that was only possible via code changes in the past.
This means that you can change /sellers/ to /artists/, /designers/, /partners/ or anything else that best suits your marketplace, while also adjusting the /store/ and /products/ parts.
For example, you could have the following URL structure in your designer marketplace without modifying the code:
MultiMerch SEO controller will not rewrite URLs generated by third party extensions, but it’s possible via a simple modification.
Automatic slug and meta generator
In addition to URL rewrites, MultiMerch SEO system will also automatically generate all of the important SEO-related content, such as titles and meta descriptions for products, vendors and categories at the time of publishing without any extra input.
This means that you as the marketplace owner can keep the extra fields hidden not to confuse your vendors - vendor accounts, products and categories will get created as search engine friendly as possible.
We’ve also improved our SEO slug generator, which now supports proper transliteration for many non-ASCII symbols, and strips symbols that are not allowed or recommended by Google’s SEO guildelines.
In addition to major things outlined above, we’ve also reviewed and adjusted our breadcrumbs throughout MultiMerch, in both internal account pages and profile pages.
This means that all internal vendor pages will now be equipped with breadcrumbs and some other pages such as vendor stores and category structures had breadcrumbs optimized.
Future of MultiMerch SEO
The best thing about MultiMerch SEO system is that this is just the beginning. In the future, we’ll be updating it with many other important features such as:
- multilingual SEO
- bulk editors for keywords and metas
- various onpage SEO improvements
- SEO-related improvements to filenames and images
- SEO analytics and dashboards
- custom redirect manager and automatic redirects for renamed content
Custom fields and field groups
Custom fields is a yet another major MultiMerch feature that many of you have been waiting for.
In short, it’s now possible to create input fields of different types, group them into field groups and use them throughout MultiMerch.
While OpenCart has its own custom field system, we’ve found it lacking in functionality and decided to create our own system which we’ll be able to extend in the future.
At the moment, it’s possible to create custom fields of 8 different types and group them into custom field groups. Every field and group has a description, which is used as a placeholder for better user friendliness.
Custom field groups can then be assigned to products. Doing so will let both vendors and the marketplace owner to fill out a set of custom fields for a product.
The main difference from OpenCart attributes is that it's possible to specify field types.
So instead of having vendors fill out attributes as text inputs, it's possible to define checkboxes, radio boxes, selects, dates and datetimes as well as textareas and even file and image uploaders.
Field values will then be displayed on the product page in a separate tab, just like regular attributes.
In a way, custom fields are a combination of OpenCart's attributes and options.
While OpenCart will not currently use MultiMerch custom fields for filtering purposes, we plan to introduce our own filtering system which will use custom fields as part of future MultiMerch releases.
Future of custom fields
At the moment, it’s only possible to use custom fields for products. In the future, we plan to extend this system to make it possible to use custom fields for vendor and customer accounts, checkout and order details as well as individual categories.
This will make it possible to easily define custom vendor and customer fields, cart and checkout fields and many others - all of this without a single code change.
This release wouldn’t be complete without our custom theme integrations. As always, we try to keep our changes compatible with all of our partner themes.
Therefore, we made sure to update all of our partner theme integrations with MultiMerch 8.10!
We’ll also be updating our public demo marketplaces to MultiMerch 8.10 shortly.
This MultiMerch release, as well as the next few releases, is aimed towards improving MultiMerch experience for most of MultiMerch marketplace owners out of the box.
While there are some other major features that we still have in plans, we’ve decided to focus on improving the core MultiMerch experience for marketplace owners, vendors and customers alike.
This means that you can expect a few other core system improvements in the near future, such as order and payment management, invoicing and tax improvements, better emails and a few other great things.
A note of WARNING: since MultiMerch 8.10 includes updates to the base SEO system, please take care when updating and test the update on a backup of your marketplace first, especially if you’re running third party SEO extensions.
That’s it! MultiMerch 8.10 is now available in your MultiMerch accounts, so go give it a try. As always, you can find the list of changes in the new release in our Changelog :)