Your Blog IS NOT an Island
(AKA Your Blog is Not a Step-Child)
(AKA Embedded Blogs: Wrong Solution for the Wrong Problem)
I’ve written before about why I believe that embedded blogs are the wrong solution for the wrong problem.. So let’s look at some of the most common supporting statements used by those firmly in the “embedded blogs” camp.
As most folks know, WordPress has long been touted for providing siteowners with a means to EASILY add keyword rich content, which as we know is good for SEO, conversion rates and increasing search engine rankings. However, there are still those who would tout the virtues of implementing “embedded blog” solutions by stating (erroneously) that having a “separate blog” is a BAD thing that you want to avoid at all costs. Here’s some of the most commonly used supporting statements for endorsing a blog embedded inside Zen Cart:
- Customers can navigate seamlessly between your store and your blog
- Embedding means not having your blog in a separate location
(saaaaaaaayyy.. doesn’t that KINDA contradict the previous statement??)
- Customers are taken away from your Zen Cart site when they click through to your blog
- You do not need to create a separate WordPress theme
(one of my favorites “mis-statements”… more later on this..)
- Enjoy all the functionality of WordPress
(hmmmmmmm.. ALL of it.. really??? even ALL plugins??)
- Shopping cart totals and checkout links will show on your site pages including the blog.
These statements on their face are ALL only partially true. Surely they do not tell the WHOLE WordPress and Zen Cart integration story. Truly some of this train of though comes from not letting go of old beliefs. Namely that there is only ONE WAY to skin the WordPress Zen Cart integration cat. (HA!)
Regarding items 1-3:
If your blog and store are in the SAME domain, regardless as to whether Zen Cart is in a subfolder of your WordPress site (http://yoursite.com & http://yoursite.com/shop) or WordPress is in a subfolder of your Zen Cart site http://yoursite.com & http://yoursite.com/blog) your customers are NOT “taken away” from your site when they click through to your blog or store. Your WordPress blog and Zen Cart store are a part of the OVERALL landscape that makes up your site. These elements of your site are not some separate island to be treated like some red-headed step child..
From the customer POV, clicking a link to an article or clicking a link to a product page is all part of the same activity involved with browsing your website as they all reside in the same domain. Trust me they are not saying as they browse your site “Uh oh.. I am in WordPress land now..” or “I am traveling to the land of Zen Cart..”
However, if you do not have LOTS of visual cues to guide your customers when they transition from (lets say) a product page to a blog article, the chances of customers losing interest in or forgetting about making a purchase in the shop increases. Unless you aid them by gently reminding them that they have items in the cart, or show them the way to the products your online store offers for sale — product category links, specials and featured product listings, customer testimonials, product reviews, etc — unless you include product related links somewhere in your blog, your customers WILL forget. Without including product and shopping cart elements inside your blog pages, you increase the chances that your customers will lose interest in, or forget about buying something from your online shop.
Obviously, this is bad for customer conversion. On this same note it is NOT enough to simply add a stale non-dynamic link to the shopping cart inside your blog to “integrate” it with your store.. (more on this follows)
Regarding items 4-5:
The most common reason that folks opt for an embedded blog, has LESS to do with wanting to keep customers engaged and more to do with wanting to avoid having to create a separate WordPress template. It is somewhat of a mis-statement to say that by embedding your blog inside Zen Cart, you do not need to create a WordPress theme. All embedded blog methods require some kind of WordPress theme (even a generic one) to manage the display of your WordPress content even inside of Zen Cart.
However, WordPress themes have come a LOOOOOONG way from 6 years ago when WordPress versions 2.5/2.6 were the new “improved” kids on the block. There are so MANY more options for easily “growing your own” WordPress theme from scratch, downloading one for free (from a REPUTABLE site), or for purchasing a well written WordPress theme (for less than $50). Finally WordPress themselves have improved the HECK out of the default themes that come with WordPress. The stock “Twenty-Something” series of WordPress themes easily allows one to modify the “Twenty-Something” series of themes with a minimal of skill required for modest changes.
However, if one is familiar with how WordPress and Zen Cart themes/templates are constructed, it is quite easy using WordPress hooks to make direct calls inside a Zen Cart template to whole sections of the WordPress theme (like for example the footer). The mastery of this method makes it possible for WordPress and Zen Cart to “share” a theme. (see http://tablelegworld.com, http://eyeitalia.com, or even http://overthehillweb.com for examples of this method in action)
One final thing on this.. The thing to be aware of is that once WordPress is “embedded” inside Zen Cart, you may find that you will not be able to use some of your favorite WordPress plugins. There are many WordPress plugins that do not behave well within the WordPress on Zen Cart embedded configuration.
Regarding items 6:
When your WordPress blog is integrated into your Zen Cart store using tools like Zen Cart® for WordPress (zen4wp) & WordPress for Zen Cart® (wp4zen), real time session dependent information IS visible on the blog pages (i.e., shopping cart totals, login info, etc.), which makes it more likely that your customers will return to shopping and complete their purchase after reading your blog.
To Sum It All Up:
Zen Cart® for WordPress (zen4wp) & WordPress for Zen Cart® (wp4zen) make it possible to build a WordPress blog and Zen Cart store that will provide full integration functionality so that wherever your customer’s are within the landscape of your site, they will be able to see & access Zen Cart related links (content) as well as session dependent data anywhere within WordPress and they will be able to see and access WordPress related links (content) anywhere within Zen Cart.