eCommerce stores. Big, bulky and are often rife with issues if a store owner has uploaded thousands of products without any regard to SEO or proper structure.
Whilst uploading thousands of products and waiting for floods of referrals from Google might sound like the dream, the reality is that this ideal can’t be any further from the truth.
The reality is that eCommerce sites are often difficult to optimize and SEO is an ongoing process. They’re a lot different to a blog or a corporate business website because eCommerce sites are ever evolving – new stock comes in, old products expire never to return.
Due to the nature of eCommerce sites, for the very reason listed above, numerous SEO issues can arise and make SEO difficult for eCommerce sites.
So what can you do to make SEO efforts easier when you’re a store owner?
Please note that these tips are aimed at newer store owners and people who are less experienced with SEO. If you are looking for more in depth SEO tips and techniques, this article may not be for you.
1. Product Titles
Duplication is going to be a key point that is brought up, over and over again. Unfortunately, whilst this may be boring, this is the crux for many issues.
Title tags are one of the foundations of On Page SEO. It’s a simple element that seems to be overlooked and more and more stores are forgetting to use unique title tags for their products. Whilst it is difficult to create unique titles for all products – and let’s face it, if you have multiples of a product then you’re bound to start repeating yourself – you can use a simple formula to try and differentiate between these different products.
Something along the lines of Brand – Model – Item Type usually works well.
Another good tip is to talk to your customers and get some feedback about how they talk about the products that you are selling. If they use a specific format when talking about specific products, then use that – it will appeal more to them.
2. Product Descriptions
Products, the lifeblood of any store – obviously. However, products seem to be one of the biggest issues and the issues detailed within this section are easy mistakes to make and to correct.
One of the big mistakes that people tend to make when placing products on their store is the product description.
There are several possibilities as to why product descriptions are causing you issues.
- Lack of Description – This kills the products chance of ranking anywhere in the top 10 positions of high and low volume queries. Google thrives on unique content and when a product is lacking unique content on that page, then you’re going to run into issues. To combat this, check how many words are on a blank product page as default and then exceed that amount with unique content about that product. You will need to write content that helps customers to make purchasing decisions and that are adequately descriptive of the product itself.
- Duplicate content – Again, unique content is key. Far too many store owners copy or use the manufacturers’ description and if you are doing it, then someone else is too. This means that there are several sites using the same product descriptions. This is a sure fire way of getting hit with a Panda penalty and having your website slowly decline in traffic. If you are using these descriptions then you’re probably not using language that enables consumers to make smart purchasing decisions, it probably won’t sell them the product in the same way that it sold you the product at a stockist.
- No User Generated Content – This can help to dilute the often general duplicate content issues of default product pages. It helps to overall differentiate you from your competitors. Not only is user generated content (reviews) good for SEO, it is also great for boosting conversions and purchasing decisions for consumers.
3. Product Reviews
It is said that 88% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations they receive from friends. The impact of this is huge for conversions and if you do not have User Reviews on your website, especially for specific products, then you are potentially missing out on a huge slice of the pie.
You should have something in place to encourage or prompt users to leave reviews of products through either incentives or through email prompts once they have ordered and received their products.
Amazon are a great example of how this is done right and how it is used to drive sales.
Not only are user reviews great for conversions, they are also great for SEO, as mentioned above.
4. Schema Markup
Structured data formats are essential for eCommerce SEO. If you do not have any structured data markup currently implemented on your store, then you’re starting to fall behind the curve. As bigger brands are starting to implement it across their sites, it is quickly becoming one of the key on page SEO elements.
Having structured data implemented helps your overall click through rate when people are searching for products within Google search. As you can see from the example above, John Lewis have structured data implemented to markup the following:
They could further enhance this by having stock status, so you know that an item is in or out of stock before you click through to the product.
5. Optimize Category Pages
Category pages for an eCommerce site are their bread and butter pages. By adding substantial content to these pages you can not only target the big ticket terms that you are one day hoping to dominate, but you can also easily rank for lesser search terms that are going to bring in more targeted traffic.
By adding 300 – 500 words of content to your category pages, you give your website a lot more legs and these can make great landing pages. Within this content, you can also interlink to products or other categories to promote and interlink, which further passes authority through the website.
Having internal links for terms that aren’t being promoted through tags will also help the website to rank for these terms.
6. Site Structure and Architecture
I could write a huge section on this and a lot of eCommerce stores, especially newer stores make some pretty big mistakes when it comes to site architecture and structure.
Having a good website structure can dramatically affect not only your websites usability, which is extremely important as it allows consumers to find what they are looking for easily, but it also affects how your website will rank and how quickly Google can index it.
Having a plan on how the website should be structured ensures that any future product launches are in line with the store and should make the process a lot smoother.
When designing your website, thinking of the structure is important because you want consumers to reach what they are looking for in as fewer clicks as possible. Having this flat architecture also ensures that your site adequately passes authority through too all of the pages via internal linking from the Homepage down to product pages.
To successfully carry this out, you need to do enough keyword research about your target market and then base your architecture based on said keyword research. This provides your customers and you as a business owner a clear path from homepage to product with as few clicks as possible.
7. URL Structure
With good website architecture should come good URL structure. What I mean by this is that URL’s should not look like the following:
These types of jibberish URL’s are to be avoided at all costs.
What you want is for your URL’s to be structures so that they speak to the customer. Having keywords within your URL’s not only helps consumer what to expect on the specific page, but it also helps overall rankings in search as Search Engines use these URL’s to decide what terms the URL should be ranking for.
This is basic relevancy signal and can help, alongside good content on the page, to drive traffic from any number of keywords that are related to the content and URL.
A good URL structure for an eCommerce store would be the following:
This URL will provide some sort of breadcrumb for the search engines, but does come with some issues.
Firstly, you may experience some duplicate content issues that come from different URL patterns that are often associated with eCommerce stores. These cannot be helped however you can utilize a Rel=Canonical tag to avoid these issues and to notify Google that the URL is the correct URL to be indexing. This is an easy fix for a potentially large problem if not implemented.
eCommerce sites need constant monitoring. Things can get out of hand quite quickly if not tended to on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. Having some sort of plan or monitoring in place can really help to avoid any issues with duplicate content, general site errors or SEO blunders especially if you are stocking a lot of product that rotates often.
There are a lot more things that you can be doing to help to increase your eCommerce SEO efforts, but these are some of the basics that you should be looking at the overall help your store to succeed online.