Ecommerce SEO has some very specific opportunities and some challenges; the core SEO principles remain however the execution is quite different…
Even if you have only a couple of hundred products, at the very heart of the challenge of growing your traffic and online revenues for your Ecommerce site is scale. From an onsite perspective, preparing and writing rich, original content for a range of products that tend to be quite similar in nature is a daunting task for even the finest copywriters…and when you are working with hundreds or thousands of SKU’s (Stock Keeping Units) the task becomes insurmountable. As a leading Ecommerce SEO company, the team at seoWorks has experienced a myriad of Ecommerce executions, some extraordinarily successful and others, well, less than ordinary.
Fire, Ready, Aim?
Almost 80% of clients that come to us for Ecommerce SEO have already selected their online shopping platform, decided on the site structure, selected the product categories and names, bought products, launched the website and have been genuinely surprised when Google has suitably ignored their baby. We’re not going to preach but really…does that sound like the smart approach?
If you are serious about being really successful in the digital arena you have to be at least as diligent in your approach as you would be when choosing your life partner, buying a new home or a car (the other three major decisions in our lives). From the very beginning of the process, best practice dictates that you need to consider the Search Engines and their unique needs from day one.
Scaling up Search Engine Optimisation for Ecommerce websites needs significant thought and planning; you simply can’t hand code the <title>tags</title> and “description=”tags” for a thousand products but you can start applying some logic and rules to maximise your on-site SEO. In this Ecommerce SEO Guide are six key elements and tips to help you on your way…and later, 5 key mistakes that you should ensure you don’t make.
[ Most of the techniques we will be referencing in this article are from www.lovethatpet.com – Love That Pet is actually one of our own commercial sites and makes a great Ecommerce SEO Case Study – we’re pretty focused on getting our own SEO absolutely right for Love That Pet 😀 ]
Oh, and we’re going to assume you are already somewhat knowledgeable about the basics of SEO; if you are still quite new to the principles of digital marketing we encourage you to go to our “How SEO Works” and “How DO Search Engines Work” sections before reading further:
1 – Those Who Fail To Plan, Plan To Fail
We know that entrepreneurs in particular are driven by passion, enthusiasm and “the dream”…but without stepping back and mapping out each element of your Ecommerce website, and especially the SEO side of things, that dream will quickly fade, and sometimes become a nightmare. And unfortunately research, competitor analysis and planning are an essential but underwhelming aspect for dynamic, disruptive dreamers.
Here is just a preliminary Ecommerce SEO checklist of what must be considered at the product page level:
- Title – the “heading” that Google mostly displays in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages), its message and its relevance to your targeted keyword phrase
- Meta Description – the wording under the “heading” that is mostly displayed in the SERPs, its message and the likelihood that it will encourage searchers to click
- File Names – how your Ecommerce system creates file names and how user-friendly and search engine-friendly they are
- Navigation hierarchy – how many levels away from the home page are your categories, sub-categories and product pages
- Short product description – a brief summary of the product usually appearing “above the fold” and adjacent to the product image/s
“Advantix for Extra Large Dogs is a topical parasite treatment designed to protect your canine companion against fleas, ticks, biting flies, mosquitoes & sand flies.”
- Long Product Description – a more detailed “story” about the product (and on the best sites this is really a story, one that conveys an emotional connection with site visitors) – see the lower half of this page and click on “More”
- Product Specification – details, details, details and how not to make these just a copy from the manufacturers site – see above FAQ
- Sizes and colours – how these are selected and appear in the code, does your Ecommerce system require separate pages for each size/code in the “back end”
- Call To Action buttons – are they images or text
- In stock or out of stock – how these are described
- Shipping – description and methods
- Images – how many and can the images be named in a keyword rich “Advantix-Blue-Bayer-450×450.jpg”, can you add image title, description and ALT text to each unique use of the image
Each of the above requires careful thought and planning so that you have a template to work to…and for a smaller site with a couple of hundred products that may be enough. But when you have 50 categories, 200 sub-categories and 5,000 plus products with multiple sizes and variations you need to add a layer on top that will semi-automate some of these elements, especially during bulk uploads, whilst allowing you to override the logic/formulas for key highly important categories and products.
And be wary of following the internet Pied Piper; there is an implied assumption that because Amazon or eBay or ASOS do things in a particular way then that must be the best way…it usually isn’t, but these sites have established such a significant scale and authority over time that they can get away with a quite few things (but not always) – you have to be smarter, more agile and swifter…so make sure what you build or have had built can keep you ahead of the pack.
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion, or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle, or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better start running.”
2 – It Really IS about Content
We know, we know, we know…just about every digital marketing tips article you come across preaches to you about high quality, unique, rich content…but how do YOU get rich if you are spending all your income on Shakespearian quality copywriters writing the SEO equivalent of Tolstoy’s War and Peace?
You just have to choose your battles wisely. There are two schools of thought here; invest in high quality copy for your “gun” products, the ones you make the best margin on but that are highly competitive or spread your quality copy to the less competitive products initially and then work up to the core ones. In the end, it is a balance of the two…and it’s a marathon, not a sprint…however, once you have your perfect page, you probably only need to revisit for a tweak once a year.
Category Page Content
Think of category pages as being like micro-home pages for that product group – your content for these pages must be just as good as your home page. Place a short amount of keyword focused content above the content on the first page of the category results and then ensure that your platform will allow you to add to more content below the 9 or 12 product thumbnails that most Ecommerce Platforms generate.
Product Page Content
When it comes to product page content the natural approach is, to quote Joe Friday from the 1960’s TV series Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am” but that just isn’t enough to make you stand out of the crowd when the Google spider comes crawling. Start telling stories as to why this product is special, or why buying it from your site is special.
Rich, Useful And Meaty Non-Product Content
Users want advice, tips and guidance and Google knows that too; so you need to also look at how you can add value to your website visitors’ experience that the Search Engines can also relate to. Love That Pet has invested significantly in developing content about pet ownership, breeds, food and diet, grooming, health and wellness and much more. Each page is written by qualified vets and includes references to resource materials. You can see an example here https://www.lovethatpet.com/dogs/ – and then each article is linked from to related products.
3 – Name Your Child (Pages) Wisely
We have all rolled our eyes at some stage when a proud parent announces that they have named their child “Heavenly North Star 457” and yet too many websites let their platform name their pages for them, usually based on the category and product name, which is not too bad, but some platforms continue to use the SKU or some other random numbering system. Often these are not so keyword or search engine-friendly. Take the time to either name these manually or set up a solution in your Ecommerce platform “logic” so as to keep your filenames short, keyword rich and user friendly.
4 – A Picture IS Worth A Thousand (Key) Words
Images are an essential element of your product pages and your digital strategy. Put yourself in your customer’s situation for a moment. Are you more likely to buy a product from a site that clearly depicts the product from multiple perspectives, from a site that has no image at all, or from one that is small and illegible?
Well, it’s the same with Search Engines; currently Search Engines struggle with image recognition (they are getting better) and consequently they rely on clues such as the image name “Advantix-Blue-Bayer-450×450.jpg”, where it is filed, the image title, description and ALT text.
To correctly SEO your images for search, begin with the filename. Don’t upload images named IMG0901.jpg to your product pages. Instead, use the product name and main keywords and ensure that your online store does not override your image file names and attributes when you upload them.
If you have alternative multiple view images of your product, include different keywords that people would use if they were searching for those images in Google image search.
The outcome for this small additional effort? Your pages will perform much better in the organic search results and in addition these images now have a much better opportunity of turning up in Google Image search, or next to your organic search listing in the main search results page when the Search Engines choose to display additional media.
5 – Recycle, Redirect or Reuse
Never, ever just delete a page.
Pages accumulate value over time and many will naturally gain links from other websites, some of which you may not be aware of. When you simply delete a page, you lose that accumulated value and those acquired incoming links just disappear. If for some reason you need to remove a product or content page permanently, try to recycle or reuse the same page filename again for a closely related product or article, or implement a 301 Redirect to a related page or to the product category (a 301 redirect tells the Search Engines that the page is not deleted but permanently moved and preserves the majority of the accumulated value and link value).
6 – Its’ About Links Stupid
Ouch…OK, we knew that we weren’t going to get away with creating our own content on Ecommerce SEO without mentioning link development; like the “content is king” mantra that is mentioned above, without a high quality link profile from relevant, on-theme authority sites then most of the above is window dressing. You can discover more about the importance of link development on this page or this page of our site…and for those of you that want to remain on this page, here are several good places to start:
- Ask partners, suppliers, employees, customers, friends and family members to link to you from their own site, blog or social media
- Reference and link to segment influencers to develop a relationship and proactively gain links back
- Reach out to the traditional as well as online press, bloggers and influencers with a newsworthy hook or offer free product for a review
- Make your content easy to distribute with social sharing and bookmarking widgets on every page
- Give users a reason to spread the word by creating humorous or controversial content (just like this page)
And if you were to do nothing else, create and share amazingly useful content that is worthy of getting links (ahem, just like this page?)
Five Big Mistakes To Avoid
As promised at the beginning, here is a check-list of no-no’s…
1 – Copying Is Indeed Cheating
Copying product page content from anywhere is bad, but copying and pasting manufacturers product content and specifications is just being plain lazy; and Google knows that. You have probably heard the term “duplicate content” and may even have heard that term with the word penalty attached.
Well, take it from us, there isn’t a duplicate content penalty…but what Google does do is simply ignore content that you have copied and that it can find elsewhere on higher authority sites, such as your manufacturers site.
So, get creative and start researching and writing.
2 – Just Get It Up – I’ll fix It Later
The problem with this is twofold. The first is that once the Search Engines initially index the page, they may not revisit that page for a while, so no matter how you tweak it, that original “snapshot” may stick with Google for a while and remain unfocused and not working to its maximum ability. The second factor is more to do with human nature and how busy we all are…in all honesty, you have to ask yourself, when will I have the time or inclination to come back and update a page, especially if it of lower importance. Do it once the right way, after that it is just a tweak.
3 – No other rich, compelling content
If you only have categories and product pages with product details and no other rich interesting content you are going to struggle to stand out from the online shopping crowd in your segment, not just with the Search Engines but also with your site visitors. Whether you create rich interesting pages like this one or blog articles on contemporary trends or cool happening in your industry, you need to create a rich array of content that will engage users, and Search Engines.
4 – Closing Out Product Reviews
About 70% of buyers are looking for “[insert keyword phrase] + reviews” of products on online stores or forums before making a purchase – most Ecommerce websites that do not allow reviews are worried that the reviews that are posted might be all bad. If your site has no such reviews, you are missing a very large percentage of the audience, plus a free source of original content. Most platforms allow you to curate reviews so go ahead, switch on user reviews…it’s an easy win.
5 – Search Engines Don’t Buy Much
And finally…no one will be more surprised than you (or perhaps the team here at seoWorks) when the Google spider crawls your site, whips out the Google credit card and buys the latest goodie, gadget or fashion ensemble with express delivery to the Googleplex. No matter how good your SEO is, it’s not going to happen. Don’t fixate solely on rankings or traffic, make sure that you also focus on engaging with and converting your website visitors.
When it comes to Search Engine-friendly Ecommerce platforms there are really only a few choices; if you are starting off on your journey then check out our content on the Bigcommerce solution or at the enterprise level, you can gain some great insights into the advantages of Magento for companies that have a seriously significant product portfolio; and sitting comfortably in between and integrating nicely with WordPress is the WooComerce extension which offers many of the enterprise-grade features in a more simplified infrastructure.
OK…here comes the pitch; no, don’t leave yet…you have read all the way down to here so it makes sense to now reach out to us; we work with a wide range of clients from SME’s Ecommerce sites with a hundred products where our Ecommerce SEO Packages are an ideal solution through to enterprises with tens of thousands of products which require our custom services…and yes, we would love to work with you as your SEO Partner.
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