Blank checklist form, to-do list with office supplie.Getting SEO right for any website requires time and effort as well as the knowledge to devise and implement a strategy that will work. But for an ecommerce website with thousands of products and categories and more being added on a daily basis, there are some very easy traps to fall into and get the SEO very wrong. The following checklist is by no means exhaustive but should guide you through the main areas to watch out for.

  1. URL Construction – on a large site with many products it is quite likely that urls will be dynamically generated and whilst this saves time, it can be detrimental to the optimisation of the website. Some ecommerce platforms will automatically use the product number or prefix with /shop/ or /product/. Equally having ridiculously long urls taken from the product title will also do you no favours. Here are some examples of how not to construct your product urls:
  • com/shop/id-38195562
  • com/product-category/cctv/wireless/ lorex-additional-day-and-night-wireless-outdoor-camera-for-a05uc-a06uc

   Keep it clean, with relevant keywords to a minimum, not too long or overly dynamic.

  1. Site Structure and Internal Linking – Aim for a hierarchical site structure with keyword based categories and level two categories, then products. If the site structure goes any deeper than that, it is not only hard for people to find products but the google bots won’t go that deep either. On the other hand you don’t want the structure to be too flat either.

With a massive ecommerce site it is advisable to have a filter or faceted navigation system to enable users to easily find products. Depending on how this is implemented, it could have undesirable effects on the SEO. For example some faceted navigation or filters can act as a barrier to crawlers and therefore hundreds of pages won’t be indexed. Sometimes subpages produced by filtering systems are not given (by the system) their own unique meta data and title tags, thus eliminated the chance for that subset to be found for the relevant terms. Be sure that your facets and filters are crawlable and are implemented to insert keyword signals, meta data and breadcrumbs into each possible filtered page.

Internal Linking is very necessary for the success of your SEO strategy but should not be overdone, too many links per page is not a good sign for the search engines.

  1. Product Descriptions – by this I mean the actual description on the page that the user will see (not the meta description). Time and time again I have seen website owners wondering why their product pages don’t rank. Usually a quick check online reveals that they have the same product description as the manufacturer and a load of other websites who sell the same products. Google sees your pages as a duplicate of any web page with the same copy. Google will index and rank the first version that it crawls as the original (usually the manufacturer). You MUST make your product descriptions unique, however long it takes you and your team to rewrite them.

With very large sites, it may be that you have a team of people working to add products and content to the website. Be sure that they have training on the basics of on page SEO so that they can add content in the right way.  What may seem to be a very simple job to farm out to untrained staff is actually a very important part of your online strategy.

  1. Duplicated Products – this can easily happen if you decide to place the same product in a number of different categories giving each page a different url. This is not a good idea as it will be seen by the search engines as duplicated content. There are a couple of ways round it:
  • Use the same page and url in each instance, then there is no duplication, however, this can mess up breadcrumbs and confuse users if they notice the category change In the url.
  • Use robots.txt or canonical tags to stop the search engines finding and indexing the duplicate versions.

Another instance of duplicated content on an ecommerce website can be identical pages produced for the same product with only a colour variation. This can be avoided with a drop down option for viewing different colours on the same page with no url change.

  1. Long and Short Optimisation – Optimising your website needs to happen on more than one level. For example, some website owners become fixated with ranking for what we call a ‘vanity phrase’, a very broad term that is usually very highly competitive. There is nothing wrong in wanting to achieve a top position for ‘shoes’. And in fact optimising at category level to drive traffic for terms such as ‘high heel shoes’ is also a worthy strategy. People searching with such broad terms are quite often in ‘research mode’ and are merely browsing for ideas and inspiration but they may find a product of yours via your navigation that they will purchase.

But don’t forget about the ‘longtail’ search, by this I mean someone who searches for ‘ 5 inch heel red glittery shoes size 5 with pointed toe’. This person knows what they want! They are in BUYING mode, be sure that they arrive at your product page and are funnelled directly through a fast checkout with plenty of upsell and cross sell on the way!

  1. Decent Content – Yes, yes everyone is tired of SEO’s banging on about quality content. All very dull I know, but the fact remains that thin content on any page of your website will harm your chances of ranking. Aside from writing good copy here are some other ways to generate unique content:
  • UDC – user driven content, reviews for example on a product page are not only expected by the user and encourage conversions, but they create unique, regularly updated content for search engines. Community Q and A, will have the same effect and this will be maximised if it is shared across social platforms.
  • Optimised videos and pictures on a product page add varied content that Google will love. A video of a model wearing those glittery, red shoes on a catwalk will boost conversions too.
  • Tracking your competitors’ content strategies to see where you may be missing a trick is easy with tools like http://trackmaven.com/. Or use http://buzzsumo.com/ to search for the most shared content in your sector by topic/keyword. This can help you to devise content strategies based on trending topics.

Can we help?

If you need help or advice with any aspect of your online strategy for an Ecommerce or any type of website in terms of optimisation, conversions or usability, then give our friendly team a call on 01793 766040.

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