Optimizing e-commerce websites for SEO is a lot different to optimizing a brochure website or an online blog/magazine. While many of the principles remain the same, e-commerce websites face many challenges that other sites don’t.
No platform is ‘out of the box SEO ready,’ whether you’re on Magento, Demandware, NetSuite SuiteCommerce or WooCommerce, you need to invest in SEO before, during and after your build. It’s not as simple as putting up products and waiting for the traffic to roll in.
Below are some of the most common SEO failings I’ve encountered when reviewing and working on e-commerce sites over the years:
Using Product Descriptions as Provided by the Manufacturer
Business owners after a quick, easy way to add content to their product pages go ahead and use the product and brand descriptions that the manufacturer has given them. These descriptions are sent to every online company that the manufacturer has products listed with, meaning this content isn’t unique and while it may be relevant, Google will treat is as duplicate content and filter those pages out of search results.
To stand out from the competition, you need to write unique product descriptions that engage with your audience. It is a daunting task writing unique content for vast numbers of products, but there is no quick win for this.
You may want to consider putting no-index tags on some product pages that you can’t write content for (such as accessory products that you have no intention of ranking for – but are nice to have on the website to try and cross sell to users with at checkout) or using product configuration tools, so instead of having 10 pages (and URLs) for the same sweater but in different colors, you have one page with the sweater on and the user can pick their desired color.
Ignoring Keyword Research
Any good SEO campaign (and agency) will be able to provide you with quality keyword research early in your campaign, they can even provide you with recommendations for keywords you want to naturally include within text on specific pages. Not doing thorough keyword research, including competitor keyword research is almost a crime in 2016, given the tools available, and if you're selling SEO services and don't know how to use them, learn.
Although if someone starts talking to you about ‘keyword density’ or ‘text above the fold,’ then it’s not a conversation you want to be having. If you’re going to write about a topic, and produce good copy, you’re going to cover the necessary keywords.
Yes, having specific keywords in the text is important, as is having them in the title tag – but ‘making sure that you have a certain word (and variations of) present X number of times or to a certain percentage density,' isn’t a thing anymore. It’s also important to remember the differences in culture when writing content for international websites (especially when doing SEO for Japan or other parts of Asia).
Make sure you include brand names (where applicable) in your title tags and H1s, fill out your alt tag information correctly and don’t use model numbers or SKUs in your title tags and H1s.
Including Technical SEO from the Start
Recently, someone wrote a blog post comparing technical SEO as makeup… Yeah.
Before you even start thinking about content, imagery and ‘conversion funnels,’ it’s important that you involve SEO and the opinions of technical SEO consultants very early on in the site build – this way avoiding basic mistakes such as not adding rel=”nofollow” to your websites faceted navigation can be avoided, saving your crawl budget.
It’s important that procedures are in place for things like removing obsolete or discontinued products from the website before they are required. I’ve had a lot of companies come to me with a ready built site requesting a technical audit, and while there has been nothing wrong with the build of the site (in terms of the ability of their developers) not all developers code and create functionality with SEO in mind, so this often means having to redevelop parts of the site which can be costly.
Have you encountered these issues frequently on e-commerce sites? Let us know about it in the comments.