eCommerce SEO can be a massive challenge for retailers and webmasters. There is a lot of advice out there, but too often the recommendations don't come from those that live in the trenches day in and day out. So, I reached out to Arsen Rabinovich, Founder of the TopHatRank marketing agency, to get some insights on eCommerce SEO, strategies, platforms, and audits.
1. Can you tell us some of the common eCommerce technical SEO mistakes you see?
The bad news — most of the frequently observed eCommerce technical SEO issues, at least in our practice, require a bit of work to fix. The good news — addressing these issues typically results in substantial SEO improvements.
Improperly handled pagination is on my list as the biggest offender. Everything from missing canonicals, placement of rel=next/prev tags outside of the header, unreasonable use of noindex/follow robots instructions, to all kinds of confusing canonical signals along with how view-all/infinite-scroll pages are integrated with their series' component pages.
Poorly implemented pagination can lead to a bunch of other SEO problems like index-bloat (when you have more pages in Google's index than the actual unique pages on your website).
Other bad players include improper implementation of breadcrumbs and competition between brand and category silos.
These issues are not easy to fix if you don't know what you are doing. Depending on which platform/CMS your eCommerce site is built on, it may require a bit of know-how and code. So unless you know what you are doing, I would recommend enlisting the help of a professional.
2. I know you know eCommerce platforms well; how does a business choose between them? What should they look for?
This is a question that is frequently asked when we consult our clients through migrations. And I catch heat for saying this from time to time, but you should first choose a platform that most fits your business's unique needs and focus on SEO second.
For example, some of our clients like all the social shopping capabilities of Shopify, while we as SEO's dislike that we can't pull server logs, or change how categories and products are organized.
Regardless of the platform, a good SEO practitioner should be able to find creative ways of working around many limitations, to a certain extent of course.
3. What are your top 3 suggestions for eCommerce sites that are not converting?
The first thing is always being able to effectively predict and address your potential buyers' Fears, Uncertainties and Doubts (FUDs) as they relate to your products as well as your shipping, payment processing, and return processes.
Next one on my list is speed. This one is a common CRO advice but still needs to be repeated. The faster your pages load, the more conversions you will have. I am not going to cite anyone specifically; there have been plenty of studies done on this topic, "Google It".
My third suggestion is to stop forcing registration at checkout and/or pre-purchase. This is generally a terrible idea; no one is going to sign up for your email list or create an account on your site before seeing the products. At the same time, you should allow people to buy from you without creating a profile. You are not Amazon (yet).
4. There are a lot of companies out there offering site audits, but we know not all audits are equal. What should a business look for when choosing a company to perform an audit for them?
When choosing an agency for your SEO audits, you should look for someone who will not just sell you a report from a tool.
I am not saying that the tools are useless, tools are just that, tools. You still need a person who knows how to interpret the data these tools collect and knows how to apply all of the information in a way that will benefit you.
Ask these questions:
- Have you audited sites on my CMS?
- Who does the actual audit? (a lot of times an audit will get pushed to a junior SEO)
- What is being evaluated? (technical, backlinks, content)
- Can I see a sample audit report/deliverable? (This will help you get an understanding of how much detail will be provided)
Beyond that, you should keep in mind that a typical SEO Audit deliverable is a document which contains a write-up, spreadsheets, and actionable tasking. Most of the time the auditor will not be able to implement his/her recommendations. So make sure that you are either able to do it on your own or have someone who can do it for you, and budget for that accordingly.
5. You offer competitor audits. Can you tell us how the information you provide would benefit an eCommerce business?
Competitor/competitive SEO Audits are super fun. We get to pick our client's competitor websites apart and quietly giggle at all the mistakes we find. But for our clients, they provide a myriad of information and help us formulate super effective SEO strategies.
With the help of tools like SEMrush, we extract everything from keywords to backlinks. We crawl their websites to understand how topics are organized, how their content is structured, what their internal linking strategy is and so on.
We set up social listening to get an understanding of what is being expressed around their brand and content. You can even take it a step further and get into sentiment analysis.
Typically these types of audits result in tactics that can be placed into two buckets; DO and DON'T DO. And that is what the ultimate goal is for these audits — to understand what your competitor is doing right and wrong.
- Improperly handled pagination is a big offender when it comes to problems with eCommerce SEO, and can lead to a long list of issues that often require an expert to fix.
- Choosing an eCommerce platform should be about meeting needs.
- Address your potential buyers' Fears, Uncertainties and Doubts for conversions.
- Stop forcing registrations.
- When it comes to eCommerce SEO audits, ask the auditor questions to ensure you get the information you need.
- When it comes to eCommerce competitor audits, it isn't just about the SEO.
- How your competitor's topics are organized, how their content is structured, and their internal linking strategy is critical information.
I want to thank Arsen for his time answering these questions for us. If you have any questions for him, please leave them in the comments below, or you can find him on Twitter. You can find Arsen and his team speaking at several SEO conferences throughout the US and beyond.