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e-Commerce SEO Surgery #3




Paul: We're live. Thank you, everyone, that's already here and watching. There's a few people tuning in. That's great. This is our third of our e-commerce SEO surgeries that we're carrying out here. I'll let you guys introduce yourself. Franco, I'll let you kick-off. I know we've got somebody in the audience already knows you, but I'll let you introduce yourself to everyone else. 

Franco: Wonderful, thank you. Yeah, Franco with Narrative SEO. We're an agency out of Nashville, Tennessee. Right now, I'm in the giant blue room in North Carolina, because we were out of town this week. Thank you for having me again.

Luke: Yeah. Luke here, e-commerce consultant. This is what I do. I live, eat, breathe, sleep it. It's incredible stuff. Yes, just more so on the CRO/analytics, and conversion front where it is, is kind of where I sit. Looking forward to jumping into this.

Liz: Hey, everyone. I am the editorial director at Impact, which is a digital sales and marketing agency. I think I just saw somebody say they were from Baltimore. I currently live outside of New Haven, Connecticut, but I just moved up from the Baltimore area. So, a little love for my Maryland folks back there.

Paul: My name's Paul at Always Evolving SEO, yeah, big into e-commerce, GTM, structured data, so on and so forth. We've got three sites we've been looking at and I know you guys have all had a chance to go through them. Franco, I know you've got some slides. I don't know if you want to start off for us. 

1st Website: Server Configuration Issues

Franco: All right. The first one that we're going to talk about is Clifton Camera. Clifton Cameras is a camera shop, obviously, out of the UK. From our point of view, we dive deep into the server configuration side. 

The overall view of Clifton is it's a wonderful site setup well for e-commerce. I'm going to let Liz and Luke talk a little bit more about the on-page structure. 

But from the server structure, from the sort of the digital interconnections underneath the website, the configuration files look good. robots.txt file is in good shape; they're disallowing certain things that they should and other things that they shouldn't. 

The sitemaps are good. DNS, there's no problem with the way that they're doing the canonical links in the C names and A records. They're using Compuweb as the host, which is fine.

But they have a very, very difficult problem or a very serious problem, which is they're slowing their website down by using PHP 5.6.4. This version of PHP has been deprecated for years and it's not supported. The current level is 7.4. 

Just improving that, and this is a couple of button clicks on the server itself, can bring an extra two seconds of improved speed potentially for every page, as well as close a lot of holes within the server infrastructure.

The other thing that's very interesting is that they are HTTP 1.1. When the internet came out, HTTP was a protocol that runs, actually transfers the pages between a server and a browser. But it does it like a walkie-talkie. If something gets requested by the browser, the server sends that one file over and there's an acknowledgement; it can't send a bundle of things at the same time.

The newer version of HTTP is HTTP/2, which is asynchronous. It's more of a speakerphone. You can grab 10 files, this browser requests everything and the server can send everything while making more requests. That also serves to speed up the website as well.

They have a great opportunity, especially for e-commerce where, if they can reduce the web speed just by a second, that's on average a 7% improvement in conversion ratio. Really, really important for them to do those things.

They also have a little bit of an issue. They're security grid is at a B right now because their server supports TLS 1.1. This is something that recently came up. This was actually March of 2020. Browsers started warning that a site is not secure if they, and I actually had that within Chrome on another site, if they have a security certificate but the server supports TLS or the security level of 1.1 or below, it can say not secured even though you have a security certificate. This can affect search visibility as well.

They have all the components necessary to make this a best-in-class server. They're running NGINX. It's a very well structured site. They do some caching. A lot of really good things going on, except for the fact that they've got a couple of upgrades to do on the server. That's what I have so far for those guys.

1st Website: UX Refinements & Long-Tail SEO

Paul: Have you got anything on that at all, Luke, on Clifton cameras?

Luke: The first thing I want to jump into is there are filters here. Okay. From a UX point of view, it's a little bit tricky. In the sense that elements are quite small, so for mobile, this is a bit awkward, which doesn't really help. And then you've got that frustration of waiting for it to load so you can cancel and remove. 

On top of that, they're also missing out on a huge gold mine of opportunities here. Because these two queries alone, so less than 250 pounds and so on or these colorful mark prices are really powerful long-tail opportunities. If they're in a situation where they have this particular category, let's say, Flashguns, all of these filters right now are entirely blocked in where it was started, which isn't really ideal.

There's a bad way and there's a good way to do faceted navigation or filters, or whatever you want to call it. One way is kind of allowing everything sort of exposed to search engines, which is a no-no, you don't want it to happen. But also to the contrary where you have nothing exposed to the search engines really kind of robs you of that long tail easy-win conversion and traffic as well.

In terms of category layout and so on, it's not bad. But one thing I'd love to see here, and it might just be in my eyes, but I can't seem to see the ability to switch to a grid format rather than a list view. 

What is a missed opportunity here is all of these links here are passing equity and I'm pretty sure that all of these aren't necessarily that important. It goes down to the whole thing about structuring new internal links. Structuring how you divide your authority across the site. 

Yeah. That's a wrap for me for this one.

1st Website: Lack of User Focus and Organization, Thin Content

Liz: Okay. A couple of things that I really want to talk about here today. First, I'm going to take a look at the home page, then I'm going to take a look at a category page, and then I'm going to look at a product page.

I want to start here because the big banner headline for Clifton cameras is “a severe lack of organization that's focused on the user when it comes to content”. One of the things I always recommend any e-commerce company does is they have this tendency to lift content as if it was in a catalog and just drop it in as if it's a living and breathing catalog.

That is the big banner headline here. Whenever you are an e-commerce website, you should sit down and say, "I am a customer. What am I looking for first?" I guarantee you it is not going to be a rotating carousel that moves so quickly I can't read it. It's not going to be your top-selling products. It's not going to be all of these little different things.

You have someone who's coming to your website and they either want a camera, a video camera, something that has to do with mobile, you have all of this great stuff up here. Right?

But you have all of this real estate that should be devoted to some sort of self-selection mechanism so they can get to the part of your website where they need to go quickly. There is so much here that's information overload. 

Let's say you had that ability for someone to just go to cameras right away, right? Then just serve up your top products and brands, then serve up your offers. But this homepage real estate here is just so much for whomever is coming to your website. You make them go through a lot of different steps in different places in order for them to find anything. 

I do want to go back to this image carousel for a second. This is very, very popular with a lot of websites. I've seen this on e-com, I've seen this on B2B, I've seen this on B2C. The problem is that you like it as the person who is creating your website because it allows you to put a lot of things in front of someone instead of having to pick one thing.

Carousels are a diminishing return aspect of your website. Typically, you're not on it long enough for people to really get what it is that you're trying to give them and they often get confused and actually won't end up clicking on anything that's there.

I would recommend to give them some sort of strong self-selection area so they know where they want to go. Or, pick one thing that is the most important thing that should be in this real estate. There's too much here. It's as jumbled and as confusing as the rest of the homepage.

Going into the product page itself. There is a distinct lack of video here. Again, depending on what your organization looks like, it might be great if you have something that ends up being an editor's pick. They create a little video for it, it goes on here.

I find it interesting that we have tons of content here and then when you actually go into a product there's like no content. Is it good for beginners? Is it for intermediates? Is it good for experts? Again, this website is built to get all of your products out there, but it's not really done with your user or your ideal customer in mind. You've shown me all your products but you've made it very difficult for me to make a decision.

Those are my thoughts. Back to you in the studio.

1st Website: Blocking eCommerce Scrapers, Schema Markup Errors

Paul: If I just move my screens around I will share some information while I pick up on this one. Do you see my screen there, robots.txt file? There it is. Yeah, that's it. Again, yeah, the robots file, there's a lot in there. One thing I did notice is that they're blocking a very specific user agent.

For the people out there that are e-commerce, that specific one there is from a Chinese e-commerce site, one of the biggest ones in China. What they were doing was they were scraping people's websites and then sticking their content on their site. Essentially, because of the authority they had, that was like pushing some of the people to selling their own products out of the SERPs.

If you want to look at the sort of user agents you should be blocking, you can go over to this handy little site, which is StopBadBots. There's a list of them there that you can look at. There's a lot in there and there is some quite nasty ones for e-commerce in there. They are pretty much scrapers, to be fair.

Just a couple of little bits and pieces on the sort of lot more technical side. I did obviously run a pretty little structured data testing tool. Yes, they are missing out on the reviews. But also what they're missing out on here is all of this information they've gotten the inside there, these all individual snippets of structured data in individual pieces. 

When you look into the product, this specific camera here is going to have accessories on their website elsewhere. It's going to be related to other products. There's actually 48 different types of structured data you can nest underneath the product. They're missing out on a lot of opportunities. 

 Also, they're not also saying that this is part of a webpage that's published by their organization. If they code it up in a graph, it'd be a lot better.

There's just a couple of little bits that I picked up on there. If anyone's watching and has got any questions, please do put them in a chat.

2nd Website: Website Security and Optimizing Review Schema

Franco: All right. CKitchen. It's very similar to what we just talked about with Clifton cameras. Notice that it says not secured even though they have a security certificate for the website. 

This is because Chrome browsers as of March 2020 started alerting if you had TLS enabled, TLS 1.1 or below enabled on your server. This can affect search visibility. It can affect the positions where your keywords are as well as the breadth of the keyword density of those keywords.

There's a lot going on the screen. They redesigned the website sometime in the middle of May of 2018, which we'll talk about in just a minute as well. There's two things with the lock icon. Number one is TLS 1.1 is enabled on the server. They also have non-secured links embedded on the home page. 

Their CDN is pre-fixed and this may have been hard-coded, which just tells us two things: they need to globally edit any hard-coded links that have HTTP in them, and also enable HSTS. The security policy that if there is a non-secured link and someone clicks on it, it never serves that it prefixes with the correct security certificate. That's the first quick low-hanging fruit optimization for them.

Something else we found which is interesting. At some point, they're sitting at 393 keywords that have those five little awesome stars listed on Google itself. They had 6,300 of them in March of 2019. The review code got moved from one place to the other by Google. 

It ran really nicely for about a year and then it completely dropped off. This is free clicks. It's literally free clicks on Google. Editing and auditing your review schema is super important. 

The issue with the product schema on CKitchen is that it's missing the price field, which is a required field. They have a very well-structured product schema on the website. But if you have one error, none of it gets picked up by Google. 

Literally, fixing that price field can enable that again and, hopefully, get back to 6,300 keywords with those stars on them. Great low-hanging fruit for these guys. 

The server is in good shape. They could use a little bit of optimization, nothing crazy, normal database optimization, checking time to first byte, running it through web page testing, optimizing images would be a smart thing.

Paul: That's it. There's some great insights there, Franco. Luke, what have you got for us on CKitchen.

2nd Website: A Broken User Experience

Luke: I'm not even going to talk about SEO on this one, because if this was a client that came to me and says, "Hey, pal, SEO is not their problem." In my humble opinion in the sense of, you know, if we started to increase traffic and if traffic was an increment and we started to move the needle in terms of how much traffic they get, they've got bigger problems here. 

My thinking is the entire UX of this thing is just a bit of a nightmare. I say “a bit” because I'm British and I want to be polite, but it's a nightmare. It's hard work. Well, I've got a 24-inch monitor and I feel like it could never be big enough to get everything on the page that I need to see. It's overwhelming. 

There's two menus, but I'd be expecting the drop-down is here and I don't get them, and then there's this drop-down here which kind of makes it a little confusing. I get it, this might be an interactive site. 

We're looking at their equipment page now, so business types. Again, it's almost like a Wikipedia kind of basic experience where I'm just given so much information. I have no idea what I want and I'm kind of just even now talking through it, it makes it difficult. 

I've got content guides here, I've got bakery ovens and stuff here, refrigeration. It's overwhelming. Then the other thing as well is how many clicks it takes to get to some actual products. I've done it. There are a number of ways do it any less than three, which isn't necessarily a massive problem.

If you have a catered for and a personalized and segmented experience, that's okay. But when it's chaotic like this, it's going to be an absolute nightmare.

For this particular client, with this particular guy, CKitchen, I would absolutely be looking at addressing the user experience first. What is it that people want? What do they come for? How do they search? When they search, do they find they want? Do they even get through to product pages or abandon them? What's their entry point?

Huge Add to Cart button, small copy. It kind of just screams buy for me rather than let me help you. Yeah, it's hard work. I think that they absolutely need to look at a redesign or at least refining a user experience depending on segments. 

2nd Website: Content and Layout for B2B eCommerce

Paul: Yes. It's a very, very busy site. I'm sure Liz is going to have plenty to say about it.

Liz: I'm not going to go ahead and belabor the point that Luke already made, but, good gravy, there's so much here. I literally do not know where to start. I am completely overwhelmed. 

But there's one thing I want to point out here that is a little bit different than some of the e-comm sites that we generally look at, or at least I've been a part of. This is a B2B e-comm, which is a bit of a different animal, especially when you're talking about how you're positioning your content.

First of all, you're dealing with not a single individual who's out there to buy a camera or a dog leash. You are talking to a business that has often tens of thousands of dollars in their budget and they have to make very, very big decisions for their business. 

Decisions that they can't be like, "Well, this camera didn't work. I won't buy it again." This is a much larger purchase. What I find very interesting is it takes so long to get this “business type”. I would have this real estate be, “I run a restaurant, I run a bakery, I run a _____”, and just make it so you immediately get them to where that person needs to go. Because a restaurateur and a bakery owner have very different needs and are looking for very different things. 

The reason why I mentioned the B2B e-comm piece is the fact that, as a regular consumer and I'm just myself, I'm going to go look at cameras and I don't mind sitting there forever. But if I'm someone who owns a restaurant, I want to know what are the top types of items? How much do things cost? How can I expect to budget? How can I expect to do this? How can I expect to do that? 

Those are typically covered in a blog, that's what content marketing is all about. Now, good news, they have a blog. It is, however, buried at the bottom in something called Tips and Features. That is their blog. 

What I would say is you need to focus your content strategy on the what we call at Impact, “The Big Five”. That's articles that have to deal with product reviews, comparing one thing to the other, best of list, problems, things like that. 

 You should have “what are the top five problems that people run into when they're opening the restaurant for the first time?””What are the most common problems you're going experience with X product?” “What about this product versus that product?”

You are in a B2B product-based space, you need to own those keywords because, before people are searching for a specific product, they are searching for the content that will help them make the decision about what to buy. That decision-making process it's not going to happen in one click where they just start perusing through your website. 

You need to do that decision for them. You need to be the content thought leaders. The number one teacher, if you will, about anybody who is opening a restaurant, opening a bakery, opening a convenience store, that is what your content strategy needs to be. 

Make sure if you're going to create content, make it valuable, go after keywords that are really critical to your people.

But if you start creating content around like food storage containers, that's a really big, high volume keyword. This should be something called a pillar page, which is essentially the most definitive guide about anything having to do with food storage containers. And then you can link out to content like what are the top food storage containers? 

This should be a big anchor piece of decision making content that people are able to find organically that then make people go, "Oh, these CKitchen people, they know what they're talking about. Maybe I should learn more." 

Those are my overall feelings. Any thoughts, grievances, feedbacks?

Paul: Well, I've got a couple of little bits, I'll chime in quickly and then we need to move onto the next one, so we can pick up some bits at the end. Just like the previous one, again they've got no last modification within their sitemap. 

That's all I had there as I know we're sort of pushing for time. We've got some questions toward the end. If we could roll into the next one and keep it snappy, so we can make sure we get to some of the questions are coming through. Franco, over to you. PetZoo.

3rd Website: Time to First Byte, Server Security Protocols, CSS Issues

Franco: Perfect. I love this site. I tell you, I'm away from town right now and I miss my animals. This was refreshing to see a little puppy on the page, and he's cute too. 

 All right. This cute guy, I love him, except he's a little overweight. Meaning he needs to go on a diet because his time to first byte is 1.18 seconds. All right. Let's talk about the time to first byte and then we're going to talk about him specifically in just a second.

The time to first byte, and this is a little bit complicated metric. In our digital world, we love to live in the nitty-gritty. The time to first byte is the measure that it takes, the first byte of information, to go from the server to the user's browser when they make the initial connection. 

It is not a rank factor. Google has said this specifically, "We don't use time to first byte." However, if you look at nine million top number one ranking entries, there's a commonality of time to first byte, which is 500 milliseconds or less for desktop. These guys are twice that range.

In our experience with e-commerce auditing hundreds of sites, it matters a lot because the user experience tends to go down. This is a more of a user metric. Meaning, again, if I slow my website down by one second, I just lost 7% conversions on average across the whole industry.

Solving this is relatively simple, but it involves two things, optimizing the database in whatever platform you're using, whether it's ASP or Linux or LAMP stack. Just optimize the database on a quarterly basis, it helps reindex everything and the website gets faster. 

Our friend The Pug (image) here is 351 kilobytes. If he's a little bit over a third of a meg, he can be probably 100 kilobytes something, let's say. If you do that, you just improve the website's speed considerably. There's a couple other issues with other images. The high water message here is optimize your images globally and that'll provide a little bit of a benefit from the speed standpoint.

As far as protocols go, we're going to talk a little bit about the issue with strict transport. This is the same issue that we saw on CKitchen. On the server, you have to enable HSTS. All that means is, if a user clicks on a non-secured link, the server should never reply with a non-secured prefix; it should always be HTTPS. So, relatively simple thing to fix.

The top-level menu is also pushing down the top part of the website. Very simple CSS fix, but in our testing tools, which are not perfect, it's saying that the page is not mobile-friendly. That's a pretty critical thing because the majority of traffic is mobile, especially on e-commerce. 

Maybe they make the logo a little bit smaller and then make the burger menu a little bit more prominent, and then definitely move down whatever the message they're trying to convey with the fast shipping, free shipping, et cetera. But make it visible because right now it is a user problem.

I will leave it at that for the next.

3rd Website: Small Font, Too Many Product Filters

Paul: We're going to Luke. You have to be a little bit snappy because we want to get to some of these questions that are being asked at the end.

Luke: What I will say is this there's definitely some things I am not so cool about. One of them I think is straight away there's no add to cart button or add to basket button. Almost at the point where I'm feeling like I have to hover to have one appear and it doesn't happen.

There's a lot of white space wasted there. Also, these are really small, but the titles are tiny. There's going to be people of all walks of life especially right now with lockdown and everything happening using these sites. The more accessible you make it the better contrast you have name on the text and improve the size of that font is going to help.

But what I really don't like is how the filters are stretching far beyond the products category. Like there is so many filters here that they just go on and on. It's ridiculous. It's like this is not only going to help impacts load times, to Franco's point, speed is important. But it's also just overwhelming. 

Yeah, there's a lot going on. There is one SEO thing that I will mention, pagination is dodgy in the sense of when you paginate through, the paginated parameter is canonical back to the parameter for your app. 

Any kind of products beyond page one, you're basically telling people that you're not interested in having those products indexed, the records and passcode, which is a bit of a shame in this regard. 

Yeah, I'll wrap up with that and let Liz.

3rd Website: Content Marketing Strategy for B2C eCommerce

Liz: The one thing I would say is that I wouldn't gear around toward age of your animal. I would gear around what the person is trying to do. 

Are you trying to feed, clothe, train, help them feel comfortable like? What is the thing you're trying to do for your animal? I think that would probably be a little bit of a better calibration around how they organize these category pages.

Okay. They have the blog and it's down here at the very bottom, which is fine. A lot of product-based companies you don't necessarily have to be like, "We have a Learning Center." But I think it would be worthy in this case because there are people like me who love their animals like they are their children and they want to do everything they can to take care of their little fur children. 

A couple of challenges here. First of all, tons of white space, not really a lot of organization. It also looks like I'm glad that you have a blog, but it's clear you do not know what is supposed to go here. Very similar to what we talked about for the CKitchen website. This is where you want to tackle your top five topics: problems, comparisons, reviews, best of lists, things like that. That's really what you want to be focusing on here.

It's not just like top five dog foods. For example, my cat actually she has very sensitive skin. What are the top five cat foods for a cat with skin sensitivity? What are the top five leashes? You cannot just do products, you can do help on the discussion around everything having to do with the care, the raising of your animal.

Really you need a content strategy and you need a content organization strategy. Those are kind of my big takeaways for this.

Paul: That's it. That's great. That's really great insights there on that one. I'll keep it short and sweet, compress your images, you'll save 49% of your load size just on your product pages. That's just a short and sweet one. 

HTTP/2 Explained

We have had some questions, which is one I was wanting to get, and I know Franco has been quite active in the chat there answering some of them. One of them was around HTTP 2. "If I'm using this protocol and generic traffic." 

Franco: HTTP/2, it's the modern version of the branch of the Internet's protocol, of what serves pages between browsers and servers. The difference is that we still have a lot of websites that haven't upgraded to HTTP/2 and are still running HTTP/1. That is a huge, huge problem. It’s a very simple upgrade on your server, but no one ever pays attention to hosting company, right?

Here's why you want to do it, it will increase your website speed and give you all of the benefits of happy users. When you have happy users, you have conversions, and you have revenue and leads and conversions, et cetera. This is not a direct rank factor, however, it is critically important to the ranking well. 

The long and the short of it is open a ticket at your hosting company, enable HTTP/2, and as soon as they do forget about it. Then just go optimize your database and your images, which are the 80% of the biggest problems that we always see typically with any website. 

Pagination and eCommerce

Now I'm going to point back to Luke because Diona had a really good question about pagination. This is kind of critically important for e-commerce. I'll just say this: categories matter and then those pages within the subcategories matter as well. Luke, take it away.

Luke: Okay. Ideally what you want is for every page in series to be crawled and accessible by search engines, not just Google, but by search engines.

You want to make sure your parameters for pages are basically a mirror copy of the canonical... or the canonical tag is a mirror copy of your paginated URL, is ideally what you want. 

But what I will say, just to really quickly wrap up on, is you want to also consider your internal linking your pages as well. Don't just have page one linking to page two, page two linking to page three, and daisy chain. The way they've done paginations from internal point of view is good because you've got multiple links passage and multiple links to pass more equity on. 

Paul: Yeah. On that note, we wrap things up. If anyone else got any more questions, if you go over to the SEMRush page/webinar they can find all of our social profiles and how to contact us, if they want any more information. Any last words for everyone?

Luke: I just want to say I think this webinar is really maybe quite concise. That SEO isn't everything and you need to focus on your UX, your content, and everything almost there's a primary before you bring the noise, before you bring the traffic. Get the UX, get products, get the category, the experience right before you bring traffic. 

Liz: If you don't know what your content strategy should be, all you have to do is sit down with your sales team or whoever they are or whoever it is that's interfacing with your most ideal customers and just list out what are the top questions you're getting. That's it. That's content strategy.

Paul: That's good. I hope everyone that's watching enjoyed the webinar. Hopefully, we'll have another e-commerce star one to come along shortly. That's it. Thank you so much for allowing us to do this.

Luke: Absolutely.

Liz: Thank you, everybody.

Franco: Good to see everyone.

Paul: Bye. See you soon.

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