ECommerce websites are great way of generating sales, either to supplement a high street store or as a stand alone shop, one problem many website owners have is getting traffic to their website, this is a particular concern for eCommerce websites. It is for this reason online marketing and SEO are very important if you have an eCommerce website.
There are many forms of online marketing that can help you get traffic and generate sales but I am just going to focus on on page SEO for now, however we do advise having a few online marketing strategies to compliment each other such as email marketing and social media.
Ecommerce websites and SEO
ECommerce websites pose a number of problems for SEO, it is very important to have a good robust platform that suits your needs such as Magento or Jigoshop. However, as yet, there are no perfect out of the box solutions for a SEO friendly eCommerce website all the platforms we have at the moment need some modifications. This should not be a problem for any experienced Magento or wordpress coders but it is worth mentioning as many eCommerce websites are set up with a lot of issues that will prevent the site from doing as well as possible in the search engines.
On page SEO
There are a few dimensions to SEO and many you can focus on particular disciplines within a SEO campaign, but the best campaigns incorporate a number of SEO strategies that will compliment each other. A lot of off page SEO is constantly under criticism as Google changes it’s algorithm to put more and less relevance on link building and if they feel your off page SEO is manipulating the results then your website can get penalised.
On page SEO is often referred to as being just good web design and development, however we believe that having a SEO expert help with the design and build of a website means your web designers and developers can concentrate on doing what they do best. Unfotunately many designers and developers do not understand how search engines work and although they can build fantastic websites they may not be reaching their full potential in the search engines without a little help from a SEO consultant.
The on page SEO has many benefits, we build websites that are easy for search engine robots to crawl and understand. Often a lot of changes are to the code and are not visible to the average user, some changes will actually help usability. Many on page SEO strategies will help make your website more appealing to users and potentially help you make sales.
ECommerce Website SEO Mistakes
If you are using an out of the box eCommerce platform, you may forget about a few SEO best practices, here are a few common SEO mistakes we see when doing SEO on eCommerce websites.
Using an eCommerce platform ‘out of the box’
The most common problem we find with eCommerce websites (and CMS websites) is many developers just use the platform out of the box and do the minimum set up work to make it functional. Although Magento, Jigoshop, OSCommerce etc have there SEO benefits over other platforms they are not ideal, and even WordPress has it’s faults in the hands of an inexperienced SEO or developer. Many modifications to the site structure are needed to make the site easy to crawl, and more importantly relevant to your business.
One very common problem is the poor Header set up, a big issue being the logo being a H1 or not using them at all. This is all SEO 101 and best practices that when you build a HTML website you think about more carefully but with an open source platform seems to get taken for granted. Many of these problems are very minor, but the combination of a lot of these can cause Google to confuse the message on your website.
The overuse of themes can cause similar problems as the same mistakes get replicated over a large number of websites without any thought on how the site will do in the search engines.
The same product in duplicate categories
Google robots (and/or any other search engine) will follow a path to a page, if you have one product that is in a number of different categories, this may be as simple as special offers as well as it’s normal category, then you have duplicate paths to the same page, sometimes even a different URL therefore a different page with duplicate content. This is where you canonical tag comes in handy, the cannoical tag, using the rel=canonical tag tells the search engines to use whereas the user just sees the page as it is intended, great for SEO and great for usability when used correctly. Make sure you specify the correct URL in your canonical tag and only use one tag per page, the specified page must be visible to Google and placed in the section of the page.
The page you choose to be shown to Google should be chosen in the way that is best for users, so using a relevant permanent category and topic, watch out for URL parameters, session IDs and printer-friendly versions of pages. If you have set up the site well then the URL structure should be contextually relevant to users and search engines.
If you have various options for a product, such as size or colour, then Google recommends you canonicalise the root page, you can also use AJAX for the options which will add the options on the same URL after a hashtag.
Using the manufacturers description
If you haven’t got the message by now, duplicate content is a big no, no. I always used to tell clients that Google is like a school teacher and you get nothing for copying other peoples work. This was years ago and now Google is better at what they do and you will have less chance of doing well in the search engines having copied content. If you are reselling a product it seems natural to use a manufacturers description and yes you can use a lot of this content as some of it may be technical or factual. However add your own content, do you offer next day delivery or are there reasons why people should buy from you? Think about why the product would be used and write a bit about that, it does not have to be a novel but a good paragraph or two of unique content, especially using the product name as the main focus will help you a lot, not only in the search engines but also from a conversion point of view- really sell the product to the user in a unique way.
Too many products
If you have a lot of products you could face pages and pages of very similar content, or content that is just too far down in the link chain to get noticed. To overcome this issue you need to put in proper pagination. Many people also like a ‘view all’ options, this is good for the search engines and usability but will only work if you have a good server and page load time. There are ways to speed up page load times which we will discuss in due time. If you have a view all, you are essentially giving Google and the users ALL the products in one go on a higher level page. This is usually my preferred method, this is because users prefer it and you can direct Google to the view all option giving all the products and opportunity to be cached therefore found directly through long tail searches.
Another option is to use the previous and next buttons in your pagination, this will work in conjunction with your canonical tag in much the same way as you would implement previous and next on a large blog.
Many people forget to add eCommerce tracking in Google analytics (or another analytics software), this will help you measure visits to the site, then how many of these visits convert to sales, you can work out which pages are under performing and identify the elements on better performing pages that are helping conversions. Ecommerce tracking is easy to implement and can really help you grow your site and work out which areas of online marketing work best for you.
These are just a few areas of issue when doing SEO on an eCommerce website, we like to tackle each website individually and work out an online marketing strategy that incorporates SEO and CRO to get a good return on investment.