E-commerce SEO: Best Practices for Your Store
E-commerce retailers are generally skeptical when they are told that they can double sales and traffic to their site by applying SEO best practices. Once they start exploring the idea however, there are a number of details that they would like to learn more about, including increasing sales, boosting conversions, generating more traffic and engaging buyers to turn them into fans. This article discusses the details of those topics and gives you practical advice on how to boost your e-commerce sales.
How to treat items that are obsolete or expired
All stores, e-commerce or retail, will have products that disappear forever. These include things like fashion clothing and consumer electronics which are constantly replaced by new styles and models.
E-commerce websites often delete the page and don’t do anything further. This is not good SEO practice, as you’ll lose SEO value. People returning to the page via the URL will also receive error messages. To prevent such misunderstanding you should proceed technical seo audit each time you making changes with your website.
There are a number of appropriate solutions, depending on the exact circumstances.
- Redirect the page to the parent category. This solution aims at solving a visitor’s problem. Redirecting shoppers to the parent category will help them find another relevant product that serves the same purpose as the obsolete item.
- 301 Redirect URLs for products that have expired. If a new model has replaced the expired one, using a permanent 301 redirect from the obsolete page to the new model’s URL lets Google know you want that page ranked in its place. This will retain the SEO value of the page.
- Reuse URLs. If you sell products with the same technical specifications, and model numbers don’t matter, your URLs can be reused. This will preserve the page’s authority and improve your chances to rank on Google.
- Delete the page permanently. If the product that has expired was one of a kind and does not have replacements that are closely related, you may want to use a 410 status code to delete the page permanently. This tells search engines that the page is deleted and won’t ever come back.
- Some pages earn the right to continue. Some products have information that is of value to previous customers or individuals that want to do research on the product. Leave those pages as they are. Former buyers can then still obtain service, help and information from the pages.
How to treat items that are out of stock
There are a number of things you can do to still make a sale, even if you run out of stock on a specific item.
- Leave the page as is. If you know that you’ll have stock of the item again at a later stage, simply leave the page as is and don’t replace, hide or delete it. Also don’t redirect visitors to other pages or add other products to them.
- List an alternative product. It is always good to list alternative products on a page. This can be especially handy for shoppers when a product is out of stock. You could offer the same product in different colors, identical products from other brands, newer versions or models, or other products that are similar and match the price and quality.
While shoppers will appreciate this great service, it will also help search engines find relevant pages and get to know the site’s structure better.
- Let shoppers know when it will be in stock again. Where possible, list the date when you expect to have the item in stock again so that shoppers know when they can come back to buy.
- Offer to place the product on backorder. Allow shoppers to place an order and commit to sending it to them as soon as your new stock arrives. Prospective buyers who really want the product often don’t mind waiting for it a bit longer.
- Offer an incentive. Provide an incentive for shoppers to come back later when you have stock again. This could be something like a discount or a small gift. This may make them feel that it’s worthwhile to wait and buy from you later.
How to treat items that are seasonal
Your aim should be to reinforce the categories containing seasonal products. Focus on those categories and use breadcrumbs to link from the products that are seasonal to them, as well as links in the product page description. It is ideal to optimize product pages that have the biggest potential and then use the remainder of the SEO budget for making product category pages stronger.
If you are planning to launch popular products and are expecting a huge demand, it will be worthwhile to add a page for “coming soon” to your site’s URL structure. You could use pre-order forms and launch notifications, and offer unique content on this page. Warm up potential buyers with content generated from integrated social media links into the page.
If you know that new annual releases will replace some of your products, add the current year to the URL. Use a 301 redirect to the new page on the older pages that have been replaced.
How to handle products pages containing duplicate content
With so many challenges facing e-commerce businesses, very few consider providing unique content for their product pages. Most will simply export the product’s information from databases, resulting in duplicate content being used for virtually the whole site.
Many e-commerce pages consist of nothing more than an image of the product and a price. This means that search engines can’t understand what the page is used for, if it is relevant so search users and how it relates to other site pages. There are a number of ways in which this can be improved:
- Add user generated content. Unique content generated by users will differentiate a product page from others on the internet effectively and social media works very well to achieve this. Reviews and endorsements from buyers will boost sales conversions and also enhance your SEO presence.
- Strengthen product categories. It is virtually impossible to generate unique descriptions for thousands of different products. Rather focus on making the parent category pages stronger to improve your SEO. Improve breadcrumbs, the link architecture internally and add related products to supply search bots with info and show them what the site contains.
- Add content for the bestselling products. Use analytical tools to identify the most popular and best-selling products and then update their pages with content manually.
How to handle new product SEO
Well-designed internal link architecture, website structure and information architecture are all critical if you want to rank new product pages high. Create links from your home page to category pages, and link to the product pages from the category pages. This will allow Google to find, crawl and index your site’s content fast. Also link to category pages from their parent categories.
Your website theme should always be optimized to show new products on the home page where Google will quickly find and index them. A good internal link architecture will result in your new product pages being indexed and ranked very quickly.
How to use manufacturers’ product descriptions
Search engines don’t like content that’s duplicated elsewhere and using the same manufacturers’ product descriptions that everyone else does is duplicate content. It is however virtually impossible to rewrite all specifications and descriptions of a product for a large e-commerce website.
You can solve this problem by adding new content to the manufacturer’s info, including user-generated reviews and comments. Let your customers tell their stories on your site by inviting user comments and integrating social networking. Customers that have good experiences will gladly help with your marketing effort.
- Add psychology levels to content. A normal product description is typical dull and boring, but people buy with feelings and emotions. Tell a story to give your product descriptions a life of their own.
- Make product pages unique by adding content. Increase the uniqueness and quality of content by solving users’ problems. This can be done by adding images, information, suggestions or videos to the content.
How to create category pages
Category pages are very popular and powerful, and should be treated as such.
- Make sure category pages have lots of content.
- Look at category pages as if they were home pages. View categories as niche websites that contain product pages that are closely related.
- Tag content that is shared on social networks. Share links on Google Plus, Twitter and other networks strategically and be very specific when using tags.
- Build links to product category pages. Use paid ads, content marketing, guest blogging and social media to build links to your product category pages.
- Use URLs that will help with search. This strategy often generates results quickly because you give visitors valuable information and help while providing strong hints to search engines on what the URL is used for. Do however ensure that you shun keyword stuffing. A very effective structure for URLs is:
- Category Pages: example.com/category/
- Sub-category pages: example.com/category/sub-category/
- Product pages: example.com/category/sub-category/product-name/
- Control what is shown. Always design category pages to give both users and search engines the best service.
How to handle product variations (color, size, etc.)
Many products come in a whole range of different sizes or colors. If these are not handled correctly, their listings could be considered duplicate content. This will cause bad SEO rankings and cannibalization between variants of the same product, i.e. products could rank for the wrong keyword like a search for red jeans delivering results for blue jeans.
Do a thorough review of your website to identify products that could sell well if they rank for the correct keywords.
How to handle internal link architecture and building
Although internal link building is useful for rankings and SEO, link architecture is required to achieve better results, not simply link building. Although internal linking helps search engine bots, user friendliness is a very important factor that must be considered. Creating a robust internal link architecture takes both time and planning. As it`s very important due to ranking factors, seo audit of your site must be done.
- All pages and category pages should have breadcrumbs. This enables users and search engines to easily navigate up one level to a parent category.
- Link to relevant products from the category level. View this from a human perspective by looking at needs and intent, while at the same time optimizing for the right keywords.
- Navigation on the category level is a must. To make it easy for users to see what they can expect to find in categories and pages, provide category level navigation. Always try to keep things relevant.
How to design a website with SEO weaved into it
Designing is far more than simple visual appeal. For a good e-commerce website, it’s critical that you use an experienced specialist e-commerce Web designer who will work closely together with a conversion rate optimizer, analyst and SEO consultant. You must give these experts both the budgets and the space to do their job properly.
When your information architecture and website design work together and no URLs or pages break out of this structure, the entire site is boosted whenever a new product page is published. It also ensures that search spiders will crawl the pages early. More sales are generated by a pleasant visitor experience, and good content and design.
- Planning properly is crucial. SEO must be incorporated into the website right from the beginning when you’re planning the site, and not added as an afterthought after the site has been launched. Using amazing section and category templates and promoting them with internal links from product pages is very effective.
- E-commerce SEO is not the same as normal SEO. To do e-commerce SEO properly, a consultant skilled in multiple disciplines is needed. The consultant should understand how a retail business functions and must be knowledgeable in:
- Human psychology
- Conversion rate optimization
- Social media marketing and communication
- Web design & development
- User experience
- Web design on an e-commerce site is never complete. An e-commerce website needs continuous A/B testing to determine the options that perform the best. Although the right tools will make this easier, the best consultant is more important. A consultant that charges a hefty fee is not expensive if they can generate more sales than does an inexpensive one.
How to leverage content generated by users
Embrace user-generated content, even if it means you’ll get honest opinions about your products and services and not all of it might be good. The obvious SEO benefits are:
- The content will be unique and will therefore rank higher and provide “freshness”.
- Improved conversion rates and more sales.
When integrated into product pages, user generated content can liven up your site. A good review boosts sales conversion, while users join a happy community. This will allow prospective buyers to see the vibrant activity and it might convince them to join and buy.
- Product pages should always have integrated social media. Facebook and Instagram comments, Google +1s and Pinterest pins should be integrated into your product pages to present social proof. If you can, publish images of happy customers using the product.
- Use Schema.org. Schema.org’s review markup allows you to place stars from an individual product page next to a listing in the SERPs. This has a big effect on click-through rates.
- Establish a “clan” of happy users. Share blog posts from your happy customers and publish buyer reviews and testimonials. Excerpts from positive reviews can be used to convince visitors that you can be trusted.
With the “new SEO” coming out some time back, you need to think more about the psychology of the site’s visitors, rather than the technology used on the website.
How to bring together related products
Grouping related items on a product page can increase sales. A product information management system’s meta data ensures that the items shown are personalized, relevant, and available. Web designers and developers should also focus on the architecture of internal links.
- Placement on the page. The product featured on the page should stand out and be the focal point. Give it enough space and don’t create confusion with other suggestions. Never waste your best product locations on products that don’t sell.
- Be appropriate. Visitors arriving on a page that features the latest Samsung phone, should also be able to see other products that are relevant, depending on the persona of the buyer, the quality and cost. Track and optimize related product suggestions.
How to optimize product images
Picture, photo and video quality will influence how visitors see your product. Don’t underestimate the value of making shoppers ‘feel’ the product’s benefits.
Interesting pictures will be shared on social media and users tagging and commenting on photos will make your content unique. Word of mouth will make your brand stronger. You can even generate more traffic from Google image search with optimized images.
- Do A/B testing. Compare one picture with another to determine which one gives better conversion rates.
- Optimize images. File names, alt texts, captions, etc., should be short, but descriptive. These give search engines information on what the image is about.
- Use high-quality pictures. Use photographs that create an atmosphere and make prospects feel something. Although this could be expensive, it will result in more sales and is a good investment for your best products. Video could even produce better results.
How to optimize the site’s internal search
It is amazing that experts optimize sites for external search engines, but don’t optimize the internal search function on an e-commerce website. This is normally because the use of internal search is overlooked or underestimated, resulting in lost sales. Individuals searching with synonyms, misspelt words, spacing, or hyphenation errors are not taken to the correct product pages. This should be changed.
- Keep track of popular searches. If a search for a specific product is done often, it could mean that product is popular and can sell well. It could also mean that people are not finding what they’re looking for.
- Calculate the revenue per search. Use a tool that allows you to identify the keywords people use when searching on the site, and determine the sales for each keyword.
- Treat your site search results pages as landing pages. Search results should direct users to a page that is relevant and helps them solve problems. Make sure your search results are set to “noindex”.
- Use tools to track behavior. Hotjar is one of the many tools that tracks clicks and show you how people act on the home page, and category and product pages.
- Test site search. Test some of the keywords you’ve discovered and check where it takes users. If you fix where the users go when they search, sales will increase dramatically.
- Use site search results in keyword research. If you know what your users search for, you can use the information for new product ideas, find areas that can be improved, identify products that are popular, and fix problems with usability and search.
- Improve internal search. Ensure that all internal searches show the right products. This will need you to tweak the meta-data in the e-commerce system. By doing this with meta-data, pages filled with misspelled or incorrect words won’t be created.
How to handle products on sale
In the HTTP header of the product page of an item on sale, specify the canonical URL. This lets Google know it’s a duplicate of another URL and it will rank the unique version of the page.
How to handle security
Customers have good reasons to worry about online security, as they’re putting their financial data and identity in your care. Always give reassurances that it is safe to transact on your site.
Use visual clues like displaying text and logos that certify your compliance to security standards. Visa, SSL and other encryption and security certificates and standards should be shown. You will boost conversions if you assure them that it is 100% safe to shop at your e-commerce store.
Many e-commerce sites hide that information where it can’t be seen easily, or simply don’t display it at all. This is a big mistake.
How to cater for mobile devices
Mobile has become too important to be ignored by e-commerce companies. Informal studies show that e-commerce websites have a 2 to 3 times higher growth rate on mobile.
As some users prefer a standard Web version on mobile, offer desktop versions of all URLs and allow users to switch between versions. Do not return them to the home page as e-commerce websites often do.
Top Tips for E-Commerce Websites
- Analyze your SEO regularly: Neither an e-commerce website, nor its SEO is static. Both the site and its coding will continuously change and developers may, when fixing one problem, create another. Using a strategic SEO framework will ensure that everything lines up with your strategic and economic goals.
- Google Tools: Various Google tools, including Webmaster tools are free and will help you find and fix common SEO problems. Regularly check:
- Use Sitechecker Crawler: our Website Audit Tool will help to audit the whole website for the most critical technical errors. And no matter how much URLs your e-commerce store has.
- Do more than monitor: Simply monitoring data won’t be enough. Identifying the actionable items and always improving will go a long way. You also need to know what you’re looking for and why. Problems with duplicate content, indexing and manual penalties from Google should all be fixed immediately.
- Analyze your data: Although everything you do could probably be done better, the resources to do it all is not likely to be available. Analysis will help you determine which areas should be prioritized for improvement. Building dashboards with actionable information is a good way to see all relevant information at a glance.
- Be seriously about mobile: The number of mobile devices is growing at a rapid rate. If you delay developing your mobile site, your online business can be dead before you know it. Be sure to give mobile users a good experience and always strive to improve.
Although the advice provided above will help your e-commerce website improve sales and revenue, it is only the tip of the iceberg. Keep on learning and applying to stay ahead of the curve.
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