Amazon. eBay. Google Shopping. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in eCommerce SEO.
Competing against this holy trinity, and often yourself, is frustrating for eCommerce sites of all sizes. But even the holy trinity of eCommerce traffic hoarders can be smote through a potent combination of content and technical SEO strategies.
The foundation of a killer eCommerce content strategy is a site structure that ensures your website’s positively stupendous content will be found, indexed, and ranked accordingly. After all, what’s the use in great writing if search engines can’t index it and readers can’t find it? That’s when technical SEO steps in to identify cracks in the foundation.
I could write a book of technical SEO problems and solutions that rivals Infinite Jest in its girth, but for the sake of brevity, high-level value, and your always-in-demand time, I’ve marked five of the most important and prevalent issues that impact search placement, click-through rate, and user engagement on eCommerce websites:
1. Eliminate duplicate content.
Duplicated content is the most common and diverse issue plaguing eCommerce websites. Platforms can dynamically generate pages from a database. They can duplicate pages by query parameters, faceted navigation, filtering, or print preview. Or you may be featuring product descriptions pulled directly from manufacturers (sometimes unavoidably). In all cases, duplicate content splits conversion tracking and page authority, sometimes to a point of no return that results in little to no organic traffic. In addition to adding unique content to category and product pages, defining the proper canonical and blocking query parameter pages within Google and Bing Webmaster Tools alleviates these problems.
2. Elevate informational architecture.
Think of your eCommerce store as a supermarket. You’d be pretty irked if you found apples in the coffee section, and you’d be equally frustrated to find six identical stands for Granny Smith apples sporadically placed throughout the store. Offline, that’s considered a terrible supermarket layout. Online, that’s called a high bounce and exit rate. Mapping out category hierarchies, crafting user-friendly URL structures, instituting breadcrumb navigation, and automating universal on-site elements (title tags, meta descriptions, H1s) will improve the site’s crawlability and usability.
3. Institute an XML Sitemap.
XML Sitemaps is your site’s mall directory for search robots. Most eCommerce stores cycle products in and out with regularity, which can create an influx of broken and new pages that need to be quickly identified as such by search crawlers. Routinely updating your XML Sitemap and re-submitting it to search engines ensures your new products will be indexed and old product pages will drop from search results. Additionally, XML Sitemaps allow eCommerce sites to track how those indexed URL totals change over time. Sites with large category umbrellas should create multiple sitemaps by category (images, blogs, and videos apply as well). This makes it easier to identify when and where an index fluctuation occurs on the site.
4. Implement Site Search and eCommerce Tracking.
What’s the point in selling products online if you aren’t tracking sales? All eCommerce sites should implement some form of analytical sales tracking. In addition to measuring sales in tangible dollars, it allows you to compare and contrast purchasing patterns among various user groups (including mobile vs. desktop). Along those lines, Google’s (not provided) coup has increased the importance of site search as a keyword research and user behavioral tool (among numerous other data uses). Tracking on-site search is a must in the eCommerce world.
5. Use structured data.
While not universally adopted as a ranking signal, structured data is critical for optimizing click-through rates within organic search results. Which of the following results would you prefer to click on?:
Structured data gives users more comparison data earlier in the purchase funnel, and presents you with an opportunity to show your prices and customers’ satisfaction side-by-side with your biggest competitors.