10 ECOMMERCE SEO MISTAKES
Search engine optimization is a low hanging fruit for ecommerce sites. It may interest you to know that, of all ecommerce marketing campaign, SEO generates the highest ROI.
It’s as simple as this: “Put in enough effort into your SEO and start getting high ranks, subsequently, your ecommerce store will start making sales effortlessly without any recurring expense”. Isn’t that cool?
Unfortunately, some ecommerce sites unknowingly do things that have negative effects on their SEO efforts, hence making them lose out of this ‘free’ traffic.
Well, you may decide not to be bothered about SEO and will rather focus on PPC instead, but there is something you need to know now. As at 2018, 70-80% of searchers only focused on the organic results and ignored the paid ads.
Are you now convinced? Cool!
Below are 10 common ecommerce SEO mistakes you really need to prevent from happening, or correct if you’ve already made the mistake.
1. Indexing multiple domain versions for the same e-commerce site
Once you register a domain, it comes in 2 versions; “www” and “non-www” (that is, http://www.shopthere.com or http://shopthere.com). Furthermore, if you get an SSL certificate, it becomes 4 versions (that is, https://www.shopthere.com, https://shopthere.com, http://www.shopthere.com and http://shopthere.com)
Now, the implication of this is that, these versions are treated differently by search engines, even though it’s the same domain name. As a result, each version is ranked separately and it also wastes the crawl budget for your ecommerce site.
Fortunately, there’s one way around this, and it is placing a 301 permanent redirect on all other versions to one particular version (usually the ‘https’ version). With this, only that particular version will be indexed and ranked by search engines’ bots.
How do you create this redirect? There are plugins that can be used to achieve this, especially if your ecommerce store is hosted on woocommerce, but sometimes, plugins may fail. The best bet is to directly do it from the control panel of your hosting account.
2. Irregular product category and product pages depth
Most ecommerce stores usually make the site structure complex unnecessarily, which badly affect the ease of crawling the pages. As a result, some pages end up not being crawled nor indexed, because they are too far away with no link pointing to them.
Every product page should be just 3 clicks away from the homepage, hence, creating an organized site structure. This is better done by separating the pages into “Categories”, “Sub-categories”, and “Products”.
In addition, to further curtail the incidence of irregular page depth; it is proposed that a category page should be:
a.Collectively exhaustive: Each product must be placed under its own category, none should be left uncategorized.
b.Mutually exclusive: One product should not be found in more than one category. source:jabong.com
3. Not deindexing sold-out products (404)
John Mueller of Google, in a webmaster hangout session, talked about how well to manage sold-out product pages.
Once a product page is no longer available, deleting it will give an 404 error to whoever is trying to visit the link. Actually, there are 3 ways you can approach sold-out product pages, depending on the scenario around it.
a.If the product is permanently out-of-stock (that is, you no longer sell the product) and the traffic or backlinks profile of the URL is inconsequential. In this scenario, there’s no harm in 404 but it must be customized by including a CTA or recommending related products. Then, going to google search console to ask for the removal of the URL from its index. This is important to prevent wastage of the crawl budget.
b.If the product is temporarily unavailable but will be stocked soon. In this scenario, implemented structured data (markup schema) can be used to indicate the unavailability of the product in SERP and also on the website. This way, the rank of the page is kept intact. You can even provide an option whereby the consumers will be notified by mail once the product is available once more.
c.If the product is permanently out of stock but there are tons of traffic and backlinks associated with the URL that you don’t want to lose. Here, a 301 redirect is advised. But, thread cautiously, because redirecting to another URL (e.g. Homepage) that is not related to the URL may be regarded as soft-404. Hence, all accrued link equity and ranking signals may be lost. Wasted effort. Therefore, it is better to redirect to an equivalent product, and making sure that the destination URL is keyword-relevant to the old URL.
Another option is to, keep the URL and simply replace the product under it to something related.
Before doing any of these, check the backlink profile of the URL with Rankedy.
4. Poorly written Title and Meta description- Use concatenation schemas for each PRODUCT pages
No doubt, ecommerce sites have a lot of product pages, that it becomes so difficult to start writing a unique meta description for each. Even though it is often advised to manually write these meta description for each product page. How, then, do you do it for an ecommerce store with over a thousand pages?
Google usually generate a meta description through an automated process for sites that did not specify it. Sometimes, Google even changes the title of a page whenever it deem it fit.
Over time, the saving grace for ecommerce sites is the use of “Concatenation Schemas” to automatically set the meta description, using some set of variables therefore programmatically generating unique content. Now, the variable used depends on how your site’s navigation is structured.The variables can be categories, subcategories, filters, models, makes, product names, brands, colors, etc.
For instance, a navigation structure like; CATEGORY – SUBCATEGORIES – PRODUCTS, have 3 variables. The essence of meta description and perfect title is to, increase the click through rate of the pages displayed on SERP, something very important to drive sales for ecommerce sites.
A good example of a concatenation schema is; “ Shop for PRODUCT NAME at BRAND. BRAND provide SUBCATEGORY and CATEGORY for all sports and fashion enthusiasts.”
5. Using duplicate PRODUCTS DESCRIPTION from the same store or the supplier’s store on your e-commerce site
Just like meta description, another thing that is often copied and duplicated is product description. This is what is considered as the content of the page by search engines. Google’s panda algorithm update still very much frowns at duplicated content, which includes product description too.
You might have copied the description from the supplier’s site and used it on your own ecommerce site. Or, probably using the same description across different product pages on your own ecommerce site. For instance, using the same description for the same type of shoes but with different colors.
The best way to handle this is through the use of canonical tags in the html header of the duplicate product page. If you are going to use the same description for different variants of a product, you should place a canonical tag in the duplicate that will point back to the original content.
‘< link rel=”canonical” href=”/.html” />’
Basically, this tells search engine to ignore the duplicate without giving any penalty, and rank the original instead. Talk about giving yourself out to stay safe!
6. Ecommerce site without any SSL certificate.
Sensitive information is shared by shoppers on ecommerce sites when it’s time to make payment and get their products shipped. This information need to be kept safe away from prying eyes and hackers.
PCI Security Standards Council was established in 2006 to lay down some set of rules for online merchants that process payments online. Some 3rd party ecommerce platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, etc. already abide with this standard by default (that is, hosting your ecommerce site on their platforms does not require you to do it by yourself). Even payment gateways like PayPal already complied with this standard by default too.
Since 2014, Google began to use HTTPS as a ranking signal after its browser (Chrome) had already started marking sites without HTTPS as “not secure”. Apart from HTTPS being a ranking signal for SEO, Google also deliberately put a tag on your ecommerce site that make shoppers feel inconvenient purchasing your products.
Check these screenshots out!
7. Neglecting user generated content (FAQs and Reviews) for users who search for products with voice.
A research by Narvar has shown that, 1 in 4 of online shoppers use voice search. Voice search queries are handled quite differently than the usual text queries because, instead of links, voice searchers want direct answers most of the time.
For voice search queries, Google focus more on searcher’s intent and semantic context of the content. To get a direct answer for these queries, Google checks similar questions that are found as FAQs on ecommerce sites and reviews already given by previous shoppers.
Structured data markup is still the best way to help search engines further understand the content on your ecommerce site so it can be rightly displayed for the right voice search queries.
8. Not using schema markup to display name, prices, priceCurrency, availability, description, star ratings & reviews from E-commerce site in SERP.
Have you ever tried searching for a product online and found this?
In the screenshot above, you can see the name, star rating, number of reviews, priceCurrency, price of the product, availability, discount, and description (specs and all) of the product. These are what schema markups do.
As seen, I didn’t even have to click open the page before seeing most of the information I needed to know. It basically help search engines to identify the important information of a product and display that information in rich results, thereby increasing the click through rate of the page.
Google webmaster trend analysts, John Mueller, said structured data may start influencing ranking over time. That was in September 2015. Therefore, it is safe to say that, apart from the fact that structured data helps increase the CTR of your product page on SERP, it can also potentially help to rank your ecommerce store high in SERP.
You can automatically generate a JSON-LD (mind you, this is Google recommended) schema for your product pages with this free tool and also validate the generated schema markup code with Google testing tool.
9. E-commerce product pages having URL slugs without keywords.
According to moz, URLs are a minor ranking factor while determining the relevance of a particular page to the search query. When the URL is readable and understandable to both shoppers and search engines, in such a way that they already have a hunch on what the page may contain before even clicking on it.
Incorporating keywords in the URL further gives your e-commerce site the chance to rank for the chosen time in SERP. An example is gotten from Jabong, where the URL slug used clearly contained the keyword and readable to shoppers in case this particular link is shared on blogs and social media platforms.
10. Ignoring Content Internal Linking on Ecommerce site(Recommending related and complementary products to users on another product page)
Links are very important, not just outbound links/backlinks, but inbound links as well. Linking the pages of your ecommerce site to one another helps the shoppers to locate other product pages.
Not just that, it is also a good practice of SEO, and it is done by showing, probably on the sidebar, related and complementary products to what the shoppers are currently viewing. So, in case the product is not what they are looking for, recommending other related products might just do the magic.
Although, these mistakes are not the only ones that can affect the SEO of ecommerce sites, in fact, there are several others. But, keeping these 10 in mind can actually improve your SEO and boost the position of your ecommerce site on SERP in a short time, no jokes.
With the growing numbers of ecommerce stores and rising rate of competition, improving SEO for your ecommerce site might just be what you need to beat the competition.