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by Andy Williams on 16th May 2012
Shopping online has become part of everyday life. The simplicity of being able to log onto the internet and buy what you need instead of making a round trip to the shops means that more and more shops are going online.
If you sell products online then getting the SEO right on your Ecommerce site has never been so important. With so many online shops live it is now just as competitive online as it is in the high street – perhaps even more so.
Ecommerce sites by their nature don’t usually include a lot of content, which means that site owners need to ensure that they address other elements to give their sites a competitive edge.
In this post I have put together a comprehensive guide to Ecommerce SEO as well as the other factors that should also be looked into to give you a competitive edge.
As with any SEO campaign, it all begins with keyword research.
Without extensive research you won’t truly get the full picture as to what people are searching for (in relation to your products).
Carry out your research. Find what people are searching for and make your decisions.
Product names are product names and a majority of people will know what they are looking for. In these instances there isn’t much room for movement away from working with exactly what it is. However researching terminology and variations can be the difference between targeting your audience and just missing out.
Title Tags – Each page should have a unique Title tag. Your keyword research will provide you with valuable information as to how these should be structured, what terminology should be used and what key terms you will be focusing on.
For product pages; always include the product name. Don’t try to be clever by using a variation to attract more visitors. More often than not if someone is searching for a product, they know what it is called. Don’t miss out on custom.
Meta Description Tags – They may no longer have any bearing on rankings but these descriptions are valuable snippets that can make the difference between someone clicking through to your site or going to your competitors.
As with your Title tags; these should all ideally be individual.
Product Description – If you are a reseller or include 3rd party products within your range, avoid using the manufacturer’s description. Rewrite it. You want this content to be unique. You don’t want to duplicate information that could be included on other sites.
You also want to avoid including links that lead off to another site; for example a “for more information check out their official site” style links. The second you lead them away from your site you have lost the sale.
Product Prices – Nothing will annoy a potential customer more than not knowing how much the product is. Make sure the price is visible.
Add To Cart – Make it easy for customers to buy your products. This starts at being able to add products to their basket. If this move is remotely difficult or doesn’t work they will be off to your competitors in seconds.
You should also make sure that the price of the product is next to the “buy” button.
Make sure you check important buttons such as “Add To Cart” or “buy now” on a regular basis.
Images – Your product images should be clear. Don’t use images that you have had to expand. This will affect the quality of the image.
If your images aren’t top quality this can give the site an amateur feel.
Phone Number – Make sure you include a contact phone number on all pages. Even if no one ever rings it, simply having it there will create a trust between you and your customer. Knowing they can contact if needs be will add trust.
Social Buttons – Be sure to have social bookmarking buttons on your pages. Help your visitors share your content. It’s the online version of “word of mouth”. The easier you make it for them to bookmark and share your products and pages, the further your reach will become.
It also helps natural link building.
Make sure the Shopping Cart you use is SEO friendly.
It is important you do your research before choosing one. Read reviews; see what people are saying, and ask questions in forums. Find out how others have found the software. This may all seem a little long winded but if you get this wrong it could be costly.
Make sure if it claims its SEO friendly that it is.
Don’t cut corners on cost with this one.
With your on page elements in place, it is just as important to make sure that the technical aspects of the site are also up to scratch.
Google Webmaster Tools
Any site serious about getting results online needs performance data.
Google Webmaster Tools is free and gives you essential data about how Google see’s your site and how it is performing.
Ecommerce sites by nature are big with hundreds, sometimes thousands of pages live. You need to stay on top of all possible issues. Webmaster Tools will help report back on such key areas such as site speed, broken links and crawler errors.
The speed of a site is an important factor. If you have a slow site while someone is trying to buy something and you are going to lose sales.
So from both a search engine and a usability point of view you need to make sure that your site is quick.
As mentioned previously, Google Webmaster Tools will give you strong indications on your site’s current speed.
Search Engine Friendly URLs
Using search engine friendly URLs is usually one of the areas that is thought about once a site has gone live or once all other SEO work has been carried out.
Ecommerce sites, due to their very nature of having a high number of pages, will have URLs that consist of long product number related strings, for example: “http://www.worldofwidgets.com/shop/white-productid=37827white/”
It would be far more beneficial to use keyword related URL’s: “http://www.worldofwidgets.com/shop/white-widgets-for-cans”
A descriptive URL is more search engine friendly.
The set up that is required will be dependent on the CMS you are using, but this should be thought about during the set up stage otherwise you have a world of 301’s to set up.
Due to the nature of large Ecommerce sites, duplicate pages can naturally be created. If a product is relevant to more than one category then potentially you could be creating duplicate pages.
Google’s recommendation is to implement canonical tags. These help to inform the search engines that you only wish them to recognise one version of the page. The tag refers the search engine to the version you wish to be indexed.
A full explanation of the tag can be found on this Google Support Page.
The site navigation needs to be right.
The site needs to be easy to navigate. Don’t allow your customers to get lost.
Using breadcrumb trails helps you add key terms (which will also add relevance) and helps usability.
Giving your customers this trail will also help them around the site. It can also be followed by Google.
Schema, Mark-Ups and Rich Snippets
You may have noticed that Google is now displays a number of new elements to their result pages.
Images of the products you are searching for complete with star ratings and reviews. These are being pulled in by Mark Up’s and Rich Snippet coding.
Google are pushing more and more to improve the user’s search experience by giving them as much relevant information as possible. So when a user now searches for a product instead of simply having the “top ten” returned to you, there will be these other helpful elements.
This is an area that you need to actions straight away.
Mark Up’s are bodies of code that are placed around certain information on your site. The code indicates to the search engines exactly what this information is. On the back of this the search engines can then use this data within their results.
Google have recently been pushing site owners in the direction of Schema to obtain this coding (which is free). A full rundown and explanation can be reviewed on this Schema page.
If you are selling products online then you need to be thinking about platforms beyond your own site. Online marketing is evolving all the time with potential customers using more and more online platforms to seek out what they are looking for.
If you aren’t using them, not only will you be missing out you will also be passing up on natural link building opportunities and social shares.
Google have so many free platforms that not using them would be a crime. After all these are avenues to providing Google directly with information. With “Google Plus Your World” it has become more important than ever to get involved with all that Google has to offer.
This video gives some background on “Google Plus Your World” and how important it is to now get involved:
Google Merchant Centre
Google’s Merchant Center is the perfect platform if you sell products and one you shouldn’t ignore. It’s free and directs potential customers directly to your product pages.
The Merchant Center is Google’s Shopping Portal. Results of which appear in the Search Engine Ranking Pages.
You can add as many products as you wish either manually or via an XML feed.
The below video talks you through setting up an account:
Any business, small or Ecommerce should have a Google Places profile.
Again it is completely free and as long as you have a physical location there should be no reason at all for not having one.
Fill in all fields when creating your profile and include information about your products.
Be sure to add up to five relevant categories as well and don’t forget to include your sites domain.
You need a Google + profile.
This is Google’s social platform aimed at taking on Facebook. Although it’s yet to become as mainstream as Google would like you shouldn’t ignore it. Business pages can now be created and yet again it’s free. However like most of these platforms it’s not enough to simply have a page or profile live, it needs to be maintained and optimised to gain any kind of exposure.
This post goes through How To Optimise Your Google Plus Page
Social is huge and online businesses are now starting to join in.
You need to do the same. More and more people now use social platforms to find out information and make their decisions. If you are nowhere to be seen then you will miss out.
We have already touched on Google + earlier but you also need to have a working presence on these platforms:
Everyone is on Facebook and this is now starting to include Brands.
Facebook is becoming more and more of a market place as much as it is a social platform. Brands have their own profile pages and are getting creative with it.
If you don’t have a presence on Facebook you need to create one. As your reputation grows so too will the size of the audience you can reach out to simply by updating your profile.
Our blog post “Facebook for Business – 9 Steps To Success” provides some helpful pointers as to what you need to do.
Twitter gives you the ability to reach out to potential customers in real time. It can also provide you with a opportunity to address customers directly.
Twitter has become so commonplace that asking for someone’s Twitter handle is now as normal as asking for their email address. The nature of social has also led to people openly talking about everything without a second thought. This includes brands and products.
If someone likes something they will Tweet about it. If they have an issue they will also Tweet about it. As a result it has also become a very powerful customer service tool and you should be monitoring your brand on Twitter.
Having an account also provides you with the opportunity to feed your followers with updates 24 hours a day. If you have a new deal you can send it out straight away.
Our review of how Twitter should be used as part of your online customer service strategy will give you some back ground on how powerful Twitter can be to you and your company.
Pinterest is the new social platform that everyone is using. Since taking off and becoming a big player, Pinterest is now proven to bring traffic to your site and build brand awareness.
A number of big brands are already using Pinterest successfully. If done correctly you can also raise product awareness.
This post can show you how to use Pinterest for business successfully.
So there we have it. If you look into all of these areas you will have a strong base for your Ecommerce site.
Shopping cart icon via BigStock