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by Tara West on 22nd February 2013
London Fashion Week has just finished and I can’t think of a better excuse to take a look at SEO for fashion ecommerce websites. Although many standard SEO practices apply to fashion ecommerce websites, there are some particular tactics that are important or work well for these kind of websites.
Keyword Research for Fashion Ecommerce Websites
Standard keyword research principles should be applied to fashion ecommerce websites, but in particular I often find that fashion ecommerce sites often try to shoe-horn generic keywords such as ‘Floral Print Dress’ into their product pages. This isn’t a great tactic because often visitors will search for items by the product names they noticed when previously browsing the site, or that are mentioned in PR pieces both online and in magazines. You should keep your product page keyword targeting simple and ensure you use the actual product name rather than generic terms. Boohoo is an excellent example of a brand getting this right. As you can see their Meta title includes their product name and doesn’t use generic keywords:
Meta on Product Pages for Fashion Websites
Having unique Meta on every page of a site is nothing ground breaking, but often fashion ecommerce sites have duplicate Meta at product page level. This may be because it is automatically produced by the CMS system. Having unique Meta (descriptions and titles) can ensure that your products stand out from others in search results and will ensure the clicks you receive are relevant to that product and more likely to convert.
Internal Search Functionality on Ecommerce Fashion Websites
An accurate internal search functionality is essential on fashion ecommerce websites. If a user is looking for a particular style of garment or accessory they are likely to use the search functionality to narrow down their site journey. By ensuring your site returns relevant results, you can increase the likelihood of a conversion.
Make sure your CMS has an automated XML Sitemap functionality. This is because you don’t want to have to create a new XML sitemap manually each time a product is added or goes out of stock. Having said this, it is important to make sure that it doesn’t include any URLs which you don’t want indexed such as URLs which are duplicates of other pages but with products in a different order. I’ll explain more about this in the section on Canonical Issues.
Fashion Ecommerce Site Structure
Your site structure will impact your SEO but also your customer journey, so it’s crucial to get it right. You should consider having categories based on your collections / trends as well as by product type. Newlook are an excellent example of this. They manage to fit a lot into their navigation without it looking too packed. This will allow you to target trend related keywords as well as more generic category terms and will cater for the different ways in which visitors will use the site.
Canonical Issues on Fashion Ecommerce Websites
Most fashion ecommerce sites have the option to sort products by price, freshness and other criteria. This is great for users but can cause havoc in the search engines if each time the products are sorted in a different way, they generate a new URL. This is because it is effectively the same content on a different URL and in a different order. Pagination can also cause canonical issues whereby all products are shown on one page, or also on multiple numbered pages.
There are many solutions to dealing with canonical issues like this. Here are some that you might want to consider:
You can use a wildcard in your robots.txt file that excludes all URLs with a particular feature, for example URLs that include the word ‘Price’. You could do this for each type of criteria you want to exclude. When picking the main page which you want to keep indexed, you should check your Google Analytics account to see which version of the page brings most traffic to your site and also do a site search on Google to see which version is most indexed already.
Within the Configuration section of Google Webmaster Tools you can find Parameter Handling. This is a way to exclude URLs with certain parameters. Like the robots.txt file solution above, you need to be very careful doing this as you can easily block pages which you didn’t intend to.
Canonical tags allow you to put a tag on all the pages which are duplicates of your original and state which version you want to be treated as the original and indexed. This isn’t a definite way of excluding the other pages though, as Google will take into account other signals in addition to this. You might want to try using multiple methods of dealing with canonical issues so that they can all work together to reduce the likelihood of canonical issues negatively affecting your site.
If your issue is with pagination rather than criteria sorting, you could try using pagination tags which work much like canonical tags. You can learn more about them here.
When products go out of stock on fashion ecommerce websites
Don’t redirect them to another page. This is very frustrating to users who may have clicked an external link looking for a particular product.
Instead, you should remove the product from your category pages and make sure it’s not linked to from your site. You should then amend the product page to state that the product is out of stock and whether you will be getting any more back in stock. You should also suggest similar products or a link to the category page so that the user might not leave the site.
Content on Category Pages
You need at least 300 words of content on your category pages. You probably look at some well know fashion ecommerce websites like Karen Millan and ask why they haven’t got content on their pages. The unfortunate truth is that if your brand is big enough and has enough authority in its own right then it can skip some of the standard optimisation signals Google look for and still perform well. For start-up or new fashion ecommerce sites, this is not an option. Miss Selfridge is a great example of getting some content on category pages. They have also ensured that the content is above-the-fold of the page which is more important than ever following recent algorithm updates.
Fashion Blogs on Ecommerce Blogs
Fashion ecommerce sites with blogs often end up with the blog simply being a platform to promote their own products on. This is a nice idea, but consumers are more savvy than this and they don’t want to read salesy posts about your products. Instead try to think about the kinds of content you find in fashion mags like Look Magazine. This kind of on-topic content based around trends and celebs will keep youraudience engaged and aware of your brand as a leader in the industry, whilst still providing the opportunity to include a link to one of your products in the occasional post.
Please, please, pleeeeease make sure your blog is clearly linked to from your main navigation. It is my pet hate when sites hide a link to their blog at the bottom of their Home page or worse still…they don’t link to it from their Home page at all. It should be clearly linked from your navigation and present on every page of your website.
You should also make sure your blog is on the same domain as your website if you want to receive the SEO benefit from it. Miss Selfridge are an example of a site who have got this wrong, but ASOS are on the money with their blog page.
Social integration is important for SEO in most industries however it’s particularly important for fashion ecommerce websites. Make sure you have pages / profiles set up on all the main social networking websites (Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Pinterest). These profiles should all link to your website and you should follow the various verification processes required to show that the page relates to your business.
You should feature the follow buttons for each social network so that your visitors can easily follow you on them directly from your site. Include relevant ‘like’, ‘+1’, ‘tweet’ and ‘pin’ buttons on all pages, particularly product pages as users often ‘like’ products they would like to buy. The social signals generated by these actions are highly valuable for enhancing your websites performance within the search engines and this kind of user interaction will work wonders for your brand. It is not enough to simply set up these profiles you need to use them too.
Link Building for Fashion Ecommerce Websites
Link building for fashion ecommerce sites is very blended with PR practices at the moment. Think about guest posts on influential fashion sites, and advertorials. Fashion bloggers know their stuff and they won’t take a generic half-hearted piece of content from you and put it on their blog; so put some effort in. Contact bloggers first and chat to them about what kind of post they would like for their blog. Then write the post once they are happy with the idea for it.
Links with brand anchor text are really important if you want your company to be recognised by the search engines as a brand.
Think about your user when you write your content. If they aren’t very fashion forward then try giving them friendly advice like tips for choosing the best kind of jeans for their body-shape. If they are high fashion then give them the latest info on next season’s trends as soon as they have been displayed on the catwalk.
These are just some SEO tips that are particularly relevant to fashion ecommerce websites but there is a lot more that you should be doing to optimise your fashion ecommerce website. Fashion ecommerce also works extremely well with other digital marketing techniques such as AdWords Remarketing, so try not to rely on SEO alone for your online presence.