Ecommerce search engine optimisation is perhaps the SEO practitioner’s greatest challenge. E-commerce sites are the most difficult of all websites to work with. The situation becomes more difficult as Google steadily improves its ability to assess content quality and filter duplicated content from top positions.
The problem is that for any given product, there is the manufacturers website as the source of authoritative content. Added to that are often hundreds of online retailers all copying the manufacturer’s product description and images verbatim! Every retailer is then striving to attain rankings for those same items, and their particular categories…
At the same time, Google is getting smarter at filtering out the trivia and rewarding the source of the authoritative content! If you copy word for word, you immediately consign yourself to mediocrity!
E-commerce SEO – The Point of Difference
To rank well in ecommerce, you need a point of difference – and that comes from properly categorising and describing your product lines. Use every opportunity to ensure that every page is both accurately described and is unique. Most people are too damned lazy to take the time to do that. Therefore, tedious effort and time-consuming attention to detail across a site with hundreds of pages will reap rewards.
Effective ecommerce SEO is also reliant on the tools built into the shopping cart’s content managment system.Most current mainstream ecommerce applications pay attention to the SEO aspects, and provide search-engine friendly URLs, manually controllable Title, Description and keyword meta-tags, the ability to use accurately named images, and to tag those with Image Alt descriptions etc. However, you must make the effort to learn how to use the tools provided both wisely and well. The moment you do that, you step head and shoulders above much of the competition…
- Whilst its estimated athat there are 200+ elements that Google processes in its relevancy ranking algorithm, some are more important that others!
- Whilst we have no control over the rules of the game, we can use them more effectively than our lazier competitors to gain a competitive advantage!
Shopping Carts & Category SEO
Online shops divide Products into Categories and sub-categories – its both normal and desirable as it makes it much easier for a shopper to locate the items he or she wishes to purchase.
Often, the categories directly represent high-volume keyword search phrases e.g. “fly fishing rods.” All too frequently, ecommerce shops fail to provide any static, descriptive text on the page. Therefore, there’s a dearth of accurate on-page information as to what the page contains. Instead, there’s a series of cryptic Products headings e.g. “Temple Forks 4-pce #9 weight” with some equally brief technical details. The page is therefore rendered devoid of context, with no clear and unambiguous explanation as to its intent and purpose.
Hierarchy & SEO
Categories are important because they are usually placed at level 2, and subcategories at level 3 within the shopping cart hierarchy of the site. Products are at best level 3, and usually level 4. The deeper a page is pushed within the site, the less its perceived importance, and the more difficult rankings are to attain for it.
Categorise Your Categories
To attain best results, you should obviously aim your categories at carefully targeted, high-volume keyword search phrases…
- each page URL should incorporate the targeted phrase
- The page Title should have the targeted phrase first, followed by relevant descriptive text
- The page Description should incorporate the targeted phrase at the beginning, plus relevant descriptive text using closely related keyword.
- If there is the oportunity to use Category Images, name them wisely, and add descriptive Image Alt text that incorporates the targeted keyword phrase.
- On the page, add an accurate H1 heading plus a paragraph that encapsulates the targeted phrase and the describes the esssence of the page content.
Presenting Your Products
Don’t use the manufacturer’s products descriptions and images verbatim – doing so immediately defines your ecommerce website as a 2nd rate imitator. Instead, rewrite the (usually cryptic) product names and descriptions, ensuring that relevant keywords are incorporated within the text.
Product names should incorporate a clue as to the genre or category in which they sit. There are usually constraints on length of titles. Sometimes if they are too long, they will break across lines and distort the page’s layout. Using the previous fishing rod example, we should take the vague “Temple Forks 4-pce #9 weight” in the Fly Fishing Rods category and revise it as best we can within the length constraints;
- Temple Forks 4-pce #9 weight rod
- Temple Forks 4-pce #9 wgt Fly Rod
If your ecommerce system generates filenames that include both category and product name in a subdirectory format, thats great. E.g. /yoursite.com/fly-fishing-rods/temple-forks-4-pce-8-weight.html
If it does not, consider trying to create ‘slugs’ or URLs that incorporate the category – for example;
By all means use the manufacturers images – they are usually professionally done, sharp and crisp. Unfortunately, they are usually badly named! For example, an SKU Code and numeric sequence…for example; /yoursite.com/images/TF9p8w001.jpg
Change the names by adding in the product name and at least a hint of the category, e.g.
If you are lucky, your ecommerce system will add Image Alt tags automatically, either using the Product Name, or the image file name. If you’ve properly prepared the images prior to uploading, you’ve given both your Category and individual Product pages an insertion of relevant keywords into an important area that Google et al assesses as part of relevancy ranking algorithms.
Ecommerce SEO & Attention To Detail
Pay attention to the apparently trivial and you will be rewarded. Each individual element might in itself contribute a miniscule amount. Collectively, across a large ecomerce website, such efforts translate into thousands of additional keywords in important places. Painstaking attention to detail is tedious, but its important! Ask Picasso…
About the Author: Ben Kemp is the author of "The SEO Guy's Blog" : SEO comments, hints on successful web site design for effective search engine optimisation. Plus, life as a Road Warrior... living in The Land of Smiles! How it feels to be an alien, living in Thailand, immersed in a new culture and language.