Websites for growing businesses

Top 5 Mistakes Found During Ecommerce SEO Audits

SEO in an ecommerce shopping cart iconAs the owner of an online store, you know the challenges of dealing with customers, processing and shipping orders, and keeping hundreds or thousands of products updated. Worrying about how well your ecommerce website is optimized for search may be low on your priority list. But here’s the thing – when you get SEO right for an online store, the return on investment can be significant.

Unfortunately, it’s far too easy to get this wrong. Many platforms claim to have you covered when it comes to ecommerce SEO, but then they create serious problems right out of the box.

Other platforms, like WordPress and Woocommerce, are widely touted as being SEO-friendly, especially if you incorporate the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. These can be powerful ecommerce tools, and we’ve used them on many projects, but tools can never replace a deep understanding of SEO best practices for ecommerce websites.

Here are the top 5 mistakes that we find in ecommerce SEO audits.

Mistake #1: Duplication

Arguably the most common issue that comes up in ecommerce SEO audits is duplicate content. Duplication typically occurs in three places: in the content, in URLs, and in page titles.

What’s the problem with duplicate content?

Duplicate content can result in poor performance in search results and even in your best content being excluded by search engines completely. Search engines like Google may ignore pages that appear to be duplicates of content that is already in their index. Furthermore, the value of external links to a piece of content can be diluted because the links are pointing to different URLs.

Consider the main types of duplication on ecommerce sites:

CONTENT DUPLICATION

Problem: Your ecommerce site has the same content as another website.

Product names and descriptions on ecommerce site are often copied directly from the manufacturer’s website. This can result in hundreds of retail websites with the exact same copy on the product detail page for a certain product.

Solution: Write unique and keyword-optimized for each product, and you’ll outperform all the copycats. Hiring an SEO copywriter for this is a worthwhile investment that will pay in dividends over the long term.

Problem: Your ecommerce site has more than one page with the same content

Maybe you have two different products that are identical except for a minor variation, such as color. Most likely both display the same product description, creating two product pages with nearly identical content.

Solution: Create one product and manage variations at the product level. Be sure to choose an ecommerce platform that makes this easy to set up.

URL-RELATED DUPLICATION

Problem: There are multiple dynamically-generated URLs pointing to the same content.

Ecommerce software often creates endless URL variations for the same page of content because of query strings or a dynamic URL structure. Search engines view each URL as a separate page. Printer-friendly pages can create a similar problem.

Solution: Use canonical tags to signify the “original” or canonical page. This is the one that will be indexed by the search engines regardless of the URL in the address bar when the site is crawled by the search bot.

PAGE TITLE DUPLICATION

Problem: Your ecommerce site has more than one page with the same title.

The page title is found in the HTML code between the <title></title> tags and is usually displayed as the link text in search results. Duplicate page titles on a site often happen as a result of carelessness, especially if you have multiple products with similar product names. It can also be due to limitations of the ecommerce software.

Solution: Use a shopping cart platform that allows you to edit page titles at the product level. Differentiate product-level page titles by including model numbers, unique features, brand names, or similar details.

Mistake #2: Missing or Incorrect Sitemaps

Problem: XML sitemaps are missing or inaccurate.

XML sitemaps provide search engines with a structured list of the content on a website. Simply put, sitemaps guide search engines to the content that you want found. The product inventory for an ecommerce website can change frequently, so it’s important to make sure the sitemap is accurate and submitted to the search engines after each update. If you have a large and changing inventory, it can be a real challenge to keep manually-updated XML sitemaps up to date and correct.

Solution: Use a content management system (CMS) or shopping cart platform that automatically updates the XML sitemap whenever inventory changes.

Mistake #3: Not Enough Unique Content

Problem: Ecommerce websites tend to be heavily focused on images, but it’s the written content makes the biggest impact on SEO.

Search engines are limited in their understanding of images, so images alone cannot fully convey meaningful information about products.

Solution: Prevent this mistake by using detailed and unique product descriptions. Not only will this help users understand what your products are about, but they will also create critical context for search engines. Remember to always include alt text for images, which is a brief description of the image itself.

Mistake #4: Poor Keyword Targeting

Problem: Product pages are not optimized for the right keywords.

If your online store sells seeds and bulbs to home gardeners, you should optimize each product page for the types of queries that home gardeners use. Shoppers who want “giant iris bulbs” are unlikely to find them if your page is optimized for “Iridaceae hollandica Golden Giant.” If home gardeners don’t search by botanical names, it hardly matters if you’ve scored a #1 ranking for “Iridaceae hollandica Golden Giant.”

Solution: Research and develop buyer personas that will guide keyword research and content strategy. Proper keyword research based on searcher intent is a critical component of ecommerce SEO.

Mistake #5: Poor URL Structure

Problem: Your CMS or shopping cart software automatically generates alphanumeric, impossible-to-remember URLs with ?’s and &’s and other special characters.

Online shopping should be simple, and it’s vital to make sure your URLs are easy to remember and keyword-targeted. Complicated URLs are hard to remember, hard to spell out (for example, over the phone), and pose a challenge to search engines that need to understand the page’s importance within the structure of your site.

Solution: Use a content management system or ecommerce platform that enables you to edit the URL manually at the page level.

Where to Start? Get an Ecommerce SEO Audit

If optimizing your online store for search seems complicated, that’s because it is complicated. If you want your products to be found – and found quickly – by your ideal customer, the place to start is with a professional ecommerce SEO audit.
Learn more about our SEO audits or call 678-824-5560 for a custom quote.

Paramaya Web Consulting is an Atlanta-based company that provides SEO services for small businesses and ecommerce websites. 

How to Respond to Negative Reviews: Best Practices for Small Businesses

Negative online reviews, a thumbs down for small local businessesIf you own a small business, you’re probably well aware of how online reviews play an important role in your success. Given the surge in popularity of sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Foursquare and Google Maps, it’s not uncommon for a business to utilize these sites to bolster sales. Even Facebook is in on the action with their location tagging and check-in functions.

But there is a downside to all this exposure, especially for brick and mortar businesses that depend on local customers. Online reviews can hit you in the bread and butter because they affect the buying decisions of prospective new customers.

It’s important to have a plan in place for dealing with negative reviews. They are a fact of life these days, and you can’t afford to ignore them. At the very least, they are useful as feedback you can use to improve your business, and they can increase sales if you respond appropriately. Some people even post fake reviews, so it’s worthwhile to identify them and deal with them to reduce or eliminate any negative impact.

The Dos and Don’ts of Responding to Negative Reviews

When your business gets slammed with a nasty review, refer to this handy list of how to handle it.

DO:

  • Claim and optimize your local business citations on key reviews sites
  • Thank the commenter for their feedback
  • Read their criticism carefully and look for nuggets of truth or areas to improve your business
  • Address their concerns and apologize if warranted
  • Be brief
  • Stick to the facts
  • Describe their experience as atypical for your business
  • Outline steps you have taken to prevent it from happening again
  • Implement those steps
  • Offer a way to resolve it: a refund, replacement or do-over
  • Ask someone else to read through your response BEFORE you post it

It’s okay to respond offline when it’s appropriate. Sometimes online exchanges can escalate and get nasty. It is never in your interest to let these messages run amok, especially when it can (rarely, thank goodness) result in public humiliation and even arrest.

DON’T:

  • Ignore it
  • Respond hastily
  • Take it personally – don’t get emotional, angry, or defensive
  • Engage a troll (someone who provokes or instigates for his own amusement)
  • Be sarcastic
  • Make personal attacks (i.e., no name-calling or making accusations)
  • Blame the customer
  • Be condescending
  • Use swear words
  • Offer an incentive to remove negative reviews
  • Post fake positive reviews

Above all, don’t ever sue your customer. Even if you win your case in court, you’ll lose in the court of public opinion. You’ll be the business that sues its customers, and that’s a sure-fire way to scare off future customers and drive away current ones. The Internet has a long memory, so even if subsequent customers generate lots of pleasant, positive reviews, people will still be able to find a record of the negative.

Online Reviews Affect Local Search Rankings

Online reviews are one of the strongest influencers of local search rankings. In fact, SEO pioneer Moz puts it in the top 20 local search factors that affect rankings, and by extension, click-through rates. The number of organic reviews built over time, as well as the number of stars awarded, can impact the number of people who are exposed to your business’ listing and click on your links.

Unfortunately, you can’t always ask your favorite customers to flood the Internet with glowing reviews. Yelp even discourages soliciting reviews and filters out reviews that seem fishy.

Get the Help Your Small Business Needs

It’s important to spend time managing your online reputation and monitoring reviews. Better yet, delegate the chore of responding to an objective marketing professional who won’t become emotionally involved with any negative comments. Paramaya Web Consulting can help you monitor and respond to reviews as part of our local SEO services. These services include:

  • Reviews monitoring
  • On-page optimization
  • Citation management
  • Content marketing
  • Brand audits
  • And more

Contact us today and ask for a free 30-minute consultation. Let us help with local search optimization so you can stop worrying about it.

Obsessing Over Search Engine Rankings is a Waste of Time

Stop obsessing over rankings as an SEO metricDo you hop on Google several times a week and search your target keywords, hoping to see your website in the coveted #1 spot?

If so, please stop wasting your time.

That may seem like a strange statement for someone whose business is largely concerned with search engine optimization (SEO), which is all about improving a website’s performance in the search engine results.

Don’t Be Misled By Rankings in Personalized Search Results

The problem with measuring the success of SEO with a quick Google search is that the results can be misleading. Search engines have been personalizing your search results for a while now, so two people can search the same phrase and get completely different search results.

Location-based Personalization

Someone searching for “garden center” in Atlanta will get different results than someone searching for “garden center” in Seattle. Google assumes that you are most interested in finding a garden center in your local area.

Search results for “garden center” in Atlanta, GA

Search results for garden center in Atlanta, GA

Search results for “garden center” in Seattle, WA

Search results for garden center in Seattle, WA

Personalization When You’re Signed In

When you are signed in to Google for services like Gmail, YouTube, Google+, etc., you’re leaving a massive trail of web history that Google uses to personalize your search results. Your search results factor in which websites you’ve visited and what searches you’ve performed while your were signed in.

If this creeps you out, Google gives you the option to turn this off.

Personalization When You’re Signed Out

You’d think that would be enough, but Google also personalizes your search results based on your search history when you are browsing anonymously. They use an anonymous browser cookie to track your online activity when you are signed out of Google. If you want, you can also turn this off.

Personalization Based On Your Social Activity

Google knows a lot about your social circle from public profiles on sites like Google+, Twitter, FriendFeed and other social networking sites. That’s why your search results are more likely to include blog posts by someone you follow on Twitter, for example. Your search results are influenced by your social activity and your social connections.

I searched “gardening centers” in Google and the following result showed up at the bottom of the first page of results. I happen to follow Danny Sullivan, an SEO expert, on Twitter and he’s in my circles on Google+.

Search results personalized by social circle.

Learn more about social search, which Google calls “Search, plus Your World.”

Can’t I turn off all of this personalization and see my true search rankings?

Perhaps, but there really is no such thing as “true” search rankings anymore because everyone else is getting some type of personalized results.

This may be a little disheartening if you’re trying to gauge the success of your SEO efforts, but don’t worry. There are SEO metrics that really matter, which we’ll go into in a future post.

You can find out how your SEO is really doing with a comprehensive SEO audit.

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