As 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:
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.
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.