Task 20: Steps to Build an E-Commerce SEO Strategy
This week, spend a few hours to build an e-commerce SEO strategy for your online store.
Why is this important?
E-commerce sites, unlike other sites, have complex site architecture. One needs to follow different SEO rules to optimize an e-commerce site and attract organic search traffic.
E-commerce SEO goes hand-in-hand with usability that enriches the user-experience, which in turn encourages conversion improvements and repeat purchases.
Step #1: URL Optimization
Having a clean URL is important for both SEO and usability. E-Commerce product-page URLs may contain query string parameters and session IDs which are not user-friendly, nor do they boost e-commerce SEO.
Look at the two URLs below for an example of the difference:
Ask your web developer to help clean your URLs.
Here is a list of tools used to rewrite URLs online:
▪ URL Rewrite Tool for X-Cart users
Quick Tips for Clean URLs:
▪ Use dashes where you would put spaces.
▪ Use appropriate keywords in the URLs.
▪ Use lower case letters.
▪ Category page URLs must ideally be yoursite.com/category
▪ Sub-category page URLs must ideally be yoursite.com/category/sub-category oryoursite.com/sub-category/.
▪ Product page URLs must ideally be yoursite.com/category/sub-category/product-name or yoursite.com/product-name.
Do not redirect your home page to another page. For example, if your URL is yoursite.com do not send the users to yoursite.com/home/index.php. Doing this dilutes the link equity passing through your site’s home page as users may link your site to either version of the URL rather than a single form. Most CMS platforms have this problem, so ask your web developer to fix it. If a redirect has to take place, ensure it is a 301 permanent redirect to the preferred URL. Note: Using 301 redirects causes a five to 15 percent loss in link equity.
Here is a list of online HTTP header checking tools to check the redirects on URLs:
▪ FireFox Add-on – Live HTTP Headers
▪ Google Chrome Add-on – HTTP Headers
Step #2: Avoid Duplicate Content
There is a high chance of having multiple URLs pointing to the same page on e-commerce websites. For example, URL destinations generated from different categories but ending up on the same page, as shown below:
Some e-commerce CMS platforms generate duplicate pages automatically. In such cases, search engine crawlers will randomly pick one of the links to index. In order to avoid duplicate content issues you must make use of the rel=”canonical” tag. This tag allows you to indicate which page you prefer to be indexed.
When you have your products in a paginated series, i.e. items listed on multiple pages, you can indicate to Google that these pages belong to the same group/category.
The following markup must be used for such paginated series in product pages:rel=”next” and rel=”prev”.
Sometimes product pages may have similar content since they belong to the same product category. You can create unique content on each product page by utilizing user-response, such as customer reviews and Q&As.
Avoid using default manufacturer product descriptions as many other online vendors will use them. Create unique descriptions for each product. If you have too many products to do this, consider outsourcing the product descriptions to content writers.
Avoid duplication of meta title and meta description tag content.
Avoid stacked redirects. This is the use of more than one redirect on a link – URL 1 URL 2 URL 3. Stacked redirects may create duplicate content issues, dilute the link equity across pages, and if any of the redirects do not work, then it creates a broken link and further loss of link equity.
Use robots.txt on duplicate pages that you do not want search engines to index. For example, category search pages that do not feature any unique content can be kept from being indexed by the search engine crawlers. You can disallow the directory/catalogsearch/ in the robots.txt file and remove the directory from Google Webmaster Tools.
Step #3: Add Rich Snippet Markup
For an overview of rich snippets, read our blog; Rich Snippets – What, Why and How to Implement?
Use Schema.org>Thing>Product to add a rich snippet markup to your e-commerce site. Alternatively you can use Schema Creator for Products by copying and pasting the code onto your site.
You can also use the Rich Snippets Review Markup for product pages that contain customer reviews.
Use the Rich Snippets Testing Tool provided by Google to test your e-commerce site’s rich snippets. An ideal rich snippet optimized for reviews on an e-commerce site must look as the example shown below:
Step #4: Create Sitemaps
Unlike other sites, e-commerce websites need multiple sitemaps. These offer great search engine indexing benefits.
The following are four sitemap formats that an e-commerce website would benefit from:
▪ HTML Sitemap – A visible sitemap of the various pages and categories on the site, HTML sitemaps are usually linked to the footer of a website. It is a great navigational tool. Take a look at this example.
▪ XML Sitemap – This sitemap is created so that search engine spiders can crawl, find and index the various web pages on a site. It is placed in the root directory of your site.
▪ Image Sitemap – E-commerce websites have numerous images. You are required to include image-specific tags with your sitemap in order to give Google information about these images.
▪ Video Sitemap – E-commerce websites may have a series of product videos or video reviews for products on the site. To give Google information about your videos it is a good idea to provide a video sitemap.
Tools that help generate sitemaps are listed below:
A comprehensive and categorized list of sitemap generator tools provided by Google can be found here.
Step #5: Product Page Optimization Tips
▪ Write unique meta titles that include product names.
▪ Write unique meta descriptions that include product names.
▪ Clear product page URLs off the session id parameters and include product names.
▪ Include product names in alt text tags of any product images.
▪ Include social share buttons on product pages. Read more about this in our blog onTools and Tips for Integrating Social Media into Your Website.
▪ Allow user-generated content in the form of reviews and Q&As.
▪ Use breadcrumb navigation to enrich user experience.
Resources for Further Learning:
▪ Blog Article: 10 Tips to Optimize E-commerce Sales
▪ Blog Article: How to Implement Rich Snippets