Ecommerce sites are often a bit of a headache for SEO as there are often a lot more individual factors at play that can hurt their rankings than your average website. All the usual fundamentals of SEO apply but with SEO for Ecommerce there is an additional layer of work needed.
Not only to directly increase the sites rankings and search result page CTR but to also improve engagement on the site leading to more sales. In this article I’ll cover all the major areas you need to consider on site in order to win at SEO for ecommerce. Some of the elements I’ll be raising are also important SEO factors in general but I’ll explain why you need to pay particular attention to them on an ecommerce site.
On Page SEO Considerations
Below are several on-page SEO things that should be implemented to ensure you leverage the full value out of each page on the site
Semantic URLs A semantic URL is a URL that reads much more naturally than one that contains text that is either difficult to read or not relevant to the page itself. For SEO purposes having semantic URLs on your ecommerce site not only makes it easier for users to type into their browser but it can also add further SEO relevance to the target terms on the page itself. For example a bad URL structure with poor SEO value would be http://www.ecommercesite.com/products/hats12345men. Instead the URL would have better SEO value if it read more like http://www.ecommercesite.com/men/hats/fashionable-red-hats/ as this will add an additional layer of relevance to the terms you’re targeting.
Titles and Meta Like all websites all pages should have a unique Title and Meta Description. With an Ecommerce site there is additional value that can be gained. The Title helps to target the pages terms as well as highlight to the user what the page is about and the Meta Description is used to ‘sell the click’ to the user in search results. Within an ecommerce site your title can help to further identify any variations in the products, for example red hats or blue hats for the user whilst also helping to target the page. The Meta description should mention the key elements of the product and where possible add something that will sell the click to the user like ‘Free Delivery’.
Category Pages & Content Your category pages should be treated almost as if they were their own home pages solely targeting a type of product. By adding a good level of relevant quality content centred around the category products themselves you’re telling search engines that the page, and subsequently internally linked category pages, are all targeting a specific type of product within the site. It’s also a good idea not to forget these category pages when working on linkbuilding for the site.
Product Descriptions & Variations Descriptions – Descriptions on ecommerce sites can be a bit of a nightmare, particularly if you have a lot of products that are virtually identical with only size or colour variations. It is very important that all your products have a description, not just for SEO but to help the user to determine what the products features are etc. Variations – If your site has products with slight variations such as the colour or the size then descriptions can be a bit more of a difficult issue. You face the potential negative effects of creating duplicated content. Where possible create wholly unique descriptions but if that really isn’t an option (like if you have over 6,000+ products for example) you should at least ensure that the variations in the product are clearly mentioned in the description. Ideally (and this is up for debate) I would recommend having one page per product type with all the variations as options on that page without the URL changing when the options are picked. A great article on making the choice on handling product descriptions can be found here.
Internal Linking A good internal linking structure is the backbone of on-page SEO best practice and this is just as important with an ecommerce site. I recommend linking only to the top level categories (your internal home pages) in the sites main navigation in a similar way as shown in the image below. This way the sites authority is flowing from the home page to best effect.
Blog Content In exactly the same way as with SEO in general regularly writing a relevant, quality blog within the site will work to cultivate internal links to the categories whilst offering opportunities for search engines the opportunity to crawl & index it.
Social Cards If you sell products that are suitable for sharing on social media (i.e. perhaps not pharmaceuticals or adult products) there is a lot of value in ensuring that any shares of your sites products look as appealing to the user as possible. This will work to sell the click or further share and work to lead to further sales on the site. I recommend adding Facebook Open Graph meta tags, Twiter Product Card markup and Pinterest Rich Pin markup. This will then ensure that the product details you want to share are pulled through onto these social networks and work to improve further shares and clicks to the site.
Social Integration More of a conversion rate improver here but I wanted to touch on this. Where possible it is recommended that you integrate social media onto your products and category pages. If applicable it would help increase trust in a product when the user see’s content generated on social media by others about how happy they were with their products etc.
Publish Reviews On Product Pages This can help increase the quantity of unique content on a product page as well as work to improve conversions. If the site has thousands of similar products these reviews could be aggregated on the category or sub category page of the product rather than having reviews sporadically on individual product pages. In a similar way to social integration, user generated content can help to improve trust and therefore affect sales.
Ecommerce Tracking To Measure Without having the appropriate tracking set up on your site it will be impossible to understand the ROI of individual products or categories. If you use Google Analytics I recommend you set up ecommerce tracking on the site. You can then see your sales and measure your SEOs (or other channels) effectiveness and make the appropriate alterations to the site or strategy based on the data.
Technical SEO Considerations
Site Speed Site speed is a big player in conversion rates on an ecommerce site and it is also a ranking factor that Google. It’s becoming more and more important so I recommend you read through my article on improving site speed on this site as well as my article on Semrush about improving site speed through the webserver configuration. Faster site = More pages Crawled & Indexed + A better User Experience!
Canonical Links Ecommerce sites are a pain in the neck when it comes to inadvertently creating duplicate content and there is a great tool for checking for internal duplication called Siteliner once the content is identified it can be altered to be unique. It is recommended that all pages your ecommerce site have a canonical tag that points to itself or the original version of a page (depending n how you choose to deal with product variations). The canonical tag helps search engines to identify where the original source of content is and this can mitigate against any negative effects from duplication.
Canonical Pagination Often your if you have a lot of products within a category the pages may well be spilt over several pages for example http://www.ecommercesite.com/men/hats/pg=2 this can be difficult in regards to content duplication and also in terms of search engines crawling the pages. It is advisable to add the rel=”next” & rel=”prev” canonical tags to these pages to tell search engines whats going on and help to stop any problems arising. Google have a good guide about implementing this and I recommend having a read!
Sitemaps To make your ecommerce site as easy to crawl as possible so I recommend ensuring that you have a HTML sitemap linked in the footer of every page on the site which links to the sites category level pages. I also recommend creating an XML sitemap for all the pages on the site and linking to this in the robots.txt file. If you have a lot of products on the site I recommend splitting it up into a few smaller sitemaps so that the crawler can load the file and start following the links within it. For really large sites I work with that have a lot of products I have removed the CMS auto-generated XML sitemaps and split the sitemaps into categories. This helped to improve crawl rates and get more of the large sites pages indexed & ranked!
Product Markup Product schema markup can do wonders for a sites search result snippets and they also help to indicate the structured product data on a page to the search engine. The visual improvements in the search results from this markup can help to increase the results CTR which will not only increase the visits and conversions but is also help to increase the sites rankings!
Review Markup In much the same way as product schema implementing review markup can improve the visual appeal of the search snippet and increase the results CTR. They work as an additional trust factor for the user by showing them that other users have had a positive experience with the site/products and this can influence conversion rates.
Breadcrumb Markup Breadcrumbs offer a couple of benefits to an ecommerce site and its usability as well as its SEO. Firstly having breadcrumbs setup on your site helps the user to identify where they are on the site and navigate back to different pages. It also helps with the semantic side of an ecommerce sites rankings by adding further relevance to the products as well as presenting the search results in a more appealing way to the user. You can see this implemented on the John Lewis website. It looks more clearly presented than the M&S version below it and also helps to reassure the user that they’ll be getting to the page they were after if they clicked it on the results page.
Site Search Markup Implementing internal site search markup will allow additional functionality within Googles search results pages. This can help to improve CTR but also serves as a great user experience improver and thus conversion improver!
It’s important to add the appropriate structured data markup to your Ecommerce site and this can be done in a fair few ways. I recommend researching how this needs to be implemented into your stores theme as incorrectly inserting the code can change the way the theme renders.
Optimise Internal Search Ironically in the quest to optimise for better search rankings it is often overlooked with site owners to optimise their own internal search engines. It can provide a better user experience and improve sales if all your pages are given the appropriate tags etc so that the internal search engine can provide the user with the best or most popular products at the top of the internal search results.
https:// The jury is still out on the additional ranking increase Google applies to a secured site and I’m sure that will remain unclear for a while. The fact is however, Google have publicly stated that it is one of their ranking signals and it does work to increase the trust the user has in the site when it comes to payments. The decision should be taken based on your research but you might decide to only implement https:// on checkouts or over the entire site. One thing to think about is that by implementing https:// you’ll be adding an additional amount of time to the sites load because the browser has to look up the validity of the certificate on a third party site as well as encrypting the files too.
Optimise Images The bead and butter of any product page is its images. They help to give the user something to look at before they buy but unoptimised images can be harmful to a page load time so its vital that images are optimised as best as possible. (see the site speed section above)
Discontinued Products Having old pages live or removed pages linked to can present a poor user experience and slow down crawl speeds with wasted page loads and bad requests. Its advisable to redirect these product pages back to their category page or to the newer version of the product if it exists. I’ll cover this in more detail in another post soon as there are lots of different options regarding this issue and how to handle it.
Make It Mobile Friendly Google are currently adding ‘Mobile Friendly’ badges onto search results when a site loads well on mobile devices. They are also favouring mobile friendly sites with better rankings in the search results pages. If your ecommerce store isn’t mobile friendly it should be or it will lose out on the increasing number of users searching and buying on mobile devices! I hope this beast of an article is useful in improving your ecommerce sites rankings and conversion rates. If you’d have any more tips or want to weigh in on any of the areas I covered feel free to do so in the comments section below.