This post was written in 2015, but all of the points hold exceptionally true in 2016 too.
Many consider SEO to be dead, but it has become more prevalent in 2015, especially if you are running an online store. If it would be that easy to generate thousands of free traffic to your website, nobody would have been optimizing their ecommerce stores.
For merchants, they believe that the holy grail of marketing is simply listing hundreds of thousands of products on their website, site back & relax and let the traffic roll in baby!
The traffic won’t but Google Panda should definitely roll in this time and the merchant may wonder “What happened to my website? No traffic! I have listed hundreds of items with excellent product images!”
The harsh reality is that ecommerce SEO is as difficult as climbing a mountain. What works for a simple company/corporate website or a blog is not the same for an Ecommerce website. Listing new product, removing old ones, optimizing for newly added products, adding in new content, etc.
That is a whole lot of work that needs to be done and if you think that there is a way around to beat the bushes, then be my guest. A number of problems and obstacles are in the way of optimizing Ecommerce websites.
This post covers in details 6 critical ecommerce SEO mistakes for ecommerce websites that webmasters/agencies or SEO freelancers are making. Sadly speaking, even today in 2015, these practices are widely spread without having the real intent of damaging the store. Here you go:
1. Poorly written or no product description
Aaargh! You have an ecommerce site and a number of products. You also know the fact that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, and yet you do not pay attention to product description?
Product descriptions are the most critical parts of an online store and you need to make sure that they are as lucrative as any other element of your website. They need to be persuasive enough to lure away users in buying your products!
Online gift stores and mass-market ecommerce websites usually either forget or do not pay attention to having a product description for each of their products. Without a product description, there is no way for a search engine to figure out what your product is about, and hence the chances of being on top are very slim.
Hence, hire a copywriter and get a uniquely written product description for each of your products. They need to be scanned through Copyscape to make sure that they don’t match with any other published product description.
The product description’s ideal word count is in between 100 to 200 words, but some products, such as beauty products, clothing, etc. may require over 200 words. Remember to check out what your competitors are doing and try to follow the trend, but never copy descriptions from them.
Let us take an example of these Adidas Neo Label shoes. Nice shoes, excellent images, but no product description apart from a few words shown. These aren’t enough for search engine spiders to find out what your product is all about.
Kissmetrics rules out a great way for knowing the ideal word count limit:
- Find out the total word count of a blank page including header, footer, navigation and sidebar.
- Write content exceeding this word count.
- Make sure that this isn’t it. Go beyond the limit to make heavier weight on your unique content.
But before you do write, always take into account the following considerations:
- Only write unique and high quality product descriptions detailing features, benefits of the product to help your visitor turn into a customer.
- The least thing you would want to do today is copy from other websites. As said earlier, you do not want Mr. Panda to hunt you down just like Maroon 5 preys, hunts down and eat alive her wife-model video actress in the Animals video song 😉
- Can’t write yourself? Hire a professional copywriter to do so. Visit Freelancer.com, Odesk.com or Elance.com to hire a product copywriter and do not pay until he/she provides solid SEO-friendly description with the right keyword count and off course, passed from various plagiarism checkers.
2. Manufacturer-based product description
Forget it. You do this, you will never get ranked! Look at it this way. There are a number of ecommerce stores in your niche, and if everyone copies from manufacturers, in the end only the original product manufacturer is getting the benefit. Why would you not want to have a manufacturer’s description for your product page:
- You do not want to get penalized by Google for having copied content.
- Manufacturer’s product description are vague in nature, often have lesser word count than recommended, and not detailed enough to provide complete benefits of the product.
- The same product description is used by many other online stores. How would Google be able to rank you if you do not have a unique one of your own to stand out?
- Manufacturers provide these descriptions to website owners, who in turn save time and effort by pasting the same description.
- Original descriptions aren’t designed in a way to uplift and sell your product.
Starting this April, 2015, you also need to have a mobile or responsive version of your store or your store may not be ranked.
Now, for creating unique content for several hundreds of product pages, you may not have the effort, time, courage and even budget to hire a copywriter to do it for you. If there are product pages you cannot write unique content for, simply put them in the NO Index meta tag so that Google does not index your page.
Simple as that. But be careful as using this practice will also not be of any added benefit to you as your products would not be in the competition to rank for specific keywords because you have solely chosen not to index your product pages.
If the product pages are going to be out of stock and do not wish to have them back on your website, consider not having them indexed. You do not want your website to be looked like as an automatic content generator with filler content. That is not what your intention should be.
3. No product reviews
Whenever I buy any product, perhaps the easiest method for me of finding about the usability is to read existing customer reviews and compare them with what the manufacturer and seller has to say.
It is a fact that over 75% of buyers are looking for reviews online on blogs, forums and review sites before actually buying a product. I wanted to buy a Thinkpad for my computing needs.
Guess what I did? I went online and spent hours in reviewing the new laptop and noticed that over 85% reviews were in the favor of my new laptop such as design, performance and usability.
So, product review pages help to sell your product. The point isn’t just selling, but also providing information for visitors to be informed. Why is it that the review websites and pages earn top positions for keywords as compared to simply the product pages? This is because Google and other search engines consider review websites providing vital information to users about specific products and aiding them in their buying decisions.
Why having product reviews are essential for today’s ecommerce store:
- Search engines love user-created content from various locations and IPs. Moreover, since this content is unique to what everyone say, your website gets free unique content without paying anyone for it. Product reviews solve the problem of not having unique content for your website.
- The review pages help you to get optimized and provide high quality search engine traffic based upon the registered keywords.
Today is the age and time of user-generated content. Forget about having a bad review. Face the challenge and have the courage to reply back to the bad review and offering free product replacements as part of a goodwill and reputation of your website.
4. Optimizing product pages that lead to no conversions
You are optimizing your product pages. But wait a second! For whom are you doing it? What is the purpose for it? Why would you want to do it? Whenever you optimize your headlines and product pages, make sure to include keywords that result in conversion, or else you may be optimizing your page for users having little to no intention of purchasing your products.
For example, you may optimize a page for “iPhone cases”, but it would be much better to have it optimized based upon the exact product description, i.e. “Black leather iPhone 5 5S case.” This drives the search engine traffic based upon the long tail keyword search to your page. It is obvious that people searching for a a Black Leather iPhone 5 5s case would have a higher chance of converting as compared to those only searching for iPhone cases.
Here is my take in a complete nutshell:
- Exact model numbers and tags in your H1 headings.
- Use brand names in H1, such as “Griffin Black Leather iPhone 5 5s Case”
- Alt tag SHOULD BE the exact product match just like in this Ebay example for Griffin case. Can you see that the alt tag is exactly the same as the H1 heading?
- There is only 1 or 2 instances of keyword repeating in the content on the Ebay page. Do not keyword stuff your page. This will spam your website. Ideally speaking, your keyword density should not be more than 1% of your website content.
- iFrames is an SEO killer! Do not use iframes to place your content as they are not readable by SEO, plus they end up having coding errors at the site backend.
5. Lack of SEO-Friendly or Speaking urls
SEO-friendly or speaking URLs are those that speak out to a layman what the website is all about. Have a look at the following page. Not only the website is long, but very complex, making it difficult for a layman to understand about the product:
On the other hand, the following URL is a speaking URL also known as a SEO-friendly URL. Have a look at the following Ebay page. The URL may not be short, but is SEO-friendly and clean, having no codings. The item URL is unique and instantly indexed by search engines:
Why you need to use speaking URLs?:
- Make it memorable for your customers- A long URL is a big turn off for visitors as it makes them confused. Instead URLs with keywords are easier to remember and shorter as well.
- Rankings and Anchor Text links- Your website may be relinked by other websites with the same keyword anchor text, providing relevant backlink to your website and helping you to rank.
6. No alt text for images
An image is worth a thousand words, unless this rule is defined by search engine spiders as well. Without having an alt text for images, not only your website is missing an important element, when search engine spiders visit your website to index it, they cannot index the images having no alt text. How can the spiders find out what your image is all about? You may forget to do alt text for an image on a company blog, but for ecommerce, it is like killing your own store!
In a nutshell, ecommerce SEO is quite challenging and isn’t what you’d expect in your normal day-to-day optimizing of corporate websites and blogs. Ecommerce SEO for 2015 is a constant game that needs to be won using the right strategies on a long term basis.