SEO

7 Ways To Beat The Challenges Of SEO For Ecommerce

If “Content is King” and “Links are Queen” when it comes to SEO, ecommerce sites must be like America – no king and no queen (but there is opportunity)! To put it another way, the typical  medium or large e-commerce website faces substantial challenges to SEO – both from a content and a link perspective. Allow me to explain…

The Inherent Challenges Of SEO For Ecommerce Sites

Content Challenges

From an SEO standpoint, most of the pages on a typical ecommerce website can be considered to be one of two types:

  • Navigational – these are pages such as the homepage, category pages, and tag pages.  These pages are primarily navigational in nature and usually contain images, product names, and links.  These pages usually do not have much textual content on them, and the content they have (i.e. product names) is usually duplicated on many other websites.
  • Product – these pages are the product detail pages; they usually contain the product image, description, price, and other product data.  The textual content on these pages is usually solid, relevant content, but most websites use the manufacturer-provided description and product data, which means that the content is typically duplicated across many other websites.

In summary, most ecommerce websites are comprised largely of pages that have little or no unique, relevant content. This issue is especially problematic for the “little guy” who will almost certainly be outperformed by websites using the same content, but who have much stronger link graphs.

Linkability Challenges

Making the issue of duplicate content worse is the fact that ecommerce websites are inherently harder to gain editorial-type links for.  This is for several reasons:

  • Ecommerce website pages are typically not very linkable. Unless the product being sold is unusual or interesting, linkerati are less likely to link to an ecommerce page. After all, why should they? They want to link to interesting and valuable content, not promote your products for you.
  • When another website editorially links to an ecommerce page, the webmaster will typically link to a better known website, such as Amazon.com. This again makes it very hard for the “little guy” – any editorial links being given out are probably being given to your better-known competitors.

7 Ways To Beat The Challenges Of SEO For Ecommerce Sites

As I mentioned, while there are challenges to SEO for ecommerce sites, there is also a large window of opportunity.  Namely, many ecommerce sites have hundreds or thousands of pages that could be ranked for keywords with strong commercial intent. But first we must overcome the challenges.

I will assume that you have already implemented SEO basics, such as optimizing title tags and inserting relevant alt tags, much of which can be done programmatically instead of manually. The following tips are methods you can use to beat the content and link-related issues outlined in the first half of this article.

Add Category Descriptions

Purpose: Increase Unique Content

For many ecommerce sites, the category pages will be the highest priority pages for SEO rankings.  These pages can be greatly improved by adding a 100 (or greater) word description.  The description, of course, should be unique and include the target keywords for that category page. A good example of this is Zappos:

zappos 7 Ways To Beat The Challenges Of SEO For Ecommerce

Add Expert Product Reviews

Purpose: Increase Unique Content & Linkability

Creating expert reviews of products is an excellent way to add unique content, increase linkability, and improve user experience. These reviews should include substantial textual content (at least 300 words) but can also include images and video. An excellent example is CNET’s product reviews:

cnet 7 Ways To Beat The Challenges Of SEO For Ecommerce

Rewrite Product Descriptions

Purpose: Increase Unique Content

One simple, yet time consuming tactic is to rewrite your product descriptions so that they are each unique content.  While it may not be practical to rewrite all the product descriptions on your website at first, you could start with your top 100 products. (Not necessarily your top 100 sellers, but rather choose the 100 products you believe have the most potential for sales if they were top ranked.)

Encourage User Input

Purpose: Increase Unique Content

Many top ecommerce websites rely strongly on leveraging user-generated content.  Amazon.com is an excellent example of this – notice how strongly they leverage user-generated product reviews and recommendations, allowing them to display unique content for nearly every product.

amazon 7 Ways To Beat The Challenges Of SEO For Ecommerce

Add Buyer’s Guides

Purpose: Increase Unique Content & Linkability

Somewhat similar to the expert product reviews, but at the category level, are buyer’s guides.  These are informative, unique articles designed to educate potential buyers about particular product categories or types.  An excellent example is Cabela’s buyer’s guides such as this one:

cabelas 7 Ways To Beat The Challenges Of SEO For Ecommerce

Add An Education Or Information Section

Purpose: Increase Unique Content & Linkability

Most ecommerce websites could benefit by adding a section to their website to publish unique and linkable content related to their industry (or a particular topic within it).  For example, a website that sells cosmetics could launch a section of the website devoted to how-to articles and videos related to beauty and makeup. (Extra linkability points if they could tie in celebrities!)

Present Your Data Differently

Purpose: Increase Linkability

I can’t really give you specifics on this strategy, because it will be different for every site. You’ll need to take the time to sit down and brainstorm. Think of ways that you could change your user’s experience that would be so cool or helpful that others would want to link to your website.  Example: If your website sold pet toys, perhaps you could create a fun tool that would determine a pet’s personality, display a personality analysis, and recommend toys based on that.

How To Add Content Pages

If your ecommerce platform does not support adding content pages for product reviews, buyer’s guides, etc, a simple solution would be to use Drupal or WordPress. Either of these softwares could be installed and visually integrated with your ecommerce software. They would allow you to create extra content pages with text, images, and video, then link to these pages from the appropriate ecommerce page(s).

Getting The Content Written

If you don’t have the resources to write or re-write the content you need, you can always outsource the work.  RentACoder and oDesk are good options, or you could contract with a firm that offers web content writing services.  In either case, I would recommend hiring native writers. (i.e. if your website is in English and targets the USA, use American writers). Depending on the content at hand, you may also want a writer with experience writing effective sales copy (not just web content).

Summary

Ecommerce websites can be challenging for SEO, but using methods such as these, excellent results can be achieved.

Have you used any of these methods? What other methods have you used?

Adam J Thompson is Senior Partner at RYP Marketing, providing search engine optimization, conversion optimization, and online marketing results to clients around the globe since 2006.

Screen Shot 2014 04 15 at 7.21.12 AM 7 Ways To Beat The Challenges Of SEO For Ecommerce
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Screen Shot 2014 04 15 at 7.21.12 AM 7 Ways To Beat The Challenges Of SEO For Ecommerce

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5 thoughts on “7 Ways To Beat The Challenges Of SEO For Ecommerce

  1. Excellent post. We have been advising our clients to do these kind of thing for years. However to problem we face is the client is neither willing or in most cases don’t have the time or budget to write all this content.

    A website should never be designed by the client but by the customer as they are the people using the website. Too many people think that getting a website designed is enough. In the wrong hands no SEO can improve a badly designed website.

    using Google website optimizer should be one of their most used tools and will the help of ongoing seo to bring in targeted traffic and using the points you have described above is the only way forward.

  2. Very helpful post! These tips (including social proof, unique content and user interactions) could easily be translated over to best practices for any kind of site.

    -Kristina, @ion_interactive

  3. Very informative Adam. I had only a few of those techniques at my list, but now, I've got teh feeling that more horizon is opened in front of my eyes.

    I think blogging is a great way to add content and attract search engine bots more often to the website. Besides, it's going to be a great platform to get feedback, reviews, interviews, etc all concentrated on certain keywords that could even be directly linked to those hot product pages or category pages.

  4. Hi, this is Nicole from Rent a Coder.

    As Adam suggested (thank you Adam), our service is appropriate for hiring workers for this type of work. I'd like to point out a few differences between our service and services like oDesk however, since those differences could influence the success of an outsourced project.

    ===
    1) Employing a new worker that you don't yet know or trust:
    ===

    When you don't yet know if a worker is productive, both oDesk and Rent a Coder let you employ them in the safest way possible: by paying them a fixed price for the final deliverables (called pay-for-deliverables). However, oDesk doesn't offer a number of guarantees that are important when dealing with a new worker.

    1a): Triple point money-back guarantee (on completion, quality and deadline):

    On Rent a Coder, the contracted work will be fully completed by the deadline, and will be up to industry-expected standards, or you get your money back. oDesk does not give refunds for lack of completion, missed deadlines or poor quality work. As a result, you may pay full price for sub-standard work (or no real work at all).

    1b) Money-back communication guarantee:

    Communication is vital to your project's success and the larger the project the more communication is necessary to ensure on-time completion. On Rent a Coder, if the project is more than $150.00~the worker agrees to file a weekly status report. If they don't, you get your money back. oDesk does not give refunds for missed status reports. As a result, you may find that communication is poorer, which can affect the quality of the final work.
    ~
    1c): Expert Guarantee:

    The Rent a Coder triple-point guarantee protects your money from a vWorker that doesn't deliver. But if you had a critical deadline, you may have lost vital time. The Expert Guarantee helps you avoid this by identifying the most committed and expert vWorkers during bidding. The workers agree to place a deposit to guarantee that they will not break any of the triple-point (or quadruple-point) guarantees. If they do, they forfeit the deposit (which goes to cover cancellation fees and then gets donated to a worthy charity). oDesk does not have a feature like this. As a result it may be more difficult to identify such workers during bidding.

    ===
    2) Employing a familiar worker that you've worked with before:
    ===

    Once you know a worker is productive, both oDesk and Rent A Coder let you employ them more flexibly and cheaply by paying them by the hour (called pay-for-time). However there are important differences in how oDesk and Rent A Coder provide this service.

    2a) Fees
    ————-
    When employing a worker you know, Rent A Coder charges 10%-35% less than oDesk (9% for one-on-one auctions to as low as 6.5%). The less you pay, the more you savings you can pocket yourself, pass on to the worker as a reward, or split. oDesk charges a higher fee of 10%. As a result, you have less money to pocket, pass on to the worker as a reward, or split.

    2b) Interrupting Mental Tasks
    ———-
    If your worker is doing a mental task that should not be interrupted (such as reading, planning, or writing at a desk), oDesk still requires them to remember to move their mouse every minute or so, or they won't guarantee payment to them. This requirement may distract and impair performance and you still must full price for time that is billed like this. Rent A Coder does not interrupt this kind of work in the first place, so you do not have this issue.

    There are other differences as well. I invite everyone to compare the 7 major services through this link to learn even more: http://www.rentacoder.com/RentACoder/DotNet/mis… (Short version: http://www.rentacoder.com/RentACoder/DotNet/mis…)

    If you have any questions, please let me know. You can also call in to talk to a facilitator 7 days a week, or email us (see http://www.rentacoder.com/RentACoder/misc/Feedb…).

    Nicole
    http://www.rentacoder.com

  5. Hi, this is Nicole from Rent a Coder.

    As Adam suggested (thank you Adam), our service is appropriate for hiring workers for this type of work. I'd like to point out a few differences between our service and services like oDesk however, since those differences could influence the success of an outsourced project.

    ===
    1) Employing a new worker that you don't yet know or trust:
    ===

    When you don't yet know if a worker is productive, both oDesk and Rent a Coder let you employ them in the safest way possible: by paying them a fixed price for the final deliverables (called pay-for-deliverables). However, oDesk doesn't offer a number of guarantees that are important when dealing with a new worker.

    1a): Triple point money-back guarantee (on completion, quality and deadline):

    On Rent a Coder, the contracted work will be fully completed by the deadline, and will be up to industry-expected standards, or you get your money back. oDesk does not give refunds for lack of completion, missed deadlines or poor quality work. As a result, you may pay full price for sub-standard work (or no real work at all).

    1b) Money-back communication guarantee:

    Communication is vital to your project's success and the larger the project the more communication is necessary to ensure on-time completion. On Rent a Coder, if the project is more than $150.00~the worker agrees to file a weekly status report. If they don't, you get your money back. oDesk does not give refunds for missed status reports. As a result, you may find that communication is poorer, which can affect the quality of the final work.
    ~
    1c): Expert Guarantee:

    The Rent a Coder triple-point guarantee protects your money from a vWorker that doesn't deliver. But if you had a critical deadline, you may have lost vital time. The Expert Guarantee helps you avoid this by identifying the most committed and expert vWorkers during bidding. The workers agree to place a deposit to guarantee that they will not break any of the triple-point (or quadruple-point) guarantees. If they do, they forfeit the deposit (which goes to cover cancellation fees and then gets donated to a worthy charity). oDesk does not have a feature like this. As a result it may be more difficult to identify such workers during bidding.

    ===
    2) Employing a familiar worker that you've worked with before:
    ===

    Once you know a worker is productive, both oDesk and Rent A Coder let you employ them more flexibly and cheaply by paying them by the hour (called pay-for-time). However there are important differences in how oDesk and Rent A Coder provide this service.

    2a) Fees
    ————-
    When employing a worker you know, Rent A Coder charges 10%-35% less than oDesk (9% for one-on-one auctions to as low as 6.5%). The less you pay, the more you savings you can pocket yourself, pass on to the worker as a reward, or split. oDesk charges a higher fee of 10%. As a result, you have less money to pocket, pass on to the worker as a reward, or split.

    2b) Interrupting Mental Tasks
    ———-
    If your worker is doing a mental task that should not be interrupted (such as reading, planning, or writing at a desk), oDesk still requires them to remember to move their mouse every minute or so, or they won't guarantee payment to them. This requirement may distract and impair performance and you still must full price for time that is billed like this. Rent A Coder does not interrupt this kind of work in the first place, so you do not have this issue.

    There are other differences as well. I invite everyone to compare the 7 major services through this link to learn even more: http://www.rentacoder.com/RentACoder/DotNet/mis… (Short version: http://www.rentacoder.com/RentACoder/DotNet/mis…)

    If you have any questions, please let me know. You can also call in to talk to a facilitator 7 days a week, or email us (see http://www.rentacoder.com/RentACoder/misc/Feedb…).

    Nicole
    http://www.rentacoder.com