SEO is an area where many online retailers still struggle, especially technical issues. With this in mind, here are some actionable SEO tips that can be be used by retailers today.
Get More From Your Review Content
Review content represents a huge opportunity for e-commerce websites, purely because of the level of unique content available for product pages. If you optimize your review acquisition process and ask the right questions, this could be a really big part of your organic growth strategy.
If you are using an enterprise-level platform like BazaarVoice, you can send review prompts and follow-up emails to optimize the success rates of obtaining customer reviews. This will generate more volume as well. Also, provide some kind of incentive, such as a monthly prize draw, to help make the review proposition more enticing.
If you are not using a third-party review service, you can still to achieve this. Just map out the process with your developers and create the functionality yourself.
Asking the right questions is really important, as it will help to make the content on the product pages more relevant. You should also build relevance into the algorithm to ensure that you are keeping the best and more contextual content on the page.
In addition to this, I integrate this activity with your email service provider (ESP) to give you more data, such as conversion rates.
Be Vigilant With Low-Quality Pages
Panda represents a huge risk to e-commerce websites with low-quality pages (too many dynamic pages, pages without content, duplicate variants of content, or just duplicate content). Panda is notoriously difficult to overcome, so listen up.
Focus on the following items (in order) to future-proof your website:
Dynamic pages can cause issues when left accessible to search engines, which is you should prevent them from being indexed. I have seen plenty of cases where a website had been either affected by Panda or generally saw a drop in rankings as a result of allowing these pages to be indexed.
Here are some of the most common types of dynamic pages:
- Layered navigation
- Tracking parameters
- Sort filter
In order to prevent this from being an issue, perform regular website crawls and keep an eye of what is being indexed.
Here are a few resources that provide more guidance on this issue:
- Magento’s article on dynamic pages in great detail (along with the fixes)
- Another detailed guide from GoInflow
- Econsultancy’s guide to e-commerce SEO
Duplicate Product Content
Duplicate product content is probably the most common e-commerce SEO problem. And, it results in low search position due to Google’s Panda update.
The most common issues relates to retailers opting for supplier content (usually because they do not have the resource internally). This will, unless it is a strong domain, prevent a website from ranking for product queries.
If you are in this position, gradually edit the copy. Prioritize with product pages that already generate a lot of traffic and revenue.
Another common issue is the use of product feeds which results in the same duplicate product copy. This is happens when retailers provide a shopping feed to affiliates, resellers, and marketplaces. To combat the risk of duplicate copy, create a second feed with separate content to eliminate the risks associated with sharing a product feed.
Here is some further reading on this:
- Search Engine Watch’s guide to fixing duplicate or thin content
- The Kiss Metrics SEO guide
Out of Stock Pages
There are many different opinions on what to do on a product page when it is out of stock. I would suggest to leave it, especially if it is a only a temporary issue.
When you leave an out-of-stock product page, you run the risk of unhappy customers, so you need to provide some helpful information. Do one of the following options:
- Provide the user with some indication of when the product will be back in stock. This can either be a static date or a countdown to show the user when they can purchase the product.
- Capture the user’s email address and automatically send an email once the product is stocked again.
- Allow the user to continue to purchase the product, and deliver it direct once it is is back in stock.
- Finally, provide the user with products similar to the product they are looking at.
Any of these techniques will enable you to provide a positive outcome for the user and the search engine… until the time the product is discontinued.
When that time comes, have a strategy in place to ensure that the product pages are not left in the wilderness. For websites with thousands of pages, create an automated process to reduce the amount of hours spent on implementing redirects.
When creating rules for discontinued products, there are a number of internal factors that may affect the decision. Here are some suggested methods:
- 301 redirect the product to either an updated model, or the most relevant alternative product.
- If there is no product available, then redirect the product to the category or sub-category.
- Remove the product completely and provide the search engine with a 410 status code to have it removed the index.
I am often surprised by the lack of online retailers who have not yet implemented rich snippets.
With structured data becoming more of a factor, those who have implemented rich snippets are starting to see the benefits.
Implementing rich snippets provides the user with further information about a product and also allows the result to stand apart from other search competition.
Rich snippets are fairly simple to implement. And, there are a number of helpful resources to take you through the process, including:
- How to use Google Rich Snippets – HubSpot
- Google’s Structure Data Markup Helper
By implementing rich snippets you will not only stand out from the crowd, but you will also start to see an increase in click through rates.
Get Granular With Sitemaps
Sitemaps can be the forgotten SEO technique. In fact, a large number of companies only have a single sitemap containing all of their content. Although it does the job, it does nothing to help inform where your indexing issues are.
Using a sitemap index allows you to be more granular with the categorization of the sitemaps, providing you with more information, but sometimes it’s not enough. With larger websites with multiple categories, it is essential to use multiple sitemap indices.
Breaking your website into multiple sitemap indices makes it easier to understand where the indexing issues lie.
Here are some useful links for creating best practice sitemaps:
- Sitemap Generator
- Schema for Sitemaps
And that is it…five SEO tips for e-commerce to put to practice today! How many of these do you currently in place? Any you disagree with? I’d love to hear your comments below.
Featured Image: Mark J Sebastian
All screenshots taken April 2015