In addition to the efforts we take to optimize on page elements of a website, there are additional SEO strategies that should be implemented when optimizing an ecommerce website. This post goes over the strategies that are often avoided on ecommerce websites. These strategies are important because they will help your ecommerce site compete in the aggressive online marketplace.
Choosing Your Platform
One of the first decisions you will make is which platform you are going to build your ecommerce site on. There are many options when choosing a platform. (See http://smallbusiness-domain.com/resources/about_ecommerce_hosting to learn about different ecommerce platforms.) Whether you are using a WordPress shopping cart plugin such as “WP e-Commerce,” an ecommerce web application such as “Magento,” or another ecommerce solution, you will need to be sure that the platform you choose either handles the following SEO features or allows you to implement them.
Unique Product Descriptions
One of the most important elements of any website is content. A common problem with ecommerce sites is that they take product descriptions straight from the manufacturer. This leads to content being duplicated across multiple websites. Unique, quality content is as important as ever because of Google’s recent Panda update. It is therefore important to take the time and effort to create unique product descriptions.
Customer reviews provide a great opportunity for fresh content. Your ecommerce site should encourage user activity through reviews and comments. In addition to being great for providing unique content to your site, these reviews and comments will also produce feedback from users to help you improve your online business.
Dealing with Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is a common problem on ecommerce sites, and search engines rarely show content that is duplicated. There are many scenarios on ecommerce sites that can cause duplicate content (i.e. similar product pages, category pages that filter by price, category that has several pages of similar content, etc.). Regardless of what is causing the duplicate content, “Canonical Tags” and “Pagination Tags” are used to let search engines know how to deal with the issue so that pages on your site are not penalized.
- Canonical Tags: By using , we tell search engines which URL is the primary version and therefore which URL to focus the “link juice” on. Canonical tags should be set for all URLs on the site.
- Pagination Tags such as the Rel=”next”, Rel=”prev” and “view all” attributes allow search engines to understand pagination. These tags are a convenient way of letting search engines know that there are a group of pages listing similar content.
SEO Friendly URLs
Another common issue with ecommerce sites is the non-SEO-friendly URLs, often generated by the ecommerce platform being used. URLs should generally be kept as simple as possible. Long, non-understandable parameters are common on ecommerce websites and should be avoided. A simple rule of thumb for URL structure is that if it is easily understood by users, it will also be understood by search engines.
Rich Product Snippets
Rich snippets are produced by using special HTML tags which in turn provide information to search engines about a particular part of your website (in this case, products). Schema.org provides many HTML tags that can be incorporated into your ecommerce site and is currently being used by the top 3 search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo). This microdata gives search engines context about your content and the rich snippets will most likely improve click-through-rates in search results by making your listings stand out. If you are not familiar with Rich Snippets, check out this Moz post: Visual Guide to Rich Snippets.
With an ecommerce site, you are asking users to enter their credit card information. They therefore need to know that they can trust your site. Simply adding trust seals to your site can encourage people to make transactions on your website. Trust seals are images or links to companies that users trust. Examples include MasterCard, Better Business Bureau, and VeriSign Trust.
Building Your Brand with Social Networks
Taking advantage of social media is a great way to build your brand. Being connected to social media continues to be more and more important for SEO. Encouraging users to share pages should be essential to your online site. Being active on social media and sharing content that will be of value to users on networks such as Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter will only increase the chances of users ending up on your website.
Use What Google Offers
My final suggestion is to take advantage of the tools that Google freely offers:
- Google Merchant Center allows site owners to upload product feeds for discovery on Google Product Search. This is a great opportunity to have your products found by users shopping on Google.
- Google Places is great way of being found on the search engine and give users an easy way to find your phone number, hours, location, etc.
- Google+ activity increases your chances of showing up more prominently in the search results of potential customers.
This list does not include all of factors that can help optimize your ecommerce site. What it does include are some of the important factors that are too often left out. Taking advantage of these elements will help your small business site perform better in today’s online marketplace.
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