In some ways, it seems search engines have a grudge against eCommerce sites. Often times, I don’t blame them. Many online stores offer little useful content, including drymanufacturer product descriptions, poor internal linking, and no unique, user generated content. Without a doubt eCommerce sites have unique challenges when it comes to SEO. Below I’ve gathered 25 tips that I’ve successfully used while optimizing eCommerce sites in the past.
- Avoid Manufacturer Product Descriptions: It’s tempting to just copy and paste from the manufacturer’s website, but resist the urge. At the very least, re-write the description in some way to make it unique.
- Create a SEO Keyword Field in Product Database: Just as every product record in your catalog has a name, price, and other attributes, you should also create a SEO keyword field that is displayed in the title tags, meta tags, and preferably the body as well. As you add products to the site, enter commonly search for keywords in this field. Not everyone will search by the brand name or item number, so this will greatly help your product pages rank for long tail searches.
- Focus on Singular Keywords on Product Page: As a general rule, I try to optimize for plural keywords on the home page or other SEO landing pages. Focus on singular terms on the product pages by using the SEO keyword field mentioned in step 2.
- Simple Product & Category URLs: Ideally, URLs should consist of keywords, not useless ID’s or other parameters. If you don’t have the option of using URL re-writing software, at least limit the number of variables passed in the URL.
- All Products 2 or 3 Clicks from the Home Page: Keep your product pages as close as possible to your greatest source of PageRank. Many sites bury part of their product catalog deep within dozens of pages of categories and subcategories. This can be accomplished by using SEO friendly rollovers or increasing the number of products per page.
- Unique Title Tags: While it’s debatable whether the company name belongs in the beginning of the title tag, most agree you should not include extra keywords that are repeated in every tag. For example, if you company name was XYZ Travel, include only the company name in title tag, not “XYZ Travel Agency and Vacations.” Use as little duplicate content as possible in order to prevent diluting the value of the rest of the text in the title tag.
- Unique Keyword Meta Tags:Meta tags, including keywords and description, should be entirely unique on every product page. Though meta content likely doesn’t directly affect your ranking, unique tags will prevent duplicate content penalties. In addition, don’t stuff keywords into your meta tags that aren’t relevant to the specific page they are on.
- Unique Description Meta Tags: Personally, I like putting the same product description that appears on the product page in meta description tag. This will ensure unique content on each product page.
- Product Reviews: A great strategy for guaranteeing unique content is displaying user generated content from your customers. Allow customers to review products they’ve purchased or comment on one’s they haven’t.
- Internal Contextual Links: Site navigation links don’t tell search engines very much information about the page. Within a paragraph of text, link to a relevant page using keyword rich anchor text.
- Avoid Session IDs in URLs: Many ecommerce software platforms use cookie-less unique session IDs in the site URLs. Unfortunately, this creates an infinite amount of duplicate content for the SE’s to crawl. There are ways to prevent this using an ethical type of cloaking which serves URLs to spiders without the session ID.
- Create a Product RSS Feed: Create a product feed and submit it to relevant content aggregators. Google Base accepts an XML like product feed and displays your results for Google Base searches. Product feeds can be a great way of picking up free backlinks directly to your product pages.
- Product Tagging: With the advent of social media, customers have become accustomed with the concept of tagging. Allow your customers to tag products with their own keywords. When you allow users to tag your products, you’ll likely start ranking for slang keywords that you would have never thought of on your own.
- Page File Names: If possible, use keyword rich page file names. A page files name such as www.yoursite.com/keyword-phrase-here.html tells Googlebot a lot more than a URL such as www.yoursite.com/?ID=1234.
- Use iframes for Duplicate Content: If you have repetitive content that must appear on every page, or your product descriptions are not unique, consider placing them inside an iframe with an invisible border. Users will not know that they data technically resides on another page search engines will not penalize you for duplicate content.
- Links in Product Descriptions: Create keyword rich links from within the product descriptions of one product linking to another. I’ve found this is a very effective strategy for targeting long-tail keywords. Here’s 25 more e-commerce link-building tips.
- Don’t Stuff Keywords in your Nav: This is useless and very tacky. Keywords that show up universally in the navigation on every page are not as important as they used to be. Instead, use keyword rich anchor text pointing to your important pages within a paragraph of relevant text.
- Don’t Use “View” or “More”: On your product category pages, make sure you link to the individual product pages with anchor text that contains more than just words like “View” or “See more”. Vague terms such as these tell spiders nothing about your products.
- Optimize your Images: With images now popping up in the regular SERPs, every image on your site should be optimized. Make sure all your product images contain unique alt text attributes. By simply populating the alt text with the product and brand name, I’ve seen a huge increase in traffic from Google Image search. In addition, you’re making your site more useable for the vision impaired.
- Optimize your Internal Site Search: This is more of a usability tip, but it applies perfectly within the context of eCommerce SEO. Because your visitor found your site via a search engine, they will likely expect your internal site search to work as well. I’ve found that many first time visitors landing your site from a SERP will search for the exact same term they typed into Google.
- Create Brand Landing Pages: If your site sells branded products that customers may be searching for, setup a optimized landing page for every brand.
- Use Title Attributes in Links: For all anchor text on your site, be sure to use appropriate title attributes (e.g. <a href=”page.html” title=”keywords here”>) in order to provide search engines more information about what the page contains. Although not nearly as important as the actual anchor text, title attributes are factored into the ranking algorithm in some way.
- Track Page Yield: In order to determine the effectiveness of your site as a whole, take the number of unique keywords you are found for during a given time period. Then, divide that by the number pages indexed by Google. This will give you your page yield, a good metric for measuring the length of your “long tail.”
Like these 25 tips? Here’s 192 more.
About Palmer Web Marketing
Palmer Web Marketing offers Ethical SEO services and Expert eCommerce consulting for small to medium size businesses. Justin also owns several other websites, including MedSaverCard.com and PawPlan.org.