8 SEO Ecommerce Tips from a Decade of Experience

seo-tips-ecommerceI have been working on ecommerce sites for over a decade, mainly on client websites, but of course I had my own. I have seen many ecommerce sites fail over the years, for many different reasons. Below are the top 8 SEO tips that I could think of, that can easily turn a company around.

1. First you need to fully understand the SEO architecture and URL structure

Most companies look at SEO as the last thing they need to worry about, but really it needs to be the first thing you think about, along with creating your website. SEO and a website go together like a boy and his puppy. A lot of times sites are already launched and a company is on its way down the wrong path of SEO. This is usually a nightmare situation to try and fix.

Without a proper URL structure, internal pages are competing against each other rather than strengthening the overall site. Duplicate content usually is a big problem, and can even be a bigger problem if you are using CMS platforms that are prone for duplicate content. Many websites have extra parameters at the end of the URL, which cause major problems. I worked on a large wine website that had 150k pages but only 30k pages were indexed on Google. The company had no idea what was going on. It was all duplicate content and URL problems.

The most frustrating part of being an SEO consultant is we are contacted late in the game and I spend a lot of time fixing problems instead of moving forward. Please spend more time on your SEO plan before you start developing your website, you will save a lot of time and money later on.

2. Search for duplicate content and fix them before they sink you

Most sites have duplicate content problems. This can be a relatively easy fix or just a huge pain. One client ended up selling their site because the money to fix their problems were just too much to deal with. Duplicate content comes from bad web design because most web designers and programmers have no idea this is even a concern, nor do most even care.

A huge problem is the use of URL parameters, session IDs and printer-friendly content versions in e-commerce store websites. The situation gets muddied even further when identical content is published under multiple categories such as [campaign] or [offers] in addition to their regular place in the content hierarchy. These unique scenarios must be recognized and prevented proactively in the planning phase itself. Please, please, please, before you start coding, make sure the developers are aware of the potential problem when it comes to duplicate content. All CMS platforms can cause problems, even WordPress.

3. Link authority can be wasted on bad link structure

You need to setup a proper link structure to rank for highly competitive keywords. The way products are categorized and organized in your e-commerce store is very important. Products should be setup in logical categories or sub-topics, so your SEO is effective. Organize products in an e-commerce store by category and sub-category, based on topics and sub-topics, in a way that is reflected in your URL hierarchy.

Doing this enhances your e-commerce website’s optimization and improves usability for human visitors. When new products are added to a sub-category, your breadcrumb navigation trail ensures new links to each level in the URL hierarchy, all the way back up to the category page and home page. By employing sub-navigation menus within specific categories, you can link to other relevant categories higher up in the structure.

With good keyword analysis and by planning exact match anchor texts, you will practically set your internal link building on auto-pilot. Each time you add a new product page (e.g., for a new pair of running shoes) to your site, you’ll not only boost the [shoes/running-shoes] level of the URL, but simultaneously pass along link juice upward in the hierarchy to the [shoes] category, as well.

All of this is also important because it allows Google to crawl the website very easily and can see the internal linking of the website. The easier a site is to crawl the better off you will be in the search engines.

4. SEO automation is good when done right

Automation and SEO scares many people, but if you are doing it correctly you are fine. Automating your on-site SEO is very important because you do not have to worry about mistakes or spending the extra time on it. On-site elements like title tags and URLs can easily be automated. If you have an ecommerce store with thousands of products, you will want to automate certain things. While working with large ecommerce sites, provide developers with information about how to automate the creation of SEO friendly titles, meta descriptions, etc… for new pages.

This will save everyone time in the long run, so getting it setup correctly in the beginning is very important, even if it takes longer to set everything up. Using the individual product name or title in H1 tags, as well as in the title tag, is one simple way to achieve this. You can also dynamically create meta descriptions for each product page by gathering text from the page’s content itself. Rich snippets help increase CTR on search results pages and a developer can provide excellent on-site SEO without any SEO knowledge.

5. Smaller Iterative Processes Are Super Effective

Your SEO strategy is important, but it is even more important to start small. I often see ecommerce site owners want to change everything at once. Complete transform the site because they want all the pages to rank high on Google. This involves way too much work and is a big risk when it comes to Google. Google doesn’t like big changes. I know a site that did a complete makeover and they lost pretty much 70% of their traffic for 3 months. It came back, but that hurts if you are depending on Google.

Start small and test the changes. If it works, then go bigger. I know a large site that make a huge change with their image galleries and somewhere a mistake was made and they lost 60% of their Google traffic. It is so important to test things out before you make site-wide changes.

6. Conversions are more important than traffic

If you double your conversions you can double your revenue without increasing your traffic. More time and effort needs to be put into converting traffic. I am not just referrig to sales, I am reffering to just collecting data, geting Facebook likes, basically any call to action is fine. It is very important to track everything because you have to know where you are losing the visitors if the they aren’t converting. I have seen many cases where a company was completely wrong in why they weren’t converting. Tracking really helps in this case, so its imperative that you have over analytical when it comes to tracking.

I back everything I do into an ROI and tracking does help in this case. If a client knows that SEO success or any marketing success is bringing in more sales, that is the only report I need to show. Dealing with clients is much easier when you don’t have to keep on selling them on the value of your services. When you outline a plan to increase revenue by 100% over the next 12 months, and then implement it while sharing your progress in Google Analytics, you will get the support necessary to execute your proposed plan and carry it through to completion.

7. Old style SEO still works

Oldies but goodies… Ecommerce sites often under-perform on product pages. This might be traced to problems with coding, text and other content. There may be too little product information, or a lack of unique content, or duplicates of material found elsewhere on the site. Without product text, it is almost impossible to rank and drive organic search traffic to ecommerce websites. I worked on a site and all I did was have the company add at least 500 words to a couple of pages. After they did that they went from page 2 to page 1 in less than a week.

You need content. Without images, video and proper keyword targeting, it is impossible to compete in a tough niche. Avoid re-publishing content from elsewhere on your site or from other online resources (including competitor and vendor websites). Google frowns on duplicate content and your ecommerce site will not rank well.

8. The power of video

Video ranks very high when you use Youtube correctly. I can get a video on page one Google for many terms in less than a week and for harder terms in maybe a month. Video also engages visitors much faster than text and video also allows you to have another link on page one Google if your website already ranks. I worked on a client site and got their video #1 on Google in one day. Yes, it wasn’t a hard term to rank for, but they loved it. They eventually added a video for every product, over 500 of them and they ranked in the top 3 spots on Google on 90% of all of their product terms. This increased their traffic to the site and they also added some of the other strategies here, which increased their sales by a lot. Wish I knew the exact number.