SEO mistakes on ecommerce websites have a bigger impact than on any other type of website since bad SEO can negatively affect the revenue of an ecommerce business.
I have been doing SEO on ecommerce websites for a number of years and I realized that many of the webmasters or small business owners were doing the same SEO mistakes. Part of my job responsibilities as a digital marketing manager was to help my clients avoid these ecommerce mistakes and most importantly how to fix them.
Mistake #1 – Duplicate content
This is perhaps the most common SEO mistake ecommerce websites make. Original and unique content is a must if you want to rank high in google and other search engines.
The problem with the duplicate content has two parts. First is the use of content that is already published on the Internet and second the use of the same content within the ecommerce website without making the correct SEO configurations.
How to fix the problem of duplicate content
First part: I know that it is difficult to come up with unique product descriptions especially if you are selling the same (or similar) products that other websites have and already published online.
By publishing the same content though your chances of ranking for those product keywords are minimized since Google will just ignore your pages.
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What you should do instead is try to provide more information for your products by utilizing user generated content (reviews) and other forms of content (images, infographics, videos) so that you make your product pages unique and useful.
For example if you are selling a product that is already on amazon, what you can do to make your product page more interesting is to write a short review on how to use the product, to add some customer reviews and maybe a video that shows how the particular product compares to others.
Second part: It is normal for an ecommerce website to have a number of product categories that have a portion of the content that is already available in the product details page. For Google this is considered as duplicate content so the best way to deal with this issue is to add more unique text to the category page (a nice introduction for example explaining what kind of products are available in the category) and if this is not possible to noindex the category pages.
By “no indexing” the category pages you don’t have to worry about duplicate content issues but the best solution is to try and make them unique by adding more content that is useful for both search engines and users.
Another SEO setting that you need to apply is to ensure that all pages have the canonical URL set so that Google can identify the important pages of your online store.
Mistake #2 – Lack of Content
This is related to the duplicate content issue above and what is important to understand is that lack of content is as bad as duplicate content. When creating an seo friendly website, you need to make sure that each of your important pages (i.e. your product details pages) have enough content to help search engine crawlers understand what the page is about. Having only images and videos is not enough for achieving good rankings.
How to fix the problem of lack of content
Unfortunately there are no magic ways to add unique content to a page without taking the effort to create the content. The solution is similar to what I have described above with the duplicate content; you need to present your product or services with as many details as you can without repeating your self and without using exactly the same content that other websites have.
Mistake #3 – Bad URLs, non optimized titles and descriptions
If you are using a ready made ecommerce software, chances are that your urls are something like this: http://www.yourstore.com/productid=13443?someother code/1341.
This is a typical example for a badly formatted URL that does not help users or search engines understand what the page is about. A good url describes exactly what the page is about. For example: http://www.yourstore.com/electronics/heaters/lg-heater-100s/
Besides the URLs, product titles and descriptions have to be unique for each and every page of the website and according to best SEO practices. Read my previous post: ultimate SEO checklist for more details about optimizing titles and descriptions.
How to fix the problem with bad urls
This largely depends on the capabilities of your ecommerce software. You need to check with your provider how to change your URL structure and make the urls SEO friendlier.
One thing to have in mind though is to make sure that for any changes you do to the url of the pages, you need to create 301 redirects so that Google can follow the change without losing your rankings and any incoming links.
Mistake #4 – Websites are not optimised for mobiles
More and more users are shopping through mobile devices. It is estimated than more than 50% of ecommerce traffic is now generated from smartphones. This is a huge number you cannot ignore.
Even if you are products or services are not the typical products somebody would buy from a mobile, you still need to have a mobile friendly website since a big number of ‘buying’ searches starts on mobile and then continues on the desktop.
In regards to SEO, google can identify if you have a mobile friendly website and informs the user accordingly by adding a note for the user in the SERPS.
How to fix the problem with mobile
Obviously you need to create a mobile friendly website and there are a number of ways to do that.
First you need to check with your ecommerce provider. Most modern e commerce platforms offer a mobile friendly version as well but it may not be enabled by default.
If this is not the case then you can hire a developer to make your website mobile friendly (responsive) or use a third party service like duda (Search google for ‘make mobile website’ and you will get a lot more options).
Creating a mobile friendly website may incur an initial cost but it’s important for both SEO and usability.
Mistake #5 – Incorrect configuration of Webmaster tools
Both Google and Bing have a set of tools you can use to give them more information about your website and also understand what these search engines know about your website. You can access the tools by following these links: Google Webmaster tools and Bing Webmaster tools.
A common mistake that many website owners do and impacts their SEO is not configuring these tools correctly and as a result Google and Bing cannot index the websites properly.
How to fix the problem with webmaster tools misconfiguration
- Make sure that all your products are included in your XML sitemap and that this is correctly submitted.
- Make sure that you have set a preferred domain for your store (http://yourstore.com and http://www.yourstore.com are 2 different websites in the eyes of Google and Bing).
- Make sure that ‘Fetch as Google’ does not generate any errors
- Make sure that you tell google and bing how to handle dynamic parameters (something very common in ecommerce websites)
- Make sure that duplicated content (i.e. archives) is not included in your sitemap.
- Make sure that there are no crawl errors when the crawlers access your pages
All the above are technical and may need advanced SEO skills to configure correctly but by getting these right, you can definitely increase your ecommerce SEO.
These are only 5 of the most common SEO mistakes ecommerce websites have, there are many other things like lack of schema usage, bad use of call to action buttons, absence of clear policies and many more.
If you are not getting any good results from your ecommerce website you may want to first fix these SEO mistakes and then you can look for other ways to increase your sales and promote your online store.
It’s not an easy task to do but it’s the only way to increase your rankings and get more targeted traffic from search engines.