Unlike blogs and content rich websites (e.g. fitness sites), on-line shops are more difficult to configure for SEO especially if the products you are selling are available in more than one websites. What I will explain below are the 5 critical SEO Errors that e-commerce websites make and how you can avoid them.
#1 – Product titles are not unique or SEO optimized
Product titles are very important for on-page SEO. I did explain in the past why titles have to be optimized and from my experience with e-commerce websites, this is still the number 1 mistake that most webmasters do.
Titles that are duplicated either within the same website or in other websites is one of the reasons why your ecommerce website is not performing well in search.
What are the characteristics of a good product title?
- Less than 70 characters
- Unique within the website – no other product in the store has the same title
- Be indicative on what the product is about
- Talk the user’s language – The product title should include keywords or phrases that people use to search for the particular product and not the technical name of a product.
Some tips of writing good product titles
I know that it’s difficult to come up with unique product titles when you have a lot of similar products. Once you write the titles of a couple of products, you run out of ideas and inevitably the rest of the titles are duplicated.
What you can do is to include product attributes and characteristics in the title (colors, size, material, etc) as well as the brand/model name where applicable. For example let’s say you are selling tablets, here are a few unique titles that you can use for similar products.
“Samsung Android Tablet”
“16GB Samsung Android Tablet”
“16GB White Samsung Android Tablet”
“16GB/3G Samsung Tablet running Android”
#2 – Lack or duplicate product descriptions
Besides the title another important part of ecommerce SEO is the product description. A critical SEO error that most websites do is either having no product descriptions or if they have is the same content you can find on hundreds of other websites on the web.
Let me explain very quickly why this is bad. Imagine that you are selling a product that is also found on Amazon, eBay and other popular and well-known websites. In your product description you have the exact content that is already on Amazon.
When search engines come to crawl your website they will understand that the content you have is already in their index so they will just ignore it and move on. If they find that many of your pages follow the same pattern, they will ignore your website as a whole.
On the other hand, if while they crawl your website they find original content about the products you are selling, they will include the content in their index and this is the first successful step in your effort to achieve better rankings for your ecommerce store.
A note about lack of content. We always say that we need to ‘fetch the search engines with content’ and the real reason why we should do that is because content helps them understand what the page is all about. If in your product pages you only have images of the product and a title that does not give them enough information so as to analyse and decide what to do with the particular page.
How do you write good product descriptions?
As with the titles, it is difficult to write product descriptions that are unique for each product and that’s why you need to think hard what to write about. A good tip is to try and describe in words the product by highlighting the physical differences with other similar products. For example imagine you are selling different colours of pens (same model), here are a few descriptions:
“A stylish ball pen with a white label. The main body comes with a brown finish that is both elegant and ….”
“A blue ball pen suitable for left handers. Your logo is printed with white letters on the top part of the pen and…”
#3 – Bad formatted URLS
It is common for many shopping engines to present the product pages with URLS like: http://www.myshop.com/productid12?EEFEFS4 which are unreadable for both search engines and users. Most of them are like that because when those systems were developed, it was easier for the programmers to build the URLS using that pattern, of course without taking SEO into account.
If you are lucky, the platform you are using will allow you to change the url to something more meaningful, for example http://www.myshop.com/16-gb-samsung-tablet-white.
Note: When doing so, don’t forget to do 301 redirections from the old to the new URLS
When thinking about your URL structure try to create it based on your product groups or categories. For example if you are selling android-tablets and phones you can have the following category urls:
#4 – Website takes too much time to load
Besides the URLS, product titles and descriptions another important element in selling online is the website speed. There are many studies that show a clear correlation with website speed and product sales i.e. faster websites generate more sales.
If the software you are using is old and out of date or if you cannot optimize the code as you like, then most probably you will end up in the same category as hundreds of online shops that take a long time to load, keeping potential customers away.
As an ecommerce web owner you need to make sure that your shop loads as fast as possible (preferably in less than 4 seconds), both on desktops, tablets and mobiles. In order to achieve that you can:
- Use a fast VPS to host your website (avoid running your store on share hosting)
- Optimize your images, videos – Optimization reduces the size of the pages and they load faster
- Optimize your code – if you cannot do that, hire a programmer to optimize the code of your shop by avoiding unnecessary code calls that may slow down the website
- Optimize your pages – On the product pages keep the items that can help you make sales and not the items you think are useful (this is a huge topic and will cover it in more details in the next articles of the series)
#5 – Lack of usability
All the above SEO errors are related to one thing: usability. True SEO is about usability, user friendliness and user experience and to make sales online, your shop has to be usable. This depends on many factors but in general an online shop should be:
- Easy to navigate
- Mobile Responsive
- SEO Friendly
- Well structured
Last but not least, the usability of an online shop has to do with the type of products you are selling. For best results the shop software you are using, should be customised to accommodate and showcase your products in the best possible way.
For example a shop that was designed to sell clothes cannot be used to sell cars. It may be usable for the user looking for clothes but not for the user looking for cars. What I am saying is that it is nice to use one of the out-of-the-box shopping software available on the web but make sure that you can customize it so that it’s usable for the users looking for the products you are selling.
Selling products and services online is what makes the Internet so powerful and useful for all of us. While the idea of selling on the Internet is appealing to many, when it comes to actually doing it, it needs a lot of thought and hard work to create a shop that people will trust and use.
The 5 SEO errors described above are typical errors that many business owners do and that negatively affect the performance of their online business.
Stay tuned for more e-commerce SEO tips and advice.