Best practices for ecommerce SEO (Part I)

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Whether you’re only just thinking of starting an online store or you’ve already launched into the fray, you’ll quickly find that there’s a whole lot to consider when it comes to getting found by search engines. 

With so much advice out there, it can be hard to know what’s credible and accurate and what’s just another me-too bit of fluff. 

To help simplify things, I have, today, assembled 5 of the most important, current and proven tips for entrepreneurs wading into ecommerce. Ranging from solving technical issues to planning out your content, applying these will ensure you’re always ready to do battle with the competition while wowing search engines and customers at the same time.

1. Create unique product descriptions

If there’s one tip that most ecommerce sites loathe, it’s this one. Google craves unique content (and penalizes duplicate content with lower rankings, or not indexing it), so using your manufacturer’s product descriptions isn’t going to cut it in competitive niches (especially not when everyone else is doing the same).

To outperform the competition, you need unique, informative and compelling descriptions for all of your products. For sites with a ton of products, that can be a serious undertaking! 

The key is to prioritize. If there are high-volume products or high-performing pages, start there and create unique copy for these. Outsourcing can be a viable option – but be mindful of the fact that the copy in your product descriptions is used by real, live people planning on making a purchase decision, so cheap spinning and low-quality descriptions are business suicide. 

2. Meta-descriptions matter

Meta-descriptions are not a known ranking factor; in fact, Google has said they do not consider meta-description text as part of their ranking algorithm (of course, we all know that they don’t always tell the truth).

Even so, meta-descriptions serve another purpose that’s almost more important: enticing people to click through. For ecommerce, that means having a compelling, benefits-focused meta-description for every product and including a call-to-action to prompt that click.


This is a meta description. 

Can you list the lowest price directly in your meta-description? Maybe you can steal market share from a higher-ranking site! Can you make it clear how the buyer will benefit? You’ll likely raise more eyebrows than a generic “Buy X product from Y website” description. 

Using keywords in these descriptions is still encouraged as it draws the eye by being bolded when searched – but in the end, focus on making this copy sell the product. 

3. Mind your duplicate URLs

We’ve already talked about the importance of unique content, but what many entrepreneurs don’t realize is that a tech glitch with your URLs can trick search engines into thinking you’ve got tons of pages that are all the same. For example, let’s imagine you sell laptop bags in your store. There may be a few paths that can lead customers to those bags: 

Products  Computer Accessories  Laptops  Laptop Bags, or..

Products  Accessories  Laptop Bags

Many CMS will create a dynamic URL based on the path the user took to arrive at the product, in which case, you might have two URLs for the same page:

http://www.yoursite.com/computers/accessories/laptops/bags
and
http://www.yoursite.com/accessories/laptop-bags/ 

The trouble is that if both of these URLs are live and indexable but have duplicate content (the same page), Google will need to choose one to keep and one to throw out of the index. Now, imagine this problem is rolled out across thousands of pages on your site, and suddenly you’ve got a HUGE duplicate content issue.

Solving this is a matter of structure:

  • Can you enforce static URLs? If not…
  • Can you implement 301 redirects to one single source? If not…
  • Can you implement rel=canonical tags to tell Google the original source?
  • No matter what your method, you need to make it clear to search engines which pages are meant to be indexed and which are not. 

4. Watch your load times

Google has come out and said that load times are a ranking factor – but beyond just the search engine reasons, having a fast site is important because it’s what your users demand. 


Oh no you didn't.

It’s on you to make sure your pages are loading quickly, but Google offers a free tool to measure your page speed that you can make use of, complete with suggestions on how to improve it. 

5. Mobile-friendly or bust

Google has also come out and said that they will demote sites without mobile-friendly experiences in search results. 

What that means for you is making sure every page is mobile friendly – whether that’s a responsive site (Google’s recommendation), device-specific HTML or a mobile specific website (though these are getting a little more archaic).


Even they're mobile. 

The worst thing you can do is have your URLs all redirect to the homepage – something very clearly warned against in Google’s guidelines. You should consider optimizing your site not just for mobile screens, but for mobile experiences as well, making sure buttons are big enough, navigation is intuitive and text is readable (obviously, Flash sites break every rule in the book.) 

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As you enter into your ecommerce business, you’ll quickly find that a little planning up front will save you a load of headaches down the line. 

With these tips in tow, you’ll be prepped to not only set out on the right foot, but crush the competition.

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