On Wednesday I attempted to make my way down to the Internet World Expo, unfortunately due to a delayed train I was unable to make it and therefore unable to present on SEO for ecommerce websites.
I am planning on running a webinar in the near future, however I thought it would also be good to put up a post detailing some of the advice and tips I was going to share in the presentation, plus I don’t think I have published anything on SEOwizz in nearly 3 months, apologies for that.
The running theme throughout the presentation was that ecommerce site owners had to start thinking about people, and not just appeasing Google, this should be common in all SEO campaigns, however for ecommerce sites it’s even more important for them to get this. Ecommerce sites are ‘usually’ heavily lead by products (as you might expect), however simply having a site full of products does not, and should not, make you engaging, trusted, or (and probably most importantly) link/share worthy. In order to compete in today’s ecommerce market you have to think about people, how you catch them throughout the user journey, what you give them outside of a product and a price, and how you make your site generally interesting and link worthy. If you don’t do this your SEO strategy will fall down (if it hasn’t already), if all you want to do is sell products then all Google has for you is PPC, if you want to engage and add value, then there is huge organic opportunity.
Google & People
Having made that grand statement, there are still technical issues many ecommerce sites will come across, and when it comes to technical issues, you have to please Google. If you don’t people won’t find your site. In the presentation, I thought it would be beneficial to run through a few of the common issues faced by ecommerce owners and come potential ways to deal with it.
You may think it makes sense to:
– Copy your product descriptions from other sites
– Give hundreds of affiliate’s content to place on their sites
– Add T&C’s and delivery information to every product page
You’re creating masses of duplicate content on your site and around the web, not a great quality signal. Unless you have the authority of Amazon or EBay, then I would make every piece of content on your website unique, yes even if you have 10,000 products, it is one of the most worthwhile investments you can make.
What is Google’s Panda algorithm looking to kill? Sites that don’t add value. If your site is a list of products then you’re not adding value.
There are a few different ways of dealing with Pagination, none of them seem to make that much sense and all of them aimed at helping Google understand what it is.
– View all page
Canonical link all your component pages back to the view all page. This would effectively mean your view all page was your new category/landing page, Google think this is what users want, I’m not too sure. If your view all pages are fairly small, then maybe it’s a good option, if they are huge the page speed issues alone are enough to put you off.
– Rel Prev & Next
Probably the better option in my opinion, simply mark up your pagination with the prev/next tags, allowing Google which pages are component pages.
– No index
Many would say this is a last resort, but I think it’s quite a clean way of dealing with pagination. No index all your pagination other than view all and your top level category. The risk with this is that Google stop crawling after you have requested 20 pages before to be no indexed.(Remember just no index, not no index/no follow, this will stop all your pagination pages from being crawled and hence your products).
The purpose of helping Google understand where you have pagination is twofold:
– Helps prevent any duplicate content issues occurring
– Ensures the correct crawling of products deep within the pagination, or only on the view all pages.
This is such a missed area for so many websites, and it can have dramatic effects on your click through rate.
Do you have reviews? Mark them up
Do you have videos? Mark them up
Authors? Mark them up
I could do a whole post on rich snippets covering tons of opportunities, but you’re best reading about it here and here.
OK, let’s get this out of the way, you can’t and won’t compete with amazon, not unless you have 20 million to pump into SEO, and even then you’re struggling.
Your aim is not to build links to every single product/category page; it’s not natural and will lead to problems later down the line.
What you need to do is simple, ask yourself, what do I have that makes me worth linking to, or what do I have on a page that makes it worth linking to. If your answer is nothing, you need to think ‘asset creation’ instead of ‘link building’.
Everybody should have something to leverage in order to start earning links into the homepage of their websites, natural, brand based links that help build the authority of your domain, rather than trying to target specific pages because ‘you sell a lot of product’.
If you do have a product you would like to do well organically, what value are you adding? Unique reviews, perspective, videos, tips?? It can’t just be a picture and a description.
Google wants to understand people, and what they want to see from a set of search results. They want to understand why you and me would trust, use and endorse a website over another. They’re not perfect, but they’re getting there. So, in order to build a strategy with genuine longevity, you need to build a campaign around people.
Do you know which channels are helping to generate revenue? Remember, revenue is rarely generated just because someone found your site and decided to buy; they have usually interacted with your brand/website through other channels. A pretty typical conversion path is:
PPC > Organic > Direct > Purchase
Organic > PPC > Facebook > Direct > Purchase
How much is each channel really worth? Yes focus on the last interaction before purchase, but don’t ignore those channels that assist in moving the customer down the conversion funnel. Understanding assisted conversions is really important, and something you can setup and use within Google analytics.
Again, I could do a whole post on this, but you’re better reading here and here.
You need to know what you are giving the customer/user at all these different touch points, and you can better influence them at each stage.
More on Content
As stated previously in the post, ecommerce websites are historically product focussed, “here are my products and this is where you pay”! Everything is focussed on that last action, not considering that the average customer will want to read or see 4 – 5 pieces of information before making a decision to purchase.
– Why do they want this product?
– What are the benefits?
– Where else can they get it from?
– How much does it cost?
– When will they receive it?
– What are the alternatives?
All these questions lead to more questions, and unless you have a content strategy to deal with it, you’re allowing other websites and competitors to influence your target audience, your potential customers!! Not having a content strategy is absolutely bonkers.
This might be a big shift in mind-set for many online stores who have historically been focussed on getting people on the site and through the basket. Google wants those business models to use PPC, if you want to keep benefiting from organic traffic then you have to add value, you have to think about people, what they want and the questions they have. Becoming useful and interesting is the only way to future proof your efforts and build genuine, natural links.
Here are the slides if you missed them.