Owners of eCommerce websites have a lot of technologies to consider – it is easy to get overwhelmed by the choice of shopping carts, inventory management systems, setting up Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and payment gateways. But with successful eCommerce sites comes an incredibly scalable business model, so getting the fundamentals in place can have very rewarding outcomes.
To make things a little easier with the eCommerce SEO or eCommerce Optimization in general, here are 5 critical SEO factors that every eCommerce website needs to consider, regardless of whether you are building in Magento, ZenCart, Volusion, Shopify, or any other shopping cart platform. If you haven’t chosen a platform yet, make sure it allows you to configure around these factors.
1. Organize your Categories – map out your products and what Categories they will live in. Think of your site like a supermarket – you want to make sure that your products live on the right shelves with other similar products. This not only helps your customers, it helps the search engines. Your URLs should then support the idea that the deeper you get into the site, the more specific the set of products. Some eCommerce platforms, such as those custom built in technologies such as ColdFusion, tend to have a much flatter structure by default. Try to at least use URL rewrites to create Categorization of products.
2. Don’t neglect your content – probably the most common mistake with eCommerce sites is that they try and let the products do all the work. If your products are unique to your company, great, write about them and explain the features & benefits! If you are selling another brand’s products, you need to try and get some unique content into your site. Other websites are selling the exact same product – so what value are you bringing to the table by offering it on your site? Consider writing your own unique product descriptions and/or an expert review. Allowing your customers to post reviews can also be a great way to accumulate additional unique content over time.
3. Avoid duplication – some products may end up living in multiple Categories or are accessible via multiple URL paths; Magento in particular will typically create both a “long” and “short” URL for a product, as every product will existing against the root by default. For example, www.example.com/my-product and www.example.com/my-category/my-product will commonly both exist within a Magento installation. Make use of canonical tags to “consolidate” these to one preferred URL. I typically prefer the longer URL as it preserves the Category structure of your site, but be wary that extremely long URLs from a large number of nested categories could reduce your click-through rate from the SERPs. To learn more about implementing canonical tags, and some other important instances of when to use them, go here.
4. Pay attention to Page Speed – Your customers like fast websites. Google likes fast websites. If your site takes too long to load a page, you’re hurting yourself from all kinds of angles. Ensure your developers are using optimized images, and strongly consider a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to help speed up the delivery of those assets. Look at how many default products load on the page – too many can lead to increased load times and poor Page Speed ratings.
5. Optimize Your Product Names – An easy one to finish with: ensure that your products state WHAT they are, and also include unique part numbers, model numbers, and any other unique identifiers for the product. As an example: if you are selling wireless keyboards, then for the Logitech K400, call it the “Logitech K400 Wireless Keyboard”. This helps attract people looking for a “wireless keyboard”, while also helping attract people who are shopping around for the best place to buy the Logitech K400. Many customers will find a product they want, and then use the product number to find the best, cheapest or fastest place to buy it.
Running an eCommerce store can be overwhelming, but stepping through things one at a time and simply always looking to improve, can lead to great success! Remember that a brick and mortar store would probably have much higher overheads and more issues to deal with. Getting a good tech person behind your online store will go a long way.