E-commerce websites are some of the most fun to work on from a search engine optimization (SEO) perspective. Why? Because the return on investment (ROI) is so easy to see. Plus, ecommerce websites also present some of the toughest challenges and who doesn’t love a good challenge. As with anything, those challenges also create opportunity and that’s especially true when it comes to e-commerce and SEO.
In this article we will dive into the top 10 SEO mistakes we most commonly see on ecommerce websites and how to fix them. Buckle up, here we go!
Top 10 E-commerce SEO Mistakes and How to Fix Them
Duplicate content inside the domain
If product attributes, filters or navigation paths ‘build’ your URLs dynamically, you are likely to have this problem. You aren’t alone. Many e-commerce platforms automatically create multiple URLs to reach the same product. Problem is, this is a major issue as far as Google is concerned.
Just remember that funny looking URL that is created when applying filters is actually a page that Google can see and index, which can create a lot of duplicate content. Ask your development team to address this. There are many work arounds such as using your Robots.txt file to tell the search engines to ignore swaths of URLs and making sure any filter pages have the proper canonical set-up.
Duplicate content across websites
The most common way this problem crops up is e-commerce site owners simply import product content that is provided by the manufacturer. Efficient, yes. Effective for SEO, not at all. Regurgitating the same content everyone else has is not going to earn you any priority in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
We’ve never pretended that SEO is easy. If you want your e-commerce site to stand out, you can’t simply copy and paste what others have already put on the web. Google is only going to give one website credit for that content and it’s not likely to be yours.
Invest the time in creating your own, unique product descriptions. Clearly if you have thousands, or hundreds of thousands of products, you’ll have to be strategic about how you approach this. Start with your most profitable, or highest volume product categories and work your way through them. Top sellers or top opportunities may warrant deep product descriptions with unique images, videos and your opinion. Others may just require more detail added to the manufacturer’s description.
I have yet to meet the company with unlimited writing capacity or budget for an SEO company, so strategic thinking is key here.
Poor site usability
If your e-commerce site isn’t super-fast and easy to use, the competition will surpass you.
More often than not, when we are doing an SEO audit on an e-commerce website we identify lots of low hanging fruit. It starts with security. Of course, make sure you have an SSL on your site, that does impact usability and search.
The next most common problem we see is speed. Take a minute and use Google’s page speed insights tool and check your homepage, a product category page and a detail page. That’ll tell you what you need to address on the speed front.
The next thing I’d suggest you check for is navigation. It should be as simple and consistent as possible. If your navigation changes every time you click, that can be very frustrating for the end user. Have your development team create a navigation architecture that is clean, simple and consistent across the site.
Lack of product reviews
To put it simply: Buyers want social proof. Product reviews can seem risky to place right on your website. However, users expect online reviews and they do matter. They want to know what others think. Most modern e-commerce platforms provide functionality for reviews. Don’t be afraid to turn them on, solicit them from your customers.
Most importantly, be transparent. Managing negative reviews can seem intimidating but don't delete them, unless they are truly vulgar. You should also reply to reviews, especially any negative ones. This helps build trust and a sense of community and appreciation. Use negative reviews as a chance to right any wrong that may have occurred and show future customers you truly care about their experience.
Lack of unique titles
If you’re this far into this post, you probably already know that that the title we are talking about is the meta title, basically the headline that shows up in the top of your web browser. It’s also usually the content that Google displays in the blue link in the SERPs. This is not a place to stuff any and all keywords, but it is the place to use a keyword or two that will help explain what the user should expect to see when clicking through to the page.
Most e-commerce platforms are going to make the SEO 101 mistake of duplicating the pages H1 into the page title and in all honesty, that’s better than they used to be. If you really want to gain an edge from an SEO perspective, then invest the time in helping the user understand what they are going to see on your website before they even get there. Handwrite page titles that describe in a helpful but brief way, the product you are suggesting to them.
Duplicate meta descriptions
Over the years there has been much debate about the value of meta descriptions. Largely because meta tags in general were heavily abused by the SEO industry in the early days.
It’s true that meta descriptions are not a silver bullet to better rankings. They don’t actually affect rankings much, if at all. They do however influence your chance of earning the click. If they are well written and helpful, Google will likely display them as the snippet in the search engine results pages.
Poor URL structure
URLs should be human friendly. If you can’t understand your URLs when looking at a product page, you’ve likely got an SEO problem.
Many e-commerce platforms have come a long way regarding building human friendly URLs, even down to the product description level. That said, they certainly aren’t perfect. Take the time to browse to one or two of your product categories as well as a couple of products that are deep within your website. Make sure, at all times, that you can understand what the URL is telling you about the page you’re on. If it’s confusing, or looks like code to you, it’s time for a conversation with your develop team.
Let’s take a look at a good url: https://www.unistrutohio.com/combo-nut-washer
Compared to a confusing, hard to understand URL: https://www.rockauto.com/en/catalog/audi,2021,a4,2.0l+l4+turbocharged,3447227,brake+&+wheel+hub,brake+fluid,11389
Keyword stuffing on product pages
Don’t just jam keywords where they don’t belong. That’s not SEO. SEO is accurately and uniquely describing your products in a way that will help the user make a good decision.
How to fix it? This one is simple - just don’t do it. If you look at your product descriptions, meta tags, or image alt tags and they are simply lists of keywords you’ve got it wrong. In all of these cases, natural language is better. Describe the product, or image as you would if you were talking to another human.
Learn more about why users, not search engines, should be your top priority.
Poor website architecture
Take the time to plan out user flows and user experience. Confusing website architecture causes users and search engines to bail.
That said, here are a few pointers:
- Ensure that you only have one URL to get to each piece of content, whether that content is marketing content or a product description.
- Organize your products into categories and sub-categories as simply as possible. If some products belong in multiple categories, make sure you do not accidentally create multiple copies of that product in your CMS.
- Keep your navigation user focused, as simple as possible and always in the same location.
Poor architecture not the problem? Check out our blog covering 13 reasons your ecommerce website might be failing.
Not having a responsive/mobile-friendly website
Well over 50% of all web traffic is on mobile devices. In 2021 there is no excuse for having a website that’s not responsive if you are hoping to perform in the e-commerce arena.
If your e-commerce website isn’t already responsively designed, you’ve got an uphill battle from an SEO perspective. The days of having a desktop site and a mobile version that is separate are behind us (thank goodness!). Responsive design allows us to create one interface that scales and adjusts to the user’s device. If your e-commerce website isn’t responsive, it’s probably time to look at a platform that will allow you to transition.
To wrap things up…
E-commerce isn’t an easy, inexpensive way to do business anymore. The competition is stiff, user expectations are higher and the PPC market has gotten very expensive in most arenas. All this factors into making SEO one of the best investments you can make in you e-commerce business. These few common SEO mistakes are likely the beginning of opportunities you will uncover if you decide to venture into an SEO strategy.
Ready to kick your SEO strategy into high gear? Contact us to get started!