Blogs by date "08/01/13"
SEO for ecommerce sites is often insanely competitive. With authority domains like Amazon and eBay owning the top spots in Google for any keyword that's product related, outranking them can seem unrealistic.
Well muster-up some courage and confidence, my friend. Because outranking these intimidating authority figures can be done using the best practices of ecommerce SEO.
Below I outline a winning process to help formulate your ecommerce SEO strategy. These best practices will guide your SEO efforts holistically, demanding the support of you entire ecommerce marketing team.
So roll-up your sleeves and open your mind. It's time you learn the best practices of ecommerce SEO for better rankings and more conversions.
Obsess About Usability
The manner in which users interact with your ecommerce site is paramount. Sure, this might not be focal to ecommerce SEO, but what good is your search traffic if visitors aren't taking the steps to convert?
Usability flows with conversion rate optimization (CRO), which should also run parallel to your ecommerce SEO efforts. Some best practices to consider for usability include:
- Designing and testing call-to-action and sign-up buttons
- Ensuring the check-out process is fluid (e.g. allowing customers to buy without needing to register)
- Utilizing breadcrumb navigation links, which not only aids usability, but also SEO
- Offering a secure and easy-to-manage shopping cart
- Making sure your site's search functionality is easy and intuitive
Usability is paramount to your ecommerce store's success. These elements should be at the forefront of your concerns to ensure your site's traffic potential is maximized.
Write Your Own Awesome Page Copy
Although it may be legal and convenient, never use manufacturer-generated content for product descriptions or other aspects of your page copy. This will lead to duplicate content and diminish the SEO value of your pages.
Whether you recruit someone creative on your team, or hire a quality SEO copywriter, unique and engaging copy is more important than many think. Shoppers do actually read copy on your site, especially the product descriptions. When page copy speaks truly about a product while resonating with your brand, you can really grab their attention.
Respect Technical SEO
The techical SEO aspects of your ecommerce site are critical. Technical SEO focuses on elements like:
- Finding and fixing HTML coding errors
- Creating sitemaps and optimizing internal linking
- Pinpointing duplicate content, specifically page title tags and meta descriptions
- Determining where to utilize canonical tags
- Optimizing URLs that are non-SEO-friendly
- Ensuring proper crawling and indexing of the ecommerce site
- Implementing redirects and correcting those that have been mishandled
Respecting technical SEO demands the skills and expertise of a coding guru (or ideally, a "technical SEO expert"). Some SEO specialists center their practice on the strategic and creative side of SEO, whereas others have knack for analytical and technical aspects of ecommerce SEO.
Produce Great Content
Whether product profile videos, educational articles and blog posts, producing great content extends beyond the webpages of your ecommerce site. To maximize ecommerce SEO value in today's social age, you need a hub to publish interesting content, such as a blog or media center page.
Producing and sharing great content plays a two-fold role in your SEO mission:
- By keeping your ecommerce site fresh with newly published content on a consistent basis, search engine spiders are apt to crawl and index your site more frequently. Additionally, you create content that's keyword relevant (and links to your optimized inside pages) which can bolster your ecommerce SEO efforts.
- By sharing, promoting, and marketing your content on social media platforms, you site adds a layer of social credibility and authority (via mechanisms like social signals and the volume of social followers). These new social mechanisms have been said to help with SEO and search rankings.
Diversify Your Backlink Portfolio
There's no questions that building links for SEO still works. It's just a matter of how and where you building links. I recently wrote an article called Tips to Create a Balanced SEO Link Building Strategy, and I highly recommend reading it if you need a primer on link building.
For ecommerce sites, link building is entire SEO strategy in itself. Not only do you want to balance the types of links (as well as the anchor text of those links), but you want to link to a variety of your pages (and not just your homepage). For some, this might be a no-brainer, but it's not uncommon to see SEO service providers pointing every backlink to the homepage.
Remember, product pages are your bread and butter. Once you've optimized a product page with alluring (and keyword-friendly) copy and media, sending some backlinks to that page can truly empower its rankings. Based on my experience, product pages can withstand a greater volume of backlinks with exact keyword match anchor text. Of course too much exact keyword match anchor text much can be risky, but I think the true ratio and balance of anchor text (before a red flag is raised to Google about your site being over-optimized) stems primarily from the domain.
Use a wide range of backlink sources to diversify your site's portfolio. Directories are a good place to start, in addition to reaching out and gathering prospects suitable for guest blog posts on product reviews. Offering contests and other forms of link bait is equally, if not more effective. And of course, start getting social!
Be an Educator & a Social Butterfly
Late last year I wrote a post at CPCStrategy.com about how socializing on Google+ can influence your SEO efforts. In the article I describe how the more people that encircle your brand's page on Google+, the more control you'll have over their search results. The concept is based on Google's "Search, plus Your World" which integrates a social element to search.
Although this concept is still emerging and has yet to fully bloom, it should not ignored in your ecommerce SEO strategy. There's also the element of "social signals," which are the Facebook "Likes," Google "+1's," "Pins," "Tweets," and other social attributes that can be given to webpage. Based on several studies on this topic, a high volume of social signals correlates to better search engine rankings. I like to think of it as Google's way of attributing a legitimate, human-based ranking factor to its algorithm.
But the big question is: how do you gain a lot of social signals? Like I mention above, you need to produce great content that truly resonates with your target audience. For ecommerce sites, being an educator is a winning strategy. Some of the most successful and highly ranked ecommerce sites will create videos that educate shoppers about a product, or set of products. Not only does this practice help generate social signals, but the videos themselves can rank atop the search results.
Imagine this: what's a high margin product that you want to sell a lot of? Start be optimizing the product's page with unique content and optimized images. Next, produce a video, image gallery, blog post (or all three) about that product. Share (or upload) the latter content on YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, and any other social media sites your brand is active on. And lastly, build a few links to that product page.
Using these ecommerce SEO best practices is a winning strategy, so long as you're mindful during each step of the process. All the while, always focus on improving the usability and technical aspects of your website. In a matter of time, your ecommerce site can evolve into a true online authority figure
About the Author
Tyler Tafelsky offers over five years of experience as an organic SEO specialist. Tyler is highly-engaged in social media, link building, and content strategy. You can learn more by connecting with Tyler on Google+, or following Tyler on Twitter.
Relentless use of keyword optimized anchor text no longer works for SEO and link building. Many SEO companies have gotten their clients in trouble because of this.
After Google's major algorithm update in late 2012 (targeting websites with "over-optimized" backlinks [or too keyword rich of anchor text,]) many website have plummeted in the search results
Now more than ever, it's critical to create a balanced link building strategy for your SEO efforts. This more natural approach will ultimately lead to more sustainable keyword rankings.
But the underlying question is: what exactly makes a balanced SEO link building strategy?
In essence, rather than building links with exact keyword match anchor text, you'll need to take a more creative and natural approach.
Think about what makes a completely organic backlink portfolio. There are many different types of links, such as:
- blog comment links
- directory listing links
- in-copy links from articles and blog posts
- guest blogger (or "about the author") links at the end of articles/blog posts
- social profile links
- footer links
- blogroll links
- DoFollow and NoFollow links
5 Different Forms of Anchor Text
In addition to the different types of links, there are also various forms of anchor text.
Below we've grouped the various types of anchor text into five categories (using Click Centric SEO as the example:)
- Brand Name Links: "If you're looking for trusted ecommerce SEO services from a professional company, learn more about Click Centric SEO by clicking here." Here the anchor text used is the name of the brand or business. You'll want to use brand name links about 30% of the time when building links.
- Generic Links: "If you're looking for trusted ecommerce SEO services from a professional company, learn more about Click Centric SEO by clicking here." Here the anchor text has no real SEO focus, but it's natural as can be. Focus on using generic links about 10% of the time.
- Naked Links: "If you're looking for trusted ecommerce SEO services from a professional company, learn more about Click Centric SEO by visiting www.ClickCentricSEO.com." Naked links are simply the URL of the domain or specific page being linked to. Use naked links about 10% of the time.
- Optimized Links: "If you're looking for trusted ecommerce SEO services from a professional company, learn more about Click Centric SEO by clicking here." Here we're using exact phrase match of the keyword in the anchor text. This is still important for SEO, but only use these links about 25% of the time.
- Semi-Optimized Links: "If you're looking for trusted ecommerce SEO services from a professional company, learn more about Click Centric SEO by clicking here." Here you can get creative. Use can use longer forms of anchor text that include some keyword targets, or just one word of your full keyword target (such as "SEO" or "ecommerce"). Semi-optimized links should be used about 25% of the time.
Keep mind that the percent distribution I suggest above is only a guideline. Google is continuing to evolve, and one element that's growing in importance is the contextual relevancy of the content that surrounds links (also referred to as "co-occurrence.")
That is, if a in-copy brand name link is surrounded with specific keywords, Google will recognize the surrounding text and find the link relevant to those specific keywords. It's not easy to explain in text, so I suggest checking out this video all about from Rand Fishkin of Moz.
If you do have any questions, or would like me to run a scan of your site's backlink portfolio, hit us up.
About the Author:
Tyler Tafelsky is the lead SEO analyst at Click Centric SEO. Tyler is well-versed in multiple facets of organic search marketing, particularly link building and content marketing strategy.
Ecommerce sites are often massive and complex domains containing hundreds and thousands of pages. It's thus important that someone on your SEO or Internet marketing team understands the intricacies of technical SEO for ecommerce sites.
Although technical SEO focuses on the nuts and bolts of a website (typically the elements that are invisible to users), these technical elements can significantly impact a site's performance in countless ways.
In essence, technical SEO addresses the fluidity of crawling and indexing, the quality of user experience (or usability), and the overall SEO-friendliness of the website.
If you're interested in learning more about various aspects of technical SEO, then read on, my friend. Below I educate you on how technical SEO influences ecommerce site performance and SEO potential.
Find & Fix HTML Errors
There are a couple places to pinpoint HTML coding errors on a website. The first is Google Webmaster Tools, where you can look at the "error reports" feature. The second is W3C Markup Validation Service, a free tool that scans and lists all of the HTML errors and warnings that are present on a site.
Google Webmaster Tools only shows errors that are picked-up by Google bots, so this data might pose some limitations. So in addition to the W3C tool, you can also check Yahoo and Bing webmaster tools to pinpoint all potential errors.
The most critical issues that can impact SEO performance are crawl errors, like DNS lookup errors and 404 pages. These can be common on ecommerce sites, so take the time to address any significant HTML errors that arise.
There are two main types of sitemaps: HTML sitemaps and XML sitemaps. And using each type of sitemap correctly is critical for SEO success.
The HTML sitemap is a visible "index" on the website that contains links to almost every page of the site. I say "almost" because in some cases of websites with thousands of pages, many pages are left out. A big mistake I see with large ecommerce sites of the like is that they fail to include key product pages on the HTML sitemap.
Because product pages are the bread and butter to ecommerce SEO, it's important to include these pages on the sitemap (or at least those that you're trying to rank in search.) For very robust sites that face this issue, often times segmented sitemaps are a sound solution.
Additionally, you'll want to link the sitemap on all pages, such as in a site-wide header or footer. The HTML sitemap is your search engine spider food for SEO. Google spiders eat up sitemaps, which aids more efficient crawling, indexing, and ranking of your pages.
The XML sitemap, which is submitted to Google Webmaster Tools, is a list of all the pages on a website that instructs search engine spiders precisely what to index. In short, the XML sitemap helps search engines find all of the pages of a site. XML sitemaps are also very important in monitoring a website's index-levels, or to ensure key pages are being crawled and indexed.
When new pages are added to an ecommerce site, they should also be added to both the HTML and XML sitemap. Additionally, the updated XML sitemap should be re-submitted in Google Webmaster Tools to notify search engines to crawl and index these pages.
Pinpoint Duplicate Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
The uniqueness of each page's title tag and meta description is very important for ecommerce SEO. You can detect duplicate title tags and meta descriptions using Google Webmaster Tools or other crawling tools, such as SEO Powersuite's Website Auditor Tool.
Aside from being unique, title tags and meta descriptions should:
- be compelling, relevant, and incentivizing
- contain primary keyword targets
- be no longer than 70 characters for titles and about 155 characters for meta descriptions (to ensure all appear in the search results without being cut-off)
Utilization of Canonical Tags
In some cases with large ecommerce sites, the same content is on more than one page (or even worse, the same content is duplicated across multiple pages.) SEO-unfriendly scenarios like these call for canonical tags.
A canonical tag tells search engines which page is the preferred URL (or "canonical URL.") This will ensure the correct page is indexed and ranked according to your ecommerce SEO strategy.
For example, if the "money page" (as we like to call it) is www.ClothingStoreBrand.com/outdoor/north-face-jackets, but the same content is present on other URLs (such as www.ClothingStoreBrand.com/mens/north-face-jackets and www.ClothingStoreBrand.com/north-face/coats-jackets), then the rel=canonical tag needs to be applied.
Google itself has stated that it cannot guarantee to follow the canonical URL, so it's wise to completely eliminate any duplicate content found on the website.
Optimize Page URLs
The URLs of your pages should be short. (Shoot for less than 115 characters if possible). URLs should also be static in that there should only be one static URL for each page of the website.
Ecommerce sites are often built on a CMS (content management system) which can adversely impact the best practices of URL naming. For instance, some CMS platforms automatically generate URLs with excessive parameters, such as:
These cumbersome URL parameters make it difficult for search engine spiders to crawl and index the URL's content and, in some cases, can result in problems with duplicate content.
Similar issues can stem from ecommerce sites that assign session IDs. When users visit a website they are assigned a unique session ID (which is then included in the URL.)
For ecommerce SEO best practices, URLs should be keyword relevant and readable. The goal is to include the primary keyword targets, while ensuring URLs are short and unique from one another. Here's an example of a SEO-friendly URL naming convention:
Or to offer a real world example:
Ensure Proper Indexing
Indexing simply refers to URLs or webpages that have been successfully recognized (crawled) and stored (indexed) by search engines. It's important that all optimized pages are indexed in order for them to appear in the search results.
To ensure key pages have been indexed, it's useful to refer to Google Webmaster Tools where you can view the URLs that have been crawled. Uploading an XML sitemap helps to carry out proper indexing of the ecommerce site.
Another option, although a bit less efficient for technical SEO purposes, is to perform a Google search as follows:
Be sure to have no space between "site:" and the domain. The number of pages that are shown in the results reflects the URLs that Google has crawled and indexed. If there's a big discrepancy between the number of indexed pages and what's included on the sitemap, then further investigation is needed.
Implement or Correct Mishandled Redirects
Particularly for online stores, it's important to check existing redirects as they may be using 302 redirects (which are temporary) instead of 301 redirects (which are permanent.) Unlike 301 permanent redirects, 302 redirects do not pass link value for SEO.
If the site has an abundance of redirects, the technical SEO team should address any mishandled redirects as soon as possible. It's important to avoid removing redirects, as there may be backlinks pointing to a page (which may be providing SEO value.)
There are a few special tools that you can use to determine the nature and type of redirects being used. Here at Click Centric SEO, we use Website Auditor, one of the four awesome programs in Link Assistant's SEO Powersuite.
About the Author:
Tyler Tafelsky is the lead SEO analyst at Click Centric SEO. Tyler is well-versed in multiple facets of organic SEO for ecommerce sites, as well as PPC advertising, content marketing, and social media marketing.