So, you’ve gone through the hard work of getting your eCommerce site live, populated the products and categories, and made sure that the site looks and performs beautifully. Now you can sit back and relax, and watch the orders come in right? Well, if you’re reading this blog then you probably already know it’s not that easy. In fact, you’re probably already looking for ways to improve your site’s search engine performance and increase traffic… Well, you’re in luck! We have put together some top tips and superior SEO strategies for eCommerce sites. So read on and find out how you can take advantage of industry experts’ top tips to improve your search position, increase traffic and drive customers to your eCommerce site.
1). Make sure every product has a unique product description
This is really important and is something that is often overlooked, particularly on sites that sell a large number of products. It is very easy (and can be extremely tempting) to copy and paste the manufacturers description into your product pages, after all it speeds up the process and means your products can go live quicker, right? Wrong, do not fall into this trap! You can bet your life that many of your competitors will be doing this, so if you devote some extra time to rewrite your product descriptions, you will give your store an advantage over your competitors. By doing this you will also avoid the dreaded “duplicate content” which can seriously compromise your campaign.
2). Ensure that your site is optimized for mobile devices
Data taken from November 2015 to January 2016 revealed that 51% of UK ecommerce sales were carried out on a mobile device. This is important news as it shows, for the first time, mobile commerce overtaking desktop and laptop sales. To break this down further, 33% of these sales came from tablets and 18% from smartphones. This reflects the work put in by ecommerce retailers to improve the user experience on mobile devices, with mobile sales 70-80% higher than the same time a year ago.
So, if you’re site is not optimized correctly for mobile devices, you will need to play catch up, and fast! Focusing on smartphones alone, you could be losing one in 5 sales if the mobile experience is not up to scratch. This means you could potentially be gifting your competitors with customers who would otherwise be spending their hard earned cash with you.
Don’t delay! Get your site checked for mobile-friendliness now. There are a number of tools that can check the basics including https://www.google.co.uk/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/, http://www.keynote.com/solutions/monitoring/mobile-web-monitoring-scripting-tool, and http://www.browserstack.com/responsive. But for a more detailed analysis, get an expert to carry out a full mobile optimisation report on your site.
3). Avoid duplicate product page URLs
Ecommerce sites are notorious for creating duplicate product page URLs. This is because there are so many different ways to access products via category pages, archives, search results, product tags, etc. and each of these paths will create a separate URL. This is great from a user perspective as it provides easy access to your product pages from different sources, but not so great from a search engine perspective. By default Google will try to index each of your product URLs, which in some cases could mean 4 or 5 pages containing exactly the same content. This duplicate content is very likely to cause penalties which can negatively affect your pages’ search position and visibility.
So what is an online retailer to do? Well, do not fret, there are indeed ways to solve this SEO conundrum.
1). Canonical tag: Setting a canonical URL allows you to tell Google which URL should be indexed and which URLs should be ignored. Read more about canonical tags here. It is worth noting that some eCommerce systems are easier than others in terms of specifying canonical URLs. For example, the default Magento setup has a specific setting in the administration interface allowing this.
If you are using Woocommerce as your desired eCommerce system it is a little bit trickier, but there are paid plugins available which allow you to set the canonical URLs.
2). Robots.txt: If you have some website knowledge then you can use the robots.txt file to specify areas of the site to prevent access to the search bots. For example you could block access to archives, tags and search results. However, be careful that you don’t unintentionally block access to key sections of your site!
4). Include quality photos and videos for your products
Photos are the life-blood of any successful eCommerce site and their importance should not be underestimated. They are not directly related to organic search position, however correctly tagged photos and videos can show up in the Google Images and Videos search results, providing users with another route into your site. They can also help to retain visitors on your site, decreasing the bounce rate, which can have a positive impact on your search positions.
As humans we are a visual species, and are emotionally affected by visual stimuli. This is particularly true when shopping online or offline, and is why the major brands have such large budgets dedicated to aesthetics, whether it be the store design, window layout, or website photography.
Photos and videos should help tell a story about your products. If a product is 3 dimensional, show photos from different sides and consider a video with a rotational display of the product. Connect with your customers’ emotions by showing your products being used in their desired location. For example, a kitchen utensil is more aesthetically pleasing when shown in a family kitchen with a happy family, then on its own against a white background. Be creative and think about how to use your photos and videos to connect emotionally with your customers. It is a sure way to increase sales!
5). Encourage your customers to write product reviews
Yes I know, product reviews can be scary. After all you are allowing customers to add unedited content to your site and, potentially, say bad things about your business. Another way of looking at it is that your customers are writing FREE content for you, praising your products and helping potential customers to make a purchase. Don’t be scared of product reviews, they are a fantastic resource for customers and for search engines. As long as you provide great products and a great service, you have nothing to worry about, and will very quickly see the benefit.
Amazon is a great example of how to setup a product review facility, and how to use this to your advantage. In fact, they have taken it one step further by allowing their users to act as “Experts” by answering questions about their products. All of this creates free content for Amazon and helps to create a knowledgeable community on their site.
6). Optimize your product meta-descriptions
Whilst the meta-description does not directly affect SEO in ranking terms, it can be used effectively to improve click-through rates from the search results. So what is it then? Well, when you carry out a search in Google, the results are made up of 3 things, the page title, the URL and the meta-description. The meta-description can be thought of as a “Call to Action” which can be used to promote the product and encourage people to click-through. A well thought out meta-description could mean winning that potential customer, which would otherwise be lost to one of your competitors.
7). Secure your site
In August 2014 Google announced that SSL encryption would be used as a ranking factor in their search algorithms. Despite this, many websites still do not implement SSL encryption, which provides you with an opportunity. So what is SSL? SSL encryption is the installation of a secure certificate on your website which encrypts and protects the data, making it far safer, and is particularly important for sites which contain user data. SSL has always been a requirement for sites which process online payments, but is now deemed important enough by Google to be included as a ranking factor. SSL certificates can be purchased from your domain registrar or web hosting company and prices start from around £25 per year. Not only will this make your site safer for your customers and help with your search rankings, but it will also provide your customers with an extra level of trust when using your site.
All of these strategies are straight forward and easy to implement. They will also make a big difference to your online rankings, increase your store visibility, and improve your sale conversion rate. If you need assistance with any of the strategies above, or would like information about additional SEO strategies for your online store, call our London office on 020 7112 8890, our Coventry office on 024 7610 0380, or visit our contact page.