1. Proper website structure
Thoroughly investigate current searching trends before creating the required website structure. By creating too many irrelevant category pages the chances of ranking well in search engines are considerably lower. If you are just starting and have no organic ranking history or link profile available, focus on less competitive query spaces. Limit the amount of products allowed to be indexed. Gradually move the focus towards the more competitive niches and increase the amount of pages you want to rank with. Upfront, extensive keyword research is necessary to make data driven decisions. Avoid keyword cannibalization: this happens when multiple pages are targeting the same query space.
All of the following tips are must do’s, but won’t result in any organic traffic if your website consist of a huge amount of irrelevant pages, not being connected at all. A proper designed website structure is key for getting SEO value with E-commerce platforms.
2. A User (mobile) friendly interface
I often write User with a capital U. It’s all about the user in the end and that’s also what Google is looking at. With the move to mobile of the last 5 years, absolutely make sure your platform is mobile friendly. https://search.google.com/search-console/mobile-friendly Responsive is the way to go but make sure you keep up to date on new possibilities like Google AMP.
3. Speed, speed and more speed
You actually want to lower loading speeds. With over half of the organic visitors coming in via mobile and tablet devices, loading speed is key. Most e-commerce platforms will work with responsive setups so make sure everything loads smoothly on mobile before even looking to your desktop. You won’t deliver a great experience if you try to load huge product images on slow mobile connections. Always benchmark with tools like Webpagetest.org or the Chrome Web Developer tools which can mimic mobile users: check the different devices, mobile browsers and test against multiple connection speeds.
Conversion rates versus load time on mobile devices: this show a clear correlation
Source: Soasta – Case study: Mobile pages that are 1 second faster experience up to 27% increase in conversion rate
4. Unique content on category pages
This sounds straightforward but don’t forget that if you don’t have any external links or history in rankings, Google is solely depending on your content to determine any rankings for your website. Investing in decent category page content (title’s, meta descriptions, headings and body content) based on your keyword research can really jumpstart your SEO efforts.
5. Internal linking
There are three main use cases for internal links:
- Guide your users through the website
- Guide Google’s crawlers through the website: develop a proper hierarchy of product categories and interlink them as long as they are relevant. If you want to index new products fast, link them from the homepage.
- SEO results driven linking: point a subset of links to the pages where rankings need to improve. Based on seasonal trends, possible increase in traffic, best converting organic traffic
Related products or categories are often shown at the bottom of the page but only matched based on textual relevance. Invest in proper product recommendation systems, so you can include SEO ranking targets and E-commerce data into the decision tree of deciding on which products to show in a Related products block. Horizontal linking is a key influence to proper indexing of websites with huge amounts of pages.
If you want to make sure you have the most important pages linked in properly, try Visualizing your site’s Internal Linking or Improve internal linking for SEO to get a visual representation.
Add breadcrumbs to every page. This helps Google understanding relationships between different parts and layers within the website. For users this is a great way of navigating too. Don’t forget to markup your breadcrumbs with Schema.org markup.
7. Dealing with out-of-stock & expired products
There are many scenario’s possible, but my rules are simple: don’t mess with Google’s crawlers & indices and come up with all kinds of strange solutions like temporary redirects, canonicals etcetera. It’s simple:
- If a product will become available again. Leave te page up and inform your users when it will be back. Offer an e-mail alert service.
- If a product is ranking really well, offer alternatives on the page itself and don’t mess with the rankings
- If a product will not return and has no external links pointing to it; add a 410 header so Google removes it from their indices.
- If a product will not return and received valuable links: 301 redirect to a relevant product or category page.
8. Do I need unique content for every product page?
You can start with adding a noindex (add a noindex,follow) directive to product pages which don’t have unique characteristics. In most cases, making the basic SEO elements like title’s, metadescriptions, Hx headings and a unique product ID is enough for Google to add the pages to the search results. In the fashion niche it is quite common to have unique colour products indexed and Google is fine with it.
9. Add a review section to product pages
Since most manufacturers deliver the same descriptions to all sellers, make sure to add possibilities for users to create additional content on product pages. Adding reviews is the most common way and can also contribute to higher conversion rates in case the reviews are positive. Reviews often contain longtail, query related, keywords so increase the diversity of queries delivering traffic to product pages.
10. Structured data
There are multiple options to add structured data to different page types. Structured data helps Google understand the actual content of pages and in the case of product or review data it can result in rich snippets within the search result pages. Rich snippets can increase click through rates as long as the data shown is relevant and has a better call-to-action value. If you markup products with prices while your competitors have lower prices, it will probably lower click through rates. Showing stock levels while your product is sold out, will influence customer experience negatively so always monitor performance.
The three must haves:
- Homepage: add organisation markup
- Category pages: product markup on individual products and a price range & aggregated ratings
- Product pages: product markup, aggregated ratings and individual reviews
Official documentation: Introduction to Structured Data
11. Secondary keywords: think about the customer journey
Next to investing into category page content, it really pays out to think about the different types of brand related keywords. Customers will search for queries about discounts, customer service, shipping conditions or more product related information like material guides, how to choose the right size or experiences from other customers. Make sure you add an detailed FAQ section to target these longtail queries to keep current clients happy and support potential clients in making the right decision.