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How to Fix Ecommerce SEO Errors

By Stuart Gonsal - Wolf Interactive

eCommerce-SEO-TipsMany online merchants believe that by simply listing hundreds or thousands of products on their ecommerce website they will gain instant website traffic from search engines, but this is far from the truth.

The truth is that optimizing your eCommerce marketing strategy for SEO is much harder than it is for blog posts and non-e-commerce websites. Numerous problems arise on e-commerce that make SEO very difficult, especially having a lot of product pages that shuffle on and off the site. Throughout this post, I will talk about the common SEO mistakes others make when optimizing their e-commerce website. 

Little or No Product Description

In most cases, this error is generally made by online gift stores and online clothing shops. The lack of a text description of a product gives away the chance of the page being in the top 10 results of a search engine query. Even if the query is low competition, you will still not have much of a chance at all to rank in the top 10. Because search engines cannot see images, they ony read text, be sure to add a description to an item to avoid this mistake.

It can be hard to measure how much unique content you should have for any given product page. A way to tell is to count all of the words that are on the page (i.e. navigation, sidebar, footer, any other text) and make sure your unique content exceeds that particular word count. This will ensure that you have a heavy amount of unique content that will help you ranking potential.

When creating the product description, keep the following in mind:

  • Only write content that helps your customers make a purchase.
  • Do not copy product descriptions from other websites.
  • Evaluate your product description after 3-4 months to make sure it is helping your rankings rather than hurting them. Sometimes too long of a description can hurt

Using Same Product Descriptions as Manufacturers

Manufacturers will send out descriptions with their products and many vendors make the mistake of using that as their descriptions for their website product pages. This action could potentially get your website penalized from the search engine results.

The problem is that these descriptions are distributed to many online vendors in the exact same wording. If you use these descriptions, like so many other vendors are doing, Google will count that as non-unique content and filter your website out of the results.

But, creating unique content for thousands of products is extremely daunting, so for product pages that are less important and/or you cannot create unique content for, use a NO INDEX meta tag to keep the search engines from crawling those pages.

It is better to have good SEO and no index some products than to let your rankings suffer because of duplicate content.

Lack of Product Reviews

According to Kiss Metrics, “70% of buyers are looking for reviews of products on online stores or forums before making a purchase.”  This means that if your website does not have any reviews, then you are missing a large audience of people. It is also much easier for reviews to reach the top of Google than product pages.

The great thing about product reviews is that they create unique content for your store that is free. Also, it keeps the product page relevant and the search engines come back more often.

Not Optimizing Product Pages Based on Search Demand

When creating the headlines, titles, product description, etc., it is important to make sure you do a little keyword research for each product page. You want to be sure that the keywords you are promoting are actually being searched for by your target. This can be a common mistake with people that have a large number of products.

Here are a few additional tips to help you optimize your product pages:

  • Use model numbers in title tags and H1
  • Use brand names in title tags and H1
  • Fill out alt text information in images
  • Do not stuff keywords into your content

Non-Unique Titles

Another problem others may face is that webmasters do not use unique title tags. It can be very difficult to create unique title tags when you sell a lot of products from the same brand or similar items from many brands. Search engines are aware of how hard this can be for e-commerce sites, so I suggest using this model that will help you diversify yourself from others.

Your title tag should be structured the following way: Brand | Model | Item Type. This will allow your site to differentiate itself a bit from the competition. This little change will make a big difference.

Lack of Keyword Friendly URLs

Keyword friendly URLs, also known as speaking URLs, are URLs that make each product page unique to the search engines. Below are the reasons as to why you should use speaking URLs:

  • It is easy for the customer to know what to expect when they click the URL
  • There is a chance that someone could use the URL and re-post it on their website and if they use the link as anchor text, people will more likely click on it because the link explains the page
  • Google likes to relevant keywords within URLs

Lots of Duplicate Content

Pages to archives with different sorting elements, tags, and more, all create duplicate content and should not be indexed by search engines and should be closed using the robots.txt file attached to your website.

Here are some additional tips to remove duplicate content:

  • Block areas that create duplicate content in robots.txt file.
  • Use the canonical tag to tell search engines which web pages are the pages you want indexed. For example, if your site creates different URLs for the same product, but in a different color, you will want to tell Google which one is most important and which should they follow.
  • You can add no follow attributes to links that point to areas of duplicate content. Make sure you are thorough if you go this approach.

As you can see, the main rule is to make sure you are making your website’s usability a priority, Make sure your store is convenient, descriptive, and useful for all your customers. If it is good and unique for your customers, it is great for Google.

Stuart Gonsal founded Wolf Interactive in 2014. Prior to that, he co-founded the award-winning Lava Digital in 2001, delivering hundreds of high-quality, premium websites for clients as diverse as KeepCup, headspace and Leonard Joel Auction House, raising their online profile and constantly pushing their eCommerce offering upwards. He writes and presents extensively to industry groups and publications, is on the Advisory Committee for Swinburne University's Master of Commerce (International Business) degree and has chaired several industry panels.

Read our guide on creating a best-practice ecommerce ecosystem