Saturday, February 4, 2012

SEO and Ecommerce: Best Practices and Tips

Ecommerce websites present a unique set of challenges to SEO professionals and webmasters everywhere. If you are running an Ecommerce SEO campaign, you cannot expect the same level of difficulty as you would from a b2b website. Structuring, optimizing, and accounting for the vast array of issues that can arise with content are some of the primary challenges associated with SEO and Ecommerce. Knowing how to adapt to these challenges as Google and other search engines tweak their algorithms is important. Let's take a look at a few tips you should work in to your playbook.

It Starts With Structure

Often, the hierarchical structure of an Ecommerce website can be one of the most important things in running an effective campaign. If you don't structure your category, sub-category, and product level pages in an appropriate fashion, search engines may have difficulty crawling the website. If the search engines are unable to quickly navigate the site and access pages that you are trying increase the visibility of in the search results, there is no reason to expect those pages to rank well.

Tip: keep it simple. Set up your main navigation to include the major products you are selling. Have a drop down menu that allows visitors to access sub-category pages, and link to your product pages from there.

Don't Get Lazy With Product Level HTML Optimization

There are some Ecommerce sites that are so large, it may seem overwhelming to even consider optimizing the SEO related HTML pieces for every page on the site. And while it is important to prioritize your time and resources, you have to understand one thing. If you are running an SEO campaign for an Ecommerce site in a highly competitive space, it will be very difficult to show up on Page 1 of the search results unless these pieces are well optimized.

Tip: take the time and write title tags, heading tags (focus should be on H1), and meta descriptions for every page on the site - even at the product level. Title tags for product pages should be the name of the product + any relevant identifier. If you have the product in stock, offer free shipping or some other perk, put that in your meta descriptions!

Respect Unique Content and Fear the Panda

If you don't know what Google's Panda update is by now, you are already far behind Throughout 2011, and already once in 2012, Google has been tweaking their algorithm to reward those that put in the effort to write unique content that readers will find valuable. Again, the size of some Ecommerce sites can make this task seem near impossible. It isn't. If you can't do it, outsource the writing and keep in mind you only need 150-200 words on a page (most people won't read it anyway).

Tip: make sure you write unique product descriptions. This is where a lot of Ecommerce sites are getting burned. Many will use the product description from the manufacturer or from another site for the sake of time. These are the things that Google is picking up on. Get creative. Add product videos. But whatever you choose to do, avoid ripping off the description from someone or somewhere else.

Other Things to Watch out For:
  • Pagination: if you have pagination set up, make sure you specify that Page 1 is your preferred version for the search results. You can do this by using the rel canonical tag. If you have a "View All" page, know that search engines prefer this. 
  • Displaying Products: there are some product rendering solutions that are not good for SEO. Ajax is one of them. Search engines cannot read the product and or product description if you are using this. Make sure you know what the search engine sees when they crawl a page. 
  • Images. It is necessary to keep in mind that search engines cannot read images. You can optimize these by using the alt tag and also by including the product in the image file name.
While there are so many different things you have to keep in mind when running an effective online marketing campaign for an Ecommerce site, this is a good place to start. I hope you have found these tips helpful!

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