Ecommerce SEO: Problem Areas

Having worked with quite a few ecommerce sites, helping them to optimise their websites to gain higher rankings within the search engines and also from a customer point of view. Visually, the content on each page is important for converting potential customers whilst they are on the site, however, SEO is essential as a tool to get the customer on the website in the first place. Ecommerce SEO poses a problem in that the sites will commonly have dozens and dozens of product and category pages, which makes on page SEO challenging.

Best Practices In Ecommerce SEO
Best Practices In Ecommerce SEO

Here a several common ecommerce SEO mistakes with websites that you should assess on your own ecommerce site and fix if required.

Duplicate product descriptions in ecommerce SEO

Either having poor product descriptions or none at all will unfortunately have a negative effect on your ecommerce SEO. Search engines need text in order to determine what the page and website is about and how relevant it is to each search term. Ecommerce websites that lack good product descriptions or descriptions that re either too short or (commonly) duplicated are at risk of very low rankings or being ignored completely in the search engines.

How to fix:

You could write them yourself as you probably know a lot of the product very well and can write more detail if you have tried the product or can physically see it. The other option is that of hiring a copywriter that will be able to write useful product descriptions that help customers and also from an ecommerce SEO perspective. Product descriptions should have a tone that is helps promote the brand and other key information about the product. Also note not to duplicate the content on other pages with your website.

Lack of navigation breadcrumbs

It is useful for ecommerce website to have breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs on websites are essentially paths to help the user see where they are on the site and where they have been.

Typically they will look similar to the following structure:

Home > Men > Clothing > Trousers

Apart from helping the user, it also helps Google and other search engines know what the product page is about. Usually Google will use the breadcrumbs in part of the search engine results position (SERP).

How to fix:

This is something that has to be within the code of the website, compare ecommerce software and read about the ecommerce SEO or alternatively get a web designer to add this functionality.

Lack of image ALT tags

Search engines like Google cannot recognise images, but they do however read the ALT tag to help understand what the image is about. If search engine spiders cannot read the text or there is not ALT tag then it won’t know what the image is about and potentially will not get indexed. Subsequently the page may not get marked as being relevant and therefore not rank as highly as it should.

How to fix:

Include description info in the image ALT tags and makes sure you include relevant keyword phrases in these descriptions. One or two word descriptions will not make full use of the image ALT tag, simply add a descriptive sentence.

Product page meta titles that are not optimised

Before a customer reaches your website via a search engine, they will what is known as the meta description in bold text that will usually entice them. Therefore, customers will typically rely on broad keywords and then click on your website to learn more about it.

How to fix:

Be sure not to ignore long tail keywords and be sure that the order of the attributes are correct. For example are people searching for “widescreen TV” or “TV with widescreen”?

Never updating sitemaps

XML sitemaps significantly help search engines to understand the structure of the content within your ecommerce store. It acts as a guide to help the search engine understand what content you want displayed within the results pages. Therefore, if you have an ecommerce website that changes its inventory frequently, then you’ll want to make sure that the XML sitemap is submitted to search engines when the products within your store change.

How to fix:

Use a content management ecommerce software that updates the XML sitemap automatically each time the product inventory changes.

Poor URL structures

Ecommerce SEO poses another issue when it comes to creating clean URLs. It is difficult because typically URLs are generated dynamically and can change based on different product options. If the URLs have the product number or ID, then this doesn’t help search engines as it will not understand what the page is about.

How to fix:

If your URL structure is automatic, you will need to find a way to change this so that the URLs are cleaner and search engine friendly. They should mimic the breadcrumbs to an extent as this makes logical sense. One thing to note though, is that if you do go down the route of changing URL structures then make sure that you 301 re-direct the old URL to the new URL so that your current rankings don’t drop.