Search engine optimization is critical for any e-commerce store.
Imagine how many online shops there are on the Internet – but shoppers do not usually go further than the first one or two pages. So if you want to drive traffic to your store and generate sales, you need to get your store among the top search results.
This is where SEO helps you out. However, this is an incredibly complex field with many pitfalls that await inexperienced e-commerce entrepreneurs.
Below you will see the areas that see the biggest number of SEO mistakes. We will also provide corresponding solutions to these issues so you can start converting more and boost the visibility of your store.
Crawlability and indexing
Crawlability is the ability of your website to be crawled by Google’s bot.
When a bot finds your website, it will follow the link and read the site. Crawling is the process of finding the site and proceeding to it.
After the bot proceeds to the site, it will index it: meaning, it will analyze the site and its content and add it to the index, which is basically an enormous database.
A lot of factors impact the site’s crawlability. For e-commerce, this issue is especially important because some parts of an e-commerce site just have to be hidden from the crawlers (i.e. marketing pages, pages with duplicate content). Lack of proper configuration of such pages may harm the overall site crawlability and prevent it from indexing.
A robots.txt file tells a crawler whether the page can be indexed. So, if configured incorrectly, this file can unintentionally hide the pages that do need indexing.
Robots.txt file should be put at the root of the domain. As well, do not change the file’s name – leave it just “robots.txt”. When configuring robots.txt for the page, you can choose either “index, follow” or “noindex, nofollow”, depending on the desired page visibility.
In this example, complete access is granted to the robots.txt file because we set
Remember: a page blocked by robots.txt is a dead-end and will not spread any link value.
As for the usage of robots.txt in e-commerce sites, a survey by Semrush found out that 195 e-commerce sites do not use robots.txt at all, which clearly points out on the problem of SEO optimization for the e-commerce stores.
Internal links are the ones that lead from one page to another within the same domain. Internal linking affects how well the site is explored and analyzed by the crawler and helps the crawler visit all the necessary pages.
The two biggest problems with internal linking for the e-commerce stores are:
- Only one internal link per page
- Broken internal links
It is crucial to managing internal links correctly as they help allocate the link equity and establish a hierarchy for the site. Here are the top-mistakes related to the internal linking:
- Links embedded in any submission form (due to crawler inability to submit the form);
- Links that can be accessed only via the onsite search;
- Links that are in Java or Flash;
- Links that lead to blocked (robots.txt) pages;
In order to place the internal links properly, first, set up the site structure. We will see it in the next section.
As well, always link your content in the articles to the relevant posts in order for the crawlers to cover all the pages.
Site structure is a guide through your site both for the users and bots. Site structure defines the hierarchy of your pages, helps spread link equity, and impacts the overall ranking.
The most basic site structure is usually the following: homepage > categories > sub-categories > other pages. If we visualize it, the perfect site structure would look like a pyramid, with the homepage being the top stone and gradually expanding.
Work on the site structure is also a perfect opportunity to clean the site from outdated content and make the site more organized and easier to navigate.
Even the smallest e-commerce store features a great number of pages for different products, categories, sub-categories, etc. Every page has its own unique URL and this may be another pain point.
One of the most common URL-related mistakes that e-commerce marketers make is putting underscores in URLs. Google bot does not read underscores – hyphens only.
Another mistake is making the URL too long. It’s true that a good URL should be descriptive and informative but try keeping its length reasonable.
Website performance is one more aspect that many e-commerce entrepreneurs overlook.
Google ranks the sites in accordance with their relevance and quality. Poor performance drops down the level of user satisfaction and hence causes Google to lower the site in search results.
There may be numerous reasons why your store underperforms. The most popular are usually:
- Lack of caching
- Poor code quality
- Lack of image optimization
- Useless extensions and plugins
The best thing you can do is contact a development agency and perform an audit to precisely identify the pain points and fix them. However, if you have the basic knowledge of coding and can configure your store independently, there are plenty of guides on the Internet that provide step-by-step solutions.
Duplicate content is one of the most common and harmful SEO problems that almost all e-commerce sites face.
When a site has two pages with similar or identical content, the crawler will see it as a duplicate content. For example, you need to keep such pages for marketing reasons – but this harms your ranking. Since the crawler sees two identical pages, it gets confused and does not know which page to rank.
However, you can easily fix this problem by applying:
- Canonical rel tag: identifies which page is “canonical” and should be ranked
- 301 redirect: redirects the bot and the users to the set URL instead of the one they typed and followed
- Robots.txt file: block the crawler from visiting certain pages (see above).
E-commerce stores feature an overwhelming number of products – and each of them needs unique product description.
What many online merchants do is simply copy and paste the manufacturer’s description as a description for the product. While it may seem like the easiest way, it usually creates a serious duplicate content issue as your store may not be the only one that sells this product and uses the manufacturer’s description.
An e-commerce page features many elements that need optimization. All of them are important for the site’s ranking and are often ignored by the e-commerce store owners.
A meta description is a snippet that can be seen in search results under the page title and the URL.
This description informs the users what the page is about and thus it has to be relevant, includes keywords, and describe the page content in an understandable manner.
The most common problems with meta-description are either a duplicate description or even a missing one.
This HTML element describes the page with the title and is incredibly important for SEO. A well-written title tag determines whether the user will follow the link to the page and
Again, the main problems with title tags are that it’s missing or it’s too long.
When generating a title tag, keep in mind the following:
- Include relevant keywords
- Keep it within 60 characters long
- Make each title tag unique
Lack of reviews
Any e-commerce entrepreneur knows that genuine product reviews can increase conversions by building trust and loyalty among customers. However, Google bots love reviews as well because they see them as an indicator of the site’s quality, trustworthiness, and relevance.
Reviews may contain keywords (which is a huge advantage) and add new and unique content to the page. So if you don’t have customers’ reviews yet, time to implement such an option. Besides improving the ranking, it will also add to the customer experience and build trust towards your brand.
Any e-commerce store features the photos of the products/services and in many cases, these photos are not optimized, thus harming the site’s ranking.
Here are the main things that e-commerce entrepreneurs miss when optimizing images:
- No alt attributes
- No image name/Incorrect image name
- Image is broken
All image-related elements should be unique and optimized.
When filling in the alt attribute, include keywords and make it descriptive and clear for bots and users. Alt description is a text that is seen when the image does not load so it’s important to optimize this element.
As for the image name, it should also describe what the image is about – but don’t overdo it by adding too many keywords or making the name too long.
SEO optimization is vital – no doubt in that. But because it’s so complex and incorporates a variety of processes and actions, it’s best to start auditing the onsite SEO from the very beginning and gradually move forward until you cover the most minor things.
Ranking of your site will either make your store visible and drive traffic or will drown you among dozens of competitors, eliminating even the slightest chance of increasing your conversions and getting users to visit your store. Do not miss the chance of making more sales simply because you’ve missed some obvious things about SEO configuration.