Ecommerce SEO: The Do’s and Don’ts
Taking a look at various SEO tactics that can help and harm your e-commerce rankings.
Long-tail. Short-tail. Competitive keywords. Contextual Search. Metadata. Load time. Google’s algorithms. Panda. Hummingbird.
Where do you start?
Websites looking to rank high in SERP (search engine results pages) have several criteria they must meet, the majority of which are controlled by the world’s most powerful search engine, Google. And, it could be more difficult for small e-commerce companies to achieve ideal ranks due to keyword competition and the sheer budget of bigger players to implement more aggressive tactics.
What business owner has time to dissect each and every element that can affect your e-commerce SERP ranking?
If your business has been affected by Google’s latest Panda update (end 2014), you probably are committed to examining every single avenue you can, as many companies have been hit hard by this update. If you haven’t – or if you’re just launching an SEO initiative – you certainly have time to review our quick list of do’s and don’ts for SEO this year.
DO TEST YOUR PAGE LOAD TIME
Page load time in e-commerce is essential because most e-commerce sites have product images to display. The challenge lies in keeping the quality of the image up to user standards, while keeping the size small enough to optimize load time. Easy if you have 5 products. Not so easy if you have 5,000. Volusion reports that the load time for a desktop page should average less than 3 seconds, while a mobile page should average less than 1.5 seconds.
Tip: utilize your ecommerce platform to optimize results.
Most e-commerce platforms have either built-in optimization (code compression) or can integrate with a plugin to improve speed. In a white paper from leading ecommerce platform Magento, their studies found that
Around 18% of shoppers abandon the cart if the page loads too slowly (Radware). A delay of 400 ms (the blink of an eye) causes frustration (The New York Times) and a half-second delay results in 20% less traffic to the site (Google). Even if shoppers stick around, they are less engaged and satisfied by a slow site. Reducing page load time by 100 ms can increase sales by 1% (Findory). Slow pages also rank lower in searches, are less likely to get indexed by search engines, and are less likely to be recommended by word of mouth. (source)
A 1% increase in sales is definitely worth an investment in taking steps toward optimizing your site load time.
DON’T ABUSE POPUPS
If you’re going to use popups, be sure to use them in a friendly manner. Nobody likes being forced to do anything.
To sum up Google’s latest Panda update, sites which give an overall pleasant and intuitive user experience hold more value. So, we repeat: no forced things, please.
DO BUILD IT RIGHT, AND THEY WILL COME
With Google’s release of Hummingbird in late 2013, we saw a shift in how the search engine was interpreting searches. Instead of looking at a user’s search simply as keywords, Google introduced something they called “semantic value”. In other words, they wanted to understand the meaning behind the keywords and the context around them.
For example, if you’re at the office and ask “What have we got to eat around here?”, you will certainly get a different answer than if you asked the same question at your home. This difference in context is what semantic search strives to decipher.
Tip: to aid Google, e-commerce sites can build their code foundation using semantic or schema markup. This code defines content of your site like:
- Place, Local Business
- Product, Offer
Visit http://schema.org/ for more information on implementing this markup on your own site.
DO CONFRONT YOUR DARK PAST
Many ecommerce websites employed black hat SEO tactics in the past. Maybe your ecommerce is one of those businesses.
Is that a bad thing? We would say yes, and recommend you do an audit of your past. Of course, there’s no shame in having employed black hat tactics – that’s the way everyone used to play the SEO game. But now that content – valuable content – is the name of the game, the traces of your old tactics will only come back to haunt you. Time to clean the skeletons out of your closet.
Tip: to audit your website, make sure your content is not text that is employing “keyword stuffing” as was the trend in the early 2000s. Make sure your content is tailored for people, not keywords.
In an article titled “Keywords Still Matter”, author AJ Kohn argues that although Google’s update has pushed a frenzy in more conversational content, keywords still matter. He says, “Using the keywords people expect to see can only help make your content more readable, which is still a tremendously undervalued aspect of SEO. Because people scan text and rarely read word for word.”
Do an audit. Make your content readable and valuable to the reader, and you will reap the benefits. The good people of Moz have put together a very extensive guide on how to conduct an SEO audit of your site. This guide speaks specifically to e-commerce companies toward the end. To get started on your own audit, you can download their “Pocket Guide to Content Audit Strategy” here and access the webinar here.
LIKE YODA, DON’T EXPECT RESULTS IMMEDIATELY
One of the most frustrating things about SEO is waiting, which is why black hat tactics were so attractive in their heyday. However, once you make changes to your website code and content, you must wait.
Google needs time to crawl your site anew and index it accordingly. As long as your end goal in your SEO efforts has been to focus on all aspects of user happiness, then your wait should provide you with the results you want.
Header image courtesy Alex Abian (modified)
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