Product Page URLs: The 3 Huge Mistakes That Are Killing Your Google Traffic

VIDEO: Best URL Structure for Ecommerce SEO

Today’s Do It Better video answers a question from the Moz Q&A forum: How important is it to use keywords in your URL?

The short answer to this question is: very important.

If we take a deeper look at the question, the root of it lies in search engine optimization (SEO) for ecommerce websites. Including keywords in your URL will impact rank, but it isn’t always a “good” impact. In fact, if done incorrectly it can actually hurt your rank, allowing your competition to push you further down and take your spot.

These are 3 important questions you should ask yourself to make sure that your URLs are structured correctly to perform well in search.

1. Do your URLs sound like normal English when read aloud?

Keyword-stuffing your URLs is a bad idea that you can easily get carried away with. Search engines like URL’s that make sense to your customer, and that are semantically sound. That means if you can’t read your URL out loud to another person and have them understand what you said, your approach is all wrong.

URL’s are best when they can be read aloud like regular English. Search engines will give preference to sites that employ this practice.

“Accessibility has always been a part of SEO, but never more so than today, when engines can leverage advanced user and usage data signals to determine what people are engaging with vs. not.” – Rand Fishkin, Moz (source)

Here’s a comparison of 3 URLs with different readability. The blue one reads like plain English the most, so it will get preference from search engines.

keywords in URL structure ecommerce
[image source]

To make sure that your URLs read like plain English, double-check them by reading them aloud. Do they make sense? Are there extra characters? Remove anything that sounds weird or any unnecessary numbers or symbols. Then, restructure them to make each one more semantically sound. Doing this simple exercise will get you kickstarted in optimizing your URLs (keywords included)!

2. Are your URLs cannibalizing?

You may have heard of the term cannibalizing in regards to your own URLs outranking one another.  Cannibalization happens when you have multiple pages that target the same keyword, and search engines display a non-optimal page over your desired landing page.

This happens a lot in ecommerce websites between product and category pages.

Your ecommerce website structure should have a distinct separation in your URLs between product and category pages. Incorrectly using keywords in this part of site organization can actually have a negative impact on your conversions.

That’s where cannibalization comes into play.

Imagine that a user searches for “best camping tent” and their search results show a page for an actual product page versus your category page for “tents”.

This is a problem because the product shown may not be exactly what they’re looking for. Maybe it’s not their price point, or a style they like. Showing them the product page first increases the chances their visit will have a high bounce rate if that exact tent isn’t what they’re looking for. And we all know high bounce rate is bad news for search engine rank.

If, instead, your category page was ranking, the user would be able to view all your tent options and has greater potential to browse your full site.

If you are experiencing problems with cannibalization, here’s what to do:

  • Remove keywords from your product page URLs and metadata
  • Replace it with the brand and model number of your product
  • Add keywords (both singular and plural) to your category page URLs and metadata
  • Give some time for search engines to index
  • Watch your category pages take over rank!

If you’re running a Magento website, read this post to see how one company made this exact change and improved their category page rank.

3. Are your URLs consistent?

Most ecommerce websites use automatically generated links and sitemaps.

Good for time and efficiency, bad for URL consistency.

If your URLs aren’t consistent, you can risk creating duplicate content without realizing it. What that means is that you can perhaps automatically create a product page that has duplicate content of a category page, but with a different URL. Then, cannibalization can come into play like we just discussed above.

Some common inconsistencies from automatically generated content are:

  • www. versus non www.
  • http versus https
  • using .html .htm or no filename extension consistently
  • capitalization

Google has various guidelines on avoiding and correcting these inconsistencies in their Webmaster Tools section. Click here to check out their recommendations.

Additionally, you can use popular tools like Screaming Frog and Siteliner to easily identify duplicate content on your site.

That concludes today’s Do It Better video – hope you remember these 3 questions when optimizing your online store.

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