7 Biggest Challenges of eCommerce SEO
Hundreds of similar eCommerce stores appear in the cyber space every day, which makes the process of customer acquisition go from difficult to extremely tough.
There’s, however, a sure-fire way to stand over the crowd and get a steady flow of site visitors. It is called…SEO. Basically, search engine optimization is about a complex of on-page and off-page activities. The activities are planned and implemented according to the latest search engine requirements, and aimed at achieving top positions in Google.
But getting down to doing SEO for an eCommerce website, you should know that it has its own peculiarities and a whole bunch of challenges. This article gives you a basic understanding of this type of SEO and describes how to do it the right way.
1. Choosing an SEO-friendly eCommerce Platform
The process of optimizing an online store starts long before it goes live — with the choice of an eCommerce platform.
Popular platforms have different set of the default SEO tools and significantly vary in their SEO capabilities. If you bet on the wrong platform, you may be limited in promoting your store, and, as a result, won’t be able to reach high Google placement.
Magento and Shopify are rightfully considered to be one of the most flexible and customizable platforms for a wide spectrum of SEO activities. They are both equipped with a set of out-of-the-box search engine optimization features, plus have a number of advanced plugins (e.g. this SEO extension for Magento 2) that empower and extend their SEO potential.
2. Selecting the Right Keywords
Next, you need to select which keywords to optimize your site and its pages for. Ideally, this should be the keywords your prospective customers are using while searching for the products you sell. And this is where the next challenge comes.
The complexity of selecting keywords for eCommerce websites lies in the complexity of a buying cycle. Some customers may be searching for product comparison, while other are researching the brand, some may be looking for valuable deals while others are ready to purchase the specific model of a product at any price. Hence, before selecting the keywords to optimize your website for, you need to understand what your audience actually needs, what is its demographics, what features of your products they are mostly interested in, etc.
First, brainstorm all possible variants people may enter in Google when searching for your products. Additionally, you may also use Google’s own suggestion feature, located at the bottom of search results, will also be of some help by delivering related search suggestions.
After the initial brainstorming you need to analyze your keywords SEO potential with some professional keyword research software. The most reliable tools for this purpose is Google Keyword Planner. The software will let you see how much traffic a keyword can potentially bring and how tough it will be to compete for it.
Try to make your list maximally diverse to avoid another issue – keyword cannibalization with several pages ranking for the same set of keywords.
3. Optimizing a HUGE Amount of Product Pages
As a rule, eCommerce stores consist of a selection of categories and a massive amount of product pages. Plus, quite often, there are pages, created by a CMS for one product but in a different color, size, dimension, etc.
All that makes the process of filling in meta data, optimizing product images and producing unique content for each page a nightmare for an online merchant. Just imaging creating and manual entering thousands of unique titles and description for each page of your store.
Luckily, the above mentioned eCommerce platforms let ease the pain of doing that. With the help of some plugins and apps you can create a range of SEO templates that can automate the whole process. Using the list of your product tags, these templates create unique titles, descriptions and other elements, and then incorporate them into the code of your store pages on the fly.
4. Combating Duplicate Content
Given that an online store may have lots of almost identical pages, it can be a breeding ground for duplicate content. If not detected in time and handled the right way, that can trigger serious ranking issues, including lower search performance and cannibalization among product variations.
As said above, ideally you should have unique content on each page of your store. If that is impossible, there are some walkarounds to avoid running into duplicate content issues. These are:
- Using a a rel=canonical tag
The tag tells Google that some of your product pages are the exact copies or slight variations of the page created for the main product. Thus, Google just ignores these pages and doesn’t treat them as unique.
- Using Txt files or Meta Robots Tags
Alternatively, you may hide duplicate content by using robots.txt. The file provides Google with the instructions on which pages to crawl and index, and which leave untouched.
Also, you can use a “noindex, follow” meta robots tag. The tag lets the search engine crawl the links on the specified pages, while the pages are kept away from its index.
5. Optimizing Site Navigation and Crawlability
When adding categories and products, keep in mind that your store should be easy to navigate for users, and easy to crawl for search engines. The more rambling your navigation is, the bigger are the risks that some pages stay unindexed or indexed incorrectly.
Make sure all products are linked to their sub-categories, categories and important CMS pages (e.g. refund policy, TOS, etc.).
Try to use only one URL for a particular product. All product variations (for different colors, sizes, etc.) should present on one page and be reached via one URL. By all means, avoid multiple redirects to different pages.
Also, although the current search engine algorithms are capable of understanding complex URLs, try to keep them maximally short, simple, and staffed with your keywords. That will let you enhance your site indexation and improve your store visitors navigation experience.
To check how user and SEO-friendly your store navigation is, you may use crawling simulators like Screaming Frog.
6. Optimizing Images
Images that depict a product from various angles are one of the most important elements of any online store. Also, not only are images important to your store visitors, they are important to Google as well. Hence, optimizing them the right way will let you draw additional amount of traffic (e.g. from Google Images section) and make your pages more SEO-friendly.
Start with naming your product images. If your product pages have files named ‘IMG193903480’ that is definitely not good from an SEO perspective. Rename images using various product attributes (name, characteristics like color, size) and a keyword (or a couple of keywords) this page is optimized for.
E.g goldeagle-skinny- jeans.png.
Second, don’t forget to add image alt tags. This type of a tag helps the search engine understand what the picture is about and classify it accordingly. Also, create titles for your main product images. This is how it should look like:
<img src=”goldeagle-skinny- jeans.png” alt=“Gold Eagle skin-tight jeans for women“ title=“Women Gold Eagle skin-tight jeans”/>
Again, given that your store may have thousands of pages, with images that need optimization, the best way to optimize them in bulk is to use special add-ons or SEO templates.
And remember that image size also matters. Avoid using HD images, as they may significantly slow down you page load time — one of important SEO metrics. But also note that using blurred, pixelized images is also a bad idea. Although such images load instantly, they may spoil the whole impression about your product page and make customers leave.
To make your images Web-optimized, you may use image compressors like Optimozilla that make image size smaller without losing quality.
7. Don’t Forget about Site Speed
Speed of your eCommerce should be your top priority. According to this research every extra second your page loads, lowers its conversion rate by 7%.
So, in addition to optimizing the load time of your product page images you should also:
- use a content delivery network (CDN) or a caching service, they will let you delver the copy of your store quicker than a live site,
- invest into high-quality hosting and configure it the right way.
That’s basically it.
As you can see, doing SEO for eCommerce site is somehow more difficult than optimizing a blog or a company website.
However, if you do everything the right way, you’ll easily cope with all challenges this type of SEO brings.
Have you ever optimized an eCommerce website? Please share your thought on that in the comments section below.
Vitaly Gonkov is a Chief Marketing Officer at MageWorx – one of the leading Magento 2 Extensions developer. Vitaly has been actively involved with online marketing since 2010. He has a broad range of expertise that spans many different types of eCommerce strategies and techniques. He is passionate about blogging, social networking and enjoys the challenges presented by the dynamic industry.