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The most common SEO mistakes we find on ecommerce sites

Written by Jo Seward: Digital marketing manager.
· 4 minute read

89% of customers begin their buying process with a search engine…

With stats like this, it’s hard to ignore the importance of strong search engine optimisation for ecommerce websites. We’ve compiled some of the most common mistakes we come across as an agency that could be drastically hindering a sites chances of being found online…

Poor URLs

Ecommerce sites can often default to ugly, dynamically generated ‘ID’ based URLs that are no use whatsoever for SEO. This can get overlooked when it comes to ecommerce sites, but it’s essential that your URLs are optimised just as you would your meta tags – keyword rich and providing context for the search engines. If you can’t determine what product a page contains just by looking at its URL, then neither will a search engine…

Useless URL: www.yoursite.com/catalog/product/view/ID/38754

Good URL: www.yoursite.com/black-leather-studded-jacket

Try to get these right from the start, as changing key URLs for a site that’s already indexed and established can be a pain, and cause issues if not redirected properly.

Forgetting about long-tail keywords

Often, ecommerce sites fail to take into account what their audience is actually searching for. If your website sells baking supplies, then it makes sense to optimise for the obvious keywords like ‘rolling pins’, ‘mixing bowls’ etc. which are going to be near impossible to rank highly for.

Thorough keyword research however can uncover some longer-tailed options that are less competitive and more achievable in terms of establishing an organic presence.

Take for example ‘best rolling pin for pizza dough’ and ‘do I need a hand mixer to make cookies?’ – you can optimise your site to make sure you’re answering your customers’ queries (ideally with products!), and even create engaging blog content around these topics.

Don’t get blinded by the ‘trophy keywords’ – it’s unrealistic and they are likely to provide less ROI than targeted, long-tailed terms.

Slow speed

A slow website can not only frustrate potential customers and impact conversion rates, it can affect your organic rankings dramatically. Earlier this year, page speed was announced as being an official ranking factor for mobile search, and it became more important than ever for webmasters to consider.

“Although speed has been used in ranking for some time, that signal was focused on desktop searches. Today we’re announcing that starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.”

Ecommerce sites can contain a huge amount of products and copious amounts of information that can slow a site down, but there are best practice steps you can take to make everything load a lot quicker. It’s definitely worth doing for the sake of more conversions and potentially better rankings.

To see whether or not your site passes the speed test, click here.

Insecure

All websites these days should have a valid SSL certificate for extra security. It ensures all sensitive data that enters and leaves your site is transferred over a secure network. This will make your site https, and indicates to both users and search engines that the website can be trusted in terms of security.

Earlier this year, Google started to mark sites without an SSL as ‘insecure’ as an extra warning to users before they click through to the site. They also hinted that secure sites will be rewarded organically… after all, search engines want to provide the most useful, trustworthy results for their users, and this was a big step in making sure they are continuously doing so.

SSL certificates are generally free of charge these days, so speak to your developer about getting one implemented asap.

Lack of content

Content (or lack of) can cause SEO related issues for many ecommerce sites. It’s important to give search engines plenty of unique content to crawl at all stages of the buying journey – something that many sites overlook.

Duplicate product descriptions

For resellers, it can be tempting to take product descriptions straight from the manufacturer’s site and immediately this can cause duplicate content issues. There could be numerous sites out there using the exact same description as you so taking the time to write your own will make your site stand out amongst the crowd – from both a conversion and SEO perspective. Remember, search engines love original content, and are more likely to reward sites that take this into consideration.

Category content

Your category pages shouldn’t just be seen as a list of related products. They are a chance to properly introduce these products to your visitors, and tell search engines a little bit about each group of products so they can rank your page accordingly.

Make sure your category pages incorporate space for a decent paragraph of descriptive content. It doesn’t have to compromise your design if you think about this from the beginning.

Dead ends

Naturally, your ecommerce site is going to encounter products going out of stock or just generally being discontinued, and it can be tempting to simply delete these pages from your site without thinking about the SEO related implications.

SEO is tied to user experience, and if users are taken to a 404 ‘not found’ page it can frustrate and drive the users away from your site.

There are a few options to consider, and it all comes down to which is the most manageable for you and your site.

  • Keep the page, but explain it is no longer available and show similar products the user might be interested in.
  • Redirect the page to a similar product or category.

If you do want to delete the page entirely, again make sure your 404 page is geared towards keeping the user on your site and showing related products.

If you keep the user in mind and think about how they would react to an out of stock product,  your organic presence shouldn’t be affected too much.