Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Linus Minick who is an online marketing professional
Starting an e-commerce site provides a unique challenge, not only in cementing your name in the market, but also in formulating an effective SEO strategy. Generally, e-commerce stores can suffer in rankings due to duplicate content, failing to provide routine upkeep on their site, and not taking advantage of proper HTML format.
In this post you’ll find some great tips when creating SEO tactics for your e-commerce site, ranging from simple optimization to some more technical strategies that can easily be overlooked, but worth the time to implement.
1. Site Maintenance
Site maintenance and upkeep are common SEO strategies for e-commerce sites. Due to the nature of e-commerce sites and the amount of products being sold, you have to be diligent in the upkeep of your product pages. Perform regular maintenance to make sure none of your landing pages or product pages are generating 404 errors.
It also important to be aware of your external links. Make sure all external links are active and not leading to any broken pages. Google is looking for sites that are user friendly when considering rankings. Broken links within your own domain and broken external links send signals to Google that will negatively affect how Google perceives the user friendliness of your site. User experience is such an important aspect of site creation and site rankings that there are entire classes dedicated to this exact topic.
2. Internal Linking Structure
The fewest number of clicks a customer needs to make in order to reach any particular page on your domain is ideal. This is why creating an internal linking structure is essential for any SEO campaign. The key to internal linking is to make sure you’re linking to relevant and related pages within your own domain. Do not create internal links simply to increase the amount of links. This can be one of the simplest tactics to undertake since you should be in control of all the internal links within your own domain.
3. Alt Text (Alternative text)
Alt text is an often overlooked aspect of SEO strategy. For e-commerce sites, the alt text is particularly important, especially with the rise of Google image search.
Having an alt text for your images allows Google to “read” the image and to place the image in proper context to the content around it. As an e-commerce site, you are going to have a plethora of images that are going to need proper alt text optimization. Alt text should not be used as a place to stuff keywords, but should be optimized so that proper keywords are used while avoiding duplicate content and providing context. While this may seem like a lot of work, because it is, it can also give you the edge over your competitors when trying to increase rankings.
Say your e-commerce site sells car parts. The product page should have a picture of the product, let’s say a car battery. Here is a good and bad example for the following product image:
- Improper alt text: car battery
- Proper alt text: General Service Line, VRLA-AGM, UPS Machinery Battery
Notice how the proper alt text has a very specific description of the product. The improper alt text simply says “car battery.” In fact, the product has nothing to do with cars, and is actually a battery used in larger machinery. Unless you know your batteries well, there is no way to tell the difference by the image alone. Without the correct format, Google cannot understand the proper context of the image. With the improper alt text, if you search by the image alone, there is a good chance that Google will filter your results by car batteries instead of machinery batteries.
4. Canonical Tag
Many e-commerce stores have duplicate content on their site as a result of similar product descriptions on product pages. Duplicate content is one of the easiest ways to be penalized by Google. Implementing the rel=“canonical tag” on appropriate pages is a great way to avoid redundancy and avoid any penalizations from Google. Essentially the canonical tag tells Google that you are aware of the duplicate content on your domain, and to consolidate all the link signals to a single URL.
A great example of a proper time to use the canonical tag is when clicking on a product opens a new page, with a new URL, but is still discussing that same product. If you decided you want a car battery, but the only way to confirm the parts number is to pull up a larger image of the battery, the canonical tag should be used on the larger image if it opens with a new URL.
5. Avoid Using The Same Keywords
The challenge in establishing efficient keywords for your site is avoiding duplicate content. This is especially true for e-commerce sites. Optimizing product pages with keywords can quickly become problematic. The most common mistake to make is to cannibalize your own keywords.
With so many products, many of them being similar, you may think the more times a keyword appears on your site, the faster your ranking for that keyword will rise. If all your products are trying to rank for the same keywords, you are essentially competing with yourself. By using the same keywords on all similar product pages, you are in fact creating duplicate content.
6. Linkable Assets
Content can be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome while establishing an effective SEO strategy. As an e-commerce site it is fair to conclude the majority of the pages on your domain will be product pages. Since product pages contain little unique content or educational information, they are not considered highly linkable assets. Avoiding duplicate content while providing linkable assets is pivotal to any SEO strategy developed for e-commerce sites.
A great tactic for e-commerce sites is to create 2 or 3 pages on your domain that are content driven. A blog would be ideal as this creates new content regularly, but there are many other options as well. Creating a simple FAQ or product information pages would also be considered linkable assets. If we use the same example of an e-commerce site that sells car parts, you could create a unique page which has a tutorial on how to install car batteries, or a page dedicated to answering the most common car repair questions. You will quickly find that these pages are the ones that are going help you create an optimal backlink portfolio for your site.
Once you have linkable assets on your domain you will have the ability to have your assets referenced on external domains as well as begin additional SEO strategies such as link building and social shares.
These are just a handful of tips that can be used in order to create an effective SEO strategy for e-commerce sites. SEO requires a lot of time and effort, but when done correctly, your strategy should lead to greater conversions and more organic traffic from search engines.
About the author
Linus Minick has worked for multiple online marketing firms including two start-ups. He is experienced in local online marketing, content marketing and e-commerce SEO strategy. In his free-time he enjoys writing and blogging.