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August 3, 2016
Marketing  |  6 min read

E-Commerce SEO is Costing You Big Time—Here’s How to Fix It

by John Rampton

An e-commerce company may be faced with a limited budget and staff, leaving those on the team to juggle many different marketing tasks that may not be their area of expertise. Even a marketing pro that has SEO knowledge has not necessarily kept up-to-date on all the possible SEO information currently available. The result is that mistakes happen with your e-commerce SEO, which could be minor but that are still costing you time, money, and return on investment.

Here are some of the most common e-commerce SEO mistakes that happen and some ideas on how you can fix them:

  1. Duplicate page titles: Since you are dealing with a set of products that may have similar names or categories, it’s easy to make the mistake of not assigning a unique page title for each website page. What happens is that this duplication appears in the page titles at the top of your browser and in search results above your URL. These page titles tell Google and your audience what the page is about so if there are many pages that appear identical and they can’t determine what’s actually different, none of these pages will be selected. It’s a fairly easy fix. Just review your page titles in your CMS and make the necessary manual changes, or you can use a tool called Screaming Frog that will look for the duplication for you, allow you to modify the page titles in Excel, and then import them back to your website.
  2. Product descriptions that mirror your competition: If you are opting to get your product descriptions from your suppliers, you may find that they have provided the same content to your competition as well. The result is the same copy across multiple websites, leading to a lower ranking for your e-commerce SEO efforts especially if your competition already has a stronger ranking because they have more relevant links than you do. Use a plagiarism checker to identify if you do have duplicate content that reflects your competition. Now is the time to invest in creating your own detailed, unique, and relevant product descriptions that stand out from the bland ones most likely provided to them by your shared suppliers. If you can’t do it yourself, consider hiring freelancer writers who have the time and creativity to make you stand out. If you can’t do all the product descriptions all at once, start with your best sellers and those that rank higher in search results.
  3. No product category page text: Although product images are very necessary and help engage your audience in a way that influences their purchase, you can’t leave out descriptive product category page text to enhance this experience for the shopper. Plus, it helps with your e-commerce SEO results because consumers tend to search for products tied to category-based keywords like “black yoga pants” or “one-piece swimsuits.” Because this the preferred search behavior, your category pages tend to be higher traffic than product pages, thereby influencing your ranking based on the text you supply. Leave that text out completely and you’re making a huge mistake. Before thinking you will need to create copious amounts of content, it doesn’t have to be a lot. Instead, focus on useful descriptions of the benefits and things that make your product categories different from your competition. Even adding one sentence to each product category can help if that’s all you have time to do now.
  4. Bad or confusing image file names and tags: Since Google can’t view images, it relies on the file names and descriptions of these images to determine what you are offering and how to rank it. By offering clear image file names, alt tags, and descriptions, you can connect with a greater amount of targeted traffic and improve your e-commerce SEO strategy results. If you don’t put the time into these and end up with bad or confusing image file names and tags, you will miss this opportunity and lose out of beneficial business. Check all file names, tags, and descriptions to see if they are informative and include keywords that are relevant to each image. An image site map is another good idea to help Google locate and index your product images.
  5. 404 errors keep popping up: Nothing loses a customer faster or damages your e-commerce SEO efforts than a 404 error that tells a customer or Google that a page cannot be found. This means the page has been deleted or never existed; products are no longer available that appeared on that page or have been removed from the website; changes have been to product categories or sub-categories; links are pointing to a URL on your domain that doesn’t work; or changes to the CMS or technology you used did not involve the right migration process. Whatever the reason, it’s now a problem because these pages can end up being indexed by search engines and sending much-needed traffic to these error pages instead of a useful page where they will hang around and potentially buy. The other problem is that this could adversely impact your site rankings. Fixing it is just a matter of being vigilant and regularly check to see if there are 404 pages indexed by Google and linked to from other websites. Webmaster tools have a menu choice for crawl errors so you can find these indexed 404 pages. Fix internal links or redirect pages to correct relevant pages as you find them.

By staying on top of the potential e-commerce SEO mistakes that commonly happen, you will be able to maintain or even elevate your ranking to get more of that targeted traffic to check out your online store and buy, buy, buy.

John Rampton Bio Photo Small.jpeg

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, online marketing guru and startup enthusiast. He is founder of the payments company Due.


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