E-Commerce websites can be hard work to manage, especially when there are hundreds of thousands of products being added or removed from the site.
There are a few main mistakes that managers (owners or webmasters) of these sites often make that can have a negative impact on search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine rankings. Fixing up and maintaining the four following points can help the site not only rank better, according to the current algorithms, but also assist in safe-guarding the site against future updates.
1) Ensure your product descriptions are not duplicated from other sites or the supplier site
This is a point that we cannot stress enough to clients that have e-commerce stores.
We have all heard the phrase ‘content is king’, but Search Engines don’t like duplicate because it is too ‘easy’. It is deemed ‘easy’ to copy and paste a product description from another site. It’s ‘hard’ to go and write unique content, which also takes more time. Coming up with your own description adds value to the reader and ensures that the Penguin algorithm won’t hit your site.
While you’re rewriting your product descriptions, you might as well ensure its not thin content!
2) Ensure the products don’t have duplicate meta titles and descriptions, and don’t use a formula
Like the on-page content, the meta data should not be duplicated from the page or from other meta titles and descriptions on your site. This allows for the best SEO results.
It is also not advised to use a ‘formula’ to generate meta data that slips the keywords into a sentence, which is then distributed site-wide. For example:
At Example Shop, we stock ____ in several sizes and colours. If you’re looking for _____ online, browse our website today!
Search Engines can see through this; changing two words in a sentence is still deemed as duplicate content!
When crafting the meta data, think about descriptive long-tail phrases that someone searching for that product might type in. This can help the product to rank for long-tail phrases.
3) Ensure the site isn’t duplicating products in different categories
Sensing a trend here? Denounce duplication! Having a product in two categories with the page being copied on two different URLs can create duplicate content issues within your site.
For example, there may be the ‘Blue Men’s Polo’ shirt being displayed on the below URL in the ‘Men’s Clothing’ category:
And the same product with the exact same content displayed in the ‘Men’s Gifts’ category with this URL:
What’s the solution? Ask your web developer to setup ‘canonical URLs’ to ensure search engines are advised that one product is referencing another product and to avoid duplication issues. This is also called ‘setting a preferred URL for content’ or ‘content syndication’. Click here for more information.
4) Ensure broken links are minimised!
Broken links (also referred to as 404 errors) occur when a page is removed from a website or a URL is changed and there’s no redirect in place. Often when you remove a page or product, there are hyperlinks still either on your site or other sites going to the page which is now missing – creating a broken link.
To explain this further, think of your website as a book and each page on the website is like a page of the book. If a page is ripped out, but it’s still mentioned in the table of contents (i.e. your sitemap.xml), and it’s also referred to on other pages (hyperlinks), a user won’t be able to find that page if they try to search for it.
When a product is removed because it’s out of stock or not being sold anymore, the page is often removed or ‘ripped out’, creating a broken link. So why do you need to worry about broken links? 404 errors have a negative effect on user experience and can make your site look unreliable to search engines.
To stop this, there are two things that you can do to minimise broken links, of which we recommend a combination of both.
The first is to put a manual 301 redirect on pages/products that have been removed to the most relevant page.
The second is to create a 404 error page to advise a user that a page no longer exists and points them in the direction of a more suitable page. For example:
‘Sorry, we are no longer stocking the Men’s Blue Polo Shirt, however you may be interested in the Men’s Green Polo Shirt or the Men’s Red Polo Shirt ‘
Following the above four points should help to ensure you’re running a successful and smoother e-commerce website. If you need advice on making sure your online store is setup correctly for search engines, contact the Results First specialists.