Search Engine Optimisation for e-commerce sites is always a challenge. It is likely that your e-commerce content management software may not be helping much and your other main problem is probably that you are selling the same products as a bunch of other on-line shops. So how do you get your web shop to have good rankings in the search engines like Google?
First and most important consideration is your website content – how you describe your products
The basic requirements of SEO for the natural searches apply to an ecommerce site as much as any other site. Search engines like:
- Unique content and lots of it
- Regular content changes
So if your starting point is to copy content off your suppliers site then you are probably not going to get good search results because your supplier and all your competitors doing the same thing have beaten you to it.
If you are in a hurry to get your products up on your web shop and you choose to slap up the minimum content again you are not going to get good search engine rankings.
There is no quick easy answer – if you want to have any hope of working the natural searches to your advantage you must make sure your web shop products are described comprehensively and uniquely – this means you have to rewrite suppliers product descriptions, you cannot copy the wording provided by the supplier and you cannot skimp on this. Just think about the search engines for a minute – why would they rank your shop highly if your content is virtually the same as 10 or a 100 other sites they are already listing? It takes a lot of time and effort to get this right. Naturally automated feeds or uploads from suppliers data bases or spreadsheets are not going to give you that unique content.
You and your e-commerce CMS system?
Web shop software has improved significantly in recent years. Not so long ago typical online shop software was generally not search engine friendly and often worse than this in that some positively blocked search engines from navigating the sites with complex url’s to your products that the search engines could not process. Times have changed and programmers have learnt that they need to build e-commerce systems so:
- they are search engine friendly in the way they contruct the page code and
- they allow you to control the things you need to.
If you are using a leading shop package then this will probably be fine. I would be more careful if you have a one-off system built for you. But, clearly you need to know how to make the best of the software you have for listing and describing your products.
The important things you need to be able to control are:
- Title Tag (most important place to describe your product using relevant keywords)
- Description Tag (not so important but a good place to describe your product as search engines sometimes use this in the search results listing page)
- Heading 1 (next most important place to describe your product using relevant keywords)
These are sometimes completely under your control or they may be generated automatically which may or may not be helpful to your SEO efforts. Personally I prefer complete control as automation often doesn’t give the best results.
- You also want the URL (address of the web page) to be at least search engine friendly and ideally built from relevant keywords (such as the name of your product).
- A good editor is another essential so that you can properly describe your products semantically using headings, bullets and links.
Then you have the technical means to create a top ranking web site. But what I commonly find is that on-line shop owners get their e-commerce system delivered with little help, guidance or training on how to make the best use of the software especially regarding search engines. I suspect this is mainly because building an on-line shop is a great deal of work for both the designer and the client and budgets are not really adequate or time-scales realistic to do the job properly.
If you are using pictures – use good ones (they sell – poor ones don’t) and name them descriptively. This way you are probably adding some useful keywords in the background and you might also get some extra benefit from the Google Image Search. Don’t forget to also use the “alt tag” to include a short description.
Some other E-commerce considerations
- Web design: Consider the presentation of your web pages both from the buyers point of view and from the search engine perspective. Buyers want good clear layout and comprehensive (but not repetitive) information. Search engines want to see keywords emphasised and repeated in amongst lots of unique content that is correctly coded semantically. The big contradiction here is “repetition” so the trick is to do it without turning off your human visitors.
- Trust: Is your web shop suggesting you are reliable and trustworthy? Reviews and customer testimonials help increase your trust levels. Hidden costs, lack of contact details, negative stance on returns, lack of information etc are a big turn-off.
- Shopping experience: products difficult to find or complicated checkout processes make potential customers go elsewhere.
- Keep customers informed: if there is a problem let them know (I recently bought a TV monitor from a big famous on-line shop – they sent me a different model to the one ordered without comment. I checked their website and the model they sent was £20 cheaper than the model I ordered – so now they owed me £20. I looked for some way of querying the situation – they had a long and complicated help section which gave no help that was any use to me. The only way I could find to contact them was by phone. I rang but, as I suspected, the phone was answered by what I guess was probably an offshore helpdesk. I had some difficulty making myself understood. The only option that seemed to be available to me was to return the product for a full refund – no option regarding my £20. I therefore went to another famous on-line shop and ordered the same TV monitor for the same (£20 lower) price. The same courier that picked up the first TV monitor to return delivered the second TV monitor at the same time – we just swapped identical boxes. I don’t plan to buy anything else from this retailer after this silly experience – why would I when there are plenty of other on-line shops that haven’t annoyed me with their stupidity.)
- Legal issues: there are a number of legal obligations that all on-line shop owners need to be aware of.
- Use Google Maps/Local Business Places and Google Base/Shopping.
- Google Adwords – paid for advertising – is used by many e-commerce sites.
Running a successful online shop requires a lot of time and effort. It isn’t a case of – buy an ecommerce website package, slap up some products and away you go. If you want to get good search engine rankings you have to do a better job than the competition to convince google to rank you highly. Copying content from your suppliers isn’t going to cut the mustard – you need to craft that content to be unique. Using Google adwords will get your site found but that can be a money pit so you need to control any pay per click campaign carefully.
It is likely that you will have to use every possible marketing angle you can online and offline to be successful.
We aim to be friendly and informative, providing all the support and guidance you need to steer you clearly and effectively through the web design process and ensure that you end up with a great website.
If you need help with your website please feel free to give me a ring. Regards
Michael Spencer, Web Designer and WordPress Specialist.
firstname.lastname@example.org – 01462 674840
Epsilis Website Designers – Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire