Google algorithms have hit a number of high-profile eCommerce sites hard over the last few years – and no doubt a whole hoard of smaller businesses too. Big names like eBay and Expedia have been under the spotlight since Google started its war on web spam, but its always easier for the big brands to recover.
Things aren’t so easy if you’re a smaller online retailer and you get hit by a search penalty that drastically effects your profits. Sadly, eCommerce remains a vulnerable space for future algorithm updates and if you own one of these online stores there are a number of sins you want to steer clear of.
#1: Little content on product pages
One of the worst crimes you can commit on any website is thin content and your product and listing pages is a sure-fire way to get busted. Users and Google alike want quality content on every page so don’t settle for thin product descriptions and lashings of whitespace.
#2: Sloppy internal links
Your homepage should have the highest page authority on your website – so use to link to your product pages. Have special offers and featured products that link to specific pages and don’t use images for text. Avoid using forms for searching product types if you can – links are always better. But if you can’t avoid it, make sure you use a GET form (not POST) which creates indexable URLs.
#3: A weak link profile
Link building is a different games these days, but something you need to do if you want to make a presence on search results. The simple rule is don’t scheme, buy or set up any shady deals that involve swapping links. Keep it genuine and things will happen slowly – so be patient and see it through.
#4: No strategy for compelling content
If you sell products you have plenty of useful content you can offer up your target audience. Product reviews, tutorials, bets of articles that appeal to the people who may be interested in your products.
#5: Click distance
If you have a lot of products there are two big problems from an SEO perspective. First you end up with a lot of pages and use pagination to make them navigable – but this can cause your product pages to drop results. Use the rel=next and rel=prev meta tags to show Google these pages need indexing as normal.
#6: Duplicate content
The other big problem you have is duplicate content – especially when filter combinations yield zero results. Different URLs in this situation point to the same thing (nothing) and Google interprets this as duplicate content. So use the rel=canonical meta tag to tell Google which page to prioritise.
#7: Getting the basics wrong
You could call this a deadly sin for just about any website, but when eCommerce sites are so vulnerable to Google algorithms, you can’t afford to get the basics wrong. You need to get things like page titles, headings, anchor text and URL structure spot on if you don’t want to put yourself at even more of a disadvantage.