Ecommerce SEO mistakes have potential to be very costly.  Consumer confidence is growing with online commerce platforms, and now social media sites and Google have introduced instant buy buttons for mobile users, it is easier than ever for consumers to make an impromptu online purchase.

To ensure your eCommerce site functions to optimum performance, it is important to use best SEO practices. Not only do you need to up your game in search engines, you need to earn the trust of online customers. Therefore, avoid making these common SEO ecommerce mistakes.

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 algorithm 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 areas you want to steer clear of.

Avoid very little content / thin content on product pages

One of the most annoying things for online shoppers is to follow a link to a product page they are interested in, only to find there is little or no information about the product. This is a cue to look elsewhere.

One of the biggest reasons why eCommerce companies lose customers to competitors is because they fail to include useful or engaging product descriptions on their site.  Worse still, some ecommerce suppliers simply copy manufacturers descriptions leaving little unique content that Google can’t find elsewhere already.

Whilst there isn’t really a minimum on how many words are the right amount for product descriptions, the most important thing is to think about what information people are looking for when searching for your product and what type of questions they might have about that product.  Answer the questions and provide useful information to meet humans’ queries about a product and you can’t go far wrong.

There is also the issue that you may end up with ‘too similar content’, with little between one page on your site and the next.  Whilst Google might not filter these as duplicates, you will likely find that the page which ranks for a keyword or search term changes a lot because Google can’t quite work out which to give the authority to.  You’re diluting your efforts with common ecommerce SEO mistakes like this.

However, it should be noted that adding unique product descriptions alone will not automatically mean your product pages rank highly in Google’s search engine.  You’ll need to add additional value to do that.

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.

Inconsistent 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.

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.

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, ‘best of’ articles that appeal to the people who may be interested in your products.

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.

Near-duplicate and 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 may interpret this as duplicate content or near-duplicate content. So use the rel=canonical meta tag to tell Google which page to prioritise but ensure these are supersets of the pages you’re canonicalising from (i.e. is the content you’re referring from also included in the page you’re referring to.  Either that, or they ned to be pretty much duplicative.

Getting the basics of web design, information architecture and site structure 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.

No alt tag in images

Images are vitally important when it comes to attracting clicks, and you can optimise the performance of pics by updating the alt tags field in your CMS media uploader.

Alt tags inform search engines crawlers what is in an image thus for an eCommerce site is another nugget of effective SEO that can be used towards the searchability of the page against keywords from image search in particular.  Alt and title tags also form part of the overall ‘search engine view’ on a page so add context to further understand what the page is about for search engines.

Alt tags are also really, really important for accessibility so that those who are partially sighted or blind can understand what an image contains.  Ensure your alt tag explains well what the image is with a good description.

Failure to include engaging content ‘hubs’

Hub content is arguably one of the drivers behind the SEO wheel of online visibility. Posting regular articles in an organised and structured manner to meet the needs of your target audience at the various stages of the buying cycle attracts customers and gives you a platform to up-sell your products, services and brands, not to mention providing opportunities for improving your internal linking and relevance to a particular topic overall.

Be careful about how you organise this content though.  Piling everything into an unwieldy disorganised blog can mean that you can distort the relevance of your overall site structures.  Having a strong and well organised information architecture within your site not only helps humans easily find things but search engines too.  Using a framework approach of ‘Help, Hub, Hero’ content organisation helps with this.  Think of your website as a library and make sure the sections are well signposted and the pages are all in the topics that they should be.

Hub content is also an excellent way to build a regular visiting audience too and might even earn you some links from other webmasters who appreciate the content and knowledge you are passing on to them.  With some thought about what types of hub-content your audience is looking to engage with you can overcome these all too common eCommerce SEO mistakes around hub-content.

Slow load times

The most fatal flaw of any website is a slow load speed. Consumers typically wait three to ten seconds for a website to load before clicking out and moving on. Because images are vital for eCommerce sites, they can often make pages lag, so format jpegs and exclude unnecessary features that require a lot of javascript and css code.  You should also use image compression to make pictures small on your site.  There are some excellent free tools about which can help with this.  Take a look at our SEO tools page for some ideas around making images small to speed up your website.

Not Being Mobile Friendly Or Cross-Browser Friendly

If your site is not mobile friendly you will face an increasingly uphill struggle to convert traffic and even receive visitors from search engines.  Particularly given Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm update which first surfaced in April 2015.  The mobile-friendly update has been ‘dialled up’ a couple of times since, so it is safe to say that all sites should be considering a move to mobile friendliness.

It’s not good enough though to simply pass a mobile friendly test.  Your site should also provide an engaging experience across all devices, not just tick a box.  If the experience is terrible, despite passing the test your users will simply abandon the site.  Check your bounce rates across different devices to check this in the first instance.  Also consider taking a look at how your site renders on different mobile, tablet and desktop devices using tools like Mobile Test Me or Screenfly.  Check cross-browser rendering using tools like Browser Shots to get a feel for how your site is rendering across different browsers too.

Unsightly permalinks

You may think the way a url is structured is the least of your SEO worries, but because of the amount of spam thrown around on the web, consumers are becoming suspicious about unsightly url extensions – you know the ones that look something like this:

Neatly titled url pages not only look more professional and trustworthy, but are a good reference point for end-users and crawlers so it is worth updating the permalinks in your CMS whenever you load a new page.  They’re also more easy for visitors coming from search engine results to identify where the links lead.

However, it is worth mentioning that rewriting URLs on large ecommerce sites can mean that you end up with many redirections and the benefits achieved may not be worth it if there are negative impacts on other areas.  It really is a case of looking at where the efforts of your campaign is best spent when fixing eCommerce SEO mistakes.

Be careful about just rewriting URLs for the sake of SEO.

Some of the most successful ecommerce websites still use dirty URLs on their site and the amount of cruft which can occur as you redirect rewritten URLs to friendly structures can cause more problems than the benefits gained.

Not adding value for website visitors

One of the biggest mistakes ecommerce sites make is presuming simply by adding unique product descriptions they’ll automatically rank for product pages.  This is a mistake because on many occasions the other suppliers of the same products have also rewritten manufacturer product descriptions too.  You’ll all saying the same thing but in slightly different ways.

Don’t let common ecommerce SEO mistakes hold you back

Given the amount of competition that eCommerce websites face online, it makes sense to ensure that your website performs as well as possible.

And just by making the odd tweak to your website’s SEO can make a huge difference.  If you feel that you are not covering all the bases with your current strategy or think that e-commerce SEO mistakes are being missed contact us for a free initial SEO analysis so that we can provide some food for thought and guidance.