There are essentially two types of websites: those that provide information, and those that sell products. Classic examples are Wikipedia and Amazon. They both started out with very different goals and audiences. However, over time we have seen as blurring of boundaries and e-commerce sites now need to provide in-depth information to attract buyers, and information websites rely on product advertising to generate the revenue needed to support them.

Today, we are looking at ecommerce SEO, and specifically looking at the various on-page elements that many retail businesses fail at. Whether you are selling 10 products or 10,000, you need to get this right to beat the competition in Google search,

Faceted Navigation

Faceted navigation is something that so many businesses get wrong. When it is done right, it helps users to quickly find products that they are interested in. The key to good faceted search is to allow your users to apply various filters. eBay does this exceptionally well, with filters for just about every facet of a product – brand, model, colour, size, price, location, age – if there is an option available, it will usually be possible to narrow your search with filters.

For most retailers, the most important facet is price. Simply by helping customers narrow the price range of their searches you can better place products in front of your customers.

Canonical Tags

Canonical tags tell Google which landing page is the primary one. This is essential when you implement faceted search. For example, if you sell a shirt that comes in 10 different colours, you want to focus your SEO on a single page, that then offers customers to select their colour. That way, it does not matter if somebody searches for a “blue T-shirt” or a “red T-shirt”, as they will land on the same page and then be able to select the colour themselves.

Without a canonical tag to inform Google which page is the parent one, Google will most likely attempt to index every colour version of a product, which might result in a duplicate content penalty.

Not Using HTTPS

While information websites can still get away without using HTTPS (secure servers), all e-commerce sites absolutely must. Failure to protect your customer’s private data from Internet fraud can result in severe penalties, both from Google search and society.

However, where many businesses really trip up is when they migrate from HTTP to HTTPS. Without proper server configurations and redirects in place, years of hard-earned SEO work can quickly be lost.

Thin Product Pages

There are essentially two types of pages on an e-commerce website: the product pages and the category pages. If your product pages only contain the standard descriptions given by the supplier, you will suffer a major duplicate content penalty and most likely never rank well. It is vital that you take the time to write unique product descriptions for every product you sell. This is, of course, a mammoth task if you sell hundreds of products. Nonetheless, it must be done.

Another common problem is thin category pages, which are usually created when webmasters become too eager in categorising products. For example, if your store only sells one product by a particular brand, it’s usually best not to create a category page for this brand.

Also, avoid using multiple categories for the same products; this is especially true if there is also only one brand. For example, if you have a range of blue toys by ABC Products, and they are the only toys you sell on the site, then having categories for “blue”, “ABC Products” and “toys” will result in three identical category pages, the only difference being the titles on the page. The Google Panda algorithm will automatically detect this and penalise these pages.

Not Knowing Your Market

The above are key on-page SEO factors, however, more dangerous to your business than any of this, is not keeping a very close eye on the market. So often ecommerce sites fail because competitors drop their prices or introduce a newly popular product line, and you are left lagging behind. Almost every shopper will compare prices across multiple platforms, including Amazon and eBay, so if you are pricing your products too high, no matter how good your SEO is, you will lose out to the competition.

E-commerce is certainly one of the most complex areas of SEO, however, with a combination of on-site optimisation and market analysis, you can develop a winning retail SEO strategy.