Developing an effective SEO strategy does not have to be difficult, but it does take time. With the holiday shopping season rapidly approaching you will want to optimize your ecommerce website now to drive more traffic when the shopping floodgates open.
While paid search, email marketing, social commerce, and other channels are vital to a company’s success, organic search is still the most significant driver of traffic and revenue for a website (83% of buyers use search before they begin shopping).
But one of the dirty little secrets of search is this: For large sites, up to half or more of the site’s pages may not even be indexed by Google. Imagine the lead gen and sales implication of half your site not coming up in relevant searches.
Here are five strategies that we know are effective based on working with hundreds of ecommerce websites.
1. Internal linking/cross-linking
Ensuring your indexable product pages are crawled and displayed in search results is paramount, and one of the clearest signals you can give search engines is through internal linking.
Google and Bing have discussed how internal linking is vital for finding all your site’s pages and understanding how that page fits your overall website structure.
Unfortunately, you may have specific pages on your website that are no longer linked across your website or are linked to very few times. Not only should you link to your indexable pages appropriately, but you should also look for opportunities to cross-link pages.
As you can imagine, there are many internal linking opportunities across your site, which can help not only bot but also users find the products or categories they are looking for and aid in their shopping journey.
Before you start to roll your eyes at how obvious this may be, we have worked with many websites that do not have correct sitemaps! We often see sitemaps that are outdated, missing valuable pages, not set to update, or contain pages that waste crawl budget.
Sitemaps can play a critical role in search engines finding and crawling your product pages and other high-value pages that you want to make sure appear in SERPs.
We recommend including your 200 status code indexable product pages in sitemaps to spur crawling and indexing from Google. If you’re wondering whether sitemap inclusion impacts crawling from Google, we were thinking the same thing, so we reviewed several of our ecommerce clients and found sitemaps do have a direct effect. We can see that product detail pages that are in sitemaps get crawled more often than those not in sitemaps.
To show the difference indexing a page makes, we compared URL’s that were indexed, to URL’s that were not indexed.
We found that indexed URL’s were crawled more, by a difference of 9%. It may not seem like much, but that 9% is a big deal for traffic and revenue on a large enterprise website!
3. Structured data
Structured Data is a great way to inform search engines about the meaning or context of a page by providing specific bits of information such as the author’s name for an article, the address of your business, or the price of a product. This structured data can then populate features directly into search results such as the price, availability, or reviews.
Structured data can help customers understand aspects of the product and your site directly in search results, leading to higher click-through rates and search visibility.
We have identified that structured data is important, but you may be asking, how do you incorporate it? What will put your structured data to work is called Schema. Schema takes your structured data and infuses it with your page to bring more value to it in the eyes of the search engine. Not all Schemas are the same, so you will want to visit this website, and choose a type that fits your site.
4. Should you get rid of that product page?
The life cycle of a product is finite, and eventually, a particular model or variety will no longer be sold or manufactured. The logical option is to set a 301 redirect from the old product page to the most applicable product or category page when it is permanently no longer available on your website.
Let’s pause here for a moment. What if people are still searching for that unique product in search results?
Suppose your SEO tool shows that you still see significant search volume around the product name/model despite that product no longer being available on your site. In that case, this may be an excellent opportunity to keep that product page live (200 status code) but include messaging explaining that it is no longer available.
You can also add a CTA to “See Similar Products” instead of the “Buy Now” button on the page. Think of this as an evergreen content strategy but for product pages. This method will allow your potential customers to have a better on-page experience with your website and be much more likely to convert.
How you decide when to redirect a product page or keep it live on the site will ultimately be up to your team. However, your SEO tool should help pull reports so you can better understand search volume and behavior to make informed decisions.
5. Correctly handling filters
For many of our clients, the products they offer have multiple variations, styles, colors, and more. A typical implementation is to have a filtering system – usually along the left-hand rail of a category page – that allows a user to filter down a set of products based on specific attributes.
Do I want a particular strap for a dress, i.e., spaghetti strap, or do I want one unique material such as rayon or crepe, and the examples go on.
If you were to noindex or canonical these filtered versions of the category page, Google would not show them in search results.
This strategy makes sense when it’s a highly filtered down page such as “size 10, green in color, 4mm drop, waterproof, wide toe box running shoes” In reality, a query this specific is searched for much less frequently than a query such as “trail running shoes.” This strategy also makes sense if the filter doesn’t have a lot of search volume and isn’t something a typical customer would search.
But other filters should be opened to Google for crawling and indexation, such as the color and strap type filter for dresses or a particular brand of running shoes.
We hope these ideas will help your ecommerce site reach new heights with increased traffic, and hopefully conversions this holiday shopping season.
As mentioned above, while these recommendations are aimed at ecommerce websites, they are also very applicable to other websites like publishers, content hubs, and more.