SEO for eCommerce – 7 Most Common Pitfalls

From technical aspects such as canonicalisation to keep at sight, to lack of unique onpage content on product pages that are also sitting on your competitors’ websites, there are many pitfalls you need to avoid.

There are a number of business owners who believe that eCommerce and SEO are mutually exclusive or just not as important. More than one business owner has asked ‘if I am trying to sell something, why does Search Engine Optimisation matter?’ Others are trying the same SEO methods as they use with their standard website.

You may understand SEO, but do you understand SEO for eCommerce? Contrary to what some people think, there is a difference. If you are missing hits from prospective customers, chances are that you are missing possible sales as well. Here are a few suggestions from the team on that very specific aspect of online marketing that is SEO for eCommerce.

Understand the difference

The first thing that you have to keep in mind is that eCommerce and SEO can be a complete nightmare. For most websites, the internal pages are competing against each other for SEO purposes instead of strengthening one another. Without a proper URL structure, it will be more of a challenge to get your eCommerce SEO up and running. This is one of the reasons that you should consider Search Engine Optimisation early in the process.

Identify potential issues

After understanding the difference, you need to audit your site for potential issues. You want to avoid issues with missing header tags, duplicate pages, redirects, and other simple errors. These are the first technical aspects that you want to have a look at on your website:

  • Updating meta descriptions, meta titles, and duplicate content pages
  • Changing 302 redirects to 301 redirects
  • Redirecting any 404 pages to actual content

Implement eCommerce tracking

Organic traffic growth is important, but it is not the most important factor when it comes to eCommerce. Traffic that does not lead to sales is ultimately trivial. You want to be able to track the results in actual dollars. Clicks, rankings, and page views are nice, but not as important as money in your account.

An ineffective link structure wastes your link authority

The way you categorise and organise items in your eCommerce store, URL structure, and information architecture decides your effective link structure. Products need to be organised in a category and sub-category. Your URL hierarchy needs to reflect the organisation. Your link architecture will be ineffective from an SEO standpoint if you do not use logical categories or sub-topics. If you arrange your products in a haphazard manner, your SEO will suffer.

Slow and steady wins the race

When it comes to your overall SEO strategy, do not make the mistake that most site owners fall for – doing everything at once. This involves a great deal of work, and may potentially blow up in your face if it does not work properly.

You want to make small changes to limited portions of your website. This gives you a chance to see if it works, if the changes that you made are successful. Once you know that the changes will facilitate organic SEO growth, you can implement them throughout the rest of the website.

SEO still matters

Oftentimes eCommerce sites do not have proper SEO on their product pages. This may be because of issues with text, coding, or other content. You may have duplicates of material found elsewhere on the site, a lack of unique content, or too little product information.

Especially if you are in a tough niche, it will be utterly impossible to compete without keyword targeting, video, and images. You really want to make sure that you do not have the same content throughout the website, because Google often frowns on duplicate content – and this can lead to lower rankings.

Out of stock items

Chances are that you are eventually going to run out of certain items or you will simply no longer carry them. If you simply remove the page, this could lead to a SEO hit. You can do the following instead:

  • Leave the pages up – You do not need to replace, hide or delete the pages, just let people know that the item is currently unavailable. This is an acceptable option if you know that your item(s) will be in stock again later.
  • Offer alternative items – Instead of just removing the link altogether, you can offer different, relevant alternatives. These may include products in the same quality and price category, identical products from different brands, newer models/versions of the same product, and the same product but with a different colour.

Takeaways from these suggestions

Perhaps the most important takeaway to remember is that SEO is not something that you can haphazardly toss onto your website in the end. It is an essential ingredient in your design process and you need to treat it as such.

There is no single ready-made SEO optimise eCommerce platform. Those that advertise as such are either not telling you the truth or will only allow you to optimise and tweak specific settings later on. If you think that SEO is just something that you can ‘do’ quickly, it is going to cost you money and may lead to lost sales in the end.

Despite the fact that this seems as a lot of information to process, remember that SEO and eCommerce have a symbiotic relationship. Even if you have the best product on the market, you still need people to be able to find it.