By Malcom Slade, SEO Project Manager, Epiphany Solutions Ltd

Anyone who has been in SEO for any length of time knows that ecommerce sites have their very own unique set of issues and challenges to overcome. I personally throughout my 5 years (yes it really has been that long) at Epiphany have worked on a huge amount of ecommerce site from leading toy stores to clothing labels and have experienced the full host of ecommerce platforms from out of the box shopping cart systems that have to be fully recoded and hacked (by me) to 99% there custom builds of open source products.

So without further ado, I offer my Top 5 (5 being a special number for me) tips for ecommerce SEO success.

1. Human readable structured URLs

In the past I have hacked together workarounds using static pages or 302 redirects but in the end nothing comes close in terms of sustainability, to good clean human readable URLs with minimal parameters. They get indexed better, they add context and they are so much easier to control.

So if your potential new ecommerce system can’t spit out URLs in the form /category/sub-category/product or similar consider looking elsewhere.

2. Content

If you want your site to be a success you are going to need to put some time and thought into content. A page with 30 product images and 30 prices just doesn’t cut it anymore. Nor does a page only containing the same stock product description and image as every other competitor.

Brand pages need some form of introductory content as do category and sub-category pages. Product pages need to sell the product through reviews, enhanced features and related products. And the golden nugget.... THIS MUST ALL BE BESPOKE.

Getting a piece of stock copy from a brand representative and sticking that on your page isn’t going to help. Get it rewritten, be creative, spin it to be more about the brand at your store, just don’t take shortcuts.

For inspiration on how to do this well at product level, look no further than www.amazon.co.uk. Amazon’s product pages tell users everything they could ever want to know about a product and the search engines love it.

3. Page Titles and Descriptions

It can’t be stressed enough just how important these 2 things are if you want to succeed in natural search. At the end of the day being number 1 doesn’t guarantee a click, it simply puts you in the best possible position to get the click. If you search listing (advert) alienates the searcher then chances are your competition is getting the click even if they rank below you.

Page titles need to be well written and bespoke. Yes this is stock SEO advice but for ecommerce sites it can be a complete nightmare to achieve. “Our ecommerce platform allows us to enter bespoke titles for all our pages”, really and what army are you planning on employing to write titles for your 40,000 products? “Our ecommerce platform pulls key information from the database to create page titles dynamically”, a good start but likely to lead to a lot to garbage titles and titles the same as competitors.

The best solution? A hybrid. Auto population is a great way to get bespoke titles in for a start. Let’s face it nobody wants to wait 4 months to launch while you craft nice titles for every page. Even here though you need to be creative and if your ecommerce platform allows you to specify what elements are pulled in or you can hack around this functionality all the better.

Once auto populated, start crafting. Begin with your homepage and main categories (really you should have done these before launch). With titles, keywords need to be in there but think about how you can stand out from the crowd. Move through your site as you get time from categories to sub categories to best selling products to most profitable products and beyond.

Descriptions may not hold any value for the Google algorithm but they can and do impact click through rates. Think about your sales message. Are you the leading stockist? Do you stock products only found on your site? Do you have a price promise? Do you offer free delivery? USPs USPs USPs. Oh and if the price is stable, consider getting the price in there, you may be surprised at how much more traffic you get from your top 3 listing.

4. One URL to rule them all

You content should only be reachable via a single URL. Another piece of stock SEO advice that is a nightmare on ecommerce sites. Filtering options, navigation options, tracking, products in multiple categories and more can all lead to multiple URLs all having the same content.

Yes we have the rel=”canonical” tag to play with (if your ecommerce site allows it) but ideally it shouldn’t even be needed if you plan from the offset.

If your products feature in multiple categories, make their URLs more generic such as /belstaff-mens-pathfinder-jacket-tan rather than /mens/jackets/belstaff/pathfinder-tan and /belstaff/pathfinder-tan.

Code your filtering using AJAX so you don’t generate new URLs or page loads. Do you really need to rank for “black men’s shoes under £30”?

5. Discount / Promo Codes

Not really something that needs fixing but more something that needs to be there from the offset. Having a little box that allows you to gain a discount is a god send when it comes to real creative out of the box link building. You can run competitions, offer discounts to elite groups and more all through having the ability to apply promos online. Links like these do not grow on trees.

So, there is my top 5. Feel free to comment on any of the above or add any tips, advice or experiences. Happy SEOing.

Find out more about Epiphany Solutions Ltd at www.epiphanysolutions.co.uk

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