e-commerce for seo goes wrong

When SEO Goes Wrong for Retail Sites

It doesn’t matter what product or service is being sold or the size of the business selling them – if a business is selling online then it should be actively investing in an SEO strategy. In 2018, it’s no longer good enough to just invest in your website alone and whilst it’s important to have a website that’s mobile friendly, delivers a good user-experience and is strong visually,  it won’t bring customers to your site.

With lots of retail businesses now realising the potential of SEO and investing their time and money into it – many often expect the search engine traffic to start rolling in. In reality, however, retail businesses are finding optimising their e-commerce site for SEO much harder than they initially anticipated. With the vast quantities of product pages that will come and go from the site – lots of problems can arise and things can go wrong very easily. To help you understand what can go wrong we’ve put together a list of SEO mistakes retail sites are still making, along with a few of the things that go wrong.  

Product page title tags repeated over and over

We find retail sites with vast quantities of products often struggle in creating unique title tags for each page. This is usually because the site is selling multiple products and variations from the same brand or similar brands. When this happens, keywords are often over-repeated making it difficult to target that particular keyword due to saturation. Online shoppers will be searching for a key phrase that will feature the targeted keyword – so with its important multiple pages with the same title tag aren’t appearing within the SERP. This will not only confuse the potential customer but search engines will penalise the site.

A correct title tag for a retail site product page should be structured to include the brand, the model and the item type (depending on the product). This will ensure that every single product page has a unique title tag and therefore won’t be penalised by search engines, – making the pages easier to optimise in other aspects.  The fastest and least daunting way to do this is by using dynamic tags title tags based on rules which will auto-populate the title tags but avoiding duplication.

Lots of duplicate product page content and pages

With the vast amounts of product pages on a retail site, there is always the potential for duplicate content. Duplicate content can arise from several different sources, sometimes it’s caused by using the product descriptions from the manufacturers other times caused by indexing page tags and sorting elements. The issue with duplicate page content is that it is instantly penalised by search engines and will make it harder for businesses to rank for the keywords they are targeting. It’s not just duplicate content to watch out for, as pages themselves can also be duplicated when a product is listed under several different products and the site has category-level subfolders within the product URL. This causes the URLs to be duplicated and again this will be penalised by search engines.

To help avoid the issue of duplication, it’s important to use the canonical tag to indicate which web pages are the pages a site wants to be indexed. In short, the canonical tag will tell search engines which page they should be focussing on. It’s also recommended to use robots.txt which act as crawl instructions to block duplicate content from appearing on the site that is generated from archives and tags.

Lack of or no on-page product content

Lots of retail sites often miss the opportunity to optimise their deeper level product pages. For example, many product pages will often have little to no content apart from the product information/description and sometimes this content will be taken directly from the manufacturers – which is a big no! If a business does this then it will certainly find it’s pages hidden in search engines and potential customers will only be able to find the site through the top level pages of the site.

To tackle this issue that affects many retail sites it’s important to create unique page content wherever possible. However, this might be a far greater challenge if a site has 100’s or even 1000’s of product pages. If that’s the case, we recommend focusing optimisation of the product category or hub pages that sit above the product pages within the site structure and putting a no index tag on the product pages to avoid them being indexed by search engines. This keeps optimisation easier to manage rather than having 1000s of poorly optimised pages that will have a negative impact on a website overall performance.

Not using HTTPS

This is a big no-no! Whilst standard information sites can still get away with using HTTP, it’s now crucial all retail sites are protecting their customers’ data from potential hacks and fraud by migrating to HTTPS. Without migrating – a retail site could find itself quickly falling in critical keyword rankings and face the risk of having critical data being hacked. It really is painful to see a site selling items without HTTPS.

Where this is going wrong is usually with smaller e-commerce businesses who have been around for a long time but haven’t yet upgraded to HTTPS and end up having their customer data stolen by keylogging and malware hacks. We are also finding businesses rush their migrations from HTTP to HTTPS without using the correct procedures and configurations leading to their SEO vanishing.  So, when a site migrates to HTTPS to safeguard their customer data, it’s important to follow the correct guidance which will include URL redirects, this will make sure SEO isn’t affected by the migration and, in fact, Google has suggested HTTPS will now give a site rankings boost.  Link to HTTPs blog

Deleting seasonal product pages once an item is out of stock

This a mistake we are finding with retail sites who will offer promotional or seasonal products for relatively short periods of time. For example, a site might have specialist Christmas products on offer but as soon as the season is over – they’ll simply wipe all the Christmas page/s and product pages from the site. These are pages may have been promoted either in advertising or social media and are potentially well optimised so deleting them is like throwing away domain authority and next year they will have to start all over again. The biggest issue this is having on SEO is all the season keyword rankings that have been achieved over that period are just being destroyed. The site will also potentially be left with an abundance of 404 errors if correct redirects aren’t put into place.

To avoid this mistake, it’s imperative retail sites are simply removing the seasonal pages from their navigation but not from the site. If a product is not available anymore simply add an ‘out of stock’ tag to the page. By doing this all the reputation that’s been created on search engines can grow year after year.

We hope that listing these mistakes will help you avoid making them. If you’d like any advice on improving your business’s SEO strategy, then get in touch.