Ecommerce websites are usually database driven and use templates to generate the website. There are usually 3 or 4 levels to the site structure, as well as informational and miscellaneous pages. If you’re not careful, your website can quickly disappear into the supplemental index and you will have a hard time getting anything other than a few of your pages ranked. I’ve outlined some basic search engine optimization tips for a typical small to medium sized ecommerce website.
Optimize for your most important and broadest phrases – stick to your top sellers, or your most profitable items. If you’re a brick and mortar store, also ensure that you publish your store’s physical location or mailing address and local phone number for local search. If you’re a local supplier of dog food in Dallas, then you could use:
This is your shop window, so just like the big department stores do in real life, make sure you include small windows into the various departments within the website. Provide text links directly into those categories surrounded by appropriate text. Writing in short paragraphs with embedded text links is more effective than just a list of links.
2) Main Category Page
Target the brand names and plural versions of products. Make sure you describe the products that can be found in this department or category and include text links to them, and/or their subcategories within the first few paragraphs.
3) Subcategory Page
Here you can go into more detail about the products in your target keywords. Include size or material options to go for those valuable 3, 4 and 5 word search phrases.
4) Product Detail Page
These are some of the most important pages on your website because they’re typically the start of the funnel or shopping cart and users entering your website on these specific pages tend to convert very well since they will have entered very specific search criteria.
Since the category pages are targeting the plural versions, use these pages to target the singular of the product and if appropriate include specific model numbers. If there are related products or accessories (even in different departments) feel free to link to those pages too.
Make sure your internal linking structure is both hierarchical and lateral. Make sure that the programmers don’t trap you into a site with only a hierarchical linking structure.
In many cases there will be one template used to generate all the product detail pages. If your CMS or programming team allows, use variables to populate these HTML elements, for example:
If your company differentiates itself by price, then you can use:
The meta description tag can also be written out with variable substitution in the same way. This is a really effective way of optimizing thousands of product detail pages with unique tags in one go and certainly beats writing each one by hand. The most important page elements you’ll want to address using this method are the title, meta description and H1 tags.
Crafting the H1 tag.
Keep it short and concise with the product name and model number. Resist the urge to include calls to action – this is not the place, there’s plenty of opportunity elsewhere on the page to entice users onto the next step.
Unique Product Descriptions
If you take a data feed from a manufacturer or supplier, try to rewrite the product descriptions. If you haven’t already do this, then take your top 10 products and rewrite those, then move on down the line. Sometimes the manufacturer’s product descriptions are filled with so much technical specification information and technical jargon that the keywords containing the product name, or type/category of product are missing completely!
Try to be verbose in your descriptions. It’s important to ensure that the copy to html ratio is in the right proportion. Search engines do not like pages with lots of template HTML code and a very short descriptions. Wherever possible, try to ensure that your product descriptions and body copy definitely outweighs the template HTML code.
By doing these few things you will ensure that every product detail page is unique, which will help to avoid those pages dropping into the supplemental index.
5) Informational Pages
For certain types of products you can target “how to” type phrases or maintenance tips. Ensure that whenever you talk about a product type, or a specific model, that you link to the appropriate category or product detail page using the model name as the link text.
6) Misc Pages
The 4 most important pages here are:
a) About Us
Talk about your company history, perhaps some customer testimonials and benefits of using your company. Perhaps you have some experts on your payroll that you want to show off.
b) Contact Us
Use your company name or primary product/service and your physical location again in the title tag and meta description. Include as much contact info as you can, the full mailing address, toll free and local telephone numbers are especially important. Make sure you write out the address in a simple text format so it’s easy for the search engine to decipher. For instance use line breaks or commas as word separators not fancy blob or circle characters. It may look cool, but the object here is to ensure that the search engine can recognise the address for local search.
You may also want to include payment methods accepted and hours of operation. If you have multiple locations, be sure to list them all. You may also want to link to one of the popular mapping services for driving directions.
Most often this is one page which lists every page on your website, but if you have a large shopping cart with hundreds or thousands of products, it’s not practical to list them all. In this case, list the main categories and use sub pages for each section. Try to limit the number of links to 100 or less per sitemap page.
Where To Put Your Company Name
If you have a fairly new website, then you’ll need to include the company name in the title tag of the homepage. Never put your company name in the title tag on every page, it’s simply a waste of characters. Most search engines only display up to approximately 60 words in the results, so if you have a long company name, you may inadvertently have your juicy model names and numbers truncated.
If your website is well established, then you may not even need to have the company name listed in any title tags, as there will be enough links pointing to your website with your company name in the anchor text to offset the need to place it within the title tag. And since your website is established, users will recognize your company in the website address after the snippet.