I recently came across a very comprehensive SlideShare presentation by Adam Audette of the Rimm-Kaufman Group that covers some of the key aspects of SEO for ecommerce websites.
There’s lots to digest here and so, in order to make it a more useful ongoing reference for me, I thought I would summarize the key points raised in the presentation.
How do you compete in ecommerce SEO?
- You need a brand
- You need to differentiate
- You need a social strategy
- You need to be technically strong
- You need a content strategy
- Improving your site from a technical perspective is #1 priority
- Very broad topic so do create a list of top priorities and don’t create a giant SEO audit
- Typical highest priority technical issues:
Duplication (usually occurs at the product level):
- Use forensics to investigate issues
- Focus on what is indexed
- Always crawl the site yourself
- Keep it actionable
- Faceted navigation* (can cause crawling challenges):
- Use rel=nofollow on non-essential facets (e.g., color, price)
- Make non-essential facets rel canonical to a superset page with all products listed
- Other options – use robots.txt to exclude facets (not ideal), use GWT parameter handling tool (risky), use meta noindex (questionable how Google is applying this)
- Don’t crawl sorts/views
- Consolidate pages using rel=prev/next and rel=canonical
Site speed (crucial):
- 40% of visitors will abandon your site if loading > 3 seconds
- 1 second in loading time < conversion by 7%
- Use online tools to measure performance and identify issues
Should be fast, offer a valuable experience, lead to conversion, have high engagement. Ask these questions before taking action:
- How much organic traffic are search pages responsible for?
- What do engagement metrics look like?
- Are search pages causing issues with site crawl space?
- Are they causing duplicate content issues?
- Make your site accessible by building a responsive site
- Minimize redirects
- Serve tablet users the desktop site
On-page and content SEO
- Native content is limited (e.g. category pages, product pages, guides, reviews, blog) so the user experience is critical
- Options when a product is permanently out of stock:
- 301 the URL to a replacement product
- 404 the URL if no newer product exists
- Continue to serve the page and provide alternative product recommendations (preferred)
- When product is temporarily out of stock – serve the product page with messaging and recommendations
- Present useful content on category pages as they are important content hubs
- Your inventory is your content (e.g., buyers’ guides, reviews). Be creative in how you present it.
- Spend a lot of time on SERP presentation – impacts search CTR and even rankings
- On the whole, Facebook drives the most social visits, with Pinterest growing the fastest
- Traditional sales funnel no longer reflects the online retail environment – more open ended now
- 4 functions of social media:
- Responding – reputation management, customer service
- Amplifying – recommendations, brand advocacy, fostering communities
- Leading – brand awareness, product launches, deals, consumer input
- Social media takeaways:
- Consumer journey has changed
- New model reflects stages where brands can exert influence
- A user’s brand experience occurs on social media
Analytics and reporting
- Don’t focus on keywords – track topics or page types rather than keywords
- Focus on bottom-line metrics – revenue from organic search, organic traffic by search engine, organic conversion rate, group content
- Engagement metrics are important – bounce rate, time on page, avg. pages/visit, time on site
- Use more than one analytics package – use a variety of tools
- SEO bridges the gap between different teams
- Break down intra-company silos
I found this presentation to be a useful overview of where to focus when embarking on SEO improvement for an ecommerce site. It’s well worth clicking through.