Feb 19, 2013

E-commerce SEO: A Different Type of Optimization

by: in SEO

On the surface, it would seem that there might be subtle differences between SEO implementation for e-commerce vs. non-ecommerce sites, as basic SEO tactics are the same. However, there are several key points of difference when implementing an SEO plan for an ecommerce vs. a non-ecomerce site. Those differences include the importance of an internal search engine, rich snippets & additional micro data, social media integration, unique product content & image optimization, customer reviews, and pagination.

When an internal search engine is developed, it is critical that the search is able to produce results based on a variety of search term types including product names, models, SKUs or relative keywords. Nothing is more frustrating for a user when he or she tries to search for a product using a keyword, is delivered zero results and then discovers that the product does exist but, the search feature is just not as optimal as it could be. Internal search engines also provide keyword data to help refine your SEO & keyword strategy.

Rich snippets and micro data are prime opportunities for additional SEO on e-commerce websites. Rich snippets create better descriptions of a page and improve the presentation of products in search results, thus leading to higher click through rates and improved user experience. In a similar fashion, additional micro data such as those provided via Schema.org, webmasters can help search engine better understand the website. When using Schema.org to add additional markup to product pages, be sure to only choose properties relevant to the attributes your products have. One thing that Google notes, however, is to use either Schema.org or rich snippet markup, but not both together on the same web page.

Micro data can also come in the form of customer reviews for online retailers. Reviews can be marked with micro data and give search engines more context about the content of your site, allow reviews to appear with product pages in search results and give the chance to improve click through rate. Additionally, reviews provide great feedback on products and also equal a source of unique content for your site.

Social media integration can exist in two different ways on e-commerce sites. Of course, there is your standard brand page links to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other properties, but there is also an opportunity to add “like” and “share” buttons to specific products. There are two schools of thought for integrating social media. One, which is the most common, is to add the “like” and “share” icons to all product pages for users to share products they like or are planning to purchase. The second option is to include the “share” or “like” features for products on the confirmation or Thank You Page following the purchase or review, allowing a users to share what was purchased or reviewed on your site. Either way, having the opportunity for users to use social media on your site will help with social search integration and will benefit your site position overall.

Content is king…not only on all sites, but especially on e-commerce sites. Developing unique product descriptions, product details, including optimized images and product videos sets your site apart from the competition. Using the manufacturers’ description is least effective because it is the most used by retailers, creating unique product descriptions will differentiate your site from other retailers selling the same product. It also helps not create duplicate content across the web. Optimizing your images is also a critical part of your product pages. Develop descriptive file names and alt tags for your images, show photos of your product in use and not just the standard white background image and create & submit an image sitemap to Google to improve your likelihood of having your images appear in search results.

Pagination refers to markup that Google and other search engines see that allows a better understanding of the order of product pages and pass link equity to key pages. There are three primary tactics for pagination – (1) classic / noindex; (2) view all method and (3) rel prev/next method.

Implementing SEO for e-commerce can be a time consuming and overwhelming process. The world of e-commerce is competitive and constantly evolving making the basics of SEO critical for success. Thus having well developed site architecture complete with an on site sitemap and clear navigation, SEO friendly URLs, well defined HTML head tags (title, meta description, keywords, H1 tag), and company details, including the phone number, for each page on the site helps create trust, confidence and relevancy for search engines.