SEO for E-commerce Sites

November 9, 2011
By Michelle Lowery in Internet Marketing Conferences

Good morning, Vegas! Now that Lisa got you revved up with fantastic keynote coverage, let’s get into some more SEO, shall we? Different types of sites need different tactics to make them do what you want them to. For e-commerce sites, it’s all about conversions and sales. How can SEO help? It isn’t a magic bullet, but applied correctly, it can definitely boost results. Rob Snell and Ethan Giffin will tell you how.

Ethan Giffin introduces himself and starts things off. His presentation is very well organized with great slides that offer step-by-step instructions, so I’m going to take those down for you. Not very conversational, but it’s a lot of great info I don’t want you to miss out on. Here we go.

10 Ways to Maintain Your SEO Rankings Through a Redesign

Create a Baseline Report

What’s in it?

  • Verify Webmaster Tools account
  • Submit your XML sitemap
  • Spider the site (Integrity or Xenu)
  • Look for existing crawl errors
  • Total pages in index vs. sitemap vs. spider
  • Initial rank check (Raven Tools)

What’s the percentage of the pages on your site Google has found? If a large percentage is missing, you can bet it’s a lack of content, or just crappy content.

Avoid Canned Descriptions

No manufacturer descriptions! He searched for a Linksys router, entered the first sentence of the manufacturer description, and came back with more than 24,000 exact matches.

Perform an Audit

  • Create a content map
  • Make pages sure 1 to 1
  • Unique page titles and meta tags
  • Define your URLs
  • Set your canonical tags
  • Robots.txt
  • Data imports can get messy!

Create an internal Linking Strategy

  • Don’t use view or more
  • Create links to other products within descriptions
  • Create links within cat descriptions
  • Don’t repeat same navigation on all pages

Optimize Your Site Templates

The great thing about e-commerce sites is the ability to optimize your templates to get tail traffic. What to optimize?

  • Review product and category templates
  • No missing elements!
  • Use modifier words with your images such as buy, discount, etc.
  • Include microformats on product pages

Use Indexable Reviews

  • Don’t use Power Reviews Express
  • Use Internal Review Engines if you can set followup
  • If not use power reviews standard or non- javascript based tool

Those little micro things are what’s goint to set you apart from every else.

Create Sexy Brand Pages

How can you outbrand the brand?

  • Panda loves brands
  • Make your pages better than the manufacturer!
  • Create unique content
  • Videos, etc.

Set Up Your 301 Redirects

  • Keep the same URL if you can
  • If not, 301 every page based on your content map
  • Check your server headers; a lot of great tools out there to do that
  • Confirm any redirects done programmatically; test and test these, because you may find huge holes; you have to take it to another level and research this.

Monitor Your Load Speed

We know this affects rankings and conversion rates, which will affect your bottom line.

  • Can sink your SEO
  • Directly affects conversion rates
  • Lowers AdWords Quality score
  • Limits ability to diagnose errors
  • Check your site with Pingdom and Yslow

Things that can help:

  • Turn on compression
  • Remove unneeded code and files
  • CDN hosting
  • Use Google jQuery scripts
  • Caching
  • Track server errors and performance (NewRelic)

Do a Post-Launch Review

You need to come back and reconcile everything.

  • Submit new sitemap
  • Spider the site again
  • Look for new crawl errors
  • Total pages in index vs. sitemap vs. spider
  • Weekly rank check (Raven Tools)
  • Hold breath [I can’t condone this one, or be held responsible if you actually do it. ;-)]

Moderator Stephanie Leffler introduces Rob Snell who is going to give us a presentation called E-commerce SEO* is Dead (And I don’t feel too good myself)
But his SEO stands for “search engine optimism.” [Does that seem like an oxymoron to anyone else? ;-)]

Matt Cutts said SEO is NOT dead, so he’s not going to go off on a rant about how unfair some of the changes are. He’s here for the little guy. His site sells supplies for hunting dogs, and it’s a family company. They got $10 million in additional sales by making some basic changes and creating content.

Why should you listen to him?

When it comes to SEO, he’s generated $50 million for his family’s sites over the course of his career. Almost all sales come from search marketing, but everything stems from people looking to buy wha tthey sell, and because of SEO they can find their site, and buy what they want.

He talks about revenue. He says back home in Mississippi, that means a double wide. Revenue is more important than rankings or clicks. You’re looking at the money. It’s also more important than links. You’re not going to get revenue without links, but the revenue is more important.

Why should you not listen to him?

He’s not a high-level SEO. He’s a retailer. You need to listen to the other SEOs here, but he can at least share his personal experience and you can maybe take something away from that.

Traffic’s important, but he wants high-value clicks. When traffic drops, you must convert more! Let’s do a SERPs reality check. He saw a lot of retailers get whacked by Panda, but it didn’t touch his sites at all. He had some clients who lost 70% of their traffic and 50% of their revenue to Panda. So what’s changed over the last year?

Organic is pushed down on the page, below the fold. Google is a business, so they’re focusing on the things that are making them money: premium ads, brands listings, etc.

He recommends a report by Jakob Nielsen called 2011 E-Commerce User Experience. There are enough best practices in it to radically change your business. One thing revealed in the report is that shoppers click ads. You’re going to have to pay. SEO isn’t free. Sometimes it’s just cheaper to pay for the traffic, so get your wallet out.

The authority knob is turned way up. Exact match domains and authority domains rank. He saw a search result for an exact match domain on “dog collars,” and the description said “under construction.” One manufacturer just offers a pdf version of their catalog, so they’re being outranked by other sites that have optimized content. [That manufacturer isn’t optimizing their pdf content. See the coverage of SEO Hot Topics and Trends and read Stephan Spencer’s segment on this.]

Any longtail brand search shows three or four links from the brand site whether or not they’re relevant. [He’s referring to sitelinks.] So now what? It is what it is. We have to do what we can as a small company to compete with the bigger companies.

SEO Tips

  • Be a brand.
  • Don’t not be a brand.
  • If you’re not a brand, get your wallet out, because you’re going to have to pay.
  • Track what matters. Compare year over year. E-commerce is cyclical. This is a long-term game.
  • Track your SEO revenue by individual, organic landing pages. Prioritize what pages to work on, link to, worry about.
  • Track SEO revenue by keyword buckets. Take all phrases containing a single word. Example bucket: cheap, and you can come up with cheap dog collars, cheap dog supplies, cheap dog vests, etc.

There’s one keyword term that they don’t care about because they don’t sell them—dog boxes, what you put in the back of your pickup to carry your bird dogs in. So what they did instead was create a page with the relevant keywords that links to the ten retailers they recommend who do carry dog boxes. They’re adding value to their site even though they don’t sell that particular item.

10 Common SEO Mistakes Many Retailers Make

  1. No original product content – If you use a manufacturer data feed, you’re not adding any value. You need to add value to your site.
  2. Thin category page text – If you just have a list of thumbnails, Google’s not going to like that
  3. Same template on thousands of pages – His template is actually based on hierarchy, where you are on the site
  4. Really big boilerplate text – Some people have thousands of words of just boilerplate text. Do you know how much content you have to write to offset that? You want extremely light boilerplate.
  5. Same nav links on every single page – Google discounts navigation links. You want your links embedded in your product descriptions.
  6. Writing unique content but giving it away – If you write unique content, firewall it from your feed, or it will create duplicate content, and they’ll outrank you
  7. Great unique content buried on pages not in the index – Make sure the page you’re pimping out is actually in the index before you spend a lot of time building it up
  8. Unique content hidden from spiders – Google can read javascript, but HTML is better.
  9. Multiple pages on the same domain with the same content – Duplicate content is duplicate content, no matter where it appears.
  10. Competing against your own original content with multiple subdomains – If you provide your feed to your own search company and they put it on your category page, you’re going to mess up your rankings

Rob concludes by emphasizing this: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Figure out what your focus is, and focus on it. The main thing is to keep revenue up. Focus on the revenue, not the traffic.

And that’s it! If you have an e-commerce site, you have some work to do!


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