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Content for e-commerce, the SEO perspective

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Things are getting wildly exciting lately for us all. Our three companies are merging into Cardinal Path and all the while we have to keep our feet on the ground doing what we know best. So, before our next free webinar “Selling Through Search: SEO for E-commerce Sites” March 23rd 10am PT, here we go with another post relating to SEO for E-commerce.

If you missed SEO for Ecommerce Series I: Organic traffic performance for e-commerce sites, take a look at it.

We all know that, when it comes to SEO, content is (close to) king, but e-commerce sites have some peculiarities. Let’s review by page type.

Home page

There is no such thing as a relevant (read: well ranked) page that does not have decent original content… well, actually there is one exception: the home page.

Take a look at the “Text-only version” of the Google cache of any online shop and you will be surprised. Many of them don’t have a single H1 or paragraph defining what they sell, nor even a message for visitors explaining at a glance why they should be there.

Couple of examples: Zara’s and Victoria’s Secret’s home pages. They are nothing more than a bunch of links to internal sections as you can see in the next image.

SEO content for e-commerce

“We are big, well known brands. Why should we explain what we sell if customers are coming to us anyway?”

Wrong approach, a significant part of your pie is being eaten by competitors. We are talking about non-branded traffic here and there is a lot of competition for “buy men shoes”.

Category pages

This is the place where well converting long tail keywords reside.

Browse category pages in 20 or 30 e-commerce sites, kind of disaster again. Ok, they usually have an H1 but not a simple 150 words of text describing the category and if they have something close to it, you bet it’s not properly optimized.

By the way, it’s interesting how this e-commerce introduces verbs into category headings.

SEO Category h1

This error is a missed opportunity to optimize content for more generic keywords – those not related to the brand of the products shown, unless we are talking about “browse by brand” obviously.

Second typical error: you want visitors to see products not literature, right? So here comes the old trick of placing optimized text in the upper part of the html document for the search engines to find right off the bat, but making it appear at the bottom of the displayed page via CSS.

Some other common errors in product listings:

  • Title of the product not having a link to product page
  • No short description for every single product listed
  • Images with links to a product page before product name link (in html order)
  • Images not having  ALT text

ecommerce category pages SEO

It is really hard to get some relevancy, rankings and traffic for those category pages. Nobody links to them naturally, so, being deprived of external link juice, we have to do our best to drive relevancy with good content and internal linking structure.

List of basic unique texts you need to have per category

  • <title> text
  • <h1> text
  • Meta-description text
  • Category description text
  • Alt text for category image (if any)
  • Anchor text for link from home page, navigation menu or top category (if it is a subcategory)
  • Short description text for category pages

Products pages

Missing H1’s again? Semantic HTML requires them, and I want to express their importance:

Please, have one – and only one – H1 and don’t use <strong> tags to create sub-headings, use them to highlight few relevant keywords instead.

No need to go spammy but far from hurting it would help including some generic terms in there, example.

  • <h1>Canon EOS 60D Digital SLR with 18-200 IS Lens</h1>
  • <h1>Canon EOS 60D Digital SLR Camera with 18-200 IS Lens</h1>

This screen capture comparing two different sites shows what I mean.

SEO category pages content

Do I need to say that some kind of description is required for every product page? Yes I have to, especially since the latest Google algorithm update devaluated low quality content pages.

Manufacturers will provide product descriptions which you can put on your site, but unless you have a exclusive contract, your content is unlikely going to be unique.

You don’t just need bullet lists of features and specifications, but real text describing the product.

List of basic unique texts you need to have per product

  • <title> text
  • <h1> text
  • Meta-description text
  • Product description text
  • Alt text for product images
  • Anchor text for link from category pages
  • Short description text for category pages
  • Alternate product description for external channels

External selling channels

The same way you don’t want to reproduce manufacturers’ descriptions, you should provide some alternate description text for the external channels your online shop uses to promote products, (via RSS in many cases) such as affiliate programs, shopping search engines, and social media sites.

Corporate pages

Maybe you target a narrow niche, let’s say “mobile phones customized cases”, so you may think that trying to compete for keywords like “mobile phones” is a waste of time, but that is not the way I like to picture it. Those generic words placed somewhere at the top of the content structure makes for better definitions of your site, content, products or services.

Long tail keywords are great but head generic ones set the right scenario for what you are presenting.

Something I learned while working with my favorite content strategist, Gonzalo Arrabal, is corporate pages, “who we are”, “what we do” and some other literature, are a nice resource to reinforce the more general keywords bucket.

Checkout pages, or any pages behind a  login form, don’t add any value, so no need to worry about them at all.

Conclusion

To wrap things up, we can say there is no magic bullet and that creating so much unique content is a titanic job, we know, but you really need to have it. Pure hard work. No pain no gain.

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