Organic. It’s become a healthy eating trend in recent years, but in the world of online business and eCommerce, organic traffic has been king for a long time.
A study by Optify states that websites ranked number one on Google received an average click-through rate (CTR) of 36.4 percent; number two had a CTR of 12.5 percent; and number three had a CTR of 9.5 percent. Rank 1 in Google gets you as much organic traffic as ranks 2 to 5 combined!
As eCommerce becomes more competitive, it gets tougher to rank higher. With the plethora of eCommerce platforms out there, it’s easy for someone to start a copy-cat store and try to rank above you.Rank 1 in Google gets you as much organic traffic as ranks 2 to 5 combined! Click To Tweet
Sure, it takes time to get to the front page of Google and advertisements are the best way to get you that initial traction. But, your competition is buying traffic too and that’s driving up the cost. Sooner or later it will become a losing strategy.
At the end of the day, if you’re in the business for the long run then there’s only one way to get ahead of all your competition, and that’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
SEO sounds daunting, and there are over 200 factors that Google takes into account when determining your site rank for a keyword. Still, most of it is pretty simple once you know what to optimize for. We can’t go through every ranking factor for your entire store in one post, so for now we’re just going to cover some of the important on-page factors for product page SEO.
To make it easier for you, we’ve created a downloadable checklist that you can refer to when you create a new product page or you audit your existing ones.
1. URL Structure
Let’s start right from the top, with your page URL. The best policy for URL structures is KISS (Keep It Simple, Store-owner!). It should be simple, relevant and understandable by both humans and search engines.
Too often will you see url structures like this:
You do not want to do this. By the way, this is a real URL for a low-rise skinny jeans product. I’ve just replaced the actual site name with ‘somesite’.
There are a number of things wrong with this URL structure. First of all, you have no idea what product this is just by looking at the URL. Not only is this confusing for humans, it also contains no relevant keywords for search engines. “Search for Product Id 34353316,” said no one ever.
URLs like this are typically generated by the software or platform you use to build your store. The random number at the end is a dynamic parameter. Now, some platforms do create more readable, static URLs but they still end up like this – www.somesite.com/womens/collections/product/blue-lowrise-skinny-jean.
The problem here is that the keywords you want search engines to pick up on, like lowrise ankle or skinny jeans, are all the way at the back. You are basically telling search engines that the most important elements of your url are womens and collections instead of your actual product.
An optimized product page URL should look like this www.somesite.com/blue-lowrise-skinny-jean. Your keywords come right after your domain so search engines understand that that’s what the page is about. They are also understandable by humans. When your product shows up on search results, Google will bold the keywords in the URL, so searchers know what to expect when they click on your link.
If you’re suffering from withdrawal symptoms after removing all those categories and collections from your URL structure, worry not! Breadcrumbs are the perfect place for them.
Breadcrumbs are the navigational links you see near the top of a page. Here’s what a typical breadcrumb looks like –
Not only do they help customers figure out where they are in your store, enabling them is also good SEO practice. They build internal links to other pages on your site and help define your link architecture.
3. Title Tags
Next up is the title tag, another extremely important signal of relevancy to both, humans and search engines. Think of the title tag as a succinct description of your product page’s content.
Much like with URLs, you want your main keywords to appear at the start of the tag. The optimal title tag formula is Primary Keyword | Secondary Keyword | Brand Name.
The secondary keywords and brand name, if applicable, are what make each product page title tag unique. It solves the problem of having multiple products of the same type, like skinny jeans. Adding words like ‘low-rise’ or ‘Levis’ to each product title tag also takes into account other words that customers might be searching for.
Here is an example of a title tag used by Aldo Shoes in html. It starts with the name of the shoe and the type of shoe, followed by the brand name Aldo.
And this is what it looks like when I search for ‘Afoalle Aldo shoes’ on Google.
What’s great about this title is it’s very descriptive and, at the same time, optimized for search engines. It’s immediately obvious to anyone who sees this that Afoalle shoes are flat women’s shoes by Aldo.
Other Header Tags
If possible, try to include your keywords in your H1, H2 and H3 tags. These are weaker signals but they do count. Using header tags in your page content also breaks it up and makes it easier to read, much like I’ve done with this post!
4. Product Descriptions
Most people tend to underestimate the usefulness of a great product description. Not only is it your sales pitch, it’s also the best way to differentiate your store from the various copycats out there. There are way too many eCommerce stores with product descriptions written by manufacturers.
When you use product descriptions written by manufacturers there are a few things that are working against you. First of all, these descriptions are distributed to all the other online stores selling the same product and, guess what, most of them don’t change it either.
What search engines now see are multiple websites with the same content. Ever since the Panda algorithm came out, sites with duplicate content have been getting penalized by Google.
To add fuel to the fire, manufacturer descriptions are not written to sell the product. Most often they just describe the product specs, which makes for a boring read.
A rule to remember when it comes to any SEO, not just product page SEO, is that search engines love unique and interesting content. Keep in mind that your content should be descriptive in a way that helps your customers when they are deciding on a product.
I was once at a Snowboard shop and I had a few questions about this one snowboard that had caught my eye. I asked the sales guy about it thinking he might have some interesting insights. What I wanted to know was what it felt like to ride this particular board. Did he know any customers that had it? How did it compare to the board I had at home?
I wanted him to sell me on the experience of riding this board. Instead, he simply turned the board around and started reading the specs, like I couldn’t read them myself!
I ended up buying a board from a different company that knew their stuff.
While specs are great, people want to know more than just that. That’s where great content comes in handy, not only with winning over customers, but also with winning over search engines.
Duplicate Product Pages
Now, you may have unique content on your product page, but it’s possible that your own store is automatically generating duplicate versions of these pages.
How does this happen? With some eCommerce platforms, depending on how you organize your products into categories and collections, you might see multiple URLs being automatically generated based on the path a user can take.
For example, if your ‘Blue Low-Rise Skinny Jeans’ product is featured under the ‘Frontpage’ collection, while also under ‘Women’s Clothing’, your platform might generate three URLs pointing to the same product –
Three different URLs, but all pointing to the same product. To customers there’s no difference, but in Google’s eyes it’s like having three different pages with the same content. To solve this you’ll need to use the rel=canonical tag to tell Google that it’s not duplicate content.
5. Product Reviews
According to eMarketer almost 70% of people look to online reviews before making a purchase. If your eCommerce store does not have product reviews, you are missing out on a big opportunity. Not only do people love, and look for, product reviews, but search engines love product reviews too.
Product reviews are great because your store is consistently being updated with fresh and unique content. The best part is it’s all free user-generated content, making it a very scalable and cost-effective way of adding new content to all your product pages.
They also help optimize your product page for long tail keywords that you’ve missed out on. When your customers leave reviews they might just use the same keywords that consumers are searching for.
As an example, I went to Google to search for a “classic accordion pleated dress” and the first result was a review that used both the keywords, dress and classic.
Product reviews also add micro-data to your page. This micro-data shows up as a line of text under each search result and gives your content a bit more context.
In this example you can see how the micro-data manifests as a star rating and number of reviews. It helps customers decide if they should click on the result or go to the next one.
6. Social Media Buttons
Ideally, you don’t want to distract customers from buying your product. It’s better to have someone buy a product than just share it. Better yet, have them buy it and share it later.
It’s worth testing different strategies but, in general, social shares can send signals to search engines about the popularity of your products. Each share acts like an upvote, indicating that your product is interesting enough for people to tell their friends about it. Besides, if each share brings back additional traffic to your site, that just an added bonus.
7. Product Images
We’ve already seen how product images help improve conversion rates on your store, but did you know that you can also optimize them for search engines?
Start by using descriptive image file names and Alt tags that incorporate your keywords. For example, skinny-blue-jeans.png is a much more descriptive file name than product2234.png.
The alt text is just the alternative text that browsers use if they can’t render the image. Again, a keyword-rich description helps both search engines and humans.
Finally, make sure your image file sizes aren’t so large that they take a long time to load. This will slow down your page speed, causing customers to drop off and search engines to lower your ranking.
8. Product Videos
A video increases consumers’ understanding of your product offering by 74%. That’s impressive but, even better, these videos actually drive 12% of the viewers to buy the product!
Product videos aren’t just great for conversion rates, they also allow you to differentiate yourself in search results. You know that huge video sharing site, Youtube? Yeah, Google owns that site.
When uploading product videos to Youtube, ensure that the titles, tags and descriptions are optimized for your keywords. This makes it searchable on Youtube, and the video might even show up on a Google search if optimized well.
After it’s up on Youtube, make sure you embed it on your site and allow others to embed it too. As more people embed your video, it will get ranked higher in Google.
Go Forth And SEO!
Phew! That was a lot to take in. Now, it’s just a matter of putting your head down and optimizing your product pages. It’s time consuming and repetitive, but we’ve created a checklist that will help you speed things up.
If you don’t have too many products, it’s best to just go through all of them in one sitting and optimize them for search engines. If you can’t finish in one sitting, break it up over a few days. As you look through each product page, go over the checklist and optimize each point. In the future, when you add more products, you can use the checklist to optimize the pages as you create them.
Remember, you won’t immediately start ranking on the front page of Google. This takes time, but eventually your store will start to surface for certain keywords and you’ll slowly beat out your copy-cat competitors. And if you’ve already done everything in this post, check out Part Two for some advanced, black belt stuff.
What are your best product page SEO tips? Let us know in the comments!