Without strong organic search visibility, eCommerce companies face a world of hurt. Poor SEO execution means people searching online for the items you sell will buy from competitors — and even though eCommerce companies are relatively astute about SEO, certain errors are common. Here are the most important ones to avoid:
Poor Mobile Experience
These days, any article about SEO errors should start with mobile optimization, since Google initiated a major “mobile-friendly” algorithm update on April 21, 2015. Any eCommerce company without a mobile-friendly website was in trouble already, and is now headed straight for disaster.
Lead generation websites usually have a relatively easy time becoming mobile-friendly. A responsive website design can rework existing designs and content into templates that stack content for easy mobile viewing and navigation.
For eCommerce companies, the task is a bit more difficult and requires a lot of strategic thinking prior to execution. For instance, an eCommerce site with 1,000 product pages could overwhelm a mobile user. Should the company pare down the mobile site to, say, 100 products? If so, which products should be displayed?
In addition, product page content designed for desktop viewing only may be too dense and incorporate too many visual elements for mobile viewing. If this is the case, major content and design revisions will be necessary.
Regardless of the difficulty, eCommerce companies must make mobile-friendliness a high priority starting immediately. If this isn’t the case, you are committing the SEO error of all errors.
Using Internal Thinking instead of Customer Thinking
Inside-the-box thinking is the undoing of companies in more ways than one can count. It certainly creates major problems for SEO campaigns. The problem manifests itself in a number of ways, any of which can lead to SEO disaster. Here are important internal-thinking errors that must be avoided:
- Strategically, focusing on products you want to sell versus products customers want to buy causes problems. Search volume must be considered! If only 1,000 people are searching for the product you want to sell and 10,000 people are searching for a peripheral product, you don’t want to miss 9,900 opportunities to bring search engine users to your website.
- Product descriptions written in internal language can confuse website visitors and deter sales. Companies often have their own product numbers and brand names — descriptions that mean nothing to a user. But a Web page must capture user attention within seconds! To do so, product descriptions must use common customer language so as to be immediately recognizable.
- Customer language should also be incorporated into URLs, because doing so makes your website more intuitive and easy to navigate. URLs using technical product descriptions or some type of internal numeric coding have a neutral to negative effect on conversions, and also convey a brand message that says, “we care more about us than you.”
- Forms become overly cumbersome when internal thinking dominates. IT, sales and marketing departments love collecting data. However, if your Web forms have too many required fields, guess what? Potential customers will give up midstream and buy elsewhere.
Confusing Design Elements
Too many design elements, poorly placed design elements, and improperly programmed design elements are all too common, and all have a detrimental effect on SEO.
- Too much design confuses users, reducing conversions. What’s the point of spending thousands on SEO to get users to your site, only to drive them away when they get there? Today, and largely because of mobile Internet experience, users prefer clean, uncluttered design. It’s easier to find what you need when there’s lots of white space.
- Poorly placed design elements also reduce conversions. Links to the phone number, shopping cart and strong offers must appear where users are likely to see them — in the header, in “sticky” navigation menus on mobile display, sidebars and the footer.
- Improperly programmed design elements, or overly intricate ones, reduce page loading speed — a very important ranking factor for Google, to say nothing of its importance to user experience. Involved, intricate design tends to have a lot of appeal inside the box (we’re back to internal thinking again), but the real question is, do customers need it or want it?
As an important SEO side note about design, be sure not to rely on design elements for content delivery. Google can’t read or can’t easily read text within a design, so keyword optimization opportunities will be lost.
Poor on-site content execution kills SEO campaigns. The most common and damaging errors:
- Copying manufacturer content in product descriptions is an SEO FAIL. Google ranks what it deems to be the original source of content, not cheap imitations. Your product pages will be ignored. Always use unique content.
- Too little content may lead Google to think your Web page lacks authority and usefulness, again causing a serious reduction in organic visibility. Incidentally, too little content may also impede conversions — are you telling enough of a story to persuade users to buy?
- Speaking of stories, tell them. Internally focused content that is feature-heavy and benefit-light does not tell users how your products or services make their lives easier or solve their problems. Case studies, user reviews, testimonials and benefit statements are far more effective.
- Duplicate content issues plague eCommerce websites due to shopping cart functionality, multiple URLs and other factors. By implementing txt files behind the scenes, most duplicate content issues can be resolved, and it is important to do so from an SEO perspective, because you want Google to always rank the version of the page that is strategically important to you.
- Failing to add fresh content on a regular basis hurts SEO performance, because it leads Google to think your website is not up to date, vibrant and innovative. Fresh content can take the form of new pages, new content on existing pages and reworked content on existing pages. An on-site blog is an excellent way to add content, with the additional benefit of being a great way to optimize long tail keywords beyond the scope of your main website.
Have an Off-site Strategy
In closing, having a website that avoids all of the errors listed above is still not enough to secure top SEO performance. A sound SEO strategy involves on-site and off-site activities, with link development being the major off-site task.
Relevant, high-value inbound links must be earned, usually by writing content for off-site websites and blogs that are extremely relevant and useful to your target market. A poor inbound link profile is the Achilles’ heel of many e-commerce SEO campaigns. Be sure to keep your off-site momentum going after you’ve resolved any on-site issues, and you’re SEO-generated conversions will grow.