Five SEO tips for product pages on Ecommerce websites

Aimed at capturing a greater share of higher converting ‘long tail’ traffic

Ecommerce websites can inadvertently fall short of SEO best practice because, for example, the site may be accidentally riddled with crawler and duplicate content issues. Such issues are inherently linked to product optimisation, an oft-neglected aspect of SEO which is the focus of my post.

It’s surprising how often ecommerce sites neglect this dimension of SEO.

People tend to be distracted by the high volume head and middle keyword terms and forget to pay attention to the crucial keywords pertaining to the long tail.

Many sites succeed in capturing a fair amount of long tail traffic without paying particular attention to it. Nevertheless, it’s still important to capture as much of long tail traffic as possible because long tail traffic converts better than head term traffic.

Tip 1 – Duplicate product content

Serve products on a single URL whenever possible.

A single URL may not be achievable because products might occupy multiple categories, giving them alternative URL directory paths. For example;

A diesel denim shirt would be best served as

http://www.example.com/products/1992-diesel-denim-shirt

instead of sitting in alternative categories where duplication can occur, such as

http://www.example.com/diesel/diesel-denim-shirt.aspx

and

http://www.example.com/shirts/denim/diesel-denim-shirt.aspx.

In this scenario, it’s best to use canonical tags (that’s another post in itself).

A duplicate content problem may also occur if there are multiple variants of the same product; for instance, when a product comes in different sizes and/or colours. A couple of options to combat this problem are:

  • Serve on one URL – provide thumbnails to change the image if the colour is different but keep everything on one URL. This is an easier administrative option if you have less resource to write unique product descriptions for each variant of a product. Do make sure that the variant thumbnails have colour optimised alt text, or text below the thumbnail, to allow the page to be optimised for each product colour; for example, ‘black/blue/red bodycon diesel dress’.
    Pros– Easier to implement, lessens duplicate content riskCons – Products aren’t as optimal for variant specific search terms
  • Serve on unique URLs – a specific page per product variant allows you to optimise for each colour, or other product variant. This method still carries a duplicate content risk because products are still too similar despite some differences, such as colour and size.However, you can still avoid triggering duplicate content filters by producing a unique product description for each variation to more strongly differentiate each page.Pros– More optimal product pagesCons – Difficult to administer / come up with unique descriptions

Tip 2 - Product naming conventions

Make sure SEO is ingrained in the build and considered by everyone who updates the website. It is particularly important to include the admin people who add new products to the database.

It is common practice for product names to be re-employed in titles, headings and other key SEO areas, so product names must be created with search users in mind.

For example, a dress colour may be described as ‘cobalt’, a description unlikely to reflect most of the search terms searchers use when trying to find a ‘blue dress’. Changing the dress colour to ‘cobalt blue’ is likely to support optimisation of all sorts of relevant long tail search terms.

Instil a set of characteristics that must form part of the product title; an example from ‘fashion’ might look like this;

Colour Brand and product |Type | Category

Red Kurt Geiger Bikini Shoes | Courts | Shoes

Tip 3 – Product schema

Use product schema to make your listing richer. This technique has been proven to positively impact clickthrough rates:

Mark-up your products correctly using the schema found here.

You can also include review schema  and breadcrumb schema.

Tip 4 – Product templates

Apply the following best practice elements to your product template:

  • Unique Title
  • Unique Description
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Optimal heading
  • Friendly optimised URL’s
  • Unique product descriptions
  • Optimised alt tags on images

Tip 5 - XML sitemaps

Ecommerce sites generally have a large number of products, and therefore URL’s, within the site. It is vital to get the products indexed to capture the long tail. So, for SEO it is strongly recommended ecommerce sites submit all product URLs using XML sitemaps.

You can split your sitemaps up into the different categories and then bring them all together using a sitemap index file.

Here are some useful links to help you create search engine friendly sitemaps.

Once you have created your sitemaps, upload them to your domain and submit using Google webmaster tools.

Jimmy McCann Thanks to Jimmy McCann for sharing his advice and opinions in this post. Jimmy is Head of SEO at Search Laboratory in Leeds. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

With thanks to Bloggers for use of the image.

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  • Albie

    Thanks for the post. Very informative. What’s your advice for etailers that have large product catalogues who depend on third party fed content to populate their product pages? Like many of our competitors, we use a data feed for our product descriptions as there’s no way we can pen unique content for so many products. The use of content spinning tools to automatically differentiate it is widely touted as a bad idea. But given that there are plenty of other companies also getting their product content from the same source, the result is a raft of companies with identical product descriptions.

    Is this duplication of content a bad thing SEO wise or does the use of schema make it ok. After all, if two retailers offer the same product and use the same manufacturer fed product descriptions, shouldnt Google want to see some standardisation?

    I welcome your thoughts

    • http://www.jimmymccann.co.uk Jimmy McCann

      Hi Albie – that’s a great point. I would say that you definitely don’t want to be spinning any of that content. As stated, it isn’t ideal having the same product descriptions as everyone else, from an SEO point of view.
      You could focus your efforts into producing unique descriptions for your key / most popular lines, to give those pages the best chance of ranking well.
      For the rest of your products I would look at ways of making the pages more unique and rich in other ways:
      - Include UGC in the form of reviews
      - Include product videos
      - If the description is in continuous prose, try summarise and pull out key features and benefits in bullet points

      This way you are differentiating your content from the others, improving the ‘uniqueness’ and the user experience at the same time.

      I must emphasise that unique product descriptions is always the preferred option – this post has some good examples of ecommerce product descriptions http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/2689-10-Compelling-Product-Descriptions

  • Nicole Smith

    Hey I was looking for tips on E-commerce marketing strategies and this information has really proved to be beneficial. I really want to keep these points in mind because I am sure this will prove beneficial while I work on my page.

  • Olivias_Pet_Supply

    You raised a lot of issues that I am dealing with on my ecommerce website. This has been very helpful. I will be up all night tweaking my site thanks to this helpful post.

  • CuriousCatDigital

    This is such a helpful and practical article, thank you. I particularly liked the tip about using the breadcrumb schema. This seems much clearer from a usability perspective, do you have any idea how far this has increased click through rates for e-commerce sites? Would make an interesting case study to demonstrate its effectiveness to clients.

  • Monneyr De Guzman

    Thank you For This Information. Really Helps..

    Centro Towers

  • Monneyr De Guzman
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  • pankaj

    Hi My website is having more than 500000 webpages, and daily 100-200 pages are adding. So is it possible to make sitemap for my website , if yes, then how? please explain.

  • Curious

    Its very difficult to have unique product description. Is it ok if we keep the write-up same (prod desc) but change the name, title tag, URL, product specifications and one liner that describes the product?

    • http://www.smartinsights.com/ Dave Chaffey

      If you can’t change the description then distinct titles and descriptions will help distinguish from similar content – definitely!

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  • Bjorn

    Great article. We have seen an increase in traffic from long tail searches. We optimized our product pages at http://www.oakiwear.com, and now some of our previously weak selling products have become stronger. We’ve always overlooked SEO for the shopping cart, until now. Our Kids waders are finally building a national following, where they use to be completely unknown.

  • http://www.zaiqa.com/ lukman ahsan

    The article is really nice.All the information is provided in this article.The Internet marketing plays an important role in this field.

  • Max Ruso

    No one mentioned the structure of categories and subcategories and duplicate products can overlap on categories. store > department > Category > Sub-Category > product page

  • scrappony

    This seems to be an opposing view to the ever popular WordPress SEO plugin that allows for focus keywords that are generally 3 words – hardly long tail. Maybe that works for regular blogs but for product catalogs with a wide variety of products (like a hardware store) it seems more like lumping with the competition rather than being apart from the crowd.

    Thanks for recognizing the value of unique which is pretty much what a niche market is all about.

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