Common SEO Issues That Affect Ecommerce Sites

Posted: 09 Jul 2015

We have worked with plenty of ecommerce sites, helping them to optimise their websites for search engines and visits from potential customers. While getting the visual content right is important for keeping and converting buyers on your site, SEO is vital to getting them there in the first place. For an ecommerce company that has dozens, if not hundreds, of product and category pages, on-site SEO presents a real challenge.

Regardless of what you’re selling, you need to check whether these SEO problems are plaguing your ecommerce site and fix them immediately.


1.    Bad/Duplicate Product Descriptions

If you have poor product descriptions (or you don’t have one at all), then you are negatively influencing your SEO. Search engines need to crawl text in order to determine your website’s relevance. Ecommerce websites that don’t have product descriptions, or descriptions that are too short or duplicated, are at risk of being ignored by search engines.

Fix It: Hire a copywriter (or do this in-house) to write useful descriptions that make customers and search engines smile. Product descriptions should have a tone that is on-brand, important information about the items you’re selling, and they should not duplicate other content on the site.


2.    No Breadcrumbs Navigation

It’s important for ecommerce websites to have breadcrumbs. If you’re not familiar with what those are, think of the story of Hansel and Gretel – they left crumbs of bread behind to find their way home. Breadcrumbs on the web help users see where they are on the site and where they have been.

Generally they look something like Home > Women’s > Clothing > Dresses. This helps Google know what the product page is about and gives your customers perspective. Google usually lists the breadcrumbs in search engine results, which can also improve your click-through rate.

Fix It: This needs to be custom coded, so either have it built into your website or speak to web designer to add this function.


3.    No Image ALT Tags

Search engines do not recognise images but they use ALT tags to understand what the image is about. If a search engine spider can’t read the text and ALT tags to understand what a photo is about, your product pages won’t be indexed or ranked properly in search engine results.

Fix It: Include descriptive information in Image ALT Tags with relevant keyword phrases. Include a description to improve the accessibility of your website.


4.    Titles That Aren’t Optimised

When customers come to your website via a search, it’s generally because they are looking for more information. That means they will rely on broad keywords (e.g. laptop) to help them learn more about specific products. With that said, some customers know exactly what they are looking for and may search for more specific terms (e.g. Acer Aspire Core i5).

Fix It: Don’t ignore long-tail keywords and be sure that the order of the attributes are correct. Are people searching for ‘touch-screen Acer Aspire’ or ‘Acer Aspire with touch-screen’?


5.    Sitemaps That Don’t Update

XML Sitemaps help search engines understand the structure of the content on a website. It guides them to the content you want displayed in results pages. If you have an ecommerce site that changes its inventory frequently, you must be sure that the XML sitemap is submitted to search engines when the products on your websites change.

Fix It: Use a content management system that updates the XML sitemap automatically when your inventory changes.


6.    Poor URL Structures

Having clean URLs is difficult with ecommerce websites as they URLs are dynamically generated and can change based on the products. If the URLs generated have the product ID and other random numbers, then users and search engines won’t understand what the website is about.

Fix It: If your URL structure is automatic, find out how to change that to make the URLs more SEO-friendly. They should read in a similar fashion to the breadcrumbs: If you do make changes to current URL structures, be sure to create 301 redirects so you don’t lose rankings or incoming links.