Seven e-commerce SEO mistakes you can fix today

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There is no easy path to achieving excellent search engine rankings. Even putting together the perfect e-commerce website, with carefully chosen keywords in your product descriptions, doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. If you don’t know what you’re doing, sometimes your best intentions can have bad results – otherwise known as ‘negative SEO’. The good news is that although these common search engine optimisation (SEO) mistakes can sink an online business, they are easily corrected.

Google is ruthless with e-commerce SEO mistakes

The ultimate judge of your SEO is Google and they regularly update their algorithms. Sometimes these updates are minor, and other times they are massive, like Google Panda’s 2014 sweep. In its search for ‘low quality content’ and bad SEO practices, it devastated sites across the globe. At a rough estimate, around 7.5% of all English websites were affected by it and some online businesses never recovered.

Improving your profits by mastering your SEO therefore involves, firstly, doing whatever you can to increase your search ranking and secondly, keeping on top of any updates.

Continuously check and fix these seven SEO mistakes

Regularly checking your eCommerce website for these common SEO mistakes will, at a minimum, protect your site and may well also move you a way up the rankings.

Mistake 1: Stuffing your content with keywords

Using keywords is one of the most valuable strategies you can use for your website. When you include an unnatural number of your target exact-match keywords in your content though, you are keyword stuffing. Despite the fact that Google’s crawlers heavily penalise this, many e-commerce sites still seem to believe that using keywords means inserting them into every second sentence or tag. Your content should look natural despite strategically placed keywords.

Content that is stuffed with keywords is easy to spot because it’s hard to read. It looks something like this:

Image containing text with a border. Text reads: We sell custom handmade carpets. Our custom handmade carpets are available throughout South Africa. If you are looking for custom handmade carpets for your home or custom handmade carpets for your office contact us at www.customhandmadecarpets.co.za

Quick action:
Check your entire website, including product descriptions, meta tags and URLs, for overuse of keywords.

Mistake 2: Using only product-related keywords on product pages

While you do need to work out the best common keywords for your product, targeting your audience with the right keywords for them is equally important. To do this, clearly define your target audience according to customer personas. Find out their shopping habits, for example, whether they like to browse or if they tend to just buy the first item they find that matches their needs. Know what words resonate with them and what combination of words (long tail keywords) they will probably search for. Then use these in your product descriptions to get them to click through to your website.

For example, what is your target audience more likely to search for?

All-purpose blue raincoat
Or
Stylish blue raincoat for woman

Quick action:
If your click-through rate seems low, double and triple check your keyword set. Make sure that they target the right audience in the right way.

Mistake 3: Forgetting about title tags and meta-descriptions

Optimising your meta-descriptions and title tags with your keywords – without keyword stuffing – can really help your SEO ranking. The title tag is the heading that appears at the top of a search result while the meta-description, usually a bit longer, shows below that. For example:

Image of a google search result

Google uses these to figure out who your audience is, then displays your content to them. Title tags and meta-descriptions also tell the searcher who you are and what you’re all about, hopefully tempting them to click through to your site. Added to that, if what you’ve described here matches well with what the rest of your website offers, you’ll get an extra thumbs-up from the Google crawlers, improving your search ranking.

Quick action:
In 155 characters or less, create a punchy description that includes relevant keywords and closely matches the content on the page your visitors will click through to.

Mistake 4: Low quality content

A common question is whether it’s better to publish a lot of low quality content or less content that is of higher quality. The bottom line here is that content that is badly written, low on credible facts or not relevant to what you’re selling, or that links to dodgy websites, will quickly drop you down the search engine rankings. On the other hand, if you post less content that is of good quality, you may move up the rankings a bit more slowly, but you definitely won’t lose ground. First prize is to find a balance between the two, leaning more towards high quality. This graph, by Neil Patel, explains the quality vs quantity concept well:

Line chart comparing how much the quality of a post decline the more posts you get.

Quick action:
Start blogging. Write as many articles as you can easily manage per month whilst keeping the quality interesting, engaging and helpful to your readers. Post your articles on social media to build your credibility as an authority in your industry.

Mistake 5: Not allowing product reviews

Image sugesting a five star rating. Image contains five yellow stars next to each other with a hand poiting to the most right star.

Google loves fresh content, so it’s important to add new images and update your blog regularly. Another excellent way to boost your content is to allow customer reviews. This powerful eCommerce sales tool has been proven to increase conversion rates and profits. In fact, a massive 77% of consumers will go straight to the reviews before spending more time and money on your website. eCommerce stores with 50 or more reviews rank better than those without because they show credibility, something else Google loves. And as an added bonus, your customers are doing the work of adding new content for you.

Quick action:
Add a product review section to your e-commerce website. Also remember to add “product review” to your keyword set.

Mistake 6: You have error 404 pages

Image containing a 404 error message. Below the message the is an illistration of a broken cable

You might not realise that you have broken links resulting in error 404 pages. If you’re lucky, a customer will alert you to it. Before that happens though, hundreds of other potential customers will have landed on the page and navigated away, not just from the page but from your entire website. A 404 error not only annoys customers and increases your bounce rate, it’s also a wasted page. It doesn’t provide any data for Google crawlers and therefore doesn’t help your search engine ranking. It may even harm it.

Quick action:
Use Google webmaster/Google Search Console to check for errors, then fix them:

  • Run weekly spot checks on broken links. More on Crawl Errors in Google Search Console here.
  • Fix any broken links and recurring errors.
  • Where necessary, set up 301 redirects.
  • Include an apology on your 404 page, as well as helpful information for customers. It helps to be humorous.

Use a 404 page instead of a 301 redirect when:

  • The page is no longer useful (perhaps you no longer offer the product or service, or a blog post is outdated) and you want to delete it permanently;

AND

  • You can’t offer a similar product or content somewhere else.

In that case, simply tell visitors that it’s no longer available. Do not redirect them to your home page or some other unrelated content, which is more likely to annoy them than anything else.

Mistake 7: Slow website speed

Attention spans are not what they were. If your website takes too long to load, visitors get irritated and click away before your content has a chance to display. Google knows this and keeps an eye on your site speed. The better it is, the higher up the search rankings you’ll appear.

Managing your site speed comes down to two things. Firstly, your website should be fully optimised when your developer hands it over to you. Then as you add new content, like photos or videos related to products or blogs, you need to keep checking the speed. Ask your developer to optimise again as soon as it starts slowing down.

Quick action:
Test your site speed regularly by going to GTmetrix and entering your URL. Check the list of errors and get them fixed as soon as possible.

The bottom line…

SEO is an important marketing tool for your e-commerce business and getting it right is vital. Use this list of common SEO mistakes to identify and fix any errors as soon as possible, not just once but on an ongoing basis. You’ll boost your search engine rankings, and positively influence how people understand who you are and what you’re selling. This has a massive impact on your click-through rates and conversions, and therefore on your profits. It’s well worth the effort.


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