Some Quick SEO Reminders for E-Commerce Sites

A lot of people these days are all about Web 2.0 or Web 3.0 and it shows. Have you seen some of the “crap” that is on the Web these days? Sure it might be flashy and fancy… from a design point of view, but quite often, it sure does not help with the user experience or with the ability to find relevant results in a given search engine. I guess by title, I am an organic search strategist. I focus on SEO initiatives to help my clients intercept their target audience. I help them provide content that is useful, informative and relevant to their audience.
I do happen to work with some of the world’s most well known brands which happen to have large commerce sites. As a result, I evaluate their competition’s web presence as well. In 2009, I am amazed to see just how much fundamental organic optimization these large e-commerce sites lack. Even worse is the fact that some (many?) in the Search industry also overlook the fundamentals of SEO. So while this may be a refresher for many of you, I do know that there are some out there who will find the following SEO reminders useful.
SEO Reminders for e-Commerce Sites
1. Site Architecture is important for SEO success – guess what? If you cannot map out a search friendly architecture and layout of your site, you are simply not going to do well in the search results of the engines. Some key points to remember:

  • Structure your site in a logical manner
  • Avoid burying important content 4 or more folders deep in the hierarchy
  • Create search engine friendly URLs
  • Use canonical URLs
  • Use the canonical tag to address duplicate content concerns
  • Keep it clean!

2. Create Unique Content on your Product Pages – add to the vendor supplied product description copy that you are given. Every other site that sells the same product will also feature this content. The engines are looking to index useful, informative and unique content. Help them out by continuing to publish fresh and informative content. You will also receive the benefits of link value from other site and blogs that link to this content.

3. Use an SEO friendly CMS (Content Management System) – ensure that your CMS system allows you to populate unique title and meta tags and that you are able to add content as required.

4. Avoid Using Java Script in Navigation – while the engines are getting better at reading JS, they are still not there just yet. Make sure that the search engines can follow your links and avoid placing your main navigation (top nav, side nav, footer nav) in JS. Consider using CSS and include files as a way to create your site navigation. Again this is just SEO 101 best practice type of stuff.

5. Create and Update Your HTML Sitemaps – as you push out new content to the web make sure that you add it to your HTML sitemap

6. Create and Update XML Sitemaps – e-commerce sites tend to be very large. One way to ensure that your content is being crawled and indexed efficiently is to create and submit XML sitemaps. Using these sitemaps you can actually set the priority of which pages you consider to be the most important as related to other pages on your site. Communicate this to the search engines to ensure efficient indexing of your site.

7. Avoid hiding your content from the search engines – things like Flash, JS and frames might be useful from a design perspective but really they can wreak havoc from an SEO perspective. Help the engines find your content and make it easier for them to crawl and index.
I understand that to some of you this may be elementary SEO, but why oh why are so many sites neglecting these fundamental practices. If you are an e-commerce site and are currently having difficulty in gaining visibility in the major search engines, start with the basics. Trust me, if you have failed to address the fundamentals you will be limited in your ability to place well in the results. The longer your wait to address these issues the harder it is to overcome them. In case you have not yet noticed the Web is a hyper-competitive environment. Failure to address the fundamentals can most definitely have an impact on the bottom line that you generate from your online marketing efforts. Why restrict yourself? The need for fundamental SEO should be the first place you start when trying to optimize your web properties.