The marketing practice of search engine optimization is more difficult for merchants than any of the other triad of Web professional endeavors (information publishing and service provision being the second and third). Each has their own unique challenges and market complexities, and rarely are they interchangeable from one industry to the next.
E-commerce SEO isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard either. Successful SEO in the Internet retail space requires nothing more than an enterprises' commitment to providing the best experience possible for users, one that's so unique and compelling that others are compeled to share and provide a citation to a product or brand. It’s not always easy to get to that perfect virtual place however, and that comes as quite a letdown for those pursuing traffic aggressively and mechanically. Website marketers and digital enterprises today must take creative, almost artistic approaches to the user experience, crafting a relationship and bond that stands the test of time and is primed to help them generate the awareness necessary to acquire citations.
E-commerce merchants aren't all the same however. Some sell millions of products, while others sell but a virtual handful. Some have small budgets and large content development or social media team, and others don’t. Some are given unique products, and others are given replicas to promote. Whatever the situation, the SEO strategy put in place by e-commerce merchants needs to be well developed, addressing competitiveness of the market, production differentiation and community building – but it ultimately all comes down to creating and crafting an exceptional product and brand experience for users. What's good for users is often good in the eyes of the search engines too.
Consider these formulas and solutions for e-commerce SEO...
Website Architecture Formula
E-commerce brands must organize and structure their website properly. Every merchant should have high-velocity areas, website sections where it’s easiest (and most likely) to monetize as a result of being popular among users as defined by the volume of traffic, or in the average order value of particular pages. These pages should be profiled within navigation and accessible within no more than one click of the home page. If you’re struggling with e-commerce SEO, one solution is to develop a more intelligent website and internal linking structure based on keyword research and site-wide conversion metrics (see Formula 4) that is contextually relevant to user intent and that responds in time with your users and your business.
Identify duplicate content causes and implement solutions immediately. The cause of these issues for Internet retailers is often the information architecture and website structure of the e-commerce software being used. Products attributes, pagination markers and session IDs in URL parameters are just some of the causes (most often caused by shopping carts and search functionality). The solution is to fix the lingering duplicate content issues through the use of 301 redirects, blocking bots from crawling files/folders within robots.txt, as well as the rel=canonical tag, and then leveraging the URL removal features of the webmaster tools offerings from Google and Bing.
Content Development Formula
Develop semantically relevant content to the user's query. E-commerce merchants fail most often because they don't provide users with the information they need to make informed buying decisions, or the search engines the information they need to make good decisions on page relevance. One solution can be to improve relevance by automating the on-page optimization elements, using the product name in some construct within the page title, integrating product names into H1 tags, and using rich snippets where appropriate.
Increase awareness to accelerate the acquisition of Web-based citations (links). The core of search engine optimization for e-commerce merchants is acquiring relevant and meaningful links. There's never been a wildly successful product that didn't have its advocates (or potential advocates) - find them, nurture the relationship and reward them. Search for those using and discussing similar products, find out who's doing the digital talking, and introduce them to your product. It's not as sinister as it sounds. Those who end the day with the most friends and respect (and citations) win. You can’t do that by not aggressively getting out in front of target audiences.
It should go without saying that exploring the website analytics data to understand what impact the previous formulas and solutions caused is essential. Did removing duplicate content improve rankings? Are users staying on-site longer as a result of developing additional content? Has there been a marked rise in conversion as a result of an awareness/link building/outreach campaign? Exploring the information available within your analytics account is the only way to know for sure.