Ecommerce SEO: The Mistakes That Stifle Rankings & Sales

Travis Bliffen
by Travis Bliffen 16 Jan, 2023

Starting a simple blog or local service business website is one thing, but when it comes to starting and running a full fledged online store, you are in a whole different ball game.

Whether you are planning to tackle the SEO yourself or you plan to hire an agency to do the heavy lifting, you must make sure you are using ecommerce SEO best practices while avoiding common pitfalls if your store is to be a success.

Today, we are going to cover 5 all too common mistakes you need to be on the lookout for.


1. Product Descriptions


Even though it's widely known to SEO professionals, an overwhelming number of online stores are still copy/pasting descriptions from the manufacturer, especially on stores that dropship products. If you have 1K,10K, or 100K products, writing descriptions for all of them can be costly, time consuming, or both.

Fortunately, the only products that need unique descriptions are those you want to rank. Start by re-writing your main product pages. If you have hundreds or thousands of products with duplicate content, simply set those pages to 'no-index' so that they aren't be counted against the overall quality of your site. Over time, as you correct product descriptions, switch the pages back so that they get picked up and can potentially rank.


2. Duplicate Content


Copying and pasting descriptions from the manufacturer is a good example of content that is duplicated from an external website. However, that is not the only type of duplicate content you must be on the lookout for.

Another common issue with ecommerce websites is duplicate pages within your own site. There are several reasons this could happen, but, most commonly it is one of the following:

+ Lack of Canonical Tags
+ Failing to No Index Dynamic URLs
+ Short or Thin Content Pages

In some cases, a combination of all three can be found on a site. This is where the technical site audit becomes important as a correct review will pinpoint the cause and provide a sitewide solution in many cases.


3. Keyword Cannibalization


Sometimes you may have more than one page on your site that talks about a keyword. If you do not interlink those pages correctly, Google may be confused as to which page you actual want to show up for that specific keyword.

What makes this even more confusing at times is that creating multiple pieces of content around a topic can be beneficial when done correctly.

To avoid competing pages, you must be mindful of how you internally link to competing pages and how "optimized" they both are for the same keywords. If you are currently having issues with competing pages, you could also consider merging them into one stronger page.


4. Redirect Chains


While smaller websites can also have this issue, large online stores are notorious for it. A redirect chain is when a page redirects to another page, that in turn redirects to the destination page. While people don't set out to create these chains, it is something that can easily slip through the cracks.


For example, let's say you get rid of a certain watch on your store. A few months later, you get rid of that entire brand, but you do have a very similar product people will love. Chances are, when the first watch was removed, the product page was redirected to the brand category page. Once the brand was no longer carried, you redirected the entire category to a similar new category page. Boom, now you have a redirect chain.


Like internal duplicate content issues, this is something that can be discovered while performing a technical audit on the site. Once found, fixing this one is straightforward.


5. Improper Robots.Txt File Setup


Earlier we mentioned how some duplicate content could be caused by having dynamic versions of the same URL indexed. This is just one of the many issues that could be avoided with a proper robots.txt file setup.


Another issue common to online stores is "pricing bots", which are simply crawlers built to go through your site and pull in product pricing in bulk. Explicitly defining which bots can and cannot access your site can prevent this from happening. In addition to pricing bots, your site could also have "scraper bots" harvesting your images, content, and other site information to syndicate on their own sites.


There are many examples of potentially harmful bots that can be blocked in the robots.txt file if you know where to look. Taking some time to educate yourself or working with someone well-versed in proper robots.txt setup for online stores can have an incredible impact upon how well your store performs.


Just as leaving out important directives can be damaging, including erroneous directives can also cause a major headache. On many occasions, web developers, SEOs, and other online marketing providers have left pages as 'no-index, no-follow", what's worse, sometimes it takes months for this error to be noticed!


Like the earlier issues, a solid technical audit will identify silly mistakes like this that would otherwise destroy your sites ability to rank.


Just like a car mechanic isn't an expert in every vehicle, not every SEO agency has the experience and capabilities within their team to execute a proper ecommerce SEO strategy.


A qualified web developer, an experienced technical SEO analyst, and a content strategist must all work together seamlessly if you want your online store to succeed.


Do your homework, watch out for the mistakes above, and remain vigilante if you want your store to turn into a profitable, long term venture.