How to Do Technical SEO for Ecommerce Websites
Over the past two years, several companies have moved to online models due to changing market conditions.
Competition is rapidly intensifying in many sectors.
Some companies have had good results with out-of-the-box e-commerce templates and solutions. But with such competition in search, you need to provide the best possible user experience.
At some point, you’ll have to wade through the technical side of your website to avoid mistakes that can hurt search performance, especially if you plan to migrate your site or move away from out-of-the-box services.
While you can run even large e-commerce stores on platforms like Shopify, you still need to take the time to understand the technical tasks these platforms perform for you.
A crucial part of this is technical SEO for e-commerce stores, which falls into two areas: technical proficiency and technical optimization.
Website Architecture and URL Structures
I use the term architecture in relation to site structure because structure often causes people to focus only on the structure of the URL.
The architecture of the idea site must follow that of a standard catalog.
Catalogs have been around for centuries.
If you go back over 100 years and look at classic Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogs from the 19th century, very little has changed in the way we structure offline catalogs and even our e-commerce websites today. today.
Years of repetition have effectively trained users to become familiar with this format, thus following a simple site structure of:
Home > Categories > Sub-Categories > Products
It’s something that users are familiar with and makes logical sense. It should then transcend your URL structure, which should be consistent and descriptive of the page (for users).
Products should also be in their own category-independent subfolder, which means you can place them in various relevant categories without creating product page duplication.
- Category page: example.com/category
- Subcategory page: example.com/category/niche-1
- Product sheet: example.com/p/product-name or website.com/products/product-name
From experience, trying to build e-commerce URLs with keywords is not a “needle-moving” tactic.
If you take leading eCommerce platforms like Shopify and Salesforce Commerce Cloud, they force you to have URL structures that include subfolders and product SKUs. And these websites can compete just as well with any other.
Sitemaps (XML and HTML) and Google Search Console setup
An HTML sitemap may not be strictly necessary for e-commerce websites to work, but it’s a good idea. HTML sitemaps can allow for better internal linking to category and subcategory pages. They help track and organize your pages and help users navigate your site.
It’s also not imperative to have an XML sitemap, but they can help Google with URL discovery.
And when you crawl your URLs connected to the Search Console Inspection API, you can also identify potential issues (e.g. a category page is only found via an XML sitemap and not via an internal link) .
To get better (less filtered) data and more insight into the quality of your pages, you can:
- Submit Structured XML Sitemaps to Google Search Console
- Add a Google Search Console property for each subfolder branch of your website: yoursite.com/clothes, for example.
This data can help you determine if you need to improve the value proposition and quality of certain categories, subcategories, and product pages.
You can also incorporate some form of XML sitemap into your homepage design to provide a natural crawling path to pass PageRank from the homepage to categories and subcategories without lists of unwanted links, like this example of the MoneySupermarket.com home page:
Inventory management and flexible 404s
When your products are out of stock, your product page templates take this into account.
This can cause Google to interpret the page as a soft 404, removing it from indexing, meaning you lose traffic and rankings for search terms associated with the page.
If a user searches for a specific product and lands on your page only to find that they cannot buy it, they will have a negative brand experience.
But it is also an opportunity to sell other products or to entice the user to wait until you have it back in stock.
You can do this through automation.
When a product model stock level reaches zero, if it displays an out of stock message by default, Google will identify it as a soft 404. To avoid this, bring similar products and items to the product page. product to create a different value proposition. The user has tips on what to do and you can avoid the 404 soft error.
For example, suppose your stock of Brand X HSS 3mm drill bits has run out. Add an automated check that replaces the “out of stock” message if you have similar products in stock. You can do this using your product information management (PIM) system. Change the template to display similar brands and products that meet the same or similar criteria; in this case, a 3 mm drill bit.
If you also operate physical stores, you can change the messaging to “out of stock online” and direct users to a store locator.
You can also create templates that use your PIM to identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities for other pages.
And if you use custom branding in your PIM, you can direct customers to similar products based on different variables (e.g. size, color, shape, launch event).
These PIM integrations with product pages can also help prevent negative user experiences.
Using PIM data to add value to the user should be a common practice to optimize your online store. The extra usability can help your product pages stand out from your competitors, especially if your competitors have similar pages or value propositions.
Using structured data can help improve an e-commerce website’s products in search results by providing rich snippets in the SERPs. It also clearly presents the information to search engines, helping them to understand all the basics of the product (for comparison with competing websites).
Rich snippets can help improve click-through rates from the SERPs to your pages, but they are not guaranteed.
For product pages, the product schema is important and can help examine rich snippets.
For your category pages, you can also use the ItemList schema. If you have local stores, you can include the LocalBusiness schema on individual store pages.
In addition to the product schema, the site should also use other types of generic schemas, including:
- Bread crumb.
- Sitelink search box.
A polished technical website provides a better user experience and can help you gain an edge over the competition. If you want to learn more, check out SEJ’s technical SEO category or this comprehensive eCommerce SEO guide.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal
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