There are a lot of ways to drive traffic to your online store but, short of a customer who is already aware of you and typing in your URL directly, there’s no better traffic source than organic search.
Yotpo collated data from over 60 million eCommerce orders, representing some $2 billion in transactions across 120,000 online stores, to compile data on the top traffic sources.
Organic search came out above all other traffic sources, second only to direct traffic.
While there’s typically focus on just a few elements of search engine optimization to influence rank, like keyword research and quality of content, link building, or internal links, there’s a lot more that goes into ranking websites for organic search visibility.
A lack of optimization, or simple mistakes, could be all that’s keeping your products from being found in the search results.
Here are the most common SEO mistakes in eCommerce that are hurting your revenue and growth potential.
NEGLECTING THE AUDIENCE DURING KEYWORD RESEARCH
One of the most common mistakes in keyword research is focusing on words or phrases you think are the most relevant to your product.
That can make your product pages all but invisible in organic search because your customers aren’t searching for products the same way you know and understand those products. They’re often looking for solutions to a problem, or variations of your products, to meet a specific need.
If you’re only brainstorming basic keyword variations, then you’re failing to optimize for purchase intent.
That purchase intent is more frequently seen with long tail keyword searches.
Look at how customer segmentation and purchase intent can change based on the lengthening tail of the search query.
For example; rather than searching for “all season tires,” I would be looking for “all season tires <tire size> <vehicle make/model>.”
Another example would be a customer purchasing “hunter green waterproof hiking backpack” rather than just looking for “outdoor backpack” or “hiking packs.”
Think about how your audience would search for your product, including purchase intent, personalization, and the need they’re trying to fill.
This will make it easier to optimize product descriptions, images, titles, and supporting content for inbound marketing.
KEYWORD STUFFING TITLES AND DESCRIPTIONS
Don’t make the mistake of locking onto the most relevant keyword for a product and spamming or stuffing your products full of it.
Keyword stuffing does not improve relevancy, and it will hurt your optimization more than help you.
It also makes for a terrible user experience when your visitor has to trip over the same repetitive keywords injected into the copy while trying to learn about the product.
Not only will targeting just one or two base keywords (likely competitive ones) make it difficult to rank, you’ll put off the visitor with such spammy content. You run the risk of more bounces and less engagement, which also impacts your search rank.
Instead, use keywords and their variations naturally through your product descriptions. The search engines are aware of the correlation between words and phrases and uselatent semantic indexing. This is the best way to appear relevant for a range of keywords for a specific topic or product.
NOT CREATING UNIQUE PRODUCT CONTENT
Duplicate content continues to be a problem for site owners, especially in eCommerce, and it can make it virtually impossible for your content to be discovered in organic search.
It’s most common in online retailers with a large product selection, but I’ve seen it with even smaller startups trying to get their doors open faster. Rather than taking the time to create unique and optimized product descriptions, you instead opt to use the description from the manufacturer or supplier with either no changes or minor changes to inject keywords.
Unfortunately, this puts your product in direct competition with every other seller online using the same content.
If your page is no different from hundreds of other, it will be a struggle to get your product on page 1 of organic search.
Make sure you’re always writing unique product descriptions that accurately communicate the benefits and value of your products. These will be naturally optimized and will stand out in the search results while improving conversion rates (and reduce bounce rates.)
LEAVING OUT PRODUCT REVIEWS
Most eCommerce platforms now have review functionality built in, but if you’re not leveraging and encouraging customers to leave reviews, then you’re limiting your search optimization and visibility potential.
First, every review on your product page updates the freshness score and makes your content look up to date. Google loves serving up current content, as opposed to dated pages with no updates or activity.
Second, customers tend to use language which relates not only to how people search for products but about the problems they had and how the product solved that problem. This makes your product pages more search-friendly to your target audience.
A simple approach for this is to use automated emails provided by eCommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce, or through email platforms such a MailChimp.
NOT OPTIMIZING PRODUCT IMAGES
Search engines are getting better about indexing and understanding content on pages, but the crawlers still can’t read images—not the way we’d like them to.
They are designed to crawl the text and HTML of a page, which is why the HTML for images can utilize tags to label images with title and alt text. That text provides context for the image, lending to your overall page optimization while also making sure your images show up in relevant image searches.
Google has confirmed that consumers utilize Google image search to find products—it pays to optimize those title and alt tags for every product image. Each image can be an entry into your funnel. With recent updates, Google is even showing “similar items” under image searches.By using product meta data, your images will show with valid product markup.
POOR MOBILE COMPATIBILITY
Having a site that isn’t properly optimized for mobile is more of a user experience issue than an SEO problem. However, Google’s mission is to provide its users with the best search experience possible—and the best results for their queries.
That’s a substantial number of customers who won’t find you on mobile because Google knows it’s a poor shopping experience. It can be easily fixed by making your site mobile friendly.
SLOW LOADING SPEEDS
Customers have very little patience when they’re shopping online, especially from a mobile device. They aren’t willing to wait long for a page to load.
If you haven’t optimized your site to load content quickly, you’re not only hurting conversions, you’re negatively impacting your search rank. A delay of just one second in load time can result ina 7% reduction in conversion rates as those customers back out of your site and return to the search results.
As that bounce rate climbs, Google registers those bounces. The algorithm quickly assumes that your page/content must not be relevant for those search queries, and your rank will plummet.
The title tag of your page is one of the best indicators of what the page is about. It tells Google, as well as the user, what kind of product to expect on the other side of the click.
Don’t make the mistake of duplicating titles from manufacturers or suppliers or using generic titles that provide little information about the product. Instead, work all the relevant information possible into your title to help with establishing relevancy for long tail search queries.
Look at these two coffee pot listings on Amazon.
Both titles would appear for searches for “coffee pot” or “coffee maker.” However, the longer title provides more optimization for customers making specific product searches that include features.
NO CONTENT MARKETING
Internal link building among your own site pages is an important part of search optimization. Those internal links help provide context and link relevant pages together. You should make use of content opportunities such as help text, FAQs, blog posts, knowledge base articles, and more as a means to link to relevant products—especially blog posts.
Internal linking aside, every piece of content you create can act as a landing page. Customers seeking specific answers or problem-related searches could find their way to your store by way of a blog post or help article.
One survey from Brafton showed that 57% of marketers attribute new customer acquisition to their blog content. Once that content leads customers to your site, the internal links point them to the solution they’re looking for—your products.
Time and again, I see online retailers who only focus on loading product pages with optimized content. Those aren’t your only landing pages, though. A category page is already optimized for its category (like “computer accessories” or “outerwear”), and it also includes links to the specific products within the category.
Don’t stop there.
Add optimized content that helps define what the user can expect to find within the category.
A few short paragraphs can provide enough insight to improve their shopping experience, while also giving you just enough extra optimization to move your category page up to page one of Google or Bing for relevant search queries.
USING COMPLEX URLS THAT AREN’T KEYWORD-FRIENDLY
Having simple, speakable URLs is important in terms of SEO and gaining the attention of the customer.
While keyword use within your URL carries less weight than it used to, with Google, it still carries relevancy.
The URL you use is clearly visible in organic search results and can give users a clear idea of what to expect if they click.
Avoid using anonymous product IDs, SKUs, or dynamic URLs in your store.
A LACK OF PROPER ENCRYPTION
Lacking security encryption on your website is not only a major SEO mistake, it’s also a security risk—one that too many online retailers make.
Google’s mission, as I mentioned, is to provide the best experience for its users. It doesn’t want to send users to sites that are considered unsafe or not secure. Site security is a top priority for Google.
Google is even moving towardlabeling HTTP sites as “unsafe” if any information is transmitted, such as through a form or shopping cart. Address any security concerns with your store now—before they grow into further SEO and usability issues that cost you traffic and put customer data at risk.
Correcting these issues and avoiding these common SEO mistakes in eCommerce will go a long way toward improving not only the customer experience (and subsequent customer satisfaction scores) but also your organic search visibility.
Keep in mind this list isn’t comprehensive.
Search engines regularly update their algorithms, effectively altering what influences your site’s organic rank. Staying up to date on the search landscape and/or working with a professional SEO agency are vital to a profitable and growing online business.
Have you found any of these simple SEO mistakes in your online store? What kind of improvement did you see once you made corrections?
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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