A Guide to Improving eCommerce SEO and User Experience
Have you been able to digest this recent news – ecommerce sales exceeded $1 trillion in 2012?
All those ecommerce folks who want to do even better in 2013 and beyond have been brainstorming harder and are up to something bigger.
They are revisiting their strategies to give their customers the best possible shopping experience … and to make sure that search engines not only find, crawl and index their store well but also help them in conversions more than ever before.
You’re right – they’re thinking more and more about semantic search and mobile, too.
So how can you make sure that your ecommerce store doesn’t become a needle in a haystack and even the ever-evolving search engines embrace it?
How can you improve your ecommerce store’s shopping experience in such a scenario?
Here we discuss three key areas that you must consider – sooner than later.
Though Online Shoppers Are Scanners, Content Drives Them Still
Content, otherwise king, is unfortunately one of the most overlooked things in an eCommerce website. Many stores try to keep things very precise. Giving all the importance to pricing and images results in issues like:
- Less content
- No video content
- Content copied from the manufacturer’s site
- A partial amount of the same content on many pages
Let’s take them one by one. Less content is the category in which you only provide graphics, title and a mole hill-like description. This is bad for your ecommerce store on two fronts: a) you can’t make your customers stay longer on your page; b) you can’t convince them to buy your products.
Adding a video, however, takes care of both these things: According to a report by TippingPoint Labs, watching a product video can influence the decision of as much as 84% of the buyers, and when engaged with a video, they stay 2 minutes longer at average than they would otherwise.
Adding a product video can help you get more organic traffic, too.
While product videos are great, both for user experience and SEO, they can’t possibly predominate and eclipse the importance of unique, compelling content on each page. As the usability guru, Jakob Nielsen eloquently put it:
“The key downside of e-commerce is that users cannot touch, feel, see, taste, or smell the offerings. Nor do customers benefit from the essential credibility boost of having the purchase in hand before paying the price. That is, there’s no tactile experience. Online shopping is purely an information experience. (Or user experience, as we like to say.) This again places a huge premium on good content. And many sites fail to deliver.”
So to give your customers a wholesome experience, you must strive to:
- Build confidence, trust and credibility through your content,
- Never ever hide your store policies and contact information,
- Make sure that you never misinform or provide incomplete information to your customers,
- Tell them all they would like to know about a product.
Copying the copy of the iPhone 5 from Apple’s site, however, is something you don’t want to do to attract your customers. This won’t lead you anywhere and would rather incur the wrath of Google Panda. Google has always been pretty serious about scraped content and also recommends you avoid “having duplicate or near-duplicate versions of your content across your site”.
SEO Tips to Minimize Content Issues:
- Use robot.txt to block the duplicate content generating areas like archives
- Use noindex meta tag for the pages that you don’t think should be indexed and provide much value
- Use canonical tag to guide search engines about the pages you want to give importance to.
- Use rel=”next”, rel=”prev” and “view all” attributes to take care of pagination.
Enough Is Enough – Evolve Your Store with the Ever-Evolving Search Engines
Rich Snippets Make Shoppers Click
It’s been long since Google announced rich snippets for shopping sites, but not many are able to make the best use of them – some, unfortunately, aren’t using them at all. In shopping sites, rich snippets can be used them for products and their reviews.
How to be eligible for rich snippets, you ask? You need to mark up your store’s pages in one of these formats: Microdata (recommended), Microformats or RDFa. Google helps you test them.
- Make sure you don’t mark up incorrectly or manipulatively.
- Content is vital here as well. It must be original and updated.
- Make the summary of your Web page (in its mark-up) useful for users – and of course relevant to what the page is about.
- Never ever miss out on collecting the reviews of your customers. It’s great for generating unique content and keeps search engines coming back. It also helps you give online shoppers what they want. (More than 60% of online shoppers look for reviews before making a purchase.)
The Future is Mobile
Mobile is on a bull run and is indisputably the future. And we all have been experiencing it firsthand. The desktop-only days are long gone. Mobile commerce saw an alarming 81% rise in 2012, according to eMarketer. By 2016, mobile devices would account up to 24% of total ecommerce sales, estimates the research.
But how to go about it? Talking about mobile, you can zero in on these mobile design strategies: Responsive design and separate mobile site.
Though not many eCommerce sites seem to be favoring responsive Web design, a burning trend nowadays, the folks at Electric Pulp recently ran a test on O’Neill Clothing, a Magento-based online store, and witnessed a whopping 407.32% increase in its conversions from Android devices and 65.71% from iPhones/iPads. That’s huge, right?
What does Google have to say about responsive design?
“Google recommends webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device.”
Responsive design, however, is not as good as a separate mobile site for an online store, unless its implementation is carefully done and performance issues are intelligently looked after.
And let’s face it: Responsive design might be the Holy Grail for many, but it can’t eclipse the way a separate mobile site deals with the large amount of user interactions that’s inherent to an ecommerce site.
Amazon, eBay and Walmart, all use the separate mobile site strategy.
Google understands that responsive design is not the be all and end all:
“If responsive design is not the best option to serve your users, Google supports having your content being served using different HTML. The different HTML can be on the same URL or on different URLs, and Googlebot can handle both setups appropriately if you follow our recommendations.”
Then, of course, there is a mobile app strategy that helps you provide an even better shopping experience and where you can choose among native, web, and hybrid approaches. Mobile apps, especially native ones, are very expensive, so going for one for your ecommerce store makes sense only when you know that you can cover up with a great ROI. Many ecommerce players, including Amazon, eBay, and Walmart, are leveraging both mobile app and mobile design strategies.
- First things first, make sure search engines, especially Google, have indexed your separate mobile site and are showing it to mobile searchers in SERPs.
- Redirect mobile users to the mobile version – but at the same time give your users an option to visit your desktop site (preferably in the footer), as Yahoo does in its mobile site.
- Use consistent URLs with m domain. For example, if you are using store-name.com/shoes/puma for your desktop site, use m.store-name.com/shoes/puma or store-name.com/m/shoes/puma.
- Keep in mind that mobile browsers take a second or two in redirecting your customers to your mobile-friendly site. So make sure your site is not too heavy and its loading speed is fast as hell. This won’t only help in SEO but also in increasing your sales. (A WSJ article revealed that Amazon enjoys a 1% increase in its sales by reducing every 100 milliseconds from its loading speed.)
- Use rel=”alternate” and rel=”canonical” attributes.
It’s time for action.
Are you ready to give your customers a better-than-ever shopping experience?
Ready to optimize your online store on the three most important fronts: content, search, and mobile?
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