4 min read

Common SEO mistakes made by retailers and e-commerce sites

We live in an age where e-commerce is increasingly competitive. In “Queen of the internet” Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report for 2019 in June, she highlights a slowed growth in e-commerce sites compared to previous years, despite e-commerce now accounting for 15% of all retail sales.

The retail industry is ever-evolving, and with slowed growth and other challenges, it is even more important for retailers to get SEO right and attract and retain an engaged audience. Without a strong SEO strategy that works, e-commerce sites are at risk of not being visible and being left behind.

So can online retailers avoid this? Well below our SEO team have highlighted some of the most common errors and mistakes they see made. After reading this, you’ll be up to speed on how to your digital marketing strategy future-proof and effective for SEO… trust us, we’re retail search marketing specialists!

1. Low word counts and lack of editorial content

Content is king when it comes to SEO – product descriptions or blog content; it all matters.

Category and product pages shouldn’t only have a target h1 and a snippet of content, they must explain what the user will find, cover FAQs, and make the benefits of the product or service clear to the user. A trend we’re increasingly noticing is using tabbed and collapsible content to keep the core user journey focused on the product, but incorporating content in an intuitive fashion for users to read if they need or want to.

2. Incomplete or error-filled XML sitemaps

An XML sitemap shows search engines available pages. The search engine is then able to quickly add these pages to its index. With errors or incomplete XML sitemaps however, URLs will be missing, so new product or category pages won’t be included, or on the flip side of that, pages which are included in sitemap aren’t returning a live 200 page and include 404 or 3xx redirects.

Having pages missing from the sitemap is such an overlooked and missed opportunity as pages are only discoverable through the website’s structure and may be crawled less frequently – or worse, not at all – if your website is large. Which can result in changes or improvements being made to the website taking a long time to impact and help performance. The non-compliant pages in XML sitemaps essentially send search engines to a dead end or a page which doesn’t exist. Again wasted time as search engines could be crawling your live, more valuable pages.

3. Not capitalising on consumer voice search trends

While “voice search” is still a bit of a buzzword it does have relevance across e-commerce and something to consider as experts predict that voice searches will account for 50% of all searches by 2020.

Optimising your website for key phrases and terms both traditionally in search and for more conversational searches is key in 2019. The differing syntaxes and semantics when speaking and typing should be considered in order for it to be effective. Keep targeting position zero; due to the nature of featured snippets, it makes sense that the requirements for position zero will also work for voice.

4. Avoiding keyword research

Keyword research has to be the backbone of any digital strategy and this is never truer than in the e-commerce industry. Keyword research provides retailers with valuable data and insight behind the terms that people are actually searching for. It also helps to reduce any ambiguity or confusion that you have regarding which terms can provide you with the most opportunity. It’s quite common that these terms are not what a brand would pick or expect for themselves.

5. Site Architecture

You should always design your site architecture around keyword data. When deciding which categories, subcategories, and product ranges you want to create, you should always review the search volumes. This helps to ensure that there is consumer demand and opportunity for you to target. Another way in which keyword research can benefit your site architecture is by helping you create an effective faceted navigation. To find out more on this, visit our post on how to increase your keyword coverage through faceted navigation.

6. On-page SEO

On-page SEO is fundamental to a well optimised website, and this too should be heavily based upon your keyword research. It’s important that you create your page titles, H1 tags and page copy based on keyword research findings and not from what you believe your customers are searching for.

For example, you may find that in your industry your products or services are known by an abbreviation, short-name, or technical name that your customers will not know. This means that they are unlikely to search for those terms, so if you were to optimise for them based upon your own experience, you will find little benefit. So, by conducting thorough keyword research before any on-page optimisations take place, you will be able to ensure that every action you take is a positive step forward.

7. Unrealistic keyword targeting

This is where you need to do some research. If the search engine results page (SERP) results for the primary keywords that you are planning to target are filled with high authority sites, then you may find yourself struggling to rank for these terms, regardless of how well optimised your site is.

For example, let’s assume that you operate in the fashion industry and you are optimising your mens shoes category page. This keyword has a monthly search volume of 74,000 and page 1 of the search results looks like this:

he mistakes retailers and e-commerce sites are making in SEO | Digital Marketing | Honchō

Always use accurate and relevant keyword research as the basis of all SEO work on your website. Make sure that the keyword research is in-depth, targets the correct user and provides you with an opportunity to increase your visibility. Don’t select keywords that you will struggle to rank for.

Tip: Remember to carry out individual keyword research for all of the territories that you cover to avoid incorrect geo-targeting. For example, a travel agent would target the term holidays for the UK market, but would target vacation for the US market.

For more information, read our post on the applications of keyword research.

8. Using product descriptions as provided by the manufacturer

This can create issues for your product pages, as if you are using the same product description as the manufacturer, then you have to assume that there are multiple other websites also doing this. This means that your product pages, if indexed, are now competing with a number of other websites with the exact same content. This isn’t good.

Create unique page copy and product descriptions whenever you can. This not only provides the opportunity to create your own tone of voice, but generates unique content for your website.

9. Ignoring the long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords provide you with the opportunity to target search terms that are less-competitive, often informational (and non-transactional), and are a great way to increase your brand authority within your market. The long-tail keyword is often used within blog content, and allows you to capture an audience that may be at a different stage of the conversion funnel than those targeted by your primary keywords.

So why is it that this form of keyword is sometimes ignored by e-commerce websites? By choosing to ignore the long-tail keywords, you are limiting your opportunity to capture traffic and boost your brand presence.

Hopefully by this point you have a much stronger understanding of how to avoid these critical SEO errors with your e-commerce website.

If you would like to discuss the information above in further detail, or would like to find out how our SEO services can help you, then contact us today.

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