Optimizing an e-commerce website is far from easy. The main problem for the majority of those who engage in such a task is the size of the website. It is especially difficult if the website you are working on has been around for quite some time without being optimized at all. This can create multiple issues with the information architecture, duplicate content, 404 errors and bad URLs.
These issues can all be resolved, and once the website starts having a SEO friendly structure, you should start considering the content you will use for the promotion of the shop. But first comes first.
Taking care of the URLs
- The first thing to do here is to make your preferred domain canonical. If the website is reachable both through “http://www.website.com” and ”http://website.com” one of these should be set as preferred, which can be done using Google Webmaster Tools.
- The next thing to do is to make URLs static if they are not already. Instead of having something like this:
at the end of the slug, you should have something like this:
Search engines can now read dynamic URLs, but you want to make it as easy as possible for them to crawl the website. Besides, in dynamic URLs no keywords can be included, so you are losing a valuable SEO asset.
- Setting the URL of products to something like http://domain.com/product name/ regardless of the path used to get to the product will help you with handling duplicate content created by the existence of pages with URLs such as /women-shoes/black-women-shoes/ and /black-shoes/black-women-shoes/ with the same content.
Handling duplicate content
- Check the meta data on the home page, category and product pages. If they are not unique, you have a problem. Titles and descriptions are a good SEO opportunity and have to be written manually, after a thorough keyword research.
- Check the descriptions of products. If they are taken from the manufacturer’s website, chances are many other websites use them too. Rewrite them, and make them fresh and relevant.
- Consider including user reviews and Q&A on the product pages. This is a great way to create unique content on each page with the help of the users.
Handling 404 errors
- Having too many of these 404 Error pages is anything but good. You need to get rid of these by using redirection. They have to be 301 redirected to the existing pages of the website in order to avoid loose ends.
- Creating a custom 404 page can also be helpful if you put links to other pages on the website there and a search bar. This will prevent potential customers from simply leaving when the server returns 404 error code instead of a page. You can get really creative with these custom pages, using them to invite potential customers to explore the rest of the website, since the page they were looking for no longer exists.
Improving information architecture
Information architecture is the way the pages on a website link to each other. This is often very chaotic if no SEO was done, and you need to put some order there. Consider the importance of every page and how many clicks are required to reach that page from the home page. Too many means people are going to leave not being able to find what they were looking for. So consider these two options:
- Flat architecture with meaningful category interconnections
This is a somewhat better option, in my opinion, but you need to decide on your own. Basically, it means that any page on the website is no more than three clicks away from the homepage, and that the product pages belonging to the same categories are linked to each other. Now, you have to be careful because too many product pages mean you cannot put all of them on every page, but choose only the related ones.
This is a slightly more complicated to explain, but basically you create silos by grouping the content thematically. Different silos are kept away from each other (not linked to each other), and the internal linking happens within a silo. This requires thorough planning.
Considering the content that can be used for promotion
You have a bunch of products in front of you and have no idea where to begin with promoting all of that stuff. Sounds familiar?
- The first thing to do is to identify the most valuable assets on the website. Visit Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools and see what are the most frequent landing pages, what pages keep your customers’ attention longer than others, what are the products that are the most popular and bought most often, what pages are being linked to. Use these pages for promotion and for determining the improvements you would want to make on other pages as well.
- You should also identify the places on the web your target customers hang around a lot and use these to get your message across.
This article can be your starting point to do just enough to improve the websites standing, but try building on it further. The more you work on it, the better it will get.