The struggle is totally real when it comes to search engine optimization, specifically for online stores. From link building struggles because “no one” wants to link to commercial intended pages to duplicate content issues, the list goes on.
And the worst part about all of this?
A lot of this stuff is unique to Ecommerce stores and business models (for the most part).
The blogger from next door doesn’t face these exact same issues because, well, he doesn’t sell physical product. But does that mean your SEO needs to suffer just because you offer products for sale?
In fact, it’s probably something you can think of as a benefit. The benefit that I’m talking about is this…
Since all of these issues seemingly come across nearly every ecommerce store (at least that I’ve personally dealt with), it puts off a lot of people from entering and competing because they think doing some proper SEO is near “impossible.”
Luckily for you, this post is going to shut those things down and best of all; how to fix them. Since these mistakes are the most common with online stores, you will definitely have a day or two ahead of you fixing them up (unless of course, you hire someone to do it for you).
Either way you end up going, at the very least being aware about these 22 common mistakes that ecommerce stores far too often make will allow you to take some action on fixing them and cleaning up your stores SEO.
Anyways… Let’s kick this thing off with #1 shall we? 🙂
PS: Not everything here is SEO related entirely (in regards to helping you rank), but they sure as heck help a ton with generating sales and being able to quantify all of it; which is a must! Now… here is #1!
1. Using Duplicate Descriptions
If there was only one thing you could fix on your website, it would be all of those darn duplicate descriptions on product pages.
This is pertaining to those stores out there that carry other brands products and use the exact information that you get from their provided catalog spreadsheets.
While it may seem easier, and maybe even right; having duplicate content at all is a major no-no when it comes standing out to visitors AND search engines. By copying these descriptions word for word from your suppliers, you might not just be effecting your rankings but you simply won’t stand out against the rest of the competition.
By handcrafting descriptions that are 100% unique, you avoid being seen like everyone you are competing with which will allow you to stand out in the eyes of search engines and visitors.
PS: Google has said that duplicate content won’t hurt you specifically and we know that, but the point is this: duplicate content won’t help you, so why not switch it up, stand out, and see some positive benefits from it? Watch this video to hear it for yourself…
This can be extremely time consuming if you don’t hire someone to do it for you, but going through and switching up your product descriptions is the very first step to standing out.
Try telling a story in your descriptions, along with explaining key points that answer customer questions. You also don’t have to let go of the manufacturers description entirely either, rewording it just to be unique is better than nothing!
2. Not-so-optimized Title Tags… For keywords
The meta title tag is a highly important element of the search results, and not including your main target keyword for a given page in the title is like committing SEO suicide.
By having title tags that aren’t optimized for keywords, you are going to miss out on a TON of traffic. When you properly optimize title tags your target keywords, you will have a much better chance as being seen as a relevant page for that given search term.
This one is simple, just making sure that your main target keyword is in the meta title will do the trick. But remember, don’t put it in where it doesn’t make sense. Ensuring your titles are optimized for clicks is just as important (if not more). Read mistake #3 for more on that one.
3. Not-so-optimized Title Tags… For CTR
Not only is it important to have your main target keyword in your title tag, but it’s also important that you optimize your titles (and descriptions) for higher click through rates. CTR is a huge ranking factor these days, and if you aren’t getting clicks your page will never rank, no matter how many links you have.
Optimizing your title tag is a bit more complex than simply adding your main keyword in. You need to do tests, switch things up again, and test some more.
To help understand what the “typical” click through rate should be in regards to your current position, read this post from Search Engine Watch which shows you the average CTRs based on position. If your click throughs aren’t in-line with these numbers, you need to switch things up and try again!
4. No analytics? no excuse
If you don’t have analytic software implemented in your store, how exactly are you tracking results? You probably aren’t, and that is a HUGE issue for analyzing where you stand in regards to traffic, conversions, and rankings overtime.
This can prove to cause issues, especially when you are wanting to track progress and growth from campaigns you take on. The only way to do just that is by installing some analytics, best part? It’s free!
Simple, install free analytics software from Google. It’s entirely free to use and gives some pretty incredible data that is actually extremely useful for not only SEO tracking, but also your paid advertising campaigns.
5. Terribly crafted ‘About Us’ Page
Believe it or not, your stores mission and story can be a huge factor when it comes to driving sales. People want to know who they are buying from, why you are better, and most importantly; why they should buy from you.
Don’t overlook this powerful way of getting your business mission in front of people, it can be a great way for people to look through your site more (which reduces bounce rate), which will in turn will help drive sales while improve your rankings too.
If you don’t already have an ‘about us’ page, make one. From there, ensure it is easy to find on your main navigations.
In regards to how to make an about us page that converts, be honest and not “salesy.” When you try to push people that you are the best because you want to strive for excellence, that tells visitors nothing. Instead, show proof (through awards and even wording) that you are making a change, or even that you and your products will help them.
6. No on-going content marketing strategy
“Content is king,” as everyone likes to say. And although you can’t just publish content and hope it does well without promoting it, how can you promote it if “it” doesn’t exist?
Content is defined as multiple things from blog posts, to videos, to courses and guides. A mixture of all these things for ANY website is a must, especially for getting in front of more qualified visitors.
So although I agree, you can’t just publish things, not promote it, and hope to gain backlinks (or a lot of them), you need content to be able to promote in the first place.
Create a blog on your website, you can do this with tons of different ecommerce platforms. Likewise you can always install WordPress for free on a /blog/ directory which works well too (this website is ran on WordPress and it works GREAT!).
From there you need to develop a content marketing strategy that targets your ideal customer. If you’re ideal customer prefers videos, post a greater ratio of videos to blog posts and vice versa. Find out what the competition is doing, and go 10x it. Then, promote it (simpler said than done, but that’s for another discussion).
7. Lack of proper schema markup
Schema allows us to display more data in the SERPs. By implementing schema into our website, we will be in much better stance in the results. We will stand out with pricing, review rating, and other things that schema markup can do.
Implementing schema can be scary, especially if you have never used it before. Hiring a professional is your best bet, otherwise ensure you implement it properly for maximum results.
8. Internal linking is non-existent
I’m a huge believer in passing link juice from your most popular pages (link wise) over to pages that could use a boost. Once you start thinking about internal linking as a way to not only help you boost some pages but also to help readers find what they are looking for; you will find yourself in a win-win situation.
I mean, what better can you do than help your rankings AND visitors? Nothing really, and that is what Google’s mission is all along; helping visitors. So help your visitors and it will help your rankings, it’s that simple.
You need to discover the most powerful pages on your site, define which pages could use a boost, and start implementing helpful links to those pages.
This can be done with a tool like Ahrefs which allows you to define top pages on a given website. Tools comes in handy once again, yay!
9. No sitemaps or robot.txt
When it comes to your website and search engines knowing about what pages exist on your website; a sitemap along with a robot.txt file will ensure search bots crawl every last page (or avoid those you want it to ignore).
This really helps with getting your pages indexed initially and continuously crawled for any new updates.
Installing a plugin like Yoast for WordPress site’s allows you not only get an automatically generated sitemap; but also helps with rewriting titles and descriptions (win-win). Alternatively you can generate one manually with many of the online tools out there.
As for a robots.txt file, it’s as simple as placing it in the main root directory of your website and editing it to notify bots which pages NOT to crawl. More on that here!
10. Thin content everywhere
You know it’s important when Google makes an entire algorithm to identify “thin” content and sites. That algorithm we are talking about is referred to as “panda.”
What exactly defines thin content?
Well, on a page to page basis it is hard to tell as some pages will have little to no content, where-as others may have 4,000+ words (like this article!). The thing to remember here is this; if the majority of your website is thin then you are going to have some issues.
On a page to page basis, studies have shown that longer content ranks better than thin. By beefing up thinner pages, you may be able to realize better rankings (for both that pages main target keyword and long-tail keywords). And since ecommerce stores often have lots of product pages, it’s very common for those pages to be thin (less than 400ish words).
This can get tricky, especially when it comes to your product pages. A good guideline is to try building your product pages with as much text as humanly possible, without sounding weird or adding useless information.
The next thing you can do is to ensure you are writing long content on other mediums, like your blog, to “counter act” thin product pages. This will make your site overall seem more content rich, even if your product pages are still a tad thin.
11. URLs That aren’t SEO friendly
Not only am I referring to adding your main keyword to the URL, but also creating a friendly URL structure. This is typically done by making URLs “clean” to both the eye and search engines.
A lot of times product URLs end up having some long and not so SEO friendliness to them, for example:
These are a bit extreme examples, but it should help you understand what “unclean” links look like. Here is what a clean URL would look like for a product page:
Switching up your URL structure can be a pain, but here are the main things you need to keep in mind when switching over to cleaner URLs:
- Use dashes (-) never underscores (_)
- Try to avoid numbers at all costs, unless relevant
- Ensure your folder structure promotes relevance (/collections/widgets/)
- Keep it as short as possible
- Ensure your target keyword is included somewhere in the URL
- Remember to 301 redirect all the switches, you don’t want to create 404’s!
12. Alt Tags for IMages Are Missing
Did you know that you may be missing out on a lot of traffic simply because you aren’t showing up in “image” search results? This is especially true for industries that demand visuals.
By adding alt tags for your images, you will open yourself up to ranking that image in search results, which could in turn bring more targeted traffic back to you.
Another aded benefit this has is that other website owners may find your image, use it, and credit you with a link. Although this is a passive method and won’t generate TONS of links (typically), it’s still better than nothing.
Go in and add optimized ALT tags to every single image on your website, even your logo. Be sure to target the keywords that you want that image to show up for, but also ensure the ALT tag is descriptive and useful.
The entire point of this tag is to be there in case an image on your website doesn’t load. So be sure to write these tags for that purpose, along with SEO purposes.
13. Duplicate Page Titles and Descriptions
How can you expect two different pages on your website with the same exact titles to rank side by side? It’s just won’t happen, at least 99% of the time.
On top of this, you start to confuse visitors by having identical pages, which can lead to them leaving and never coming back. Oh no!
Identify which pages have duplicate titles and descriptions using a tool like Screaming Frog and go make them entirely unique. Make sure to optimize them for your keywords along with CTR while doing so too!
14. Social proof is yet to be found
Reviews, testimonials, and even comments are all forms of social proof that drive conversions. If you don’t have any on your website, it might be worth it to start a campaign that increases review rates (this can be done by incentivizing or simply a reminder to do so).
Likewise you can outreach to happy customers and ask to send you over a honest testimonial. Lots of people are happy to do it especially if they have a website of their own and you offer a link back to them for doing so.
Launch an initiative to remind people to leave reviews after their purchases. This can be done by a simple email, phone, or even snail mail outreach. To get better results you can offer incentives, which will lead to an overall higher review rate.
15. Old and Outdated Content
Pages that are years old often have outdated content on them that no longer applies (just look at a lot of SEO articles out there).
Even if your content is “evergreen,” as in not time specific, it is still a good idea to update and freshen it up ever so often. This will allow you to not only keep it up to date and relevant, but also add in anything new that you’ve discovered since it went live.
Start with your most popular pages as this will allow for the best return on your time. Work on updating it to fit the current facts along with adding in anything else that is a good addition to the page.
16. Too many 404’s going to waste
Old products, pages, and categories often go to a major waste once they are removed. This is especially true for pages that could be passing page rank through them, but instead are ending up as a 404 error.
This can all be corrected by making the 404’s into a 301 redirect to the most relevant page. Doing this allows all of the link power that page may have to a new one, instead of letting it all go to waste.
Using that Screaming Frog tool I talked about earlier, you can also use it to find 404’s on your website. Alternatively you can take a look in webmaster tools from Google, see 404 and other errors, and work on the pages that come up.
Make sure to not only identify these pages, but also 301 redirect them to the most relevant page. This way, you get to pass on the link juice to that new page!
17. External Linking Helps (don’t be stingy)
Your domain authority may be lacking, so why the heck would you share some of its power with other websites?
Well, for two reasons.
1. It shows your website as a hub of useful and relevant information, and that’s what Google wants.
2. This allows the opportunity for opening up relationships and maybe even some new links.
Don’t be afraid of adding some relevant links into your page to make them more useful and authoritative. If you don’t have an article on a given topic and don’t plan to write about it anytime soon, link out to the best article on it that will help your readers out.
After you do that, ensure you reach out to the people you included letting them know they were mentioned in your latest posts. This is a fantastic way to open up new relationships!
Go through old posts (most popular ones first) and add in a few links to great resources. Not only do that, but ensure that all future content and updates are linking out to other resources along with your own (back to that whole internal linking concept).
Pro tip: Do NOT link out to spammy websites, this can actually hurt your own website and do nothing positive at all for you. Ensure you link out to non-spammy websites that offer exceptional content.
Another pro tip: Make sure to open external links in a new tab, otherwise your bounce rate will go through the roof and you will loose valuable prospects!
18. Not using HTTPs
When Google comes out and says that HTTPS is an official ranking factor, you know it’s important.
But how important is it really, and is it worth the switch? Depends all on the situation. If you are a new website, go for it ASAP. If you are older and more established and can’t risk less traffic for a few months while the transition occurs, you may want to consider other tactics to increase rankings rather than this one.
Nonetheless, HTTPS is a ranking factor and it will help. Definitely not more than backlinks or CTR does, but it does do SOMETHING. Just keep that in mind, but be aware of the effects that it may bring to your website by making the switch.
This can be a bit of a technical process and will vary from provider to provider, but here is a pretty good guide if you are a “do it yourself” type of person.
19. Mobile friendliness is required, no Longer optional
Mobile traffic has seen some epic growth over the past few years, and it’s finally become greater than desktop traffic. Although this can vary greatly industry to industry, it’s still something no website can ignore.
Not being mobile friendly will ensure that you don’t rank on phone SERPs, which means you could, in theory, miss out on more than 50% of your potential traffic!
Imagine double the traffic you have now, simply by going mobile friendly. Crazy right!
The switch to a mobile friendly site can be difficult, but the fix to this one is pretty straightforward: get your site to be mobile friendly. The tools on Google webmaster will be able to tell you how mobile friendly your website is, and how far away it is from being friendly for mobile devices!
20. Keyword Stuffing Product Pages
PLEASE, stop doing old tactics like keyword stuffing because it seriously doesn’t work anymore. Back in the day, yea it helped build relevance for that given keyword. But these days Google algorithms have far surpassed any type of trick you may have and you will get effected in search results by doing this shady tactic.
If you are currently doing this, you need to go back and reduce the amount of exact keywords you use and start implementing a Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) strategy instead. This will boost relevance without increasing spam signals.
Go through every page that has been stuffed with keywords and reduce the amount of times that the keyword is used. You can replace these with LSI keywords, which are basically variations and relevant terminology that is relevant to the topic being discussed.
LSI is the new keyword stuffing, and it is totally Google approved.
21. Not targeting searched for Keywords
Often times we like to put our titles and main content as the name of the product, and nothing else. The issue with this is most people don’t search for a specific product from a specific brand, instead they search for a more broad product.
For example, more people search for “shiny widget” rather than “x company widget.” Although people may be doing product specific searches and you should definitely optimize for that, you also need to target those broader terms.
This will allow you to reach a larger audience, along with the audience that page already attracts. This can prove to be a huge way to tag on to more traffic, simply by implementing better keywords onto your pages.
Find out the more “broad” terms that people search for in regards to your product. And by broad I don’t mean so broad that it’s impossible to compete, but broader than product or brand specific keywords.
Please note that if the product / brand is being searched for don’t get rid of it altogether as those are typically very high converting search terms. Instead, simply add more terms that target those who don’t know any specific product to search for.
22. Easy link opportunities Just an Email Away
In regards to link building for ecommerce stores, it can be tough. But a lot of websites that sell other brands products are often just an email away from highly valuable and rather easy links. This puts you just a step behind the competition that has already obtained these super easy links.
Create a list of all brands you carry on your store. From there, see if they have a “dealers” page or something similar where they link out to who sells their product.
Then, outreach to every webmaster of that company and ensure that you are included in these lists.
It’s an easy link because you are already working with them, and they love to keep those pages updated with all of their dealers, Yay to the links!
Wrapping it Up
There it is, all laid out there on the table for all of you ecommerce stores out there! Implementing all of these tips and fixing things up could take some time, but all is worth it and will give back results 10 fold (if you do it right!).
The only final tip I would give to you is this: don’t half ass this process. Work on one at a time, do it right, and the benefits will pay you back for the time (or money) you put into making these upgrades.
Have any questions, comments, or better yet want to add to this list of common ecommerce mistakes? Then leave a comment down below OR email us, we’d love to hear from you!