3 E-commerce SEO Mistakes To Avoid

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SEO plays a big role in attracting more people to your e-commerce website. But as a beginner, it’s easy to make common mistakes.

In this article, I’ll talk about three e-commerce SEO mistakes and how to avoid them, including:

  1. Bad website architecture
  2. Thin content on category pages
  3. Manufacturer product descriptions

FAQ: How can I avoid making e-commerce SEO mistakes and enhance my online store visibility? 

1. Bad Website Architecture

E-commerce websites have a lot of content to manage. It’s critical that search engines and website visitors easily access the content.

Getting this right can improve user experience as well as the website’s relevance for key search terms, which can lead to more conversions.

This is the concept of SEO siloing – a technique I invented more than two decades ago.

For example, say you sell clothing. Logically, you would split the clothing into men, women, kids – and whatever else the top categories need to be based on research.

Top-level categories on Nordstrom.com website.
Nordstrom.com’s top-level categories organize the products on the website

Within each section, you’d have subcategories that might fall into buckets – for men; this might look like shirts, shorts and jeans.

Men's clothing product subcategories on Nordstrom.com.
Nordstrom.com’s product subcategories for men’s clothing

Within each subcategory, visitors can then apply useful filters to further refine their results.

Having an organized information architecture such as this is just the start. E-commerce websites need to make sure their internal linking practices in each category follow SEO siloing best practices.

The internal linking structure is an important part of making SEO siloing work. That means following directions like only linking up to top-level landing pages between categories and not interlinking between subpages.

You can see an example of what this might look like below for a fictional power tools site with electric power tools and gas-powered tools as two distinct categories.

The electric saws subpage can effectively link up to the top-level landing page in the gas-powered tools silo – but it shouldn’t link to the gas-powered saws subpage.

Illustration of linking practices between categories on a website.
Example of linking practices between categories on a website

The complexities of siloing are far too great to cover in this article alone, but when done right, SEO siloing is a great way for ecommerce sites to create a search engine-friendly and user-friendly website.

For more information on how to get started with siloing, check out: SEO Siloing: What, Why, How

2. Thin Content on Category Pages

Category pages are often filled with product images and product names only from an SEO perspective, which leaves those pages with thin content.

This can be problematic because category pages tend to target the popular queries that people use often (for example, “men’s shorts”).

Adding some keyword-rich content (so long as it is incorporated in a natural and helpful way) is a great way to create more relevance for those category pages in a search.

How you execute this can vary, depending on the website’s unique needs and limitations.

For example, you could add text at the top of the page, highlighting the features and benefits of the category. You could also put text at the bottom of the page.

Or, you could sprinkle the keyword-rich text throughout, including in the heading tags and in callout sections.

Check out how Tiffany.com handles it for their “diamond necklace” category page – using callouts to incorporate text. There’s more than one instance on the page, too:

Keyword-rich text on Tiffany.com category page.
Keyword-rich text on Tiffany.com category page

Or check out Tiffany.com’s “engagement ring” category page, where they insert informative text at the top:

Keyword-rich text on Tiffany.com category page.
Keyword-rich text on Tiffany.com category page

In short: Whenever possible, incorporate text on key pages that are helpful and include keyword-rich content.

3. Manufacturer Product Descriptions

Using the product descriptions provided by the manufacturer might be tempting because it’s quick, but it’s not ideal.

First, know that you have a big opportunity on your product pages to inform and convert. Take the time to write unique descriptions that show off your brand and what makes the products special.

Putting in the work to understand your target audience will help you craft product descriptions that offer key information and move your shoppers to the next step – the shopping cart.

This is another place where you can infuse relevant keywords into the page as well.

Check out my article on how to create an e-commerce webpage that drives organic traffic and conversions for more tips on how to craft product descriptions, including the following:

  1. Write unique and compelling content: Write product descriptions that match your brand and your target audience and are unique from the manufacturer’s descriptions.
  2. Create short and long versions: Cater to those who like to get information fast and those who want to dive deeper.
  3. Use heading tags: Breaking up the page with header tags makes an easier to read for visitors and search engines.
  4. Focus on features and benefits: Features are most commonly covered in product descriptions, but what do they allow your audience to do? This is the sweet spot.
  5. Use bullet points: Bullet points help people scan quickly for what they need.
  6. Include FAQs: FAQs help customers make decisions and can boost visibility in the search results when marked up with schema.

Next, let’s consider Google’s “helpful content” update. The helpful content update is meant to better rank original and quality content.

And Google specifically says this can improve rankings related to e-commerce:

“This ranking update will help make sure that unoriginal, low-quality content doesn’t rank highly in Search, and our testing has found it will especially improve results related to online education, as well as arts and entertainment, shopping, and tech-related content.”

This update no doubt aims to get rid of, among other things, those affiliate sites that offer little value when searching for products on Google.

But regardless of how algorithms may handle product pages, it’s important to always put the potential customer first – what do they need to make a decision?

When you do, you can boost both organic traffic and conversions.

Final Thoughts

Starting out in e-commerce SEO presents many unique challenges. Common mistakes that e-commerce sites make that can negatively impact SEO include the three areas I discussed in this article – but there are more.

By providing helpful content on category pages, writing unique product descriptions and having an SEO- and user-friendly website architecture, you can improve your website’s visibility in the search results, engage more customers, and increase sales.

Interested in adding SEO to your e-commerce site? Talk to us. We can help.

FAQ: How can I avoid making e-commerce SEO mistakes and enhance my online store’s visibility?

In the fast-paced world of e-commerce, ensuring the visibility of your online store is crucial for business success. Avoiding common SEO mistakes can significantly enhance your store’s online presence and attract more potential customers.

One of the cardinal sins in e-commerce SEO is neglecting proper keyword research. Failing to identify the right keywords relevant to your products or services can lead to poor search engine rankings and missed opportunities. To avoid this mistake, invest time in thorough keyword research. Utilize tools like Google Keyword Planner and analyze your competitors’ keywords to uncover high-traffic, relevant terms to target.

Another common pitfall is overlooking on-page optimization. Neglecting to optimize product descriptions, meta titles, and headings with appropriate keywords can negatively impact your store’s visibility. Craft compelling, keyword-rich descriptions that cater to search engines and engage potential buyers. Don’t forget to optimize images by using descriptive alt text to improve accessibility and search engine crawlers’ understanding.

A major misstep many e-commerce websites make is ignoring the importance of mobile optimization. With a significant portion of online shopping occurring on mobile devices, a non-responsive website can drive away potential customers. Ensure your store’s responsive design provides a seamless and user-friendly experience across various screen sizes.

User-generated content, such as reviews and ratings, is vital in e-commerce SEO. Overlooking these can harm your online store’s credibility and search rankings. Encourage customers to leave reviews and ratings and engage with them by responding to positive and negative feedback. This improves your store’s visibility and fosters trust among your audience.

Lastly, a common blunder is ignoring the power of backlinks. Building a strong network of high-quality backlinks from reputable websites can significantly boost your store’s authority in the eyes of search engines. Seek opportunities for guest posting, collaborations, and partnerships to earn valuable backlinks that drive organic traffic to your e-commerce site.

Step-by-Step Procedure: Enhancing Your Online Store’s Visibility through E-commerce SEO

  1. Keyword Research: Use tools like Google Keyword Planner to identify relevant product or service keywords.
  2. Competitor Analysis: Study competitors’ keywords to discover high-traffic terms you might have missed.
  3. On-Page Optimization: Optimize product descriptions, meta titles and headings with chosen keywords.
  4. Compelling Descriptions: Craft engaging product descriptions that appeal to search engines and customers.
  5. Image Optimization: Use descriptive alt text for images to improve accessibility and SEO.
  6. Mobile Responsiveness: Ensure your online store design is responsive and user-friendly on all devices.
  7. User-Generated Content: Encourage customers to leave reviews and ratings for your products.
  8. Feedback Engagement: Respond to customer feedback, building trust and credibility.
  9. Backlink Building: Seek guest post and collaboration opportunities to earn authoritative backlinks.
  10. Quality Over Quantity: Focus on obtaining backlinks from reputable websites rather than low-quality sources.
  11. Content Quality: Create high-quality, relevant content that attracts organic traffic and encourages sharing.
  12. Internal Linking: Interlink your product pages to guide users and distribute SEO value.
  13. Site Speed Optimization: Ensure fast loading times for better user experience and search ranking.
  14. Structured Data Markup: Implement structured data to enhance how search engines display your products.
  15. Social Media Integration: Share your products on social platforms to increase visibility and engagement.
  16. Regular Updates: Keep your product inventory and content up-to-date to maintain relevancy.
  17. Monitoring and Analytics: Use tools like Google Analytics to track traffic, user behavior and site performance.
  18. Adaptation and Improvement: Continuously adjust your SEO strategy based on data insights.
  19. Technical SEO Audit: Conduct regular audits to identify and fix technical issues that may impact visibility.
  20. Stay Updated: Keep up with evolving SEO trends and algorithm changes for ongoing success.

By following these detailed steps, you can proactively enhance your online store’s visibility, attract more organic traffic and drive the growth of your e-commerce business.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

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3 Replies to “3 E-commerce SEO Mistakes To Avoid”

I totally agree with your point on category pages with thin content, so many of my clients just have a catalogue of sub-categories with no text content at all, it’s difficult though to convince them that there are benefits from adding text content, especially as by the time the site is built there could be hundreds of categories that all need unique text, it then becomes a job so big they shy away from it.

This is such a great blog to read. Keep up the good work.

Your insights on e-commerce SEO mistakes are spot-on. It’s like a clear roadmap, emphasizing crucial points like avoiding keyword stuffing, mobile optimization, and enhancing user experience. A must-read for e-commerce managers!

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