Why Your E-commerce Product Pages Suck At Search Engine Rankings

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I get a lot of my clients asking me:

‘Why is my e-commerce site not ranking well in google?’

Sometimes this is not so easy to answer, while other times it’s so obvious. It’s for this reason I have decided to cover the 5 most common mistakes e-commerce business owners make when it comes to optimising the site for search engines.

common ecommerce seo mistakes

You are probably reading this article because you suffering with low search engine rankings for your e-commerce business. Many digital marketers talk about blog search engine optimisation but it’s much harder to find good quality marketing tips for e-commerce businesses.

E-commerce websites normally have 1000s of product pages and usually suffer with lack of content. This in it’s self is a real problem as Google loves lengthy and quality content. It’s for this reason most digital marketers love to talk about blog marketing as it’s focused on content and it’s much easier to optimise for search engines. While e-commerce businesses are not designed to provide quality content but instead focus on quality products and excellent customer support.

So, you have to ask yourself the big question.

How do you overcome this problem?

To be honest as a e-commerce business you have to change with the times and develop new marketing strategies if you are to be successful online.

time for a change ecommerce seo

Digital marketing is changing year in year out and as marketing consultant I have to keep up with the ever changing marketing world. It’s for this reason I always aim to ride the wave rather than being swept away by it.

It’s without any doubt that in order to be successful in search engine optimisation you need to focus on quality content.

First let’s look at the reasons your e-commerce business is not getting the search engine rankings you are striving to achieve.

1. Duplicate Content

duplicate content ecommerce

Almost all e-commerce sites I have worked on have this fundamental problem. Why? Because they use suppliers product titles, descriptions, images and so on. I see this as a lazy approach with the aim of getting quick results without putting too much effort in.

The problem with this method is that in all probability many other e-commerce websites are employing the same lazy tactic. Therefore, google sees your content as invaluable and lowers your search engine rankings.

For example Official Football Merchandise and Premier Sports both sell Chelsea F.C. Soothers.

Both sites use the same title, and the same description

examples of duplicate content

premier sports duplicate content

This is a perfect example of duplicate content found on a majority of e-commerce websites.

Duplicate content is not just found on different websites but can be found on the same website as well. You probably don’t even realise your website has duplicate content as it was not intentional.

For example you might be selling socks in different colours and sizes. Each variation of the product has it’s own URL – but the product details stay the same.

If this is the case than I am sorry to tell you but google will see this as duplicate content if the site has not been programmed correctly. In my experience this is one of the most overlooked problems when optimising your e-commerce website for search engines.

This is a very good example of such problem which can be found on Euro Soccer Company website

eurosoccercompany duplicate content

Click on the image above and select the different colour options. Notice how the URL changes but the content is still the same. Google sees this as different pages but with the same content. Which equals duplicate content.

2. Code to Text Ratio

Another problem with majority of e-commerce websites is the code to text ratio. Search engines need text in order to determine the best keywords to rank your page for. Search engines have no ability to read images and therefore making it very hard to determine what your page is all about.

On the other hand e-commerce sites are developed to convert visitors into customers. We know that images speak a 1000 words and therefore play a massive part in the customers decision to proceed with the purchase.

Does the text have the same impact? In some instances it does however from my personal testing for certain products text has no impact what so ever.

Below is a perfect example of a Beware T-Shirt page from Disturbia which is completely focused on the images and has hardly any text content what so ever.

disturbia code to image ratio

3. Page Load Speed

slow page speed load

Google has started to punish websites which are too slow to load and I totally agree with this. We live in modern era where visitors have a very short concentration span. So, slow loading pages are no fit for purpose as we head into 2017.

Many e-commerce sites suffer with slow download speeds mainly due to large images, and lack of image optimisation.

4. Product Titles & Meta Descriptions

duplicate ecommerce title

This is another easy to fix problem for most e-commerce websites but one which is overlooked by businesses owners. Using basic titles from suppliers websites is not very smart. Suppliers titles are usually very basic as they appeal to the traders rather than general public.

It’s not very common for trader to search for a specific product and land on a suppliers website. Hence the difference in search patterns between traders and customers.

Suppliers don’t need to promote individual products but rather focus on being found in the specific wholesale trade sector they operate in.

Product Titles and Meta descriptions play a crucial part in search engine optimisation but most importantly well written titles are more likely to convert.

5. Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is calculated by Google which looks at how many pages your visitors visit prior to leaving the site. It’s normally worked out in % and higher the percentage the worse your e-commerce website will perform in search engine rankings.

The bounce rate is measured by sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page. In Google eyes this means the visitor walked away unhappy. In real life this might not be true, but in reality this is how Google views the world.

These are the 5 problems which most e-commerce websites suffer from and ones which are so easy to fix. Therefore, I will now go through the solutions to the above problems which you can start to implement on your e-commerce site straight away.

If you do them correctly you will start to see improvements within weeks.

1. Solution to Duplicate Content

If you run a large site with 1000s of different products than this will require time to correct, and successfully implement. I always recommend you start with your best selling products and work your way down.

If you are new to e-commerce and don’t have previous sales history than I recommend you start with your most profitable products. The other option is to speak to your suppliers, research Ebay and Amazon to gain better insight in what is selling well at this moment in time.

Each product requires in depth research and you should aim to have around 500+ words. For high margin and more competitive products go for 1000+ words. I know this sounds much easier than it actually is. However, if you are serious about growing your business than you will have to find ways around it.

Some ideas to help you write better product descriptions

  • Describe the product in detail including colours, what it’s used for, product quality, any special features it may have.
  • Let the customer know what problems it will solve for them.
  • Include customer reviews.

The time you spend on product description and the more unique you make it the more your business will stand out from the rest.

Below is a very good example from John LewisLenovo Yoga Book Laptop product page – check it out.

johnlewis product description

2. Solution to HTML Code to Text Ratio

Normally this will correct itself once you start to improve product description. You should be working on 30%. This means your site will have 30% visible text and 70% HTML code. You can work higher depending on the product. You can always test different results to find the best ratio for your e-commerce website.

In summary HTML Code to Text Ratio will self correct once you improve your page content.

3. Solution to Page Load Speed

Adding more content should not have any negative impact on the page load speed. You can use the following site to check your page speed: Google Page Speed Insights

google page speed insight

Google will give you a score out of 100 and make suggestion on how you can improve your page speed. I would suggest you outsource this to your website developer to correct as a matter of urgency.

4. Solution to Bad Product Titles & Meta Descriptions

Titles are not only important for search engine rankings but for click through rates. Therefore, each product page MUST have a unique product title. The title needs to consist of product keywords for which you want the product to be found under.

To get idea head over to Google and do some research.

For example. I want to write a description for Speedo Moulded Swimming Cap.

google keyword suggestions

Google will provide me with the following suggestions:

google keyword suggestions_2

  • Speedo swim cap for long hair
  • Speedo swim cap junior
  • Speedo plain moulded silicone cap
  • Speedo long hair cap
  • Swim cap for long hair keeps hair dry
  • Swimming cap argos
  • Swimming hat sports direct
  • Swim caps for long thick hair

Now I have a range of options for my Product Title.

From this I would make create a title like this: Speedo Plain Moulded Silicone Swimming Cap For Long Hair

As you can see the potential to attract more visitors has already increased without over using keywords, and still making the title readable and to the point.

Another key point you need to focus on is your Meta Description. You can leave Meta description blank and let Google make one up. However, I would recommend you create your own description which will incorporate the keyword you are targeting.

The meta description needs to be around 150 to 160 characters long. This is your first chance to entice the google visitor to click on your link.

5. Solution to High Bounce Rate

If you have done the above steps correctly than this will be the first step to correcting this problem. You will start attracting more targeted traffic and in return more interest in the products you offer.

You can do more to help decrease bounce rate by providing attractive offers, related products and quality content to your visitors. By doing so you will entice visitors to stay longer on your site and in return increase the conversion rates.

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2 thoughts

  • Hello

    I have just found your article and was reading about the duplicate content issue and looking in to this issue it seems that even though the Euro Soccer do have different urls for the socks the rel-canonical points to the main landing url so actually this isn’t duplicate content.

    Also your solution to the duplicate content should be to a website product that is similar such as a product with multiple options not a laptop with one option.

    • Hi Paul, thank you for your comment. It’s much appreciated. Regarding Euro Soccer – they might have made some changes after this blog post. Fair point about the Laptop – I used it as I personally like their website as it’s well structured. However, next time I will put aside my views, and look for a slightly better example.

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