SEO is particularly challenging for eCommerce websites, especially if you want to make quick progress. To get things moving faster, we like to tackle three key components at once: category pages, product pages and the checkout. By optimising these together, we can increase traffic from organic search, boost conversions on product pages and maximise profit by reducing cart abandonment.
Category pages can build a logical structure for your website, making it easier for search engines and users to access, understand and navigate.
Crucially, category pages also help you optimise for broader category keywords (eg: “running shoes”) and capture shoppers who don’t know exactly what they’re looking for yet (eg: “Nike running shoes size 9”).
The other key SEO benefit is that you can prioritise category pages, instead of splitting your ranking potential over many similar pages. Properly optimised, your category pages should rank higher and generate more traffic than any product page can.
You don’t have to follow the same template as every other brand but eCommerce category pages need to include some key elements. As an example, here’s what Asos’ category page for women’s boots looks like:
At the top of the page, you’ve three key elements that every category page should include:
The next key element is a set of filters for users to refine the range of products shown on this category page. Below the filter options, the page also shows the number of results showing, based on the user’s filter settings.
Below the filter settings, you’ll find the product listings with quality images, pricing information and optimised product titles (these should match the product page h1 titles).
Asos allows users to add specific items to a favourites list as they browse – a handy feature for creating a list of purchase options, but also a good way of encouraging them to create an account for a more convenient shopping experience.
At the bottom of the category page, Asos includes its pagination with a “Load more” button and a label showing how many results are displayed on the current page, out of the total products for their search settings.
You may also want to include other elements on your category pages, such as FAQ sections or internal links to helpful content – eg: buyer’s guides, comparisons, recommendations for different types of buyers, etc. For now, though, let’s discuss SEO optimisation strategies for the most important elements shown above.
A H1 page title for the product category – this shows the page title added between the <title> tags in the page’s HTML header section. Use the most relevant/accurate keyword for each product category or the most-searched variant if multiple phrases are equally suitable.
The link text in your breadcrumbs should match the link text in your navigation menus for clarity. Follow this Google Search Central guidance to add breadcrumbs to your website correctly.
Your category pages are likely to have hundreds of products within them, so you’ll probably have pages upon pages of results. Pagination helps users navigate categories and results pages while allowing search engines to find all relevant pages in sequence.
To do this, you need to integrate pagination using the ‘rel=prev/next’ code. You can find out how to add this code from Google’s documentation on pagination.
Filters and product options on your category pages are essential for increasing usability and revenue. Without them, your users will struggle to find exactly what they’re looking for. However, as necessary as they are, they can also prove to be challenging barriers when it comes to good search engine optimisation.
Many product filters cause the product listing to be displayed differently in many ways, such as a list rather than in blocks, by relevance, by lowest price first, and many others. What this is effectively doing is showing the same products just in a different order.
Usually, each filter option creates a unique URL, which means you end up with lots of duplicate or very similar content, which can be detrimental to the optimisation of your category pages.
For example, a base category URL may look like this:
Now, if we change the order of products by filtering prices from low to high, the URL will change:
Next, we could throw in some brand and price filter options:
These filters create three unique URLs but each page basically shows the same content in a different order.
To deal with this you need to use a canonical tag to prevent duplicate content issues. For our example, links for the base category page would need to look like this:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.examplestore.co.uk/category” />
You can find out how to integrate the canonical tag from this Google Search Central page. Please note: if you’re combining this tactic with the “view-all” tactic below, then your canonical tag should point to the view-all version.
If possible, include an option for users to view all of the product listings matching their criteria on one page. This saves them from having to click through multiple pages to view more products.
If you’ve thousands of products matching their selection, you might not be able to load all of the listings on one page. You can potentially get around this with lazy loading or other techniques but a “view all,” “show all” or “see all” option is preferred, where possible. Find out how to integrate the view-all page into your site here.
Moving onto product pages, we’re focusing on optimising seven key elements:
This doesn’t cover everything you need to optimise on product pages but it puts you in a good starting position with the key fundamentals.
Make sure these are fewer than 60 characters, this way they’ll be displayed properly in search results. If your title tags are longer, they’ll likely get truncated and you could miss that valuable click.
Think about the keywords your buyer will use to find the product. Include the name of the product, brands which are relevant and another USP. This could be your price, delivery, an additional service you provide or other elements that, compared to competitors, adds extra reasons to click.
Keep them under 155 characters. Again, any longer and you’ll suffer from truncation, so you won’t get your full message across to the potential buyer, missing that click through to your product page.
This is another opportunity to expand on the title tag. Add something unique to that product: what do you offer that’s different to competitors selling the same product? How can you make it stand out? Expand on the USPs or support the title tag with other USPs.
Make sure your URLs are nice and clean. Don’t include numbers, characters and anything unrelated to the product. Keep them short, sweet and leave out any unnecessary words such as “and”, “with” or similar phrases.
It’s also important to make sure they’re free from categories. This will largely depend on the Content Management System (CMS) you employ and whether your product is listed in just one category. If you have the same product listed in multiple categories, the best solution is to leave product URLs independent from category listings.
Most products come with options; colours, sizes and shapes to name just a few. If your CMS allows it, we recommend making sure these options are selectable within a single product.
Many CMSs include separate products for different variations of the same thing. So you may have a product for the blue version, another for the red version and one more for the green version.
What you’re effectively doing is creating three versions of the same thing with nothing but changed words where the colour appears. Similar content like this won’t do much good for your SEO. Unless there is clear evidence and demand from keyword research tools to give you reason to do this, we recommend not.
Everyone has product images. The thing is, yours should be better than anyone else’s. Don’t rely on the manufacturer’s images either – everyone is using them. Take your own product photos and concentrate on what your buyers want to see.
Clothing should be from multiple angles, on and off a model. Selling jewellery? Make sure your images cover all angles; on a finger, off, and on a clean background so all focus is on the product.
Create unique product descriptions that communicate your brand’s voice – avoid using manufacturer descriptions. Think about what features your customer is going to be interested in and talk about that.
Include both descriptive, paragraphed text, as well as bullet points summarising all the features of the product. Again, expand it beyond (a) the manufacturer’s provided list and (b) what your competitors are providing. This will really help increase the value of your product page. Use bolded text, internal links and paragraphs. Make it interesting and enjoyable to read.
Show product statuses clearly so users know exactly what’s available. Above all, include labels for stock statuses, clearly stating whether items are in-stock and any variations that are unavailable.
Also, provide accurate delivery information – namely, how much it’s going to cost (if you’re not providing free delivery) and when customers can expect to receive their order.
Nine out of 10 online shoppers say they seek out customer reviews before buying a product. Don’t let customers seek these reviews from elsewhere. Embed reviews on your product pages so they can make purchase decisions without leaving your website and, potentially, buying from elsewhere.
Everything we’ve done so far will help you win more traffic and get more products in shopping baskets. However, 70.19% of users who place an item in their basket fail to complete the purchase, according to the latest insights from Baymard Institute. You need to reduce this number for your SEO spend to have a bigger impact on sales and revenue.
Customers can abandon their cart for many reasons. However, Baymard’s survey finds the most common reason is additional costs like delivery fees or taxes being added at the end of the checkout.
As you can see, this is by far the biggest reason users abandon their shopping carts. That being said, a quarter say they also abandon carts because websites force them to create an account before completing the purchase while 24% say expected delivery times are too long.
Well, avoiding as many of the reasons listed by Baymard in the graph above is a good place to start. Here’s a quick summary of some of our go-to optimisation strategies for reducing cart abandonment rates:
Again, this doesn’t cover everything you should optimise to reduce cart abandonment. However, it addresses the most common reasons and will give you a healthy boost over most of your competitors.
By optimising category pages, product pages and cart abandonment in a coordinated strategy, you can make a real impact on the three key stages of a customer’s first purchase.
With category pages, you’re maximising search visibility for high-volume keywords without splitting your ranking potential across too many pages. This brings more traffic to your website and puts them within reach of a wide variety of relevant products.
Next, you’re optimising product pages to maximise clicks through from category pages and items added to basket. And, finally, you’re addressing the biggest causes of cart abandonment to increase the number of users who complete their purchase and put money in the bank.
If you’d like help ensuring that your products are achieving maximum visibility in the search engines, check out our eCommerce SEO services, call our eCommerce SEO team on 02392 830281 or drop us your details and we’ll get in touch.
Dave is head of SEO at Vertical Leap. He joined in 2010 as an SEO specialist and prior to that worked with international companies delivering successful search marketing campaigns. Dave works with many of our largest customers spanning many household names and global brands such as P&O Cruises and Harvester. Outside of work, Dave previously spent many years providing charity work as a Sergeant under the Royal Air Force Reserves in the Air Cadets sharing his passion for aviation with young minds. He can often be found in the skies above the south coast enjoying his private pilot licence.
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