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Search Engine Optimisation fundamentals for e-commerce sites

By Hayden Sutherland

January 21, 2013 | 5 min read

At the generic level, the legitimate search engine optimisation methods you use for a content-based site will benefit an e-commerce one. Doing the SEO basics well should help your site in the organic search rankings, regardless of whether you transact online or not. However, there are things you can specifically do to try to gain some further advantages in search engines if you retail via your website.

Here are my suggested things to look out for:

1. Make product naming as clear as possible

Give your product the name of what it actually is, not necessarily what your design or product development team want to call it. If your product is known internally as a “lace bust strapless bandeau” and you call it this on your site (and therefore in your page title)… then you can’t really expect the page to be highly placed when someone searches for “lace detail dress” or something similar.


Search Engines are also likely to use your page title or meta title / description as the text in the hyperlink back to this page when it appears in the search results. It is therefore going to be easier for a user to identify what the product actually is and consequently stands a greater chance of being clicked on.

2. Use keywords to name products if they are well known.

Kind of flying in the face of the advice above… if your customers already know your product by a specific name or term, then use it. So if you do have that specific dress known by some obscure term that creates differentiation and still has a decent amount of searches for it in Google, then use it. Some clothing companies are very good at giving their products unique names, which can then be optimised online very effectively.

Note: Use Google Trends to decide if the keyword does actually have much search traffic:

3. Ensure your product copy is optimised

Have you just got a couple of bullet points to describe your expensive leather jacket? Hopefully not, because product copy is not only great for explaining the benefits to your potential customers, it’s useful to search engines too. Here is where you can go to town with all those longer-tail keywords you need to include, so yes you might well include “lace bust strapless bandeau” within the content. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that copying product descriptions from one product to the next, no matter how similar they might be, doesn’t help either.

4. Use content marketing to signpost to new areas of your site

Blogs and other similar site content can build up frequent and useful visitor traffic, so make sure you’re using them to their maximum impact. Create obvious and preferably keyword optimised links from these pages through to your product areas and even to individual products, as long as you…

5. … manage broken or unavailable links

Some sites no longer keep the pages of discontinued products live, which can create broken links within a site and can also reduce the amount of working in-bound links from external sources. I would advise against this practice, instead keeping the page up but showing alternatives that are in stock. It may also be the case that some products come back into stock (such as if some are returned or there is a further production run of the item) so keeping the page available might prove easier in the longer term.

Technical note:

If you do remove product pages, make sure you do a proper 301 server (permanent) redirect for each one. This will preserve at least some of the value of any in-bound links.

6. Allow your full catalogue to be indexed

It might seem obvious, but search engines spiders can’t index pages they can’t get to (sometimes called orphaned pages). This can sometimes happen on e-commerce sites, for example when products get re-categorised. Make sure your sitemaps are updated all the time and visible (meaning both your customer-facing one where users can list your site to link to any page, as well as your search engine friendly XML sitemap file).

7. Encourage sharing

Social signals are having an increasingly large impact upon search engine ranking these days, as well as helping the sales process by encouraging peer validation. By allowing each of your products to be shared across the increasing number of social media platforms, you should build up more inbound links to your site


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