The ongoing proliferation of e-commerce websites is making it difficult for site owners and webmasters to stay ahead of the competition when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), getting traffic from sources that are not necessarily Google, and converting visitors into paying customers. SEO professionals who specialize in e-commerce websites routinely advise their clients on many improvements they can make to their online stores to make them friendlier to shoppers, instead of just to the Google search crawlers indexing their sites and the algorithms ranking them.
The following tips are useful for e-commerce website owner who would like their online stores to become more visible and relevant, not only to Google but also to the visitors who ultimately make the businesses profitable:
Pay Attention to Site Maps
Site maps are extremely important to the crawlers that Google periodically sends out to update its massive indexing databases. Small e-commerce sites with just a handful of items for sales and an equally low number of product description pages can get away with a basic site map that essentially dumps all the links on the site into a single page. Google, however, has its own XML protocol for site maps, particularly for online stores and marketplaces that make heavy use of content that is displayed and managed by Ajax, Microsoft Silverlight or Adobe Flash.
Online stores that have large catalogues of products and more than 50,000 URLs should follow the site map index format for XML, or a segmented approach when using traditional HTML site maps. This approach consists on using one site map page to list categories that link to separate site maps for their products. The idea is to allow search engine crawlers to index the site with just two clicks.
Eliminating Duplicate Content
When Google released its Panda algorithmic search update in 2011, one of its main targets was duplicate content. This is a problem that is common among e-commerce websites since typical online store arrangements call for items being listed across more than one category, and thus they are likely to appear in multiple pages. Google would normally penalize a website with low search ranking caused by duplicate content, but e-commerce sites can get around this issue by using canonical link tags or the parameter handling tool; these two methods are recommended by Google staff and are available through Webmaster Tools.
Removing Barriers to Purchases
This tip does not deal with Google, but it is often mentioned by SEO professionals who evaluate the user experience element of e-commerce sites. Shoppers who register on an e-commerce site providing some of their personal information may be very valuable to online store owners, but for each of those customers there are handfuls who abandon their shopping carts because of registration requirements. This is an inexcusable loss, particularly when many online shoppers are using payment services like PayPal and Google Checkout, or prepaid electronic vouchers like Paysafecard and Ukash. The idea is to make the checkout process as hassle-free as possible.
There are many more tips for e-commerce sites to follow that can boost their ranking on search engines and improve their overall performance. The best advice for online store owners is to listen carefully to the advice of their webmasters and SEO consultants in this regard.