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Two Great SEO Tips for Large-Scale Ecommerce Sites
Written by Barry Adams
Wednesday, 12 January 2011 13:28

When it comes to large scale ecommerce sites, many of the typical SEO approaches are not always useful and easily implemented. For example the 'great content' approach is much harder to use successfully when, for example, you're optimising a commercial website selling electrical goods.

Ecommerce sites are by their very nature explicitly commercial, and thus much harder to build links for. A potential linker will always be very aware of the site's commercial intent, which decreases the chance the site will get a lot of links - even if the content is good.

But there are other ways that an ecommerce site can rank well and receive plenty of search engine traffic. Here are some tips and ideas:

1. Site Structure

Something that many SEOs have known for a long time already, and recently endorsed by Derrick Wheeler (Microsoft's SEO architect), is that for large-scale websites site structure is king. I.e. the way the site is set up and structured - assuming a healthy link profile and good content are in place - is probably the single most important SEO aspect that you should focus on.

A good site structure, one that organises the content logically and makes it easy to access, is key to a large site's SEO strategy. A good site structure has many benefits, such as:

  • It makes the site easy to use for visitors
  • It ensures all the content easily crawlable by search engine spiders
  • With proper labels it provides semantic relevance for (product) pages
  • A good structure can prevent duplicate content issues and indexation problems

Creating a good site structure is not a straightforward task. Often a structure might work well for a site of a given size, but when that site expands the structure could hinder its growth and make things more complicated, which might yield all sorts of problems down the line.

Site Structure
Image credit: SEOmoz

When you're contemplating a good site structure, there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Clickpaths: making sure all content can be found within a few logical and easily accessible clicks
  • Labels: every category, subcategory, and product page needs to be appropriately labeled so that both users and search engines understand it
  • Multiple indexation paths: it's always a good idea to ensure that there are multiple ways for a user and a crawler to access a product page. Some ways of doing this are with recommended/related products, and with (user generated) product tags.

A great book on how to build good site structures is Information Architecture for the World Wide Web from O'Reilly.

2. Product Feeds

In most highly competitive ecommerce niches, you cannot rely on your site alone to generate traffic and sales. Price comparison sites are often the default destination for users - and tend to be highly SEO'd - so you need to have a presence there. These sites usually work with (XML) product feeds, so be sure to have one for your site.

It's a good idea to have multiple product feeds: one for all your products, and separate feeds for different types/categories of products. That way you can submit the right feed to specific niche comparison sites.

And of course you should always have a Google Merchant Center product feed. More and more often you'll see products listed directly on Google SERPs ('Shopping Results') and if you want any slice of that pie you're going to have to get your products in Google's database via a merchant feed.

Shopping SERP Results

Barry Adams -

Barry is the Senior Digital Marketer for Search at Pierce Communications in Belfast , where he works for a wide range of clients in the UK and Ireland. Since starting his career in the mid-'90s as an intranet content manager, Barry has worked in a wide variety of positions including corporate webmaster, in-house SEO specialist for a large regional newspaper, and web consultant for SMEs.

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+1 #1 Terry Van Horne 2011-01-12 17:24
Barry, great post! The feeds are IME not widely used by many so whenever I come into a project generally Comparison and coupon sites are the low hanging fruit many overlook. IME... I have uploaded non XML files to every major Comparison site out there. In fact a delimited file in Product Search format will work on many sites with no changes at all...
+1 #2 Bronson 2011-01-12 17:24
I could not agree more when it comes to the site structure aspect of large sites.

Bad architecture makes it difficult to provide a good user experience and also limits the sites ability to expand organically. IF you cannot extend your site organically to attack new keywords, you're in serious trouble.
0 #3 Steve G 2011-01-13 16:07
To expand on your #2 tip Barry, coupon sites go hand in hand with product listing sites.. Some sites do both, some one or the others.. We've come across quite a few sites that are actually driving a fair amount of traffic to our eCommerce sites, sites like Merchant Circle, theFind, and others should be taken in to account..

Those sites have driven FAR more traffic, and more importantly, sales, than Google Product search ever has.. And any traffic and sales you can get without involving Google is doubly delicious..
+1 #4 Robert Giorgione 2011-01-14 12:27
Great article and very sage advice. Thanks
+1 #5 Dana Lookadoo 2011-01-15 20:52
IA is one of my favorite aspects of this field. Your points about site structure are so key. Too many times the structure doesn't account for expansion. Or in an ecommerce site, a category page can end up with hundreds of links on it, not good for search or usability. Some solid IA planning would have prevented such.

Double props to the O'Reily book. I have it out now, reviewing like a Bible.

And also, anytime Derrick Wheeler speaks at a conference, I make sure to attend his session to pick up IA nuggets.
0 #6 Dean 2011-01-25 20:34
I believe adding good content to an ecommerce site can be done pretty easy, you can add informative articles to the product pages and or add a blog to the site, that always helps your SEO.

Another thing for ecommerce merchants is getting involved in social selling, adding some of your products to a commerce page on Facebook could generate a lot of traffic.
0 #7 Mehwish Noor 2011-05-01 08:32
I have read many posts about seo,but your post is excellent,It is with graphs,I like your style...
0 #8 Richard 2011-05-17 15:09
I've had my best results with the products that I've taken time to write good original content for. But, as you point out, this is no good when you have thousands of products! I'm starting to get results from working on the site structure, and optimising the keywords for the categories, this seems like a much more manageable method.
0 #9 posizionamento sito 2011-05-24 06:56
Thank you Barry for sharing these tips with us. You're article has been very useful.

Have a nice day,
0 #10 Clare 2012-04-20 15:14
thanks for the tips!

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