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.
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.