Content is a common cause of headaches on ecommerce websites.
Hundreds and thousands of individual products, all with their own URL, all lacking any form of unique content to help them stand out both to users and search engines: this is an all too common occurrence in ecommerce.
I'm going to show you five simple ways to work with content to help it stand out, both on-page and in the search results.
Use detailed, unique descriptions
I’ll start with one of the most fundamental things you should be doing on your product pages.
Make sure you are using a detailed and unique product description for all of your products, and not, as some companies are doing, providing nothing more than a few words at best. Take this t-shirt on the Bench website, the description is nothing more than this:
Surely there is more to say about it than that? Give search engines (and ultimately customers) something to read by providing, at the very least, a few unique sentences of content.
But don’t do as many online stores do and simply take the description of a product from the manufacturer and reproduce that copy on the product page on their site.
By doing this, their product content is no more unique than every other website doing the same thing. Below is the product descriptions on the Currys and Pixmania websites for the Samsung UE40ES5500 TV.
Both have totally identical descriptions, providing absolutely nothing new for the customer and negatively impacting your SEO due to duplicate content (a search for part of the text shows 824 different results).
The product description should be viewed as more than just something for search engines. It is the copy that is trying to sell the product to the customer and should be treated with as much care and attention as the copy on non-product pages.
- Always include at least a paragraph of copy for a product description.
- Don’t use the manufacturer description - write something unique.
Encourage customer reviews
There aren’t many better ways of generating unique content on product pages than user reviews. The content itself is free to generate and has so many other benefits that reviews are pretty much mandatory for an ecommerce website.
62% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site with user reviews, increasing conversion rates as well as bringing in more search traffic. When combined with structured data (discussed in more detail below), reviews can also increase the clickthrough rates on your search results too.
This John Lewis product page for the TV talked about above has 233 customer reviews. That is a vast amount of unique content that you simply couldn’t have generated otherwise.
Provided your on-page optimisation is strong enough to make it very clear what your product page is about, the user generated content is only going to strengthen it. You may feel like you haven’t got huge amounts to say about each individual product on your site, but your customers certainly do. They just need a little encouragement sometimes and make the reviewing process as easy and painless as possible.
A gentle nudge such as an email reminder a few days or a week after purchasing a product asking for the customers thoughts, long enough that they’ve had enough time to form some sort of judgement but soon enough that it’s still fresh in their minds, can be enough to bring them back to leave a review.
- Always allow customers the ability to leave reviews on your product pages.
- Make the reviewing process as easy as possible.
- Encourage customers to leave reviews.
Avoiding duplicate content with filtering & rel=”canonical”
Despite all of your best efforts, you will still end up with duplicate content on the average ecommerce site. This is because of the navigation, categorisation, and filtering on the page or product level. Take this page on Argos:
The main, indexable pages are “Sports and Leisure”, “Bags, luggage and travel”, and “Holdalls”, as you can see in the breadcrumbs at the top of the image. These are the pages Argos wishes to rank in search engines and each will need enough unique content on them to not appear as duplicates.
However, to provide a good user experience, you are able to filter the products by options such as price and brand, allowing customers to quickly find what they want. In doing so, you are creating huge amounts of pages with near identical content, which is precisely why this job is handled by filters and not links.
- Use filtering as a way of preventing duplicate content with faceted navigation
- Use the rel=”canonical” tag to indicate the pages you wish to crawled and indexed
Make your content stand-out with structured data
Make the most of the content that is already on your product pages by using structured data to make your search results stand out above the competition, something which a surprisingly large number of online retailers are failing to do. Pixmania UK are doing a good job of marking up their data:
We can see: breadcrumbs showing the site navigation, ratings with a score, a price (you can also show a price range), and availability. All of this extra information helps this page stand out against the standard results it’s competing against. It’s about more than ranking highly - people need to be enticed to click through to your website.
There is microdata for almost everything and it’s continuing to grow, along with its usage. Perform a search for Micky Flanagan tickets and you’ll see results such as these:
Rich snippets bring the search results to life: which of those three results stands out the most?
- Use structured data markups wherever you can to create rich snippets
Think beyond the word and the image by using videos
Think beyond text and pictures by engaging your audience with videos. Brands such as Asos have long been using videos on their product pages and other stores are having great success. Ice.com increased their conversion rate on product pages with video by 400% and Shoeline.com improved their conversion rate by 44% using video.
Videos can be incorporated into search results using structured data markup too, but videos aren’t appearing particularly frequently in searches at this time (unless the search query specifically includes the word ‘video).
There is no doubt that product pages with a video perform better than those that don’t. But don’t leave video just for products, consider it as part of a broader content strategy. REI, the US based outdoor clothing/equipment company, regularly create videos to promote products and provide outdoor learning resources. This shows you how ecommerce websites can use videos creatively that have the power to not only increase click through rates and conversions, but to bring in referral traffic and links.
- Introduce videos of your products on product pages
- Use video as a creative way to enage your customers
What other ways are there for working with content on ecommerce websites? How do you avoid duplication and ensure the right pages stand out?