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Parts of the search engine optimisation work e-commerce sites undertake require a certain level of technical understanding which is where SEO consultants can shine. Other parts need some common sense and an eye for detail.
Here are five SEO mistakes e-commerce sites make, so that you don't have to make them...
Avoiding the 'copy and paste' trap
1. Using identical vendor descriptions.
Most e-commerce sites will get a product description from the vendor and copy paste it word for word. Superficially, this looks OK because each product page has a full product description which includes key features, overview etc, but it isn't that easy.
There is a fair chance that other e-commerce sites have used the identical vendor description which makes your content a type of duplication. You should make your content unique and valuable by adding your own notes under an editor review or by encouraging customer reviews.
2. Duplicating that unique and valuable description.
Many e-commerce sites will copy paste their new unique content onto 3rd party sites like eBay, Amazon and co' thereby creating a type of content duplication. Sure, the description first appeared on your site and the search engines should recognize this, but why take the risk.
The engines do get things wrong and the last thing you'd want is to compete on the SEO front with more sites. Remember that identical vendor description from before? Well, here you can use it freely.
Creating unwanted competition
3. Not paying attention to the affiliate channel.
E-commerce sites often profit from a good affiliate programme and for many of my clients, this channel has the lowest CPA which makes me a huge fan! Nevertheless, it's important to set terms and communicate them to your affiliates as to what they can and cannot do. It is also important to take into account your weaknesses when recruiting new affiliates.
For example, if the search engine results for your brand terms are weak and you have recruited many promotional code affiliates, don't be too surprised if within a short space of time you've created unwanted competition for yourself on the organic front. You might be paying for sales, which would have otherwise come directly to you.
4. Revealing way too much.
There is always a fine line between revealing too much information and finding ways to convert more users by sharing internal stats. e-commerce sites will often reveal best sellers lists to try and generate more sales, and while this is all well and good, there's a fine line here. Some e-commerce sites will even go a step further and will list best sellers on a category level together with revealing the product availability (XY in stock).
When doing competitive analysis, eagle eyed people might pick up on that and will very quickly estimate the number of products you sell. If the conditions are right, you might encourage others to complete against you as they can tell how many you sell.
Fixing what's not broken
5. Making site wide changes.
For established e-commerce sites in particular, making site wide changes over night can easily backfire. It's common for site owners to pick up on the latest SEO trends and implement them across the site although it isn't clear what they are trying to fix. From time to time we come across misuse of the robots.txt which wrongly blocks important parts of the site and lately misuse of the rel=canonical tag is becoming a real issue. The trick is to identify the area you're looking to improve, measure the outcome on a group of pages and only then implement it site wide.
Have you come across any common sense mistakes recently?