Shopping cart Search Engine Optimization can vary from the simple to relatively impossible. In a competitive landscape, how do you differentiate your shop from the competition? How do you balance SEO and use?

Right here are six things I take a look at early in any shopping cart SEO project.

 

1. Keep a Simple Site Structure

Make it easy for customers to get right into the site and discover items. For the majority of online stores, I recommend 3 levels of primary menu navigation:

  • The home page.
  • Department pages.
  • Item pages.

http://shopname.com/department/product/
http://shopname.com/shirts/polo-shirts/

 

Some stores could warrant an added classification level to obtain vital keywords into your site-wide navigation.

http://shopname.com/department/category/product/
http://shopname.com/mens-wear/shirts/polo-shirts/

The rule of thumb is to keep your store as basic as possible; do not unnecessarily complicate your menus.

For enterprise-size stores that offer countless items across multiple departments with products that should be gotten into smaller sized and smaller sub-groups, I suggest the taking a trip magnifying glass approach to navigation.

The traveling magnifying glass, my own term, is how I describe navigation that broadens and collapses depending upon where you are in the shopping cart. These navigational links define requirements that help visitors’ narrow choices (ex. iPhone, Android, Windows or Blackberry). This is especially handy when there would otherwise be page-after-page of products to view. Here are three key features of the traveling magnifying glass:

  • Maintain your top level navigation.
  • Use sidebar navigation to reveal sub-category breakouts and options.
  • Do not show menu links for options that have been declined by the visitor; instead, make use of breadcrumb navigation for easy backtracking.

As users move deeper into item subcategories, do not keep all the previous alternatives in your sidebar navigation. If you do, your menu will become visually complicated. For SEO, you want to push PageRank or authority deeper into the site, toward the products, not backwards into multiple levels of navigation.

Amazon.com makes tremendous use of the taking a trip magnifying glass. In their books department, Amazon offers numerous categories. When you click on Science Fiction and Fantasy those all disappear and you’re offered Fantasy, Gaming, Sci-fi or Writing. Select Science Fiction, and Amazon presents you with a dozen sub genres. Each time you move deeper into the bookstore, the previous choices disappear.

Amazon offers connected to numerous sets of alternatives: format, author, book series and more. A selection from any links-group (as opposed to checkboxes) simplifies the menu by removing the unselected options. This is the opposite approach from stores that never remove options and keep piling on new ones as visitors dig deeper.

Another thing worth noting about Amazon.com is that each of the sidebar menu choices double as a keyword. Search Google for Science Fiction and Fantasy. Amazon ranks # 3 as I write this. The URL in the SERP is the same as the canonical tag URL in the HTML of the page that appears when you click Science Fiction & Fantasy in the sidebar menu.

As you choose options, Amazon develops brand-new URLs and includes the selected options in the title tags. This optimizes thousands of pages for long-tail queries. I’ll write more about title tags later.

 

2. Use Canonical Tags

Store URLs and shopping cart SEO have always had a contentious relationship. Many carts use query strings or other URL treatments to occupy pages with specific content or options. I’ve worked on major brand websites with expensive shopping cart software that uses illegal characters and syntax.

Shopping carts and website administrators have legitimate factors to customize URLs, for instance, to include internal recommendation parameters for analytics. The challenge to SEO is that customized URLs can create problems like spider blocks, duplicate content and decreased keyword relevancy.

Things got easier in 2009 when Google, Yahoo and Microsoft announced support for the canonical link element. Any page that can be reached by more than one URL, whether those URLs appear in links on your site or not, should contain a unified canonical tag. Hopefully, your shopping cart CMS will certainly take care of this for you.

 

3. Use Simplified Keyword URLs

Before I get into simplified URLs, I wish to clarify I’m writing about the URLs which appear in search engine indexes. These may come from actual links or canonical tags. Undoubtedly, if a URL appears in a canonical tag, it must work when typed into the address bar.

What is a simplified keyword URL?

  • It features keywords, usually the department, category or product name.
  • It separates words with dashes (though not in the domain itself).
  • It foregoes query strings and non-alphanumeric characters.
  • It removes stop words.

Let’s look at some examples:

Departments
http://shopname.com/department/
http://shopname.com/womens-shoes

This is just the domain plus the department name.

Categories
http://shopname.com/department/category/
http://shopname.com/womens-clothing/shoes/

Just the domain, department and category.

Products
http://shopname.com/product-name/
http://shopame.com/nike-air-jordon-1101a-sports-shoe

Products are where things get a little different. Notice I recommend only the domain plus the product name. The reason for this is that one product may appear in more than one department or classification. To avoid replicate content, the best practice is to use one URL only combined with dynamic breadcrumb navigation customized according to the visitor’s entry path.

Not all shopping carts permit this simplified URL. When this is the case, you can choose one version of the URL and use it as the canonical. I try to find the one which makes the best department, category and product match.

 

4. SEO Department, Category & Product Names, Titles & H1 Tags

The secret to selecting excellent departments and classifications is to get as many of each as near the top of your site structure as possible, ensuring you also adhere to good usability principles. I worked on a women’s clothing store that had clothes, shoes and accessories as their departments. I was able to move most of the clothes categories– pants, blouses, dresses and jackets– as much as the department level.

Think about how people try to find your products. A favorite record store makes use of departments like EDM & Residence, Alternative, Rock and Disco. Not just does their navigation make it easy for site visitors to drill down to the cds and tunes people desire; it enhances their site for some excellent keywords.

Use the same strategy for both departments and categories.

When naming individual products, combine the actual product name with its most common keyword. If you sell tennis racquets, use the model and the category: Wilson Pro Staff Six One 100L BLX Tennis Racquet.

As a basic standard, the title tag and H1 should match the name of the department, category or product. You may have additional pages based on user options.

/ science-fiction-fantasy-books.
/ science-fiction-fantasy-paperback-books.
/ science-fiction-fantasy-hardcover-books.
/ science-fiction-fantasy-ebooks.

In this situation, include the alternative or options in the URL, title and H1 for department and category level URLs. Once you get to individual products, however, you should drop any options so you use that one unique product page.

 

5. Create Your Own Unique Descriptions.

When working with significant brands and sellers, I always look for unique and useful product descriptions. The two biggest sins I’ve seen are product descriptions shared across multiple websites and thin product descriptions.

Do not Share Product Descriptions

Here is a typical occurrence. Big Brand, Inc. sells from their own website plus through various retailers or affiliates. The copy writing group writes one description for every product, and the descriptions end up on Big Brand’s site, several online merchant websites and on affiliate websites.

Notice that each listing has a different description. Provide yourself an immediate edge-up on the competition by writing your own special product descriptions. If you are the manufacturer, write one description for your own internet site and another to supply retailers and affiliates.

Write Rich Product Descriptions

The second major sin is thin product descriptions, usually in the form of a short descriptive sentence or more and a list of specifications. At the very least, produce a list of features and adjoining advantages to develop an illustrative description.

Photo where your product will be utilized or used and use that to develop a visual story. Search engines want to reward quality content. Product descriptions are one of those things busy copywriters like to rush and use the same familiar language. You do not need to be Hemmingway. Simply be better than the other websites.

 

6. Use Schema.org

Schema.org is a machine-readable markup search engines make use of to recognize and classify material. Right here is an example I developed with Raven Search Engine Optimization’s Schema Creator for Products.

Many online shops forego Schema.org or any machine-readable markup. In most shopping carts you can implement this into your templates so it auto populates for each product. Set it and forget it.

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