Making these ecommerce mistakes is like watching money go down the drain
Ecommerce sites have been growing in popularity for years now, and I think most people would agree that Amazon.com has had a massive influence on how regular folks shop for goods. These days, it isn’t as common as it once was to visit a brick and mortar store, and many enjoy the convenience of online shopping to save time and money. Though we may not be to the point where drones rule delivery and distribution systems, ecommerce sites are a part of our culture.
But even though ecommerce sites are so popular and prevelent, you aren’t guaranteed to hit a home run by simply buying a domain and throwing a website up on the Internet. Believe it or not, four out of every five ecommerce sites bite the dust. There are a myriad of reasons any business can fail, but consider that to be successful with ecommerce, you’re going to need to work with people from a lot of different backgrounds and skill sets including SEO, digital marketing, copywriting, content marketing, A/B testing, web design, and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), among others.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds to sell goods and services online. So today, we’re going to take a closer look at the top digital marketing mistakes made by ecommerce sites.
Messy and Non-Intuitive Link Structures
URLs are a critical component of SEO. But not only do they add SEO value to the Google algorithm, there is an implicit value in making a URL easy for humans (i.e. customers) to remember. But sometimes, people make the mistake of using tools and schemas that employ automatically generated URLS such as the following:
This URL is long, contrived, and difficult to remember. It’s better to form a URL structure that is coherent to both customers and search engines, both for the product’s category and the individual product page. For example, the following is an improved version of the previous URL example:
These two URL examples include keywords, which helps boost signals to the Google algorithm. Though partial-match or exact-match domains and URLs aren’t as powerful as they once were, you still need to take advantage of every little ranking signal that’s possible.
Weak Content with Little SEO or User Experience Value
Not to sound like a broken record, but as we all know, content is king. And within the last five years, Google has made some massive changes that redefine what makes content good and what makes content crap. Not too long ago, it was pretty common for web pages to be extremely short – typically less than 500 words per page, with most of them hovering around the 300 word-count mark.
And while larger word-counts aren’t necessarily indicative of quality content, shorter word-counts simply don’t perform as well as they used to. The Panda update is an extremely larger determiner of this concept, but as a general rule of thumb, you want to provide dense, thick, and high quality content chock full of useful information.
And product pages on ecommerce sites frequently under perform with weak, short, and poor content. And sure, in some portion of your pages it may be appropriate to use short tag lines and product descriptions. But if you’re trying to drive traffic to a particular product via content marketing, you must produce quality, relevant, and informational content. Longer-form posts seem to be the norm these days, usually between 500 (as a bare minimum) and upwards of 1500 or even 3000 words.
Problem is, how much can you say about a product and still make it unique? It's not easy.
If you're stuck writing about a product, one way to get started is to look at what your manufacturers have provided. It has been our experience that, while manufacturers like to make flyers and catalogs about their product, they don't often have the sense to put that information online. Type up what they've given you and run it through copyscape - you may just find out that their content doesn't even exist online - so you'll be first and you'll get all the credit for their faux pas.
Slow Loading Pages
Probably one of the most common problems with ecommerce sites is the under-performance of their load times.
The speed of your website and the amount of time it takes to load pages has been a ranking factor for nearly 6 years now. Unfortunately, some ecommerce sites load painfully slowly. There’s nothing more agonizing on a website than twiddling your thumbs as you wait for a page to load.
If you want to benchmark your site, go ahead and use the Google Page Speed Insights tool. This tool will even help by providing you with suggestions to help improve the speed of your site. However, if you’re not very skilled with websites, you may find some of the suggestions to be a little complex, in which case it’s high time to reach out to a qualified web design and SEO professional.
It could also be that you're running an outdated or abandoned theme/template. If that's the case, and support is no longer available, you have two choices. You could pay someone to update the theme, or you could get a new theme. Most likely the second option is the more cost effective one, but you'd need to find someone that really knows their way around current themes so your site can retain it's look and feel. (We can help you with that)
We recommend you run the page speed tool at least once a month on several pages - your home page, a category page (with at least 3-6 sub categories), and a product page. Then document the results and see what you can do to improve them over that month. If your numbers are getting worse, go back and find out what changed so you can fix or undo it!
Redundant Title Tags
In order to woo the Google algorithm, it’s best to have unique title tags for every last one of your pages. Unfortunately, ecommerce sites often suffer from redundant title tags.
The ugly truth is that it takes an immense amount of time to craft unique tags for each individual product, product version, and category. Depending on how many and what types of products you sell, the amount of work you have to do could grow exponentially.
Is it worth it? Heck yeah.
Want to see if your site has redundant tags? Use Ahrefs - a free tool that will identify most simple SEO problems.
Missing Meta Descriptions
This simple fix is very often overlooked yet important to boosting your click-through rates from Google. A simple one or two sentence 'snippet' of the page you're looking at will help explain what people will see when they choose your result in Google.
If you are unsure of your page titles and/or meta descriptions, we recommend using the Screaming Frog SEO Spider tool and then running a 'SERP Summary' report. This will list each page and the corresponding title and description. This tool is free.
Contrived or "Spaghetti" Website Design
Organizing your pages, products, and categories is more crucial for ecommerce sites than a simple blog. It can’t be a maze of links and categories in which your website’s visitors become lost and confused. One good rule of thumb is the 3-click rule: keeping every page within three clicks (or less) from your homepage. This is important for two reasons.
First off, it will make your products and pages more accessible to users in a shorter amount of time (remember, most Internet users seek the path of least resistance and immediate gratification). Secondly, it makes your website easier for the Google bots to crawl, which in turn can help improve your SEO rankings.
Each Case is Unique
Ecommerce sites are trickier to optimize than other types of websites, and the aforementioned errors are among the most common problems facing small ecommerce businesses. Instead of throwing in the towel and becoming one of the 80% of ecommerce sites that fail, try avoiding these pitfalls to improve your chances of success.
Let Us Help
If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know your away around the SEO realm, let us help. Our nearly twenty years of Internet experience will help you save you time, maximize the effectiveness of your digital marketing campaign, drive traffic to your site, and help increase conversions. Contact us to start the conversation today.