The holiday season is upon us, which means that your ecommerce site needs to be prepared to "deck the halls" of search engines with their products.
My early gift to you is an (almost) A to Z guide of SEO tips and tricks designed to optimize ecommerce sites to prevent them from landing on the search engines' naughty lists.
Auto fill forms where possible (when you have the information), and provide drop downs and selection fields to make it as easy as possible to fill out.
Build text for users into every page, where it makes sense, to support a well-defined content strategy.
Create custom dashboards in Google Analytics for ecommerce-specific metrics' reporting.
Don't have unique pages for small product variations. Instead, list small variations within main the product page.
Ensure titles and meta data are unique, descriptive, and to improve both user understanding and search results' page engagement.
Focus on URL structures that are readable and logical for both users and search engines.
Give reviews visibility and prominence on the site.
Have product sun setting and out of stock strategies in place to reduce 'page not found' errors.
Integrate social sharing options (not just social profile icons) into your site, especially on products, categories, buying guides, and content pages that host shareable content.
Kill thin pages that have little value to users and, instead, redirect to relevant pages that do provide value.
Link to popular products from your home page. Rotate bestsellers and random products in homepage linking modules too.
Markup on-page entities and product attributes using schema.org, or other ontology guidance.
Never syndicate your most valuable content, or rely on syndicated content to differentiate your site's products or services. If you're a reseller, don't use the manufacturer's product descriptions, and if you're a manufacturer, don't syndicate your own unique content to resellers/distributors. Create separate content just for them.
Optimize keywords, but don't over-optimize internal anchor text. Make it descriptive, user focused and user logical.
Optimize category pages for search results.
Optimize your path to conversion, which should be short and efficient. Test until you get it right.
Product images offer a great opportunity to show up in image search results if they're optimized, sharable and listed in an image XML sitemap.
Responsive Web Design is preferred but, at a minimum, build a mobile optimized and accessible site. Test. Test. Test.
Review / adjust parameter ID in Google Webmaster Tools to ensure optimal crawl efficiency.
Site speed is an important factor for mobile search, and key for user satisfaction. Look to optimize code, images, server, and delivery technologies.
Track ecommerce values in Google Analytics – or other analytics packages – to provide deeper metrics for analysis and insights.
Use rel="canonical" for parameter driven page URLs, directed to a best choice of page.
Use rel="prev" rel="next" and best practices for paginated content.
Work to organize content into topic / sub topic / detail page structures, keeping silos "link separate," except for any potential contextually relevant cross-linking.
XML sitemaps are an optimizer's best friend. Use them as signals to Google on crawl importance, canonical hierarchy, product freshness and content accessibility.
Implementing these tactics will equip your ecommerce site with a competitive advantage and will make the holiday season a little jollier for SEO professionals and consumers alike.