Technical SEO Plan – Ecommerce SEO Guide II
In the first part of our ecommerce SEO guide you learned how to find, choose and implement the right ecommerce keywords to increase your traffic and drive more sales to your website. What are the next steps to keep your ecommerce SEO optimization going?
Ecommerce sites are prone to specific technical Google SEO issues that are recurrent. In this second part of the guide, we’ll build a technical SEO plan covering the most common SEO issues and how to solve them easily.
There are many SEO tools that will help you audit your ecommerce website in order to find the technical issues affecting your site. I personally recommend SEMrush and Ahrefs as the most conducive and effective audits for your technical SEO plan.
Using these or other SEO audit tools will help you detect any technical SEO issues. In this post I’ll help you understand why they happen and what you can do to solve them. At the end, you should be able to build your own technical SEO plan.
Building Your Technical SEO Plan: Fix the Most Common Ecommerce Technical SEO Issues
Technical SEO Issue #1: Too Many Pages
Solving this problem is the first thing you should prioritize when creating your SEO plan. Having too many pages on your ecommerce site does not only pose a problem, but also normally ends up generating other technical SEO issues.
Big ecommerce sites with many different products and pages often become an SEO nightmare. Each product requires their own page, and sometimes different URLs are used for different sizes or colors of the same product. This makes creating different content for each page an impossible task, and often results in duplicate content issues.
How can you solve this SEO problem? The easiest and most categorical way is deleting or not indexing the ecommerce pages that might be causing problems or benefiting you at all.
How to fix it?
What’s the point of keeping active pages on your ecommerce that are not generating revenue or bringing any traffic to your site?
It might be hard to say goodbye, but there are some pages that rather than spending your time improving them, are better off deleted or not indexed. Normally around 30% of the pages contained in an ecommerce site haven’t generated sales in the last year. Just be wary of this, as your site might be experiencing the same.
You can easily check with most ecommerce platforms like Shopify or BigCommerce, helping you to detect the products that haven’t generated revenue lately. Not only that, but I would also recommend you to take a look at your Google Analytics before making any decisions.
Ensure which pages are not sending any traffic to your ecommerce site and remove them. After you’ve done this, it’s time to fix and improve the pages that are actually worth your time and efforts.
Technical SEO Issue #2: Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is one of the most common technical SEO issues for ecommerce sites. It’s also one of the most important issues, as it can sink your ecommerce site further down in Google’s search results.
It can happen on account of a few different reasons. One of them, as we’ve already seen, is having too many pages on your site and creating unique URLs for each version or slight variations of them.
But it can also happen as a result of your category menu if you have one. If you have a unique URL created for every selection the user can make and Google indexes them, this will result in a multitude of duplicated content.
t can occur that you have the same product page with the same content included in different categories. The only thing that will change is the URLs, here’s an example:
Lastly, text fragments appearing on multiple pages, like boilerplates, can be seen as duplicate content in the eyes of Google. This doesn’t mean you can’t use some content in more than one page, just try to not repeat texts of more than 100 words.
How to fix it?
If you don’t have a legitimate reason for two identical pages with different URLs, the best option is to delete one of the URLs and redirect one of them to the other. Plain and simple.
However, if you do have a reason, you can set a canonical tag (“rel=canonical”) to ensure that Google only indexes one of the pages. This tells Google that certain pages are the same or very similar, letting them know they shouldn’t be treated as a unique page.
CLEVER INSIGHT: Canonical tags don’t only solve duplicate content issues but also help make backlings more valuable. This happens because those links pointing to different URLs reroute to a single URL (the canonical one) and make those links more powerful.
You can also add a “noindex, follow” meta robots tag to make sure those pages get dropped out of the index as soon as Google re-crawls them:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,follow”>
CLEVER TIP: Add the meta robots tag “noindex, follow” to all the pages that are dynamically generated on your ecommerce website.
One other solution for all the pages that don’t have “noindex, follow” or aren’t set up with canonical URLs, is to simply write unique content for them.
Hopefully you won’t have many of these to work on, but if you do, know that this is an absolute must if you want to reach Google’s first page results and compete with other ecommerce giants like Amazon or eBay.
Technical SEO Issue #3: Deep and Orphaned Pages
Most ecommerce sites follow the golden rule of thumb:
Make it so none of your IMPORTANT pages are more than three clicks away from your homepage.
It makes sense to have product pages as easily-accessible as possible to visitors. However, for larger ecommerce sites it is not always possible.
Here’s how you can find deep pages using Ahrefs:
Site Audit > Data Explorer > Depth is greater than 3 > Is valid (200) internal HTML page = Yes
How to fix it?
If possible, it’s worth investigating the deeper pages and adjusting your URL structure so your product page links are fewer clicks away from the homepage.
Orphaned pages are those that have no internal pages linking to them. These pages are worth fixing, and you can delete them if they’re no longer useful to you or link them to other pages on your ecommerce site.
Here’s how you can detect orphaned pages in Ahrefs:
Site Audit > Data Explorer > Inlinks = 0 > Is valid (200) internal HTML page = Yes
Technical SEO Issue #4: Thin Content
Thin content is an issue that can gravely affect your SEO. Once again, it’s important to take notice of it when creating your SEO plan.
For a better look at it’s impact, check the graph below which shows how eBay lost more than 33% of its organic traffic due to a Google penalty of thin content.
In general, longer content tends to rank higher than thin content. Especially on ecommerce sites that have many product pages, it’s typical to write thin texts because it has to be unique and cover similar products.
How to fix it?
If you can, writing at least 500 to 1000 words for your product and category pages would certainly help. Remember this content should be of high-quality and unique.
You can use templates to make this task faster and easier. A useful template for ecommerce product pages would include:
- 50 to 100 word introduction describing the product.
- A bullet list of features.
- Extra product description focusing on success cases, awards, benefits, FAQs or even product images.
- Conclusion with a 50 word summary followed by a call to action.
Technical SEO Issue #5: Keyword Cannibalization Errors
Keyword cannibalization is when a website is targeting the same keyword in more than one of its pages. It usually happens when you’ve been running your store for a few years now and forgot to keep track of the main keywords you’ve already used for each page.
This confuses Google because it makes it difficult to determine which page should rank for those keywords, and it may result that neither page does.
Also, having two or more similar pages results in inbound links that splits between those pages. By combining all referring domains and pointing them to the same page could make that pagerank higher.
How to fix it?
If you don’t want to delete one of the pages or redirect it because the page is valuable for you and brings traffic from other keywords, you can de-optimize that page for that keyword by removing or substituting any references to that keyword.
If you’re in this boat, you should also change the internal links directing to those pages and especially the keyword-rich anchor links. Changing the anchors is an easy solution to this problem.
Another solution would be to merge both pages into one “master” page. Making all links point to a single page will help you rank higher for your keyword, along with others.
Using a “noindex” or a canonical tag, as explained in issue #2, would also solve this problem.
Technical SEO Issue #6: Site Speed
This issue can be detrimental to both your SEO plan and your client acquisition planning. Having slow load times on your ecommerce store can increase shopping cart abandonment by almost 30%.
In terms of technical SEO, Google has admitted several times that it is one of the metrics taken in their algorithm when determining your site’s positioning.
There can be several reasons why your ecommerce site loads slowly: using images having a large file size, having slow hosting plans or servers, or using ecommerce platforms that have bloated code.
How to fix it?
Fixing this issue can be different for each person, but easy in all cases.
You can compress the size of your image files (it’s important for ecommerce product pages to export those images so they are optimized for your site), or upgrade your hosting provider/ invest in a CDN to really amp up your ecommerce site loading speed (plus it makes your ecommerce site more secure).
To Sum Things Up
Those were the 6 most common and important ecommerce SEO issues that should definitely be included in your ecommerce SEO Plan, and most importantly, how to fix them!
Remember to complete your SEO Plan with non-technical issues and recommendations as well. Also keep in mind the importance of conducting keyword research and choosing the right long-tail keywords, as the first steps of your SEO strategy.