SEO is probably the most important marketing channel for success in ecommerce, since a full 89% of customers begin their buying process with a search engine.
If you run a small-to-medium ecommerce store, you probably look to the big shopping carts to learn how to do SEO right. That’s a smart move, but remember that they’re not all perfect.
Here’s a closer look at how the biggest shopping carts on the web take on search engines.
I took a look at a few of Amazon’s product pages, and I wasn’t surprised to see they followed all the ecommerce on-page SEO best practices.
What stood out the most was their opportunities to keyword-optimize: the pages include “About the Product” and “Product Details” sections where they could naturally optimize for the right keywords without stuffing.
However, I was surprised to see a huge “From the Manufacturer” section, where they included text, images, and extra specifications straight from the manufacturer:
This is something ecommerce sellers should tread carefully with – if Google sees all your product pages copy text from somewhere else on the web (the manufacturers), they could consider it to be duplicate content and penalize you for it.
In this case, it looks like Amazon wrote their own descriptions as well, so maybe the pages are unique enough for Google.
Of the big shopping carts I reviewed, Amazon was the only one I found to have multiple pages ranking for the same keyword:
Cannibalizing your keyword juice like this isn’t advisable if you’re trying to get your business on the first page of search results.
You don’t want two of your own pages competing for position against each other. Instead, invest in that keyword on one page alone.
For Amazon, though, since they’re the biggest shopping cart in the world, the advice might go the other way.
Amazon regularly has several pages ranking for the same keyword appear on the first page of search. They’re trying to dominate the market, and it’s working.
I could easily spend this whole post talking about Amazon’s SEO, but let’s move on to some other sites.
Taobao is a Chinese ecommerce site, and it’s the second-largest in the world next to Amazon. They’ve made efforts to internationalize their business, so I decided to type “Taobao USA” into Google.
This was the first result:
Looks like they still have some kinks to work out for their international audience.
When I clicked on the link I got an error page. After that, I tried to run Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test on their page, but their robots.txt file wouldn’t allow this either.
Their domestic SEO could be great for all I know, so I’ll give them a break for now.
Alibaba allows you to easily browse their collections and view prices in your own currency, which is great:
But once you click on a product to get some more information, they ask you to log in:
I couldn’t even look at a product page without setting up an account. That’s a problem for user experience.
I ran Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test on their site and can confirm they’ve done their job in that area:
Someone with deeper access to the site will have to tell you the rest!
Flipkart is an electronics ecommerce company founded in Bangalore, India. They boast 102.4 billion INR in revenue.
Flipkart’s URLs are optimized to maximize keyword juice in search results:
A lot of ecommerce stores like to include site structure categories in their URLs. For example: www.yoursite.com/womens/outdoors/sassy-7-skis/
This reduces the power of your target keyword in search results.
Some ecommerce sites make the mistake of not using their target keyword at all in the URL, sticking with numerical product IDs.
But Flipkart does it right, by prioritizing their product keywords in their URLs.
While looking at their URLs, I also noticed they use HTTPS security encryption. That’s just good business, since it helps you protect your customers’ personal information.
In terms of SEO, Google does index SSL certificates – and HTTPS is a known rank factor.
Flipkart appears to have their bases covered in terms of on-page SEO best practices. They include a variety of helpful images:
And their product descriptions appear to be uniquely written, not copied from the manufacturer.
One area many ecommerce SEOs forget about is Google Image Search. But if Google finds images that are relevant to a keyword, they will include a sampling of them in regular Google searches.
This gives businesses an opportunity to take up more real estate on the first page of search results and show off their product in the process.
It looks like Walmart is optimizing their images for SEO, as the first image result for my pet bed search belonged to them:
The images that followed it came from other sites I had never heard of, despite the fact that this same product is available on several big shopper sites.
And while Walmart is ahead in their image SEO, they could still do better.
Their landing page for this product only contains one image of the pet bed:
If they included multiple images (different colors, different angles, etc.) and optimized them all for SEO, they could probably monopolize Google Image Search results for this product.
I’d also like to point out Walmart’s use of ultra-long-tail keywords for the same products that are available on Amazon:
Even when you’re Walmart, competing against the granddaddy of online sales is grueling. By taking advantage of long-tail keywords, Walmart increases their chances of appearing in the top spot when people search for specific things.
It worked out in this case – they were the number-one result.
I can’t talk about ecommerce SEO without discussing product reviews.
All the ecommerce sites I looked at passed the product-review test with flying colors (except for Alibaba, because I couldn’t access their product pages), but let’s look at Snapdeal as an example of how to do it right.
They have prominent review summaries right at the top of each product page:
When you scroll down, you get more information and the reviews themselves:
Product reviews can also show up in search results if you use structured data, making them even more valuable.
It’s hard to tell if a website is making the most of structured data for SEO, because Google may or may not display it in search results. But by the looks of it, a lot of the big shopping carts are taking advantage:
Takeaways From the Big Shopping Carts
For the most part, it looks to me like the big ecommerce stores have their SEO bases covered. I’m not surprised – they must be doing something right to have gotten this big on the web.
To wrap things up, here are a few takeaways to keep your own ecommerce store at the top of its game:
Avoid keyword cannibalization
Unless your site’s the cream of the ecommerce crop, you do not want multiple pages competing for the same keyword. Make sure similar products have their own target keyword, and regularly check what keywords your pages might rank for inadvertently.
Optimize your URLs
Keep your URLs as simple as possible to make the most of target keywords for SEO. Avoid including extra words or phrases you’re not interested in ranking for.
Make the most of image search
Optimize your image file names before uploading them by including your target keyword. Always fill out your alt tags with relevant, keyword-rich phrases.
Use structured data
Structured data will help extra information about your products (prices, reviews, specifications, etc.) appear in search results. Extra info can encourage clicks and improve SEO.
Google has a Structured Data Markup Helper you can use to create structured data for your site.
Know the value of ultra-long-tail keywords
If your products are available on a lot of other ecommerce sites, consider targeting ultra-long-tail keywords with your product pages. People making more specific product searches might find your page first.
Avoid duplicate content
Always create your own product descriptions, instead of copying and pasting the manufacturers’. If you sell several similar products, make sure the descriptions on those product pages aren’t overly similar.
Never forget your product reviews
For a lot of searchers, if they show up at your ecommerce site and don’t immediately see third-party opinions of your products, they may hit the back button and go elsewhere to find them. A high bounce rate is bad for SEO, so make your product reviews prominent on every page.
Mobile-optimize your site
Make sure your site has a responsive design by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
Use security encryption
Security encryption will help keep your site safe and your customers happy. Google recommends HTTPS and has a help page on securing your site with it.
How does your site’s SEO compare to the big shopping carts? Tell us in the comments:
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Web Design and SEO of Carolinas, its staff, or its partners.