SEO is a complicated game, and it can be even more difficult to rank for your target terms with an eCommerce website.
When it comes to optimising your online store for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), there are a number of factors to consider. Some of the most important are keyword research, on-page and off-page optimisation. However, there’s a lot more to it than that. You also have to consider the kind of content your site offers, your target audience, the intent behind the keywords and what we will cover today; technical SEO.
It’s important to ensure you take a technical approach to optimise your eCommerce site. By following these 3 quick tips, you can hopefully increase your site’s crawlability, core web vitals and user experience to help you gain more customers.
1. URL Structure
One of the most important parts of optimising any eCommerce website for SEO is ensuring you have a URL structure that’s both easy to remember and easy for search engines to crawl.
A lot of this comes down to your product categories, but there are a few other factors that can also affect your URL structure, such as faceted navigation, but more on that later.
The majority of eCommerce sites follow a hierarchical URL structure, which is designed to help customers navigate the site and find the products they are looking for. However, the way your site is structured will affect your site’s crawlability and PageRank distribution.
The most important thing to consider for URL structure is the way you group your products into categories. You have to consider how your products are organised into categories in a way that not only makes as much sense to the user but also for search engines. For example, if you have a large variety of products in the health & fitness niche, you will want to separate them into subcategories like supplements, clothing and equipment, with further break-down subcategories if needed such as weight-lifting equipment.
This all sounds simple in theory, and it is relatively straightforward on a brand new website. But on large and established eCommerce websites, where best practices might not have been followed when it was created, URL structure can be like opening a can of worms.
For example, what if you have a product in more than one category?
For this specific example, provided the above URL structure of domain/category/subcategory/product has been used, then this can lead to multiple URLs for the same product, and if not addressed this can create a huge duplicate content problem.
Luckily, canonical links exist, so if this situation applies, you should choose a primary category for the product and on any duplicate versions on other URLs, you should add a canonical link that points to just one version of the page.
It can be easy to fall down a URL structure rabbit hole, but as long as all your main categories and subcategories are indexable, readable URLs and do not use parameters to serve content, then you should be fine.
The best way to check an existing site is using a tool like Screaming Frog and the coverage report in Google Search Console. This will allow you to quickly see if you have any crawlability or indexing issues related to the URL structure of your store.
2. Faceted Navigation
More common than ever, eCommerce websites use faceted navigation to group products into subcategories. Faceted navigation is a great way to group your products into subcategories based on a specific field and not just on the category, such as colour, size or function.
This can be beneficial for a number of reasons, but primarily for user experience. By adding faceted navigation to your product categories, it aids the user’s ability to browse through a large selection of products and narrow down the results to relevant products to them. This increases time on site, reduces exit rates and improves conversion rates.
The problem is, if not properly implemented, Faceted navigation can cause huge technical SEO problems, with the worst being it creating an infinite number of URLs, eek!
Some faceted navigation systems operate by creating a new, unique URL for every filtered search, which can lead to a huge SEO headache. They’ll either dynamically generate the URL based on the options the user selects, or add parameters that specify how the category URL is behaving.
That means that even if you do not create new landing pages for every possible combination of options and attributes, your faceted navigation is creating them as they happen – this can lead to potentially an infinite number of URLs being created on your site. This can take away crawl budgets from your priority pages and wreak havoc on your link equity distribution.
This is just one example of issues faceted navigation can create, others include adding hashtags to URLs and different URLs showing the same content depending on the order of attributes selected, such as /size/colour/ + /colour/size/.
Using standard URLs in your faceted navigation is best practice, this allows for them to be indexed and rank for long-tail specific keywords. It allows you to set unique page titles, meta descriptions and content. Then for any duplicates like (size and colour being selected in different orders), one option should be used and the duplicate redirected, then for others, relevant canonical tags should be set up.
Also, we recommend adding rel=”nofollow” tags by default, whenever one option is selected, all other links within that filter should have nofollow applied. This moderates the crawl depth search engines can take.
3. International Set Up
Time to talk internationally, and the dreaded hreflang tags!
Hreflang tags are a great way to help international eCommerce websites be found in different languages. Hreflang tags are a set of parameters that can be added to the URL of a page or section of a website to indicate that the page or section is meant to be seen in a specific language. Hreflang tags are added to the of a website and are used to define the language (and therefore the country) that a page is intended for.
By default, most eCommerce platforms allow you to set up your site in English, but if you want to target a specific country, you’ll need to add a hreflang tag to your URLs. This tells search engines and potential customers that this URL is intended for that specific country. For example, if your eCommerce platform is set up for the US market, you should have US-specific hreflang tags in your URLs, and adjust the content accordingly.
Machine and automated translation simply no longer works for search engines, and if you want your website to rank in a foreign-speaking country you will need to use a real human to translate the content and optimise it.
Why? Well, there are huge differences between languages, meaning that not only a poor translation might be hard to read, but it could even take on a completely different meaning, not to mention keywords and search intent will differ.
Get Your Online Store Up To Scratch
This is just a quick guide to some of the most important technical SEO tips for eCommerce websites. These are not intended to be a comprehensive list, but rather a few of the most important things you should consider when it comes to SEO for your store. For more info check out our full SEO analysis of the most popular eCommerce platforms.
If you think your eCommerce site might be affected by technical SEO issues, then get in touch with our specialists for a free consultation today and we can help you identify where the issues might be and the steps you can take.