It wasn’t that long ago when standalone brick and mortar stores and shopping malls were the go-to spots for Americans to purchase products. But in 2018, there’s little doubt that e-commerce reigns supreme. Still, that doesn’t mean that merely having an e-commerce website is enough to become successful in this field.

Unfortunately, e-commerce websites are prone to a number of SEO issues that can completely derail your ability to reach new customers. Just like with any other business website, it’s essential for e-commerce site owners to be aware of the potential pitfalls and be proactive about avoiding them. In today’s post, we’ll discuss some of the biggest search engine optimization challenges that e-commerce sites face and how to properly address them.

Product Descriptions and Content Quality

If your website has hundreds or even thousands of products for sale, you might be tempted to copy and paste manufacturer descriptions or even automate the product details to save time. That’s a big mistake in terms of site optimization.

If you go that route, the information you provide won’t be unique to or valuable for your website. This could cause issues when Google’s bots crawl and find duplicate content or very little relevant copy. Even worse, you won’t provide the info that customers actually need when they decide whether to make a purchase. Your product descriptions need to contain much more detail than you’d realize in order to appeal to both human and non-human visitors.

You also can’t afford to neglect the quality of your overall content. Ever since Google’s Panda algorithm release, it’s become even more important for websites to feature content that’s rich and relevant to audiences. That means you should provide as much information as possible about not only your products but also your business and topics that will attract your target audience.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that having the actual products for sale is enough. It’s not. If you want to bring users to your site and convince them to stick around, you need to make it worth their while.

Loading Speed

On any given day, Google receives over 63,000 searches every second. Even if your website manages to show up in the first few pages of search rankings and someone clicks on the link, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll stay. If your site takes more than a few seconds to load, they’ll probably abandon it almost immediately. That can tank your sales and ding your rankings, both of which can spell disaster for your business.

Site load speed should be a concern for all website owners, but it’s particularly important for e-commerce sites. Something as simple as a slow loading page could cause a potential customer to abandon their cart at the last second and choose not to go through with the sale. That translates to easily preventable revenue loss, which will make it extremely difficult for your online business to grow. It’s not as if a customer will choose to come into your storefront instead (even if they had the option). If this becomes an ongoing problem, Google may even take notice and decrease your rankings as a result.

But not all is lost if you’re dealing with slow loading times. In fact, it’s one of the easier SEO problems to address. Often, this problem can be fixed by securing a better web hosting service, utilizing a content delivery network, considering accelerated mobile pages, enabling caching, or eliminating non-essential functions. You may want to think about hiring a web designer if these tasks are outside your realm of expertise.

Security

When customers shop online, they need to have some reassurance that their information will be kept private. If they can’t be assured of that confidence, they’re probably going to choose to shop elsewhere.

Whether or not you realize it, website security is actually part of SEO improvement. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certification is essential for any website — and e-commerce sites are no exception. Basically, an SLL ensures that any information exchanged between a server and a browser is encrypted (a.k.a. protected). That’s huge for e-commerce sites since users will ideally be sharing payment information. They won’t be inclined to do so if your site isn’t secure. And Google will be quick to let them know if they should be wary.

While this certification used to be hard to get, it’s now more accessible than ever — and Google values “https” URLs far more than regular “http” URLs. It’s an easy site optimization step to take and won’t cost you that much. But if you choose not to pursue SSL certification, it’ll probably cost you a lot in the long term. Don’t willingly leave money on the table just because you don’t understand the importance of SSL for your site optimization. While you’re at it, you can improve your brand’s trustworthiness by exploring options for “trust seals” (which are authenticated by various security providers) and seals of approval from agencies like the Better Business Bureau and others.

Product Reviews

Earlier, we spoke about the importance of high-quality content for your onsite optimization. If you’re looking for a way to beef up both your ability to rank and show customers you’re a trustworthy resource, you should consider allowing customers to leave product reviews.

Some business owners think that if they let customers leave reviews of their products, they’ll lose control over their brand perception. Actually, the opposite is true. If none of your products have user-generated reviews, customers will be less likely to trust the quality of your product and of your business as a whole. But if visitors can instantly find out more about your products without having to purchase firsthand, they’re probably going to be more likely to do business with you — even if some of the product reviews aren’t overwhelmingly positive.

Having product reviews can support your site optimization efforts because Google’s bots specifically crawl those reviews. And because it’s all generated by users, you don’t have to pay for frequent content creation here! While you will need to monitor these review sections to ensure there’s no spam or totally irrelevant content, you shouldn’t maintain the ability to delete reviews you don’t like. Instead, take the opportunity to engage with these customers and show how dedicated you are to making their experience a positive one.

User Experience

Now that mobile internet traffic has risen to new heights, it’s vital for e-commerce businesses to prioritize responsive design that keeps mobile users in mind (without alienating desktop consumers). Not only does your website need to be aesthetically pleasing, but it also needs to function in a way that’s user-friendly. If your site frustrates customers, you’re going to have a hard time converting leads.

If your site is in need of a facelift, make sure you’re working with reputable designers who will consider SEO during this process. Otherwise, you might think your user experience has improved when there are actually a ton of 404 errors and missing pages. Your designer should also ensure your site is responsive on any and all devices and screen sizes. You’ll also want to prioritize your site navigation and internal linking, as well as other components we’ve already discussed (like loading speed and content quality) to keep your bounce rate and cart abandonment frequency low.

Although there are still those who opt to buy items in-person rather than online, having a website for your retail business is no longer optional. Nor is it optional to stick with an outdated or poorly functioning e-commerce website. If you expect to thrive online, you must prioritize your onsite optimization and web design. Otherwise, you might be in just as much trouble as America’s shopping malls.

Need help with your website optimization or design? We’re here to bring your business to the next level. For more information, please get in touch with us today.

Brennen Bliss

Brennen Bliss

Brennen Bliss, named "Young Search Professional of the Year" by the US Search Awards in 2019, is the founder of & Lead SEO Strategist at PixelCutLabs®.

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