SEO for Ecommerce Category Pages

SEO for Ecommerce Category PagesRunning an optimized, search engine friendly ecommerce site offers many opportunities to get things right, or, if you’re not careful, to make huge mistakes. In this post we’ll be taking a look at things you should be trying to do to help your SEO for ecommerce and things you should avoid.

Category pages or department pages are mid-level pages that make it easy for customers and search engines to navigate your website. They also are a great opportunity to capture search engine traffic that is in the research phase, or just starting to enter the sales funnel. Category pages can exist inside of other category pages, if there are relevant keywords or shopping concepts. For example:

example.com/couches/
example.com/leather-couches/
example.com/sectional-leather-couches/

It’s best to keep the URL hierarchy as “flat” as possible as shown above. It not only looks cleaner but prevents maintenance problems if something changes down the road. An example of URL with hierarchy you want to avoid if possible is:

example.com/couches/
example.com/couches/leather-couches/
example.com/couches/leather-couches/sectional/

Another thing you want to avoid, if possible, is parameters in your URL. Adding them creates the possibility of duplicate content.

example.com/couches/leather-couches/?sort=price
example.com/couches/leather-couches/?color=black
example.com/couches/leather-couches/?stock=yes
example.com/couches/leather-couches/?id=2

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If you need to use parameters to make your shopping cart function, make sure you use the canonical URL tag to tell Google it should be indexing the URL without any parameters. Additionally use URL parameters section in Google’s Webmaster Central Console to tell Google which parameters it should ignore.

Pagination is another issue that undermines the optimization of many Ecommerce setups. For example you want to avoid:

example.com/couches/leather-couches/2/
example.com/couches/leather-couches/3/

If you can control the number of products displayed per category page, try choosing as high a number as is reasonable, like 50 or 100 items. When you display that many items you will want to control which items come first. To help customers you may offer filtering choices (price, size, color, etc), just be mindful of creating URL’s with parameters as was mentioned above.

There is, however, a downside to adding more products: you increase the size of the page and the time it takes to download. You will want to choose a size for the product images that’s neither too large nor too small as well as resize, compress and optimize the image to that size for maximum speed. Sizing an image via HTML tags or CSS sizes only makes your pages take longer than they should to load.

Another common problem many department pages face is there is a very high link to text ratio. You can reduce this ratio with editorial content. Adding a beauty shot or “hero shot” of your product or category and adding a block of text to accompany the photograph gives you the ability to add relevant text and keywords as well as selling points. From a keyword perspective you want to choose one phrase that is ideally between three and five words. If possible have that keyword phrase be part of the URL.

And let’s not forget about breadcrumbs and internal linking. When you are linking to individual products, link both the picture and product name. Not only is it good for SEO, it’s also good for usability. Try to make the product name keyword rich text and not something like a model number or stock number. Additionally, anytime someone is in the shopping environment you want to have a breadcrumb trail. It’s great for usability and lets people know where they are in your store. It also gives you the ability to add schema markup for breadcrumbs which will give you a rich snippet listing in the SERPs:

SEO for Ecommerce Category Pages

The last high level point is sitemaps. Your site should have both an HTML sitemap and an XML site map. The HTML site map will be one of the main ways a search engine can navigate through your site and a XML sitemap should backup and re-enforce what the search engines discover from “natural crawling”. You want to make sure you include direct links to all of your department and category pages for maximum benefit.

Contact the professionals at Active Web Group to assess the SEO on your ecommerce. Our internet marketing strategists will review your existing site and recommend changes that will improve your conversion rate. Fill out our contact form or call us at 1-800-978-3417 to get started.

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