Ecommerce Specific SEO Problems
While many aspects of ecommerce SEO are fairly similar to doing SEO for non-ecommerce sites, there are a few specific ecommerce SEO problems that are unique to the ecommerce space. Some of these have been touched on previously (unique content, little/no content, product variations) but there are a few more problems to watch out for.
What to do with out of Stock and Discontinued Products
Having out of stock products or products that are no longer available is inevitable, but how you handle these products can have a big impact on your SEO. While there are a few different approaches you can take, it is not recommended to take down the page when the product is not available. If you take down a product when it isn’t in inventory and put the page back up when you have the product in inventory, this is going to significantly impact your performance. Taking a page down and putting it back up is the same as when a site goes offline for a significant amount of time, just on a much smaller scale. If a site goes offline for a while, it will have a big impact on their rankings, and even the indexation status, for pretty obvious reasons. Google really doesn’t want to be sending users to a site that is offline. We should expect similar results for our page. It is going to suffer long term ranking problems if we’re pulling it down for extended periods of time. If the product is simply out of stock, we should try to maintain organic rankings by keeping it online and part of the site architecture. In order to avoid a disappointing user experience for searchers looking for the product, we should offer two solutions:
- Offer to notify them when the product is back in stock
- Show them substitute products in case they can’t wait
By offering to notify the user when a product is back in stock, we are able to let the user know when we get the product back and we can grow our email marketing lists. With discontinued products, maintaining a product listing after the product becomes permanently unavailable, enables us to capture searchers who don’t know that the product is no longer available. If a product has been discontinued, we should:
- Highlight the new version of the product, if it exists
- Feature substitute products
How to Optimize for Seasonal Products & Categories
Seasonal products and categories present a unique challenge for SEOs. While seasonal products are inherently not relevant year round, they need to be available to search engines in order to avoid the pitfalls associated with having pages offline for a significant amount of time. Further, in order to improve organic performance any link building efforts should really be done several months before the season starts when possible. This means that you should keep your seasonal products and category pages live year round and you would ideally keep them integrated into your site architecture year round. While you might not want to keep a “Christmas Gifts for Her” page in your top navigation year around, you could still incorporate it into your site architecture by moving the link to the footer or to a gift ideas page that is incorporated into the top navigation. If you plan to write blog posts about “top gift ideas for x” that you want ranking in season, you should write and publish them 3-6 months before your season starts. Unless you have an extremely authoritative domain, it is going to take several months for Google to firmly associate your content with the intended topics and then rank the content. If you want your content to be found in search, start early. It’s ok to update the products highlighted or some of the details as you get closer to season. If you don’t want the content showing up in your feed in the off season, you can exclude it from your feed if possible or back date the post so it doesn’t show up at the top of your feed. If you back date the post and then want to promote it in season, you can simply switch the post date to a recent date.
Optimizing for Discount Codes
Everyone wants a deal. This means that everyone is searching for coupons and if you have an affiliate program, this means you’re giving away money. Many customers, when they decide that they want to purchase a product from you will go out and search for coupons and promotions for your site. Unfortunately, this often leads to affiliate sites which will try and take credit for the purchase even though they didn’t really do anything to help get the customer to your site. To combat this, you can create your own deals / promotion codes / coupons page. As the page is on your site, it should be very little effort to rank for these promo code terms related to your brand. While it likely won’t lead to any sales that weren’t already going to happen, you’re not going to be giving as much money away to your affiliates. Shutterstock and Pipedrive both have great discount and promotions pages.
- Create out of stock product pages
- Create discontinued product pages
- Develop seasonal landing pages and content many months before they are needed
- Begin link building efforts to seasonal pages at least 3-4 months before the start of the season
- Do not take down seasonal landing pages after the season is over
- Keep old seasonal landing pages integrated into your site architecture
- Create a deals/promo codes page