Optimising Your E-commerce Site for Search: A Round Table Discussion

28/07/2016, SEO

Optimising Your E-commerce Site for Search: A Round Table Discussion

Video Transcript:


Sergey: Okay, we should be live now. Just make sure, there we go, okay. I got a thumbs up from my colleagues, so we are live. Hello, everyone. My name is Sergey Dowdy [SP] joining here from SEMrush office is beautiful St. Petersburg. We have nice weather here, clear sky, 25. And today we’re gonna be talking about Ecommerce Site Optimization, and with us, we have three amazing experts. We have Andy Drinkwater, we have Danny Richman, we have Craig Campbell. All these guys are from the UK. 
Before we actually jump into the introductions for the guys, we’ll wait a few minutes. We’ll let our audience hop on, give them a few minutes to grab their coffee, everything else I need, and then we’ll get the conversation started. So in the meantime, guys, how’s it going over there?
Andy: Oh, not bad at all. Making the most of the fact that the UK’s actually getting some storm at the moment.
Danny: Real good here.
Craig: All good here as well, and up in Scotland, I’m also getting some sun, which is strange, so it’s all good.
Sergey: That’s good to hear, yeah. Every time I have guys from the UK and ask how the weather is doing, usually the weather, or usually the answer I get is that it’s raining. And I’m like, well, that makes sense. And it makes me feel better because here in St. Petersburg, it’s not raining. And I’m like, hey, weather’s not so bad here.
Danny: Yeah, we complain when it’s hot, and we complain when it’s raining, so it makes no difference really.
Sergey: Indeed, but if complaining, what else are you gonna do with the time? I mean, so I understand. Cool. All right, so it’s 02 right now. We can go ahead and get started.
So again, let me introduce myself. My name is Sergey Dowdy. I’m the host for UK region here at SEMrush. And today we have three amazing experts joining us from the UK. So we have Andy Drinkwater from Chester, England. Andy, please give a few words about yourself.
Andy: Right, okay, well I first got my first taste of SEO going back to 1999 when I was working for one client. And I sort of stumbled into SEO more than anything else. So I was a contractor for a number of years before that, and I used to contract out to the likes of banks over here in the UK, and started out initially as a tech author, content writer, and also as a well, usability, UX design and the like. So that was sort of my first initial tastes of SEO. And then from there it’s progressed from the heady days of when it was all about stuffing as many keywords as you get on a page through to where we are now, which is where I say it’s like Google’s updating 500 times at least a year and everybody’s sort of jumping around, trying to make sure you stay on top of it really. So yeah, no two days are the same, which is what I like about it.
Sergey: Okay, cool. Very, very happy to have you here.
Andy: Thank you.
Sergey: So next up, we have Danny Richman from London.
Danny: Yeah, hi Sergey. So yeah, I’ve been involved with SEO probably around about the same time that Google pretty much first started. So that’s nearly 20 years I guess, coming up to that. And I do some consultancy work for clients here in the UK and in Europe. And I also do a lot of training as well. I’m particularly involved with an organization here called The Prince’s Trust, which is a charity that helps young people start their own business here in the UK. So I work with a lot of those young people helping them to get their business up and running. And yeah, try to keep myself busy.
Sergey: Okay, cool, cool. And next we have Craig Campbell from Glasgow.
Craig: Hi, I’ve not been in it for quite as long as Andy and Danny, but been at it for 14 years now and I started off on the bottom, been doing the whole stuff that, you know, Andy was talking about here. Putting as many keywords on a pages and all that kind of stuff, and developed myself over the years. I’ve learned from a lot of experiences I’ve had, good and bad. And now, you know, hope to kind of pass that on and I’m trying to get down more of a training route, and trying to pass on that information to other people so that we can try and avoid the years of heartache and stress, and whatever else I went through over the years. So that’s what I do.
Sergey: Awesome, awesome. Yeah, really happy to have you guys here with us. And actually, looking at your bios, I mean, that’s over like 45 years of combined experience. So this is massive. So again, having your input and feedback is gonna be really great. So all right, well let’s get started.
So the webinar, this hang out on air, is entitled “Optimizing your Ecommerce Site for Search.” And let’s just jump right into our conversation with our first question.


So guys, why should you care about SEO when it comes to your Ecommerce site?

And I know this is sort of like a basic, duh kind of question, but I think this is a good introduction. So let’s have you guys jump in. Anybody can start.
Danny: I’m happy to start. Yeah, it is a basic question, but I do think there’s still a lot of businesses out there, particularly smaller businesses that are a little bit hesitant when it comes to SEO for their ecommerce websites. I think there’s still a lot of people out there that find SEO quite complicated, and there’s still this idea that it can be a bit of a dark art, that they’re not really sure exactly what the best approach to go with that is.
But the fact is that I would say probably SEO is one of the best sources of driving new customers to your website, people that aren’t familiar with your brand, people doing unbranded searches on Google. And of course, if people are doing searches on Google for the type of products or services you sell, there’s nobody better to have coming to your website. Somebody that’s searching for that thing, they’re ready to buy, they’re looking for that thing. It’s a fantastic source of traffic. And I believe that the stats are that there’s around about 30% of all unbranded traffic to most of the popular ecommerce sites will come from organic search these days. So yeah, I think there’s a lot of good reasons to be doing SEO for a website.
Sergey: All right, thanks for the input. So guys, what else do we have?
Craig: I mean, I taught organic search traffic is by far in my experience, you know, we have analytics and whatnot where we can see what traffic’s come from where, and organic traffic by far, you know, exceeds anything else. And in terms of conversions, you know, I firmly believe that organic traffic converts sales a lot better than maybe some of the social media stuff, which are forcing traffic onto your website, doesn’t quite convert as well. And the whole purpose of getting an ecommerce website is to make money, and people…it’s relatively simple. People Google things. You know, if I want to buy a new T-shirt or whatever it might be, you know, I Google it. It’s the biggest and best way of finding products or services online. And anyone who doesn’t do it is missing out massively, and for whatever reason, business do some things have a lot at stake to press ahead, and I think that comes down to maybe… People think SEO’s a dark art, or whatever it may be, and I find things that will help people understand that it’s not a dark art, and it’s certainly one of the marketing strategies you can use to drive traffic to your website.
Andy: Yeah, completely agree with both the guys. And there’s nothing to say that, it’s like I say, everybody’s got a huge budget to sort of just jump straight into the ecommerce world and start selling their products. If you’re fairly new, what are you going to do? You’re not necessarily going to have a huge following on social media. You might not engage a lot other people on social media. So the easiest way to sort of get yourself started is by not ignoring at the least the basics, the best practices that go with SEO, and then just trying to sort of stick with those as well.
Danny: Just one other point on this, just to touch on what Andy was saying, for new businesses starting up, you know, before you’ve had that opportunity to build a brand name. I did a study a little while ago where we asked a whole load of people that use Google on a daily basis how they feel about the businesses that they see in the results on Google. And the results came back that people are around about 10 times more likely to trust the businesses appearing in the organic results against those that appear in the ads on Google. There’s a general conception from the public that those businesses appearing in the top places in the organic results are generally more trustworthy and have earned their position to be there.
Sergey: Yeah, I think those are great points, and Danny, definitely valid point with the organic versus the paid. I mean, even myself, I’m in the industry now and I understand that paid doesn’t mean that it’s something bad necessarily, but at least, you know, still to some point and before, I would deliberately skip those lists, and say, “Okay, let me go see what the first organic one.” Yeah, but yeah, valid points, guys. And again, I guess ecommerce is going to go anywhere. It’s only getting bigger. And you know, once you experience ecommerce… I mean, me as a consumer, I mean, once I see how easy it is, you know, using things like Amazon, etc., you never wanna go back. So the buyers are always there, you just…it’s gonna be okay. Where are they gonna go? Who’s gonna be the person that actually sells them the stuff? So the products. 
Okay, so let’s jump into our next question. All right, so this is in regards to general points.

So what are some general SEO points that play a role in ecommerce sites?

And let’s jump into our first sub-question here.

So how can I do keyword research for an ecommerce site?

And also, what keywords should I target for my home page? So let’s go ahead.
Andy: All right, okay, well keyword research, it’s one of those sticky areas that everybody tries to do. And it’s actually remarkably difficult to get right as well. I mean, there’s many, many tools out there such as SEMrush, which will sort of ease the process, and you can do a lot of comparisons with competitors. And I mean, one of the things that I like to do is, which is just like a free thing you can do, is what to get an idea on what keywords other people are using. It’s just use a good old Google search, put your keywords in, and look at the keywords that Google is highlighting the descriptions on what’s returned. And it gives you an indication of what is going to be a useful keyword to stick onto the page as well, because it’s not going to just be about putting an exact keyword in. You want to make sure that you’re putting keywords in that are going to explain a little bit more about the product. You’re looking at LSI keywords, you’re looking at synonyms, and there are similar keywords as well.
So in terms of tools to do it, like I said, there’s quite a number out there, but certainly the good old Google search is one that tends to get a lot these days, I think. And I say in terms of which keywords you should be going for, try not to go too far above and beyond, and don’t sort of diversify too much. Keep it sort of on point. If you’re selling necklaces and just necklaces, talk about necklaces. Don’t then go into talking about rings, which have nothing to do with it. So try and sort of keep it a little bit on target with what you’re doing.
Craig: I totally agree with Andy. There are tools out there, but I think there are more manual ways to check, you know, doing what Google suggests. Also look at other people’s tags and see what they’re doing. But in general, you have to keep it kind of targeted and I think a lot of people, that’s one of the biggest mistakes is people trying…you end up all over the place, and talking about things that are not too relevant or whatever. So as long as it’s fairly targeted.
And obviously, the tools a neat job and give you a rough outline of what’s there. And obviously, if you use your analytics and whatnot when you’re website going on, you don’t ever stick with what seems like keywords anyway. It always does change, a tweak, or whatever. And just make sure you keep on top of it, and continue analyzing the competition and whatever else you see here to make sure that you have the best choice of keywords. It’s very hard to, you know, get an exact bunch of keywords all ranking well and you make loads of money. There’s gonna be changes along the way. And if you have that in mind and go with it, then you won’t go as long as you continue to define and eventually get the good ones that actually bring in the money so to speak.
Danny: Yeah, one other things I really like to do with businesses when I’m working with them, because it’s quite good to show businesses some results that they can get quite quickly so they get a taste of how SEO’s gonna be able to help them. So one of the things I always recommend is to download, if you’ve got a website that’s been up for a little while, and it’s ranking for a few things on Google already, go to Google Search Console and download a list of all the keywords that the website’s already ranking on Google in the first few positions, say the top five positions on Google. And then using a tool like SEMrush, you can then go and do some keyword research, that you can put in some keywords, and go and see what sort of difficulty level the keywords are that you’re already ranking for. So SEMrush will show you a difficulty score for any keyword. And have a look and see what’s the average difficulty score for the keywords you’re already ranking for.
You can then go and start doing some search around different product ideas and find some new keywords that are within the same difficulty range that you’ve already got. And if you find some new keywords that are within that range or below, the chances are that your website’s already powerful enough to rank for those new keyword suggestions. So then you can start looking at either optimizing those pages better or creating some new pages targeting those keywords, and you can get some results quite quickly with that because you don’t need any more links to the website. So that’s one of the first things I would recommend with keyword research.
Andy: Can I just hop in for a second to get on this as well, because one of the things that I think certainly new businesses starting out on ecommerce tend to assume that they’re going to just hop straight onto Google and it’ll appear for phrases. And I use jewelry when I say, so like gold necklaces. Now there’s gonna be a lot of big brands who are already going to be going after those sorts of short phrases. So don’t ignore the long tail. So there’s no point. There’s so much can be gained by looking at exact search terms people are actually looking for. I mean, there’s…nobody wants to sort of say well I don’t appear for anything. But start being realistic when you start as well. It’s always one of the points. So don’t just go and automatically assume that you can just hop in there and start ranking. Look for what people are looking for as well. Look for what clients are ranking for, sorry competitors are ranking for. Don’t copy what they’re doing, but by all means, to take some lead from what some of the others are doing as well.
Danny: It’s a very good point Andy’s made there. And the other thing to consider as well is those very broad terms like gold jewelry are not necessarily going to be the ones that will convert best either. Because those people typing in gold jewelry don’t really have very much idea of what they’re looking for. Whereas somebody that’s typing in “12-inch gold link chain 18 karat,” and they’re putting all that detail, they’ve done their research. They know exactly what they’re looking for, and the chance of those people buying a product from your website is much, much higher than someone typing in “gold jewelry.” So yeah, I completely agree with Andy there.
Craig: Also, I think in terms of clients, clients always come to SEO companies, or freelancers, or whatever you want to call them and they have different budgets, and some things it’s just not achievable to rank for gold jewelry because it’s probably high competition keywords. And, you know, I know I’ve got experience with helping businesses that do build their business up solely on long tiered keywords, very specific keywords, and because, you know, these ones are, people are specifically looking for those products, so they’re both comments from everyone.
Sergey: Yeah, very well put, guys. And as far as gold chains go, after this webinar, I think I’m gonna have to do some research of myself. I think it’s about time for a new gold chain. Yeah, so let’s jump into our next sub-question. So what about links to my ecommerce site? So how do I go about getting links?
Andy: That’s one of those nutty things that everybody struggles with, because bad links is…there’s a definite way to do things right, definite way to do things wrong. Nobody wants to sort of have a product and then not have any links, especially Google. Google said that two of the most important signals for them are bad links and content. So that’s two things you need to concentrate on. Now then, I tend to try and look for links or opportunities for links that are going to give me a good reason to be able to go to them. So I need to build some sort of a link of assets on the websites. And if you don’t have that, if you don’t have a reason to have somebody come and link to your website, because I mean, I actually don’t know the numbers on how many ecommerce sites there must be around the world. And everybody’s going to be wanting the same sort of thing. Why should I link to this particular website?
So I take a slightly different approach to this, and I use a mixture of writing amazing articles, something that’s gonna have a reasonable chance of being shared. And then I use internal linking to prop up the hook pages. So for example, if you take the gold jewelry pages that are on a website, write something about that particular product. Show how gold jewelry is made, how is it formed, do a multi-part infographic. Maybe do some stats on it as well, something that people are going to want. Use your bucket brigade to sort of draw people down the page itself as well. And then somewhere at the top of the page, you have your one primary link, which is going back to your home page on your site, and that’s the site that you want the link to. Because otherwise, it can be very, very difficult to try and get somebody to agree just to link for no reason. Everybody does it all the time, and you have to sort of devote some outreach, and not everybody has the time to pick up the phone and sort of introduce themselves and staff on and people, so people can just hop in there. So yeah, so amazing content and internal linking from me.
Craig: I mean, there damn fierce way to get links. It’s always growing. But there’s ways as such as trying to reach out to other bloggers, or whatever, and to do some form of guest blog posting. Again, doing some of what Andy was suggesting, putting out there something informative, engaging, that people will link to and stuff like that. And you obviously put your link. That way a link built in as obviously one of the places that people fall down on. You have to obviously get relevant but you’ve got to be so relevant now as well. And gone are the days where a link was a link, and if you get any old website. So it just makes the process harder, but I think one good thing I can say to people here is it doesn’t have to be 100,000 likes you go out and get, and this crazy thing where people think you need to get thousands and thousands of likes. You know, we will have no doubt ranked well in some competitive markets, and I’m sure the guys all suggest. Obviously some are more competitive than others and require more links. But it’s not going to be to the volume that you think you might need. It’s quality over quantity, and I’m sure Danny will come in with a few other ideas of other ways to get links as well.
Danny: Yeah, I mean obviously this is a very big topic, and we could literally spend the whole day discussing different strategies for getting links into a website. But as far as I’m concerned, they boil down to essentially two methods. I mean, if you have a business that is different enough to become a brand in itself, and something that people want to talk about, and it’s newsworthy, then you probably don’t need to do that much in terms of content creation because the business itself is something that people will want to link to. Most ecommerce businesses don’t fall into that category unfortunately. Most ecommerce businesses are fairly similar. They’re selling a broadly similar range of products. And then you will have to look at doing some content that is going to be strong enough to get links into.
I think one of the key differences between content that really works and does attract links, and content that just has people coming in and reading it, is that the people that are creating link worthy content, what they start with is rather than thinking about what am I going to write about, they’re thinking about who is going to link to this. And that is the essential difference between the two. There are only a certain number of people that even have the ability to link to a piece of content. And the general run of the mill are the people that are coming in and reading your blog don’t have either the inclination or the ability to link to a piece of content. So it’s really focusing content on people with that ability, which are basically, it’s largely bloggers, people who write about whatever the topic is in your industry, and you need to do that research and see who is already linking out to content of this type. And that for me is the starting point when it comes to links. Not what am I going to write about, but who will link to it. And I think that’s a fairly good place to start.
Sergey: Yeah, very valid points, guys. And Danny, you’re absolutely right. I mean, this is a topic of its own, but those are great starting tips, and also the fact that quality over quantity is definitely quite important as well. It’s very, very true. So yeah, thanks for those points.
So now let’s move on to our next subtopic, and this has to do with duplicate content issues. And of course, this is a massive, massive topic, and quite a big problem for a lot of websites. So basically the question is, so how do I avoid duplicate content issues on my product pages?
Andy: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. It’s one of the biggest downfalls for ecommerce sites that I’ve come across. And there are only limited ways you can actually do this, and the guys will all sort of agree with this as well, is the fact if you’ve got pages which are duplicated, then the ways around it, you can use to sort of say, right, well these pages are all duplicates over here, rather than having Google sort of index on lots of duplicates pages. Let’s have them all point back to the primary page itself. But what I find more and more doing these days is they are using scroll and load. So as you go down the page, it loads more products, which is probably the preferred solution. I know it’s one of the preferred solution of Google’s because that’s one of the things that they sort of say about how to avoid duplication is that you don’t necessarily want to use pagination. People don’t want to have to keep clicking next and next and next all the time to keep going through one page and then another to get to the products. They’d much sooner just keep scrolling and have more products shown to them as well.
So that in itself will help reduce paginated pages, which can also create duplication as well. So yeah, the only other way really is avoid the duplication side of things from a content perspective, and just make sure that your content on the page itself is unique, or unique enough that Google’s not going to see it as a duplication.
Danny: I think Craig’s gone, has he? Yeah, just to kind of, just further on from what Andy was saying there, when you have product pages with very similar content on each page, or sometimes, you may well have a product page where the product description is the manufacturer’s description, and it’s the same description that’s appearing on thousands and thousands of other ecommerce websites selling the same product. That’s an even bigger problem, I would say. But when you have that situation, essentially you’ve gotta make one of two decisions. You’ve either gotta ask yourself, well, do I still want this page to rank?
And if you don’t, if you’re not concerned about this particular product ranking because you’ve got 10 other products that are very, very similar, just slight variations in color or size, then probably the best solution is as Andy says, is to use the row canonical tag. So for those that aren’t familiar with that, this is a tag that I think, did Google come up with the row…I think they came up with the row canonical tag. This is a tag that you can put in your pages, and if you got a good ecommerce system, it will allow you to put this tag in. And basically, what that tag does is you put the URL of another product, very similar product, and it tells the search engine don’t look at this page. Go and have a look at this page. I know this is a duplicate. Go and check this page out. That’s essentially what the row canonical tag is doing.
However, if you have 10 very similar pages and you want them all to stand a good chance of ranking on Google, then what you’re gonna need to do is make those 10 product pages unique and distinct enough from each other to have a chance of ranking. And the most common ways of achieving that are either to, it’s quite tricky, to rewrite the product descriptions uniquely enough so that they look different enough to a search engine. Or the other option is that you can have user generated content, so you can have things like product reviews underneath. You can even add your own opinion of the products, so it’s kind of, you know, my company’s opinion and review of this product. But you’re gonna need to add about 200-300 words of unique content to each of those pages.
So it’s a pretty big job to do on an ecommerce website with thousands of products on there. So I’d really be quite selective about how you go about that and really pick the pages that you really want ranking the most rather than trying to take on the whole website to do that.
Sergey: Yeah, very valid points. So Craig, I see you’re back. Glad you’re back here. So we were talking about duplicate content issues. So how do we avoid duplicate content issues on our product pages? So I’ll get your opinion.
Craig: I mean, I only caught the tail end. Apologies, I got cut off there. I don’t know what happened. But avoiding duplicate content can be quite hard on ecommerce websites. I caught the end of what Danny was saying there where you don’t want to spread everything…you know, you’ve got make sure you got keywords, target worth pages that are relevant to target those. And I find that a lot of problems come down to similar product descriptions and whatnot, and you have to somehow try not using too much or, you know, you can not follow them or whatever so that duplicate content doesn’t appear where stuff starts to become repetitive because it’s gonna have a negative impact on you. But I think obviously having a targeted that do have unique content on them, it should be in a structure you go with from an SEO point of view. Because there are thousands and thousands of products, and there’s only so much you can say.
And you know, for example, we done a noted worth SE and Rush, and it was all these pages have duplicate content. And it’s because, you know, ecommerce provide, they had free delivery, and all these kind of bullet points on these pages that had small amounts of content. And that kind of thing’s gonna happen because things are about repetitive, but I think as most people have to do, make sure you’ve got relevant landing pages that are unique and focus your SEO on that.
Andy: Yeah, if I can just jump in again for a second as well because one of the things that’s just on what Craig was saying there as well about where you have, and some things you can’t avoid. You need to tell people about delivery options. You need to tell people about what your terms and conditions are, and there’s gonna be a certain element of repetitive content on many pages. There’s been a number of circumstances where Google says, “We know this is gonna happen, and we’re not gonna penalize you for it.” So there’s a certain amount of churn that you can actually get away with without it being much of an issue because then you’re into the realms of where the content appears on the page. Is it hidden behind an accordion or a tab of some sorts? Is it in the footer? Does it appear on each page in the same place, in which case, Google’s going to know what it’s there for? And that’s one of the things they knock through in the quality rating at Reed’s Guidelines as well is looking for elements of duplication.
So in some cases, as long as it’s acceptable, in other cases, you certainly wouldn’t want to be taking it so far that you’re duplicate all the descriptions.
Sergey: Okay, thanks guys. Again, very valid points. And of course, this applies to ecommerce sites. But all these tips and points apply to all sites in general, so these are obviously all massive SEO topics. So the next topic I like to jump in is the ecommerce specific situations. So basically, what are some ecommerce specific situations that we must handle when it comes to our site optimization? And I’m gonna throw out two question in the same time. So first of all, so how do we handle SEO for very similar products, which makes sense since if you have tens of thousands of products, I mean, there’s gonna be so many similarities between them all. And also, goes along the same line, how do I manage products that have been discontinued? And this of course, also is very valid since new products come in all the time, old ones go out. So the lineup is always changing, right? So how do we approach these two situations, and how do we handle this from an optimization perspective? Let’s hear it.
Andy: Yeah, it’s certainly what you sort of…I mean, I’m gonna sort of look at these from the other way around as well because one of the mean areas is looking at discontinued products. And I think there’s a lot of research that’s basically shown that people don’t want to handle a page that’s necessarily a product that’s no longer available. But if you do, then there’s no harm in showing them alternatives. But what they don’t want to happen in land on a 404 page. You don’t want a dead page when they get there.
What they also don’t wanna do is automatically push some offer page onto another product. So you don’t want a 301, a discontinued products. Say it’s discontinued, but here’s some alternative options for you as well, and give them a selection. Let them decide what they want to do. But there’s no reason, no good reason to sort of remove pages if it’s discontinued or maybe if it’s something that’s maybe like a year out or two years out of date or something like, and there’s no chance it’s ever going to come back, then yeah, there’s gonna be a point where it’s superseded by something else. At that point, then maybe you look to sort of kill the pages off. But it’s certainly not something I do as a short term anyway.
Danny: Yeah, so just to kind of follow on from what Andy was saying, I think when you have a…just on the topic of discontinued products, I think the first thing to think about is whether that product is completely discontinued. It’s never ever coming back again, or whether there’s a possibility that it might be restocked within a few weeks or a few months’ time. And if it is coming back, you don’t necessarily want to remove that page because you might want to maintain the Google ranking that you’ve got for that particular product. So that’s the first thing to think about.
I would say if the product is completely gone and it’s not likely to be coming back again, then I would just 301, redirect it over to the closest equivalent product page. Or what would be quite nice actually is a sort of a collection of similar products if you can give it, give a few different products that they can choose from. And if it’s just a temporary discontinuation of a product, then I think the best thing to do is to leave the page intact, make it very clear when they land on the page that that product is currently out of stock, and ideally show a few alternatives very clearly so that they’re not completely disappointed when they arrive on that page.
You were also asking what can we do for very similar products. I think we’ve largely touched on that before because it’s a very similar topic to the duplicate content issue really. And if you have got lots of similar products, then it’s really what we were talking about before, adding that row canonical tag to the page to another similar product page, or adding unique content to those pages to deal with it.
But just generally, just on a more general point with ecommerce specific SEO topics, I think one of the important things to look at is your category pages as well. For people that are looking at a category of products like gold necklaces, just do use Andy’swebsite, we look at a category as something like gold chains or gold necklaces, this kind of thing, make sure that you have actually got some content on that page. You wanna have some text on that page rather than just lots and lots of thumbnails of products. So have a couple of paragraphs, something like that that introduces this range and talks about the collection as a whole and some of the benefits of that.
And also, just on product pages as well, one thing I see with a lot of smaller businesses, particularly in the fashion industry, if they’re selling a particular garment, say for example, a floral dress, they very often, they will give those products names, such as the ruby dress. And that becomes the main keyword in the page title and in the product. And from Google’s point of view, the thing that that page looks most relevant for, is ruby dress, which nobody is searching for. So you really need to make sure that if that ruby dress is a cotton floral printed dress, make sure you’ve got that in the prominent places on the page so Google can understand that.
Craig: I totally agree with what Danny and Andy have said there. And just for me, when you have discontinued products, what I tend to do, you know, I would never do one redirect unless it was really relevant, I would tend to try and retain the rank, and explain that the product’s gone and offer alternative products. Now they’re inclined to navigate the site from there rather than forcing them onto something they may or may not want. And from my point of view, we don’t really want to be damaging the rankings of our page of any sort.
It really depends on the keywords and stuff like that, and if the products are going to be coming back in the future or whatnot. But I think in most cases, I would try and allow people to go to the alternative themselves rather than a 301 redirect. But obviously, that is relevant in a lot of cases. So you know, I think both pretty much everything. There’s not much else I can really say that you can do differently. But that’s just my theory on it.
Andy: Yeah, just following on from what Danny was saying as well, about what first part of the question, which is what should you do if you got similar pages. That’s, I think, was pretty much was covered by the row canonical side of things, so we’re trying to…if you do have similar pages, I think it depends how similar as well. If it is just a change in color of a product, say for example. Or if it’s just a different quantity, then of course, you don’t want to have two pages that are so similar in that respect because Google won’t sort of thank you from that one.
But I just wanted to add something else to this as well is that on the discontinued products, something that’s often overlooked is the 404 pages. So if you kill a page off and you do end up with a 404, maybe somebody’s still linking to, then don’t just leave your default 404 in there. Do a 404 page that’s useful at the end of the day. Put some alternative links in there that take you through to a various areas on the site. Do put a search on there as well. Make it something that somebody lands on, then they’re not going to object to landing on because you’ve given them some help to go and find something else as well. So just wanted to get that in as well.
Sergey: Okay, yeah, thanks a lot guys. Very valid points on ecommerce specific situations. So actually right now, let’s go ahead and switch gears, not completely but to an extent. So right now we’ve talked about some SEO things specifically, for specific situations, for general situations. So now what about UX, or user experience? So what are some main things are most consider for UX in designing and optimizing your ecommerce site?
Danny: Well one of the things I really love about SEO is that it actually forces businesses to do really good UX and to keep their websites looking good.
Sergey: Absolutely.
Danny: And in good order. And that I think is one of the great things about it. You wanna make sure that there’s absolutely no point ranking number one on Google if all people are gonna do is land on your page, and then leave two seconds later. It’s a completely of time. And I will always prioritize UX and usability over Google ranking any day of the week because trying to fix a failing ecommerce business by improving your Google ranking while visitors are leaving your site in droves, is a little bit like having a leaky bucket of water, and you’re trying to fix the leak by pouring the water in the top. It makes no sense whatsoever.
And I think when it comes to UX, I think one of the first things you really need to address, if you are not a world recognized brand, one of the first questions and concerns you need to overcome is trust. Trust is absolutely huge topic when it comes to ecommerce with a company that is not a brand name.
There was some very interesting research done last year by YouGov, where they did a survey of several thousand UK consumers and they asked them, “When you’re shopping offline, like in a high street or shopping mall, would you rather buy from a big business or a small business?” And 72% of people said that they would rather buy from a small company. They said they like the personal service, they like that kind of a relationship they can develop. And then they asked them the same question, “When you’re shopping online, who would you rather buy from, big business or a small business?” And it completely switched around. It was nearly 60% of people said they’d rather buy from a big company.
And that alone shows you that trust is a huge factor. That was the reason they gave was they said, “I trust big businesses more when I’m shopping online.” So one of the first things from a UX point of view you need to is establish trust and reputation. And there are a number of ways to do that. I mean, you can…product reviews, third party trust seals, having an SSL certificate, there are any number of ways that you can do that. But I’d say from a UX point of view, that’s one of the first things you need to do, and address that on every single page that the visitor might enter the website. The home page, the category pages, and the product pages need to clearly indicate that you are trustworthy.
Andy: Yeah, absolutely, considering one of those as well. One of the things that I got a bit of a pet hate about is poor checkout processes. And that’s one of my sort of areas where I don’t think there’s enough necessarily of concentration given to workings of the checkout process as well. I mean, this is sometimes handled some of the pre made sort of software packages that you can actually buy. Some of which are defaults and that, but take a little bit of time and look at the way the actual checkout process itself. Nobody wants to be spending forever filling in form after form after form just to get where to purchase the product because chances are, you’re gonna lose them at some point. So streamlining the checkout process.
And there’s two other points I’m very sort of much on top of at the moment as well, and that is shopping online is a visual process at the end of the day. There’s no point in going to a website for ecommerce if all you’ve got is a bunch of text. Nobody wants to see that at all. If you want a jewelry website, you want to see a thumbnail obviously so you can see what the product is. You then want to go into the product, and you want to see more as well. Keep your products to a reasonable size in terms of the image itself, but also make sure that what you’re actually showing them, you don’t just show them one photo. Show them a few different angles because they will be looking for that. Don’t let them get off the site. Don’t make them want to go the site, to leave the site to go and try and find this information anywhere else because you will probably lose them to a competitor. So images is another thing.
But then also you’ve got to look at the speed of the site. Because if you’re in a mobile device, and you’re a mother working at, sorry, living at home with the kids, and you want to actually purchase something, you might have a screaming toddler on your knee or something, you want to purchase something and you want to do it quickly. Don’t make it a process that’s going to be complicated on a mobile device either. Offer something that’s going to make it easier, like checking out with One Click with PayPal for example. Don’t make somebody type lots of information into a form on a mobile phone because it’s going to be tedious for them at best. So look to make the checkout process a little easier by prefilling some of it so they can actually sign in and they can actually register with the likes of Facebook. They can register with Twitter, Google, anything at all. And make it a little bit easier, I think, is always a good one.
Craig: And obviously, I agree totally with them with what Andy’s saying there about the process, the checkout process is a killer. And you know what? In my experience, I’ve got a client who is always looking to help customers in terms of when products are being delivered as well. client has got, you can actually select the days that your products can be delivered. One, because you get people who don’t know what e-products are gonna be delivered on, so then you get items delivered to the house or the workplace or whatever, and one particular client there has actually got that now as a function on the website. You just quickly select when you want, and sort of the moment and things like that, help the user experience, and just seal the deal basically when it comes to, you know, the buying process online.
But the checkout process has to be seamless and quick. And it has to be seen on mobile devices and all that kind of stuff as well. It’s too important. I’m personally an impatient guy. I don’t want to be  too much, so I think the checkout process is massive. But overall, I think the user experience thing is constantly developing, and new things are coming out like the deliver your options, and it’s all these fine tweaks that certainly help the user experience. I think it’s something you really have to keep on top of, and you’ll see your competitors trying different things and whatnot. And I think just watch what everyone’s doing and keep on top of it because it’s not something you can do and just sit back and hope for the best. New things come out all the time. So I think in terms of user experience, keep on top of it and keep it streamlined. And hopefully that will encourage people to buy from you.
Danny: Just to add on to what the guys were saying there, I mean, I completely agree. I think the checkout process is enormously important. But I also think it’s really important to think about what happens prior to the point where they’re adding something to the basket, because by the time somebody has got to the product page of the website, you really don’t wanna give them any reason to move away from that page. And yet I see many, many ecommerce websites where people have all kinds of reasons not to add the product to the basket.
For example, when somebody has got to the product page, they wanna know is that item in stock or not. There’s a lot of ecommerce websites where it doesn’t actually show you, it just assumes that the visitor will think that if I’m showing the product and it doesn’t say out of stock, they’ll know it’s in stock. But it’s much better to state that implicitly and make it really clear that the product is in stock.
Say how the product is gonna take to get delivered, and this is really important, what the delivery cost is going to be, as much as you can, as much information as you can, without them having to go all the way through the checkout process to find out what the delivery costs. That’s one of the most infuriating elements of a lot of ecommerce websites. And that’s very often why you’ll find a lot of abandoned baskets where people are going through the checkout process just to see what the delivery cost is. Well for every five people that are abandoning your basket, there’s another 500 people that have never put it into the basket in the first place because they don’t know what the delivery cost is gonna be.
And also, make sure that your returns policy is really clear as well. In the UK, probably throughout the EU, we have the distant selling regulations where you’ve got to offer a refund and a return within a certain time period. So make that clear. It’s one of the things that will make people feel reassured if they’ve got any doubt at all as to the suitability of the product. If you make your returns policy very clear on the product page, it will give them the reassurance to add to the basket and go and buy that thing, and increase your sales.
Sergey: Absolutely, guys. Very, very good points. And not to beat a dead horse right now, but I do wanna pitch in my frustration with a bad checkout processes. I mean, you know, when it’s like I want the thing. I’m ready to pay. Why are you making it so difficult for me, you know? It’s just let me buy the thing. And one more thing I’d like to add is sometimes when not all major credit cards, for example, are accepted, or sources of payment. You know, it’s not that difficult to add a PayPal account, etc., etc. So just making it easy is simple. I mean, and then one thing that, for example, Amazon does which is pretty cool I’d say, is when you’re ready at the checkout, there’s some additional recommendations. It’s like, “Hey, you’re buying a bicycle. Would you like some water bottles to go with it as well?” It’s kind of like when you’re at a checkout at a grocery store, and you have the gum just sitting waiting for you, and you’re like, “Yeah, I guess I’ll get this as well. Why not?” 
So all right, so let’s jump into our next question. And this one has to do with, I guess, sort of going outside of your country. So when it comes to ecommerce site optimization, what should I be aware of when thinking of expanding into other countries? And also how can I attract online shoppers from other countries? So let’s hear your opinions.
Andy: Yeah, it’s certainly, if you wanted to start expanding, it’s certainly something that needs another level of thought. And fortunately, a lot of the bigger products that are out there will handle this for you, or at least give you the option to start managing it. There are some products which maybe are a little bit ancient, don’t have that and you start to require some element of coding in there as well, in which case you need to make sure you understand where your new audience is going to be, where are you targeting.
If you need to start coding, you need to start looking at, which is like the elements that Google looks at to give them an indication of what countries you’re actually targeting. You can go into the elements that’s required in that, but it’s quite a lengthy process. So you’d hope that the products that you’ve got, the product that you got to actually manage your ecommerce itself will actually carry that.
Other elements in the likes of if there’s somebody in another country that’s looking at your products, they’re not interested necessarily in what the products is in GB Pounds. They might be looking at what is it in Australian dollars. Make sure that you give them the option to, or at least give them the option first at the price first of all in Australian dollar, but then give them the option to check it back as well. Because you don’t necessarily want to assume that somebody’s in Australia or America, or wherever they are in, Canada, that they want to see it in the native currency. They might want to see it in a different currency. So don’t automatically assume. Do give them the option to change the price format as well.
And so I’d say the other thing is well, how do you get traffic from an alternative sources? Well, I mean, you could look at the links again as well, but getting links from UK sites, or from sites in your target country is hard enough at the best of times. So that would probably be something that you’d want to look at long term. So I would certainly in those circumstances, I’d be looking at some elements of paid advertising to get yourself off the ground.
I mean, if you’re lucky enough to know when your target audience hangs out, your new audience hangs out, then brilliant. Go and start following them. They might have forums that they either hang out on, there might elements of Facebook groups you can go and join. You might find a number of different ways you can do that, Pinterest for example. Perfect place to go and pitch a product, but who are you pitching it to? So you can sort of put it on there and you know it’s gonna get seen by lots of people from around the world. So yeah, there’s a number of elements. It’s a big discussion, but a lot of people do it. 
I’d say there’s no reason, for example, I’ve got a friend who lives over in America. He uses a site in America to buy sweets he used to like from the UK. And for example, you can’t get the likes, I think he said one of the ones was Twix. You can’t buy Twix over there he said. I don’t know if you can now. And he used sites to buy those sorts of elements from over here. He buys it in UK dollars, the site targets him though, but targets him based on some PPC and Facebook advertising to start up with. That’s what he searched for his trouble. So yeah, that’s certainly a starter for me.
Danny: Yeah, so from an SEO point of view, some of the things that you’re gonna have to think about if you want to be ranking in another country, I think this really varies depending on the size of the business. If you’re a big brand, you’ve got a big brand name, you might want to think about doing something along the lines of what Amazon do, which is where they have separate TLDs, so separate domain names for every single country that they’re targeting. So France, you go to amazon.fr, Germany, amazon.de, and the big advantage of that is if you’re trying to rank in Germany and you’ve got a website with a .de domain name, or TLD, that’s certainly gonna help you rank higher. It’s gonna be much more of a struggle doing that if you’ve got one .co.uk website and you’re trying to rank in countries around the world. It’s gonna be a real challenge.
Also getting the links from website in the countries that you’re targeting is another factor that’s gonna determine your ranking in those countries. There is a very good tool, I believe it’s called Google Market Finder, free tool from Google where you can go and select a whole load of countries, you put in a search term in English, or in your native language. It will show you how that product is searched for in the native language of all these different countries. And it will show you search volume and difficulty. What I then do is I will then go and there’s a…I can’t remember the name of the website, but it allows you to go and do a search as if you’re in that particular country. Andy, do you know the name of that website? I can’t remember it off the top of my head.
Andy: Well there’s actually two. Google AdWords actually have their own as well. So I think if you just do it, I don’t have the time, but if you just do a search for AdWords preview tool, I think that brings up the one. But there is another one as well because the AdWords preview tool you can’t click on the links. It just shows you first page, but there is another one which has that, so maybe we’ll find that way too.
Danny: There is another one, and I’ll let Sergey know the name of it I can remember. I’ll have to look it up afterwards.
Sergey: If you figure that out, let me know and I’ll share it with everyone, yeah.
Danny: I will, I will. And what you can do then, is if you then put that search term into that country’s version of Google, see who’s ranking highest on Google for that particular product that you’re targeting, a really good tool then to use is to go and put that website into similarweb.com, and go and then understand exactly their strategy of how they’re driving traffic to their website, because similarweb will show you where all their traffic’s come from, what search terms they’re using. There’s a whole load of good information there. So it’s really good competitor research for other international website that you might wanna compete with.
Craig: I mean, I’ve got to agree a lot of what Danny said there. I think if it was me tackling that, I would tend to be doing the route of using different TLDs for different countries and whatnot. I think it just gives you a more polished approach, and you can use that to further…
For example, people in Australia might call something slightly different from what someone in the UK would call it. And I think by using that the TLD available to Australia or whatever the country might be, would be the best and most efficient approach. And what Andy’s saying can work as well. I just have the notion to just go for country specific ones, host it in those countries, and even outsource some of the link building to people in those countries to make sure that you’re getting well in Australian links or whatever it might be to make sure that you rank well in those countries and just have it all very targeted towards the keywords that relevant to those countries and whatnot, to give you a much better approach. That how I would approach it anyway.
Danny: So I just quickly looked up that tool. It’s called isearchfrom.com. And if you go to that website, you can choose a country, choose a language, and it will give you the results from that country.
Sergey: Pretty cool, cheers to that. All right, so guys actually we’re running critically low on time, but I do wanna throw this…the future question, well, I guess we’ll have to wait until the future comes, and then we’ll see that ourselves, but this next one I do wanna address this before we finish our hangout here because I think it is very, very crucial and it’s a good question. So the question is what do ecommerce businesses need to be aware when they’re choosing an ecom platform? So again, we don’t have too much time, but let’s throw in our opinions real fast here. Go ahead, guys.
Andy: Yeah, mine’s a fairly straightforward one because I know we sort of discussed this very briefly right before the chat as well. One of the things I find is often the case is that companies don’t do enough research into the products themselves. And I’ve had to get involved in the past in helping companies completely restructure a platform. So they’ve realized a little bit further down the line that maybe it doesn’t do as much as they wanted it to start with or they didn’t do enough due diligence, and didn’t sort of research what it was that their customers want as well. So I’d definitely say do some research on this one. I mean, there’s a lot of very good packages out there depending on the platform that you use as well. I mean, you can take it just straight to Facebook as well if you’re interested in doing that sort of thing. So but there’s a lot of good packages out there, but do your research first and foremost.
Danny: Yeah, I did a big study of this, I think it was about a year ago. In fact, if you go to Google and you type in “best ecommerce platform for SEO,” you’ll see the research I did coming up number on Google there. And we looked at about 25 of the most popular ecommerce platforms because I was working with a lot of businesses, and we were giving them advice, you know, things like row canonical tags, and changing your message descriptions. And then they were coming back to us and saying, well there’s actually no way I can do that within the system that I’m using for my ecommerce shop. And very often they were going with either the cheapest or the well-advertised ecommerce platforms that were out there.
I mean, there are some really good ecommerce platforms. I would say the top three in my opinion, and very controversial, but I would say Magento if you’ve got the money for it, Shopify is a good hosted ecommerce platform, and WooCommerce if you want to self-hosted platform. In a study we did, they came out generally the top three and the best for SEO. So yeah, check out that research if you want more information on that.
Craig: I agree with Danny’s ones there they he suggested. Magento, I think if you have the money for it, I think people need to be aware that Magento is probably first website that’s got hundreds and hundreds of products. WooCommerce is certainly one which you would do as a beginner, very SEO friendly, very scalable with no restrictions there. Shopify I’m not really…it’s okay. I would never really put a customer onto Shopify to be fair. I would always like to WooCommerce or Magento to be fair. But the hosting cost for the likes of Magento are expensive. You can’t really run it unless you have a server and come across problems from that, but it really, really slowly, and you do need a dedicated server. You need to think about things like that when you’re setting out. And obviously if you have a business model, it’s gonna be building out to be really big and tumble the mountains, then Magento is probably the one you want to be using. But WooCommerce is a good alternative.
Shopify does a good job, you know, I’m not saying it doesn’t do a good job, but you have to think about a lot of other things as well other than the platform itself in terms of hosting costs and whatnot because I’ve had a customer in particular that has been to Magento before, but the user experience say the things just ran so badly with 10 people on it because it was in some cheap master host, and so there is a lot to consider. So yeah, but I agree with what Andy and Danny were saying.
Sergey: So Andy, let’s get your thoughts on this as well.
Andy: So yeah, in terms of the products, I think a lot of it depends on the actual platform. So and what it is that you’re selling as well. I mean, WooCommerce, I’d say I’ve got nothing particularly bad to say about that one because it just tends to sort of work really well. Magento if you’re looking for a larger scale. But just in terms of Shopify, that, I don’t think depending on what it is that you’re actually doing, I don’t think you should necessarily do away with looking at it just purely and simply because it is a cheap option if you want to get yourself off the ground. It’s fairly inexpensive in all areas and can do the products. You see a lot of these popping on hobbyist sites where you can sort of purchase something that somebody’s doing.
If they’ve got a small business being run from home, the reality is they’ve not got time or the money to invest in a big sort of fully featured ecommerce platform. And chances are, they’re not going to be bothered either. So definitely, yeah. Do look at what it is you need, like say go back to the site, I was talking about, do your research. Decide what it is you want and then look at the best platform for the job.
Sergey: Very valid points, guys. And again, I guess there’s no winner. You gotta look at all the pluses and minuses of everything and look at your scale, your project, your budget. So I guess the big answer is that there’s no one thing and you gotta look at everything, and get one that just fits your current constraints the best at the moment.
Well that’s it guys. I just want to say thanks a lot, massive thanks from here us at SEMrush, and from our audience for you guys coming on. Andy, Danny, Craig, representing the UK. Really, really good insight. I mean, I think there’s a ton of food for thought for everyone looking at ecommerce, or just SEO in general. So a lot of good information. And I do wanna mention that. So if you guys wanna see something that you missed from earlier from this webinar, it’s gonna be available on our SEMrush.com website, and also on our SEMrush YouTube channel. And of course, or just get in touch with these guys. I’m sure they can get you help with if you need something else in this sphere. So again, thanks guys, and I want to give you the floor to everyone, just have you say your goodbyes.
Andy: Absolutely. All right, it’s been very enjoyable. Thanks very much for inviting us along for that.
Craig: Yeah, appreciate it and giving me the opportunity to be involved. It went good apart from being cutoff, but yeah. It’s all good.
Danny: Andy, Craig, Sergey, great talking to you. Thanks a lot.
Sergey: Cheers guys, have a good one. Take it easy.
Andy: Bye-bye.
Craig: Bye-bye.