SEO in e-commerce: if customer likes it, so does Google
Magdalena Parys

Good positioning in Google is crucial for online stores. We asked a SEO expert to share strategies to improve the positioning of your business in a search engine.

A natural way to get to an offer is through a search engine. Therefore, you cannot ignore it when you belong to e-commerce. Obviously, Google encourages companies to display paid ads in search engine’s results which can attract new users (this is how the American behemoth earns a living). Search engine marketing is important but we should pay as much attention to a position in organic search results (which are natural, not paid and not supported by ads).

Many online store owners experiment with search engine positioning on their own. Others hire professionals (often for a large sum) to introduce a strategy and improve positioning in Google. It is surprising that you can undertake many activities concerning SEO on your own if you know basic rules.

We talked about it with Sławomir Jurasik, search engine expert, SEO Manager at OLX Europe.

How to properly position an online store in search engines?

Sławomir Jurasik: First of all, never create a website thinking about search engine robots because they will not buy your products. The rule of putting the customer first applies here more than anywhere else. The website is for regular users and they should be taken care of in the first place. How? By offering them interesting content, well-described products, logical platform structure, photos in good quality, convenient menu, etc. If a user likes it, so will a search engine.

Very often we can find the same item descriptions from producers in many online stores. Owners say that since they offer thousands of products, it is difficult to gain information about each of them and create the content. Can the same content as in other stores have an adverse effect on positioning of our store in Google?

Sławomir Jurasik: We have to look at this issue from the perspective of a search engine and a user.

Imagine that you are a search engine robot. You find the same product with exactly the same description in 100 various stores. Which one should be on top of results? Probably, it will be a website of a producer who prepared this description.

Whereas, as a user, you look for the best information about a chosen item. When you are in a brick-and-mortar store you can approach a sales clerk and ask about anything and the sales clerk may advise you to buy a certain product. In an online store, a product page is the only place for communication with a user. Therefore, a product description should act like a persuasive seller and encourage the purchase. It depends on the description whether a user will be encouraged to make a purchase.

Customers expect not only technical data but also convincing arguments. So an additional description is your asset.

Despite the fact that it requires more effort, you should definitely improve this form of communication with customers. And again: if customer likes it, so does Google.

Does it mean that adding content such as user reviews or additional product description will improve your Google rank?

Sławomir Jurasik: Definitely but under the condition that such content is unique. Additional content, which goes beyond a standard description and is valuable to users, significantly increases chances for high positions.

Online store owners often have a problem with products which are no longer on the market. In this situation, should they just delete pages of such products?

Sławomir Jurasik: There are a few solutions to this problem and each of them has some advantages.

If a product is withdrawn from the market and is replaced with a new model, the best solution is to redirect from the old product’s website to the new version and display a message, such as: “The previous offer is sold out but check out the new model!”.

Another solution, which is less convenient but also good, is to redirect from the old product’s page to the category in which the product was listed. It has an advantage that all links to the product, which can be found on forums, blogs, etc. will redirect to the main category.

The last solution is to keep the page of the item but add recommendations of very similar products.

I would highly recommend the first solution which is redirecting to the new version or to a very similar product. Because it gives me – a customer – information that a certain product is no longer available and shows me an alternative proposition which should meet my expectations.

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SEO services have vastly developed – there are many experts who offer almost magical methods for a good positioning of an online store. Can we do it on our own?

Sławomir Jurasik: Of course, we can! SEO services provided by professional agencies are not required for every shop and every industry.

So, how can we start? Assuming we do not have any knowledge in programming.

Sławomir Jurasik: Google has made a considerable knowledge of SEO available for free. You only need to become familiar with Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) which provide information on our mistakes. In store administration panel you can change many elements for improving a search result position, such as introduction of friendly URLs or small changes in a template. Even simple things, such as putting headlines in proper places or providing a correct content hierarchy, can make a big difference.

What if it is still not enough to improve our position in search results?

Sławomir Jurasik: If after all these changes the store is not displayed in search results or has a very low position, check the condition of robots.txt file. In this file, we aim to limit robots’ access to certain parts of a platform (there is no point in indexing a cart or other elements of the purchasing process). Sometimes, however, we go too far with blocking and the robot cannot get to the parts which should be indexed. In GWT, we can easily check whether a given address is blocked.

Do connection speed with a store and server quality affect the way Google indexes the online store?

Sławomir Jurasik: Certainly – check the “Site errors” tab in GWT. If there are many errors, it means that there is something wrong with a server. We cannot be checking constantly if the platform works or if the server is overloaded due to high traffic and a message about error is displayed to users, etc. In this case, instead of dynamically growing, our business is sluggish because we are not able to handle all users. Server unavailability is not beneficial for the position of our site in Google.

And what about meta descriptions?

Sławomir Jurasik: One of Google Webmaster Tools, which checks the meta section, titles and descriptions of sites, may be helpful. The perfect situation is when there are no errors – double descriptions, too long or too short descriptions. In the case of a large online store offering a lot of items, it is difficult to get to this ideal state. But it is possible! Let’s take care of that and the organic traffic will be more likely to grow.

The “International targeting” tab is a useful tool for platforms with multilingual versions. You can check there if hreflang tags are properly configured.

I encourage you to get familiar with Webmaster Tools. This information shows elements to which Google pays special attention.