If you are setting up a website in order to sell your products online, then you’ll probably have spent quite a bit of time researching the pros and cons of the different ecommerce platforms available to power your business. Whilst there are many factors that you need to take into account when choosing your platform, it is vital to consider how it can support your search engine optimisation strategy.
Unfortunately, some ecommerce platforms may limit your ability to control the way that you optimise your website and this could lead to a fall in rankings and ultimately a drop in sales. It can also be frustrating as a business owner if you are not able to take advantage of the latest SEO updates and strategies because your online shop does not support them.
Luckily there are some great ecommerce platforms out there which can help to meet all of your business needs. WagadaHQ have identified four key SEO features which your ecommerce platform needs to have to enable you to optimise your site fully. If you ensure that these are supported then you will be able to provide both a great retail environment for your online customers and you can also help your website to move up the search engine rankings.
Ensure that you can include an integrated blog on your website
We love blogging. Not only is it a great way to share information and communicate with your customers, but it’s also vital for your SEO too. Blogs are the best way to ensure that your content stays fresh and relevant and they are the perfect place to include up-to-date keywords and long tail keyword phrases. They also help your site to get linked to, can be shared on social media and show Google that you can add real value to your customers’ lives.
Ideally, your CMS would offer the option to set up an integrated blog section. However, this can be tricky in some ecommerce platforms. Installing a WordPress blog into the directory of your site is an option but it means you may need to continually switch between WordPress and your online store, which is far from ideal. For example, VisualSoft allows you to access a WordPress blog via the dashboard, but it does just open this in a new tab.
Luckily there are platforms available, including Shopify, which actually include a blog in its ecommerce platform. This is well worth considering if you are keen to blog and to take advantage of the SEO improvements that regular blogging can offer.
That being said, if your ecommerce platform and blog CMS differ, you must ensure that they are available on the same domain (i.e. example.com and example.com/blog).
Keep control of your metadata
If you want to increase your chances of ranking for your chosen keywords and phrases, you need to have the ability to include optimised page titles, meta descriptions and URLs for each page.
If you have generic page titles it can damage your page ranking and can also lead to issues with duplicate content. If you decide on an ecommerce platform that doesn’t let you control this data, there is a risk that you will be left with generic titles for all of your pages. The result of this is that you are unable to take full advantage of any keyword strategies you may have.
As with many ecommerce websites, you will often find that URLs are ugly, non-optimised and non-optimisable (they may become excessively long, feature upper and lowercase lettering or include punctuation). If you’re building an ecommerce website, try to take control of your URL structure initially.
We definitely recommend that you choose a platform which lets you retain the ability to individually choose each page title, meta description and URL. There are a number of platforms which let you do this including Magento, so make this feature a priority when deciding on your platform for your online store.
Manage your automatic redirects and canonical URLs
Some online stores will use multiple domain names. However, when you do this there is a risk that customers may follow links which could take them to the wrong place or simply become broken over time. Of course, this can affect your search engine ranking as it means usability is poor and customers could get frustrated and ultimately decide not to buy from your website. The way round this is to set up canonical URLs or 301 redirects but this can be time-consuming.
If you think this could be an issue for your site, then it can be a good idea to choose a platform which automatically redirects your users and the search engines to your primary domain. Platforms such as SquareSpace can do this for you and save you time and effort whilst improving the online shopping experience for your customers.
If you have multiple domains or URLs, you may also want to consider a platform that enables you to implement canonicals. These let you hold content in a number of different places online whilst making sure that Google is aware that it should only take note of the one page/URL you want to rank. This is also important if you want to use a number of URLs for products within the same category.
If this is important to your business then WooCommerce is a platform which has support for canonical URLs built into it – and even better there is a basic version of it available for free!
Ensure you can edit your Robots.txt files
This sounds quite technical but what it actually means is that you have the ability to tell Google’s ‘bots’ that there are certain pages that they should ignore when they are crawling your website to index it for their search engines.
When you run an online store, there will often be pages that you don’t want to be searchable online or that you don’t want Google to index. For example, you might have a special offers page which is only available to customers on your mailing list. Alternatively, your blog could be creating hundreds of author archive URLs such as example.com/2017/09. Such pages won’t rank, so you would want to block them in your robots.txt file in order to improve your website’s crawl budget and/or any indexing issues.
On big ecommerce websites, faceted navigation can also create major issues in relation to crawl and indexation. Every permutation of refine/sort creates another page (of near-identical content) which can quickly lead to hundreds of thousands of pages. If this is the case, Google’s crawl budget ends up being spread too thin. The best solution for faceted navigation URLs is to block these in your robots.txt file (you’ll also want to noindex, nofollow and canonicalize these pages – so again, ensure that your ecommerce platform enables this).
BigCommerce is a platform which allows you to directly access robot.txt files and so is definitely one to consider.
We think it is definitely worth taking the time to consider your SEO needs when choosing your ecommerce platform. You should make sure that you choose one which will offer you the best option for a great consumer experience and will help your site rank well in the search engines. We know that there is a lot of choice out there, so if you are feeling slightly confused by it all, get in touch with Wagada. We are SEO experts and can help you find the ecommerce platform that works best for you, your SEO and your business.