By Jordan Foutz, director of Marketing at Pinnacle Cart
Online merchants who are serious about success must have a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. In order for any ecommerce strategy to have SEO legs, there are important points to consider when picking your shopping cart platform. Optimizing your ecommerce site will help improve your search rankings on Google, Yahoo and Bing. Below are some features that your ecommerce software must provide for you to effectively sell your products online. If your shopping cart software does not allow easy edits and full control over these areas, you should look into workarounds, like editing source code for each content page or possibly a different solution.
Onsite keyword optimization means paying attention to page names, page titles and Meta descriptions. For best results, you need to ensure that your shopping cart allows for full control over as many aspects of product, category and content page areas as possible. Most shopping cart programs will give you control of at least the following areas:
Category/Page Name. The name of your pages is very important, since this is likely the text that is used in navigation to identify the category or content page to which it has been assigned.
Page Title. Search engines heavily weight this section because it labels the page and is the first thing people see in search results. It helps users identify the nature of the page. The page title should accurately describe the products or services that are listed on that page. If you sell ping pong paddles, for example, your site title for the home page should be something like "Ping Pong Paddles and Table Tennis Blades." Blades are the technical term for the paddle before the rubber has been assembled. Your title should include keywords, but should also be used to "sell the click" and appeal to users.
Meta Description. These are the text blurbs people see on search results pages under the title. They describe the content of the page as well as the link on which you click. This tag should contain a few full sentences that describe the product page. Google does not always display this tag on the search results page. It will often show a snippet of text from your product description with the keywords in bold. Although Google will take those liberties with your content in the results pages, it is still wise to use the Meta description to write a short blurb that accurately depicts your product and contains keywords. If your link is shared on social and sharing platforms, this will be seen under the title.
You must also optimize the content in product pages, content pages and text areas. It is important to add text to the top area above product pages, footers, sidebar navigation and other areas of the site where meaningful content can be placed. Users can see dramatic improvements in the amount of site traffic and sales by changing this one small part of their content strategy alone.
It is vital that you be able to edit your content areas in order to optimize pages, categories and products for specific keywords. Linking your keywords in anchor text is an effective approach to signaling that your site and pages are a resource for that specific thing. Creating an element that displays in the sidebar of your site and shows across every page of the site so it is visible in more places will give more weight to that keyword.
URLs are a big part of telling Google and other search engines what kind of content is on the page. Generic, non-descript URLs are much less likely to signal to search engines that you are offering a specific product or service. It is important for the page title of the product page to contain the name of the product, title, model number, SKU (if different), and a short list of descriptive keywords. An ideal URL path for a product page would be, for example, .com/energizer-solar-folding-lantern-solre35bp.html.
Image Optimization is often overlooked for product images and site imagery (alt tags). Image alt tags are a viable method of onsite optimization, as Google and Bing image search has been proven to be a very viable traffic source for many ecommerce websites. Properly labeled image files will give you the opportunity to be found in image search, and can turn image browsers into buyers by leading them to your product pages.
Control over HTML editor in the product description area will allow you to format text, add bullets, insert code, use widgets or incorporate video. The vast majority of shopping carts have a WYSIWIG editor. Below are some considerations in this area.
Product titles are some of the main drivers of traffic in ecommerce. They should include brands, model numbers, etc.
Internal linking on your site is key, so it is important to link back and forth between products and categories to aid internal SEO.
Products should be easily shared on social networks. Doing so will impact social signals in search algorithms.
It is important that users be able to install WordPress or a similar program on their host. Blogging increases engagement and drives other interested parties to your site.
Social Media gives you a voice and will make your site more visible. Allow visitors to share, +1, Pin, Tweet, text and "Like" the products on your site. If you are not already, you should be using a platform that gives you the option to share products in as many ways as possible. Because SEO has taken a more human turn lately and reads social signals more than ever, storeowners should be thinking of ways to create content for their stores, in their blogs or on their product pages. Be sure you can implement a blog on your website; product reviews can be viewed easily; and social mentions about your site and products are strategically placed to provide social proof and put buyers' minds at ease.
Onsite optimization and humanizing the ecommerce experience are essential to online sales success. If merchants adhere to these principles and ensure that their shopping cart provider can provide these all-important functions, then merchants will win.
Jordan Foutz is the director of Marketing at Pinnacle Cart. Pinnacle Cart offers ecommerce hosting solutions to SMBs who are serious about selling their products online. Some unique features of Pinnacle Cart include a quick and easy Facebook store setup, a mobile web option for merchants, and adherence to the industry's highest security standards, PCI / PA-DSS compliance.
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