In our continuing series on ecomm SEO (see here for the first installment if you have missed it), last time we introduced the topic of getting your site ready, specific things that should be done, before you actually start taking customers. In today’s installment, we continue (and finish) this area by discussing your visual assets (images and videos) as well as what needs doing to get your product page information whipped into shape.
Perfecting Your eComm Website Images – The Essential Rundown
Here’s an interesting bit of information: According to information given in 2012, 75% of the respondents indicated that the quality of images on online (retail) product pages was critical or very important to them. Additionally, 68% thought that the ability to see selected product color of choice was critical/very important, while 66% thought that having alternative views of an item were critical/important, and 61% saw the ability to zoom images were critical as well. As the survey results indicate, people shopping online see images as a critical aspect of their overall shopping experience.
Consumers, particularly, now feel that this sort of functionality should just “be there” for them. So, in response, ecomm site owners have rushed to make sure that this functionality is in place. Excellent!
Wait… Not so fast. From an SEO perspective, the wrong approach to hosting images and videos can cause web pages to become very slow-loading. Slow-loading pages run the risk of not ranking well (as they give a poor visitor experience) – and if you have enough of them on your site, you run the risk of having your entire site demoted in the SERP’s as a poor-quality site.
So we need a balance. A website with outstanding visual elements is not going to bring you a dime in income if it does not rank well!
You want to make sure that images (and videos) that you are using are as small in file size as possible – smaller file sizes take less time to load – and you can get those file sizes down (particularly for full-view or large-size images) without compromising on their visual quality. A good tool like GTMetrix can indicate if you have a problem with overly-large images.
Here are some other quick tips regarding images and videos, especially keeping ecomm SEO in mind:
Get “Action” Pictures: What we mean here is to utilize photos of your product actually being used, and it’s OK to include people in your images, as a picture of someone using your product (carrying a purse, or barbecuing with a the grill, holding a smartphone, etc.) makes it much easier for people to imagine themselves in that picture, using that same product.
Zooming: How many times have you been to an ecomm site and clicked on the zoom feature only to find out that the image served up is not really zoomed? Frustrating! So make sure that you double-check your zoom feature to verify that it is working as you intend it. And by the way, if you are going to be able to get a zoom feature to work correctly you have to start with a “normal view” image that is displaying a large area, so that people will notice the difference when they zoom in on it.
Cover All Your Colors: Does your product come in a variety of colors or styles? Make sure that you secure images for all color and style/design options. And make sure that the color in your image accurately represents the color as it appears when you view the product with your own eyes. Colors in images may be a different hue than its actual color, and this can lead to complaints and product returns from upset customers!
Cover All The Angles: Another good option is to display a series of pictures taken from different angles, showing different sides of the product. For example, images of a purse could show not just the outside appearance, but also the layout and location of pockets and sections inside the purse. For laptops, you could show the location of all the ports, sockets, switches and buttons. A short video that rotates your product (one that is very short and just loops over and over when clicked) can work well also.
eComm SEO: Probing Your Product Pages
One of the big differences between an online ecomm website store and a brick-and-mortar store is that a store in a physical location will employ sales clerks to help people try on clothing, answer questions and make suggestions to customers. But ecomm shops usually don’t have that (unless they are offering a live chat service). This means, that in the absence of any other help, customers are essentially “on their own” and will be making buying decisions based primarily on what is in your product description pages.
This requires – requires – that your pages present enough content to provide answers to issues and questions that may be uppermost in the mind of the customer.
Of course, all this critical information must be presented in such a way that, when spidered and indexed by the search engines, it will be ranked as highly as possible in the SERP’s. Sizing – pricing – styles – materials – colors – this has to be spelled out in great detail. Customer reviews must be very visible, overall ratings as well. Any related product guides or user manuals should be made conveniently available as downloads. Credentials and badges stating that you are a trustworthy business and provide secure purchase transactions should be on display.
Where Do I Begin? Making all of these changes to your ecomm SEO can be a real challenge, requiring lots of time and effort. What do you do if you have 1,000 product pages? Where do you start?
- First of all, look at your site traffic – where are your site visitors landing? Which products are selling the most? Those are the pages you need to start to improve first.
- Secondly, once you have identified the most important pages, you want to identify the most important issues to tackle for each of those pages. Which changes will have the greatest impact? Which will be the easiest (and quickest and cheapest) to implement? Begin there. For more information, please see our blog post on prioritizing SEO tasks.
Two eComm SEO Page Nasties: Duplicate Content and Out-of-Stock Situations
Two issues to think about and plan for are avoiding duplicate content issues and handling out-of-stock item situations properly.
To avoid duplicate content, make sure that you check to verify that you have not used product page content wording that is also found on other sites. This is duplicate content and the page will not rank well if it is.
Even if you are not duplicating content on other sites, you can still duplicate your own site content, so make sure that you do not have, for example, two product pages for two different styles of an item, with 90% of the content (wording) the same on both. Either do a rewrite on one of the pages, or deindex it. And if you have affiliates selling your stuff, don’t let them put their own pages out there using your product descriptions, make them do a rewrite, or else give them totally new text to use.
Secondly, give some thought as to how you are going to handle out-of-stock situations. Many ecomm website owners make the mistake of taking the page down completely. Do that and you run the risk (if enough time goes by) that the search engines may eventually deindex the page. You might think that you could just put the page back up there and eventually it will get indexed. Most likely it will — but there is no guarantee that the reindex will result in that page being placed in the same position in the SERP’s that it had before. That’s something you don’t want to risk!
A better option would be to keep the page up, but put some sort of announcement on the page as to when the item will be back-in-stock. You could also give your customer the opportunity to receive an email notice when the item is back in stock.
With your product pages and images in top-flight form, you are just about ready to launch out and snag some customers.
In next month’s installment, we’ll tackle the critical issue of a properly functioning (and converting!) checkout process. We’ll have a lot to share, so be sure to stay tuned!
Since 2007 Rob Andrews has worked in the SEO and Content Marketing fields and is an established writer and trusted provider of thought-leadership for hundreds of SEO, advertising and marketing agencies worldwide. Read More