How to Fix Common Technical SEO Issues On Ecommerce Sites
Problem: Too Many Pages
Having thousands of pages on your site can be a technical SEO nightmare. It makes writing unique content for each page a monumental task. Also, the more pages you have, the more likely you’ll struggle with duplicate content issues.
Why It Happens
Some ecommerce sites just have lots and lots of products for sale. Because each of these products require their own page, the site accumulates lots of pages. Also, sometimes each slight variation in the same product (for example 15 different shoe sizes) has its own unique URL, which can bloat your ecommerce site’s total page count.
How to Fix it
First, identify pages that you can delete or noindex… without affecting your bottom line.
In my experience, 80% of an ecommerce site’s sales come from 20% of its products (the ol’ 80/20 principle at work). And around 25% of an ecommerce product pages haven’t generated ANY sales over the last year.
Rather than work to improve these pages, you’re better off simply deleting them, noindexing them, or combining them together into a “super page”.
Most ecommerce CMSs (like Shopify) make it easy to find products that haven’t generated any revenue lately. If they haven’t, you can put them into a “maybe delete” list.
But before you actually delete anything, check Google Analytics to make sure these pages aren’t bringing in any traffic.
If a page isn’t bringing visitors to your site or putting cash in your pocket, you should ask yourself: “what’s the point of this page?”.
In some cases these “deadweight” pages will make up 5-10% of your site. For others, it can be as many as 50%.
Once you’ve removed excess pages that might be causing problems, it’s time to fix and improve the pages that are left.
Problem: Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is one of the most common ecommerce SEO issues on the planet. And it’s one that can sink your site in Google’s search results (thanks to Google Panda).
Fortunately, with a commitment to unique content on every page of your ecommerce site (and using advanced SEO techniques like canonical tags), you can make duplicate content issues a thing of the past.
Why It Happens
There are a lot of reasons that duplicate content crop up on ecommerce sites.
Here are the three most common reasons.
First, the site creates unique URLs for every version of a product or category page.
For example, if you have a category menu like this…
…it might create a unique URL for every selection the person makes.
If those URLs gets indexed by Google, it’s going to create A LOT of duplicate content.
This can also happen if slight variations of the same product (for example, different shoe sizes or colors) create unique product page URLs.
Second, we have boilerplate content. This is where you have a snippet of text that appears on multiple pages.
Here’s an example:
Of course, it’s perfectly fine to use some of the same content on every page (for example, “At Brian’s Organic Supplements, we use the best ingredients at the best price.”).
But if your boilerplate content gets to be 100+ words it can be seen as duplicate content in the eyes of Google.
Finally, we have copied descriptions. This happens anytime you have the same (or very similar) content on multiple product or category pages.
For example, here’s an example of duplicate content on two different ecommerce product pages…
Product Page #1:
Product Page #2:
As you can see, the content on these two pages is almost identical. Not good.
How to Fix it
Your first option is to noindex pages that don’t bring in search engine traffic but are causing duplicate content issues.
For example, if your category filters generate unique URLs, you can noindex those URLs. Problem solved.
Once you’ve noindexed all of the URLs that make sense for your site, it’s time to tap into the canonical tag (“rel=canonical”).
A canonical tag simply tells search engines that certain pages are exact copies or slight variations of the same page. When a search engine sees a canonical tag on a page, they know that they shouldn’t treat it as a unique page.
(Not only does canonicalization solve duplicate content issues, but it helps makes your backlinks more valuable. That’s because links that point to several different URLs reroute to a single URL, making those links more powerful).
Pro Tip: Implementing canonical tags can be tricky. That’s why I recommend that you hire an SEO pro with technical SEO expertise to help. But if you prefer to set up canonicals yourself, this guide by Google will help.
Finally, it’s time to write unique content for all of the pages that you haven’t noindexed or set up with canonical URLs.
Yes, this is hard work (especially for an ecommerce site with thousands of pages). But it’s an absolute must if you want to compete against the ecommerce giants (like Amazon) that tend to dominate Google’s first page.
To make the process easier, I recommend creating templates for product and category page descriptions (I’ll have an example template for you in the next section).
Problem: Thin Content
Thin content is another common technical SEO issue that ecommerce sites have to deal with. So even after you solve your duplicate content issues, you might have pages with thin content.
And make no mistake: thin content can derail entire ecommerce SEO campaigns. In fact, eBay lost upwards of 33% of its organic traffic due to a thin content-related Panda penalty.
But let’s not focus on the negative. Our data from analyzing 1 million Google search results found that longer content tended to rank above thin content.
Why It Happens
One of the main reasons that ecommerce sites suffer from thin content is that it’s challenging to write lots of unique content about similar products. After all, once you’ve written a description about one running shoe what can you write about 25 others?
While this is a legit concern, it shouldn’t stop you from writing at least 500 words (and preferably 1000+ words) for all of your important category and product pages.
How To Fix It
First, you want to identify pages on your site that have thin content.
Pro Tip: Everyone has a different definition of “thin content”. In my mind, thin content refers to short snippets of content that doesn’t bring any unique value to the table.
You can go through each page on your site one-by-one or use a tool like Raven Tools to find pages that are a bit on the thin side (Raven considers pages with fewer than 250 words as having a “low word count”):
Once you’ve identified thin content pages it’s time to bulk them up with high-quality, unique content. Templates make this process go significantly faster.
Here’s an example template for a product page description:
Pro Tip: The more truly unique your content is, the better. That means actually using the products you sell. Write your impressions. Take your own product images. This will make your product descriptions stand out to users and search engines.
Problem: Site Speed
Site speed is one of the few signals that Google has publicly stated they use as part of their algorithm.
But site speed isn’t just important for ecommerce SEO: it also directly impacts your bottom line. Research by Radware found that slow load times can increase shopping cart abandonment by 29.8%.
Why It Happens
Here are the three most common reasons that ecommerce site pages load slowly:
Fortunately, all three of these site speed issues can be solved somewhat easily.
How to Fix it