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Search engine optimization (SEO) varies by site and industry. Some industries are extremely competitive in the online space, whereas others may be less competitive. With ecommerce sites in particular, there are often challenges when discussing SEO. As a result, we find that many ecommerce sites instead turn to paid search as the quick solution.
Why do ecommerce sites typically have a difficult time for SEO?
First, there is often very little content on these site’s pages. Usually the pages consist of images, product names and manufacturer information that are used as product descriptions. Due to this lack of unique content, ecommerce sites at times have a difficult time attracting inbound links (although this isn’t an issue for the giants such as Amazon.com and Zappos.com). Another problem is that on ecommerce sites, non-SEO friendly URLs may be dynamically created. These are URLs that are tremendously lengthy or URLs that don’t contain keywords. And, to top it off, sometimes the URLs are duplicated, which is where there is more than one URL for one page of content. Multiple URLs create duplicate content on one site, and using the same manufacturer information for product descriptions creates duplicate content across many sites. (If you’re familiar at all with SEO, you already know that this is not good for your SEO efforts).
So, what can be done to overcome these obstacles?
The good news is that even though these issues mentioned above are commonly seen, there are ways to help ecommerce sites compete in the organic search results. First and foremost, the site must have a well organized and logical structure for users and search engines. There should be levels of your site — such as category and product level pages. You should also take into consideration the assets you have available. Ecommerce sites have many pages. Use these to your advantage. Add unique content to category level pages. Content is still one of the most important aspects of SEO, and giving the search engines lots of it will be to your benefit. Also, creating content that your competition does not feature can give you a distinct advantage. Don’t forget about those product pages that contain the generic (duplicated) manufacturing information. Try incorporating customer reviews. This way your customers will do the work for you.
Also, don’t forget about other opportunities to add unique content. Blogs, articles, how-tos are all great ways to accomplish this. Keep in mind, your customer should be at the heart of all of your efforts. Therefore with blog posts, how-tos, etc. create content that people are searching for or that will encourage them to share that info elsewhere on the internet (helping you to build your inbound links, which can be viewed as “votes” for your site).
Although not always easy, SEO can be worked into ecommerce websites with a little time and effort. Adding unique content and following SEO Best Practices will lead you to positive results.
Too many outbound links on a website can deplete a site’s own PageRank (the importance Google assigns to a page based on an automatic calculation that factors in the link structure of the web and many other variables). However, this may be more of a relative than an absolute statement; there are ways to externally link to relevant websites without reducing the importance of your own website.
In its simplest form, PageRank can be explained with this formula:
PR(A)= PR(B) + PR(C) + PR(D)
From the formula above, the sum of the PageRank of pages B, C and D is awarded to page A because all of their links are pointing to A. Basically, pages B, C and D are passing on some of their own “link juice” to Page A.
PageRank is assigned on a page by page basis in that the more outbound links one has on a particular page, the PageRank of the page itself is affected. An intelligent strategy is to create a page on the site that includes a collection of links to websites that your users will find helpful. This is a good idea as externally linking from an internal page on your site as opposed to the homepage will not have that much of an affect on the site as a whole. The homepage typically has the highest PageRank by virtue of the links pointing to it. That PageRank from the homepage flows to the internal pages on the site. So, to keep that healthy internal link structure intact, we’d essentially want to have outbound links coming from a lower level page.
However, all of this can be completely avoided with the nofollow attribute. A few years ago, Google put into action the nofollow attribute so webmasters could link to other websites without losing their own “link juice”. This is useful if a webmaster wants to provide links to other quality websites for their users and not lose their own PageRank status.
I recently began to dig deeper with the unsubscribe emails that get generated from our monthly newsletter. To my surprise, almost 30% of the unsubscribed emails were not in our database. “How can this be?” Doing some further investigating I found that many, if not all, of the missing emails were in our database under an email alias. In my next blog I will talk more about email alias names, email addresses and how they differ.
My next step was to reply directly to the emails asking if it could be possible that they were in our database under a different email or email alias. In some cases it took multiple email communications to find the correct email alias we had for them in our database. That being said, however, most of the correspondence I received was nice; the majority of people were appreciative that I was taking the time to verify and remove their email address.
So in closing, it’s my opinion that verifying unsubscribed emails should be added to your company’s Best Practices when removing unsubscribed emails from your database. Doing this will help you with the CAN-SPAM Act, as well as help you build your brand’s credibility.