E-Commerce Onsite SEO for Product & Product Category Pages

Here's how to optimize your e-commerce site's product and product category pages for SEO.
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on November 20, 2013 and has been revised and updated for accuracy.

A website that can’t be found with a search engine can’t be viewed by a large number of potential users. In the case of an e-commerce website, that means no products viewed and nothing purchased.

With e-commerce becoming more and more competitive, online merchants must do everything they can to engage their customers.

One of the areas where companies can have the greatest effects on their online discoverability is onsite search engine optimization (SEO).

E-commerce onsite SEO largely focuses on two key areas: product pages and product category pages. While these two areas are closely related, doing onsite optimization for each area is different, and for good reason.

Product page SEO is directed at consumers who know exactly what they want (within reason) and are shopping based on factors such as price, location, or distributor reputation.

Product category pages, on the other hand, are often optimized to bring in buyers who are unsure which product they are looking to purchase. They may have some product attributes in mind, but they have yet to determine which specific product they will buy.

SEO for Product Pages

Ensuring that product pages rank well for specific keywords like the “product name,” the “product stock-keeping unit (SKU)” and the “product manufacturer part number (MPN)” is easily done by including these key terms in the product description.

Another thing to remember is that each product description should be unique to your website, avoiding cannibalization of the manufacturer’s product description. This will help avoid search engine cannibalization, which is when pages on a website are optimized for the same keywords. Search engines do not know which page to rank higher and assign them both lower scores because of the confusion. This happens frequently with e-commerce sites since most use manufacturers’ product descriptions, which gets repeated in multiple locations around the Web.

Beyond a well-written and keyword-rich product description, one can further weight rankings for key product terms by using the product name and product SKU in headline tags, meta information, and throughout the page. While relying on meta keywords for SEO is outdated, it doesn’t hurt to cover your bases by providing meta keywords along with a meta description pulled from a unique product description.

Rich Snippets

Another area of focus for e-commerce onsite SEO that will help a page gain traffic from Google is rich snippets. Rich snippets are not part of any onsite SEO tactics, but rather a hard-coded product ad that Google can sample when returning results to users who have searched for related products using Google’s “Shopping” search.

Rich Snippet Example

An example of a rich snippet.

As shown in the adjacent image, a rich snippet acts as a summary of information in a thumbnail-like link that a user can follow to a product page. While there are many types of rich snippets, e-commerce onsite SEO uses mostly product rich snippets.

Rich snippets are great for attracting users that are interested in your product/content before they click through to your website, thus reducing your bounce rate. Rich snippets are easy to create when coding a product page; view the chart below for rich snippet code templates for product features.*

Feature Onpage Recommendation In HTML
Product Name Manufacturers generally determine most product names, but if there is an opportunity to include keywords that will help searchers find the product, take advantage of this opportunity and include them. Make sure the product name is tagged with <h1>.For a rich snippet, use this code:<h1 itemprop=”name”>Product Name</h1>
Images Position product images near the top of the page and be sure to include multiple views of the product. If the product has specific features, use close-up images of those aspects. Use ALT text (alternate text for vision-impaired users and search crawlers to identify the image) on each product image.For a rich snippet, use this code:<img itemprop=”image” src=”{image-url}” alt=”Product Name”/>
Price Try to keep price information as close to product images and the product name as possible. Make it clear what currency you accept. For a rich snippet, use this code:<p itemprop=”price” itemprop=”currency”>$9.99 USD</p>
Product Stock Letting your customer know the stock level for the product is a good idea, especially when that product is a convenience good. For a rich snippet, use this code:<p itemprop=”in_stock”>Product In Stock</p>.
Product Identifier Google recognizes Amazon Standard Identification Numbers (ASIN), International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN), Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPN), Stock Keeping Units (SKU) and Universal Product Codes (UPC) as product identifiers. For a rich snippet, use this code:<p itemprop=”sku”>Product Sku #</p>
Product Description The description should be unique and written to fit the product and website. Do not use a manufacturer’s product description or other website’s description of the same product. A paragraph describing the product, followed by lists of features and applications, works best in the industrial segment. For a rich snippet, use this code:<p itemprop=”description”>Write product description here!</p>
Features & Applications Lists detailing product features and applications are great ways to come up with unique content. Use headline tags (<h#>) to title each list with product keywords.
Reviews Content generated by users is a great way to find and add long-tail keywords. For a rich snippet, use this code:<p itemprop=”review”>Customer review goes here!</p>
Related Products Keep these near the bottom of the product page’s content and include thumbnail images and product names for associated products. Make sure to use a CMS that allows for a related products section in page content.

* Google has provided the end-all be-all for product page rich snippets here.

Product Category Page SEO

Product category pages are pages that contain information about general product types. They are important for two main reasons: to bring in users that are searching for general product types and product attributes and to create the foundational URLs for product pages with featured keywords.

To start, make sure your product categories take into account search demand for user-generated keywords. User-generated keywords can be found by using the Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool.

The keywords you identify should then be given to your copywriter, who should include them in category page content while making sure to explain the importance and benefits of the types of products in question. There should be both text and image links to associated product pages. As a rule of thumb, avoid mentioning product names, product SKUs, or any other product-specific information on product category pages.

The shortlist of keywords you end up with should also inform how you categorize your products, which will then be reflected in your URLs. For example:

  • http://www.ccisinc.com/liquid-application-equipment/manual-spray-guns/electrostatic/pro-xp40-electrostatic-gun

All of the highlighted keywords will be associated with this product thanks to the way it is categorized on the website in question.

Go Optimize Your E-Commerce Site!

Use the techniques outlined above to implement e-commerce onsite SEO and improve your site’s search rankings. But if you feel you still need more to do, or if these e-commerce onsite SEO tips don’t quite do the trick, try downloading our free e-Book, “Update Your Online Catalog Already!” It takes a close look at the “seven deadly sins” that e-commerce sites tend to make and offers practical solutions for addressing them. Use them to improve your site and outrank your competitors!

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