I recently helped a client troubleshoot some SEO issues and I thought I’d anonymously share some of those findings here….
This was part of a 45 min Zoom call, so it was not an in-depth strategy & analysis session. These calls are designed to help when someone has a WordPress/website issue on their mind & they need some quick help & advice.
As usual, I won’t mention the website directly, but I will talk about some of the general issues I found.
The website had an eCommerce like element with lots of product pages.
Now, whilst the client didn’t expect to sell many products online (as their customers were big and the buying process was complicated), it was very useful to have the full catalogue of products on display so that website visitors could see the breadth on offer (plus the SEO advantages as well).
The client wanted to see how they could potentially improve the SEO of their product pages so that is the area we looked into…
Product page (problem 1)
When we reviewed one of the product pages, at first glance it looked ok, I saw:
However, the content felt a little sparse and my gut feeling was that we needed some strong, per-product introductory text to help welcome website visitors to each product page, and to introduce the product in question in a clear, functional manner.
However, I parked that concern for the moment whilst we went to review how the client’s products were appearing in Google.
Product page SERPS
SERPS stands for ‘Search Engine Results Pages‘ and it simply refers to the pages of results we see in Google after we’ve searched for something. E.g. if you Google for ‘wordpress pay as you go support‘, you’ll see this:
In Fig 1 example Google SERPS listing, I’ve labelled the three main components:
An important point to grasp here is that in SERPS, these are the three things we have to play with to entice people to visit our page because it’s not just good enough to show up in SERPS, we also have to make people click!
So you really want to consider how you influence these three fields in your pages as fundamentally this is where the rubber meets the road in terms of SEO.
In the case of the Fig 1 example Google listing, we can say:
So I am generally happy with the SEO health of our page in Fig 1.
Problem 2 – The Description
When we reviewed the SERPS listing for the client’s product pages, we noticed that whilst the Page URL, and Page Title SERPS fields were fine, the Description field was just generic text relating to the overall company – not relating to the product itself.
This description was exactly the same for every product the company had in Google’s SERPS.
This was a big SEO issue.
But why was Googe doing this?
If you cast your mind back to Problem 1 – we said the client’s product page was a tad bare in terms of content, and I had suggested that the client start adding in beefier product descriptions to help introduce the product – it is exactly this lack of content which had caused the SERPS problem we had found.
What was happening was this:
The space for page descriptions in Google SERPS is around 160 characters, so Google was looking for a section of website text which would be a good fit for that.
For whatever reason, Google obviously didn’t like the product bullet points; which would have been the first chunk of text they will have encountered on the page. Perhaps Google doesn’t like trying to extract text from bullet points for descriptions? Or perhaps the words used in the bullet points just didn’t seem to Google as proper sentences which would lend itself to the description field*?
(*In fairness, some of the product bullet points I saw were very industry/technical in nature – which I wouldn’t really say is particularly a bad thing for SEO, in fact, it’s great for SEO. It’s just this content didn’t really help Google form their description SERPS field).
Searching, looking for description love….
So Google kept on scanning down the page looking for other candidate text it could potentially use.
The next text Google happened to find was towards the bottom of the page: this was generic content introducing the overall company and it was exactly the same across all websites pages.
This was the best candidate text Google found for their SERPS description field, so it used that for all the product pages.
Note: the page did NOT have an SEO DESCRIPTION field set in Yoast. If it did, then we would have been able to indicate to Google about some alternate text they could use.
So the answer to problem 2 could actually be solved by addressing problem 1 – i.e. put meaningful, unique, per-product descriptions at the top of product pages to help introduce the product and its content. This is good for your website visitors, and it is good for Google.
Google will then see this introductory text and will more than probably gobble it up as ideal candidate text for the description field.
How long will Google take to see the changes & reflect them in its SERPS pages? Hard to tell but you can ask Google to re-index the page.
What the client needed to
The task for the client was to revisit the product pages and update them by adding strong, unique, introductory content. And, whilst the client is at it, they may as well check all the other content on the product page as well:
As I mentioned, the client had a quite a lot of product pages so this would have seemed a daunting task, however, in the spirit of treating your website like an allotment, the key here was to break the overall task down into bite-sized chunks:
I spotted the issue with the product description not necessarily because I am a genius (no comment!) but sometimes you just need a fresh pair of eyes on your content. As website owners, we can all too easily get snow blind by seeing our own pages and content all the time.