Will Normal SEO Work for E-commerce Businesses?

SEO is important for any business, but will the same rules apply to e-commerce?

SEO Leverage’s Gert Mellak explains what’s similar and how e-commerce SEO is different.

James: How would you say e-commerce SEO is different from normal SEO? Like when you get someone saying, I’ve got an e commerce store, I want you to have a look over it, what are you looking at? Like, what do you automatically know that’s going to be different to your average service business, you know, like a lawyer or an accountant or whatever?

Gert: That’s an amazing question, because very often people try to apply what they see on SEO tutorials to the e-commerce store. And there are a few ways why it doesn’t work.

Let me start with what is similar. Google, in any case, is going to try to make their users happy. How do they do this? They want to deliver the best possible answer to their request. So an informational search about e-bike versus normal bike or whatever is not going to search for a product, a specific product or a product category, it’s going to search for a content illustrating the different options, explaining, or maybe a video embedded, maybe an infographic, maybe a lot of text, etc.

Whereas if I want to buy a specific bike – to stick with this example – we just want to show probably, Google wants to show directly the category. So you need to know what you’re going after. Right? So you want to check what Google is ranking.

What Google is ranking right now is what they think makes users happy or gives the best user satisfaction on search. Because then if users are happy, they’re going to perform another search on Google and not head over to Bing or DuckDuckGo, or whatever alternative there is out there.

Okay? So based on the premise that Google wants to make users happy, we need to be aware of what Google wants to rank. If I want to rank for a certain brand, for example, bicycle brand, and the queries that go with this brand, I need to see what Google searches for. Okay? So this is what’s always the same. Even if you have a B2B website, you will need to check out what Google wants to rank and see if you can provide something similar to start with.

On e-commerce, there’s a lot more complexity because e-commerce sites usually have a very big scale, meaning it’s hard to find. There are a few one, two-product stores out there that then do their promotion via Facebook ads and sell essentially one gadget, and they’re doing very well and that’s fine and they have different needs and they’re more similar to normal websites rather than e-commerce solutions when it comes to SEO.

But very often, we deal with pages that have 15,000 products. You essentially have 15,000 pages because every page gets a product. You’ve got filters, you can filter by price, you can filter by brand, you can filter by application, or by –

James: Compare, you can compare models.

Gert: bulk pricing and single pricing. Exactly. You can do a lot of things.

And all those options at the backend create a lot of URLs, a lot of individual pages. Not only every product creates pages, but also every collection or category creates a page and all those filters also create pages. So there is a huge amount, it can be millions of URLs, with all the combinations that technically exist on your site.

And sometimes sites are not aware that they are making Google index all those pages and crawl all those pages. So what happens, for instance, is that Google sometimes has to crawl 2 million pages because the site owners didn’t make it clear that only 50,000 are relevant. And Google starts to crawl all those pages, starts to index all those pages, starts to find hundreds of duplicate content, where essentially, it’s the same content, just Google found different ways to find it, and nothing ranks.

And essentially, you’re wasting what we call Google’s crawl budget, or I usually refer to it as processing time. So Google is not going to spend days indexing your website just because it looks so nice. Google is going to be very picky on how much time to spend on your site, because at scale, when crawling millions and millions of websites, this is costing Google a lot of money. And this is something people underestimate.

So Google is not going to throw out money if they think what you deliver is not valuable for the users, at least after some time. So they might crawl invaluable pages, but at some point, they are going to throttle down and say, Okay, I’m going to crawl five pages every day on on this site, but not more, because most of the of the URLs it’s sending me aren’t going to be valuable for my searches. I’m never going to rank them, so why should I spend money and time on processing those pages?

So a big part of the e-commerce SEO question is to streamline crawling efforts of Google, especially if you have a few thousand products. If you have 200, it’s not a big issue. But already there, you can make some optimizations. But very often, you want to really be specific on what you want Google to crawl, what you want Google to spend their time on. So scale is a very, very big issue.

Listen to the episode here

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