So far 2015 hasn’t been much of a year for big search engine algorythm updates. Early February saw a bit of an update that move some sites markedly but it wasn’t part of the usual site quality (Panda) or unacepptable links updates (Penguin). So seeing as much in the SEO world is relatively quiet and stable we thought it best to catch up on a few tips, tweaks and suggestions that are likely to help if you’re looking to sell more online.
Title Tags & H1s
For the past seven, eight or even longer we’ve seen the benefit of having your <title> Tags and <h1>s unque between them on product pages. I.e. if your product name is “Blue Tall Widget” you would have your <title> tag as something like “Blue Tall Widgets suitable for Long Gardens with free delivery” whilst your <h1> would be the exact product name.
In their infinite wisdom, Google, via Sacie Chan have said that these tags should be “consistent” for news items, which is just getting people confused. Personally I’ve always seen differentiating between the two tags as a signal that you’re actually putting more effort into the page than just programatically adding data, and this can only be a good thing. Secondly, with the <title> tag being one of (if not) the most important on-page features then it would be wise to use that to legitmately and logically add pertinent keywords that not only read correctly in isolation but also would encourage people to click on your website from a search engine results page.
When you add new products spend some good time really thinking about how best you can use the <title> tag, don’t see it as yet another pointless SEO requirement that you don’t actually have to do if you don’t have the time. It is important.
Adendum: Google has also stated (at 46′) that having duplicate title tags across a site isn’t a ‘Panda’ problem. However, instances of <title> duplication are often accompanied by instances of page content duplication so its best to look out for them and fix (most probably using Screaming Frog).
The speed at which your website renders and loads all the information has been important for a handful of years and if you wanted to see the general path Google are heading down then you should consider they have actually started testing the addition of a red “slow” label next to search websites in their search results – much like their “mobile” labels.
There has been some correlation shown (if only I saved the report) that shows that generally websites at the top of the search results are the one that are faster to load. Of course, this could actually just be a byproduct of faster websites are generally ones that have more attentive resource and better general SEO, but as the Matt Cutts has already stated, it is better to try and get your website to load faster. Albert has lists some useful tools to identify how you can speed up your sites part way down this page.
There was a comment by John Mueller stating that websites shouldn’t link build. Of course that raised a smile, not just by me. But in general he is right. Make your content (nb this most certainly includes product pages) that are engaging, useful, easy to consume and easy to share and then the links will follow. But it doesn’t harm giving your site a careful nudge in the right direction.
404/410 Error Pages v. 301 Redirects
Far too often we see that eCommerce stores will simply delete product pages that they don’t envisage being useful in the future. This can be extremely bad SEO – most notably because sometimes these pages will attract links and all that value will be lost. This view was further supported by a comment John Mueller made which he said that 404/410 error pages aren’t crawled by Google and that they should be made to “work for your users”. Our advice would be to get a list of all pages on your site and then work through them – deciding as you go – which should be 301 redirected to similar paroducts, redirected to a categy page, or put back live with an “out of stock” notice.
Many eCommerce platforms will allow you to exclude products from internal search as well as being linked to form category pages. This is something else you should consider, as well as adding noindex, follow to them if they’re never going to come back, but you would like to use more of the ‘link juice’ to lift similar content.
Check HTTPS and Canonical Tags
It is most definitely a good idea to crawl your site again and look for miss-matches between what you’re telling Google the correct URL is and what you’re actually displaying, especially if you’ve moved from http to http.
Check Your Whois information
This is an old one, but may be important as Google tries to crack down harder on spam. Check to see what information you offer with your domain register. Visigt Domaintolls.com and add your domain name to the end, such as domaintools.com/amazon.co.uk and see if your company name and address is present.
Most eCommerce platforms will allow you to change the URL ‘slug’ of your products. Far too often people will just use whatever the platform creates from the product name: “A really good product for reducing dog wee burns” becomes domain.com/products/a-really-good-product-for-reducing-dog-wee-burns/. Google may mess around with how a webpage’s listing is displayed, but they will often truncate where you wouldn’t want them to and embolden other site’s URLs because they include the keywords in the URL – as in this case with Amazon.com compared to the Amazon.co.uk results. Google even knows that the search “rocks for dog wee burns” is related to “dog rocks” and emboldens them. So make sure you use as short and succinct product URL identifiers as possible and come up with one, two or three word vesions: “/dog-rocks/”.
Adendum: and make sure if you change them that you use 301 redirects. And if there are any alternative versions, perhaps size and colour, use canonicals wisely.
A Shift to Longer Content Winning
Over the past few months we’ve definitely seen a move towards longer, more detailed content out-performing average length content. We all know that lots short short content focused on very narrow keyword lists have been hit badly by Google in recent years. This resulted in webmasters aggregating content into fewer, more detailed pages. It seems that even these ‘mediocre’ pages are performing less well than the even longer pages with broader scope.
Google can recognise the difference between product pages and information ones, so don’t worry about writing 1000-word product descriptions (but do look at 300+).
Image (c) MinifigNick