Google finds and indexes the pages with crawlers. They crawl the pages by utilising for example links and stores the changes and new pages to Google index where it can find relevant pages quickly to SERP (Search Engine Result Page).
A good and simple website structure doesn’t only help crawlers to find and index the pages, but it also creates a better user experience when it is easier to navigate and offers relevant information.
Here are 5 tips on how you can get more relevant traffic and conversions from the search engines by optimising the structure of your webshop. These tips apply to the new smaller as well as traditional bigger eCommerce sites.
- Focus on usability and page speed
- Use structure that focuses on easy navigation and categorisation
- Avoid duplicated pages and content
- Use sitemaps to help search engines focus and find the most important products
- Use structured data on product pages to offer more data on SERP
eCommerce usability and speed is already a relevant SEO ranking factor
Google has confirmed last year that page experience will be a more relevant ranking factor in the future. They will combine core web vitals and UX-related signals.
Google tweeted about UX and page speed as a ranking factor last November.
Core Web Vitals are metrics related to speed and visual stability such as responsiveness. Google search console provides information about issues and statistics to these metrics.
This Google’s update on ranking factors means that it is even more crucial to fix usability issues. Google has mobile-first index so especially the mobile experience and issues related to following topics are something that must be noticed:
- Improving Page Speed decreases bounce rate and provides better user experience
- Clarity and simple navigation with responsive design is crucial when it comes to turning visitors into conversions
- Fixing broken links and error pages
Google Search Console and different crawling tools can provide you a lot of relevant information related to broken links and error pages. I suggest the following actions on these issues:
- Crawl your website regularly to find broken links and other UX related issues
- Find out the error pages and 301 redirect those to relevant pages
I was working with a global publicly-traded company where we built a new website. Right after the launch we crawled the pages through and found hundreds of broken links that were not fixed before the launch. We were able to fix these immediately since we had all the necessary information about the broken links.
In eCommerce, the error pages usually appear when the products are expired. Those expired products should be also 301 redirected to the relevant category or page.
Use structure that focuses on easy navigation and categorisation
Breadcrumb and taxonomy are not only elements that help to understand the hierarchy of the website, but also users use them to navigate on the site. Easy navigation engages users more and helps to guide them towards the conversion.
Good categorisation and tagging possibilities are key for a taxonomy which gives easy access to related content for a particular topic such as categories and brands. This opens up a lot of possibilities to utilise the data of the categorisation in product recommendations to offer users more relevant products.
Taxonomy helps search engines to understand which products are related and belong to the same category. It also prevents individual product pages from competing since the category page will be the one ranking with category-related queries.
Hierarchy and categorisation are something that needs to be planned well in advance. You don’t want to change the hierarchy and structure afterward unless it is necessary since it might be costly to change it with all the 301 redirects that need to be done.
Avoid duplicated pages and content on eCommerce SEO
Product and category pages are typically creating duplicate pages with different filter options such as variants and sizes, etc. and those are usually handled with parameters in the URL. From a search engine’s perspective, if the URL changes, those two pages are categorised as duplicated pages that both might index in Google and this is a usual issue with eCommerce pages.
Different language pages might also cause duplicated metadata or content. Google might be confused about which page to show in specific countries and pages will start competing with each other.
How to fix these kinds of duplication issues and prevent duplicate pages and content from indexing in Google?
Helping Google to understand structure better by using for example canonical tags and hreflang attributes.
Canonical tag on the source code fixes the duplicated content and page issues. It tells search engines which version of a URL should appear in search results. By default, canonical should point to itself without the parameters so it fixes the duplication issues with filters on category pages and variations of the product. Canonical tag can also be used to fix the duplication issue if the same product appears under two different categories causing different URLs.
The hreflang attribute tells Google which version of the page SERP should show based on the user’s language options. This should be implemented on all pages if there are multiple language versions of the same pages.
I think canonical tags and hreflang attributes should be automated so if the new page such as product is added, also canonical tag and hreflang attribute is added automatically. It of course requires a good eCommerce language structure so it can be automated.
Use sitemaps to help search engines focus and find the most important products
There are different ways that can be used to communicate with crawlers and help them to find and focus on the relevant pages. One of these communication tools are sitemaps, that can be built in two different format:
- XML -sitemap contains and informs crawlers about all the pages that you want them to index and focus in
- HTML -sitemap helps crawlers to find all the pages and products easier through links
I recommend implementing both sitemaps since they have different purposes and impact on the search engine visibility and they should be automatised to include all the pages so when the product or another page is added or expired, the sitemap is updated automatically.
XML -sitemap should be added to Google Search Console and Robots.txt to inform Google about the sitemap. When XML -sitemap is added to Google Search Console, it gives a lot of important and necessary information about the issues with relevant pages and indexing.
HTML -sitemap is a web page, that includes links to all pages on a website. HTML sitemap is especially important for eCommerce sites that might have products, categories, and pages that are not included in the navigation or might be deep in the hierarchy. HTML -sitemap helps a lot with the visibility and indexing for these pages since crawlers can find them easier. It also adds authority for the pages that are not getting that many links such as categories not included in navigation and guides for the products. Link to the HTML -sitemap is usually added to the footer of the pages.
Check also crawl statistics to find crawling issues
Google provides statistics of the crawlers in Search Console which makes it easier to analyse and find crawl issues. Crawl stats can be found in the settings and include for example the following data that can be used to investigate issues more
- Total number of requests grouped by response code, crawled file type, crawl purpose, and Googlebot type
- Detailed information on host status
- URL examples to show where in your site requests occurred
Structured data to product pages to offer more data on SERP
There is a way to give Google additional info on the pages and add data to the SERP results by adding structured data. Google recommends adding structured data as JSON-LD structured data snippets which can be implemented for example through Google Tag Manager. With this additional data, search engines can show rich snippets such as reviews, price, and availability on SERP. It also gives crawlers more useful information about the pages so they could rank them with relevant queries.
Structured data that I recommend adding to eCommerce sites is:
- Sitelink search box to allow the users to make your website search directly on SERP
- Breadcrumb to provide more information of the site architecture and hierarchy
- Product page data to show in SERP such as price, reviews, brand, availability, etc.
- This is the Google example of how the implementation on structured data should look like
Hopefully this blog is something you find useful and can utilise to improve the eCommerce site. Feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss more about your case and how the structure can be improved.