Providing a superior user experience is not only important to customer satisfaction, it’s also a component in Google’s rankings. Ecommerce sites present unique challenges for SEO – they have a lot of moving parts, with often hundreds if not thousands of pages and dynamic components.
In the fast-paced world of online retail, the role SEO plays in user experience can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. However, ignorance or disregard of SEO best practices can impact a website’s visibility in search engines, organic traffic, and ultimately conversions.
Here are four SEO strategies to keep top of mind to improve UX in the dynamic world of ecommerce:
Improve Site Speed
Part and parcel with a good user experience is a fast loading website. It’s also been a ranking factor for Google since 2010. With the amount of images and dynamic elements, ecommerce sites often load slowly, leading to lost customers and conversions.
The first step is awareness of how site speed influences UX. If you use Google Analytics, take a look at bounce rate and site speed data to see if there is an issue. Run your URL through a free tool such as GTmetrix or Google’s PageSpeed Insights to find out how your site stacks up on desktop/overall site speed. For mobile sites specifically, use Google’s Test My Site tool to gauge site performance.
If page loading time is a problem, tackle some optimization tactics. For example, identify large images/files (over 150 bytes) and compress them using Photoshop, or a free image compression tool. Leverage browser caching so repeat visitors don’t have to completely reload the entire page every time.
Reduce unnecessary redirects as they can slow down page loading time, but be sure to check to see if the original page has residual SEO value (i.e. significant backlinks). If it does, keep the redirect in place.
Aim for Unique, Relevant Content
Google wants to find quality unique content on every URL, and for retailers this can sometimes be a struggle. In addition to trying to create unique, descriptive content for each page, merchants also need to be wary of filtered search pages and product parameters creating too many low-value pages that can be indexed by Google. From an SEO perspective, this can dilute page authority and bloat Google’s index with nearly duplicate pages.
To deal with this issue (i.e. multiple colors and sizes of the same sweater), it’s best to do one of three things: include a canonical tag on product variation pages that points to the main product page, place a “noindex” tag on the page, or block the variation with robots.txt.
Ecommerce sites also need to plan for expired content (products that are sold out, out of stock, discontinued or out of season). The plan needs to prioritize the user and ensure SEO value is not lost.
Implementing a 301 redirect is the optimal choice in most cases. First, it provides users with the most up-to-date information on a product they are looking for. And if a page had significant backlinks, a redirect transfers any link value the original URL had.
Prioritize Mobile Experience
Recent research found that more than 57% of online traffic is now coming from mobile phones and tablets, so mobile needs to be a priority in any UX discussion. An additional mobile-related SEO concern coming in 2018 is the introduction of Google’s mobile-first index. This means Google will determine rankings primarily based on mobile experience and content. Essentially, ecommerce sites need to ensure users have a similar experience on both mobile and desktop. A responsive or dynamic serving site is the best option to provide a comparable user experience.
Monitor Site Changes
Changes to HTML title, “noindex” tags, broken canonicals, broken redirects, 301 redirects morphing into 302s and more can have devastating effects on SEO and, by extension, user experience. Be proactive and talk to the teams involved about SEO and the impact these types of changes can have on the site as a whole.
Monitoring can be done manually by keeping an eye on drastic changes to organic traffic to key landing pages in Google Analytics, or by using a site monitoring service which alerts you to any changes that could impact SEO.
Today’s consumer expects and demands a seamless user experience, and so does the search engine. Understanding and leveraging the connection between SEO and UX can improve search visibility, help drive organic traffic and enhance the overall online user experience.