Selling online is a complex beast. Most retailers have a digital presence now which means competition within your industry is likely fierce. Throw in the fact that if you are a reseller you are competing against the brand’s website, or as a brand your direct competitors are your own stockists, then any advantage you can garner is critical. This is why it always saddens me when I see e-commerce sites that have set themselves up to fail in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
A website’s visibility in the search results is often the primary way to get visitors to the site, without it, a large portion of your potential revenue is going to a competitor.
There are many factors that go into ensuring your website is “rankable”, but one of the most important issues for an e-commerce website is how well the search engine bots can understand the products on your site and how they relate to each other and the wider website.
Throughout this four part series I’m going to explain some of the most common issues retail sites face in making their products accessible to, and easily understood by, the search engine bots. In the first part I will explain how internal linking can improve the performance of your ecommerce site.
Search bots discover pages on the internet by following links to them from other pages. This is also one of the ways that “authority” is ascribed to pages through a trickle-down effect from pages with high authority to lesser authority.
It is not only crucial for pages to be well-linked to from others on the website for the benefit of search engine discovery, but also website usability. What is the point in having stock on your website if it can’t be found by your visitors?
There are several points on a website that allow for natural linking that can benefit both your customers and the search engine bots. The following are a good place to start to ensure your internal linking lends itself to easy navigation and good flow of page authority:
Often referred to as your “top-nav” the main navigation element can come in many forms in the wake of mobile first design; a burger menu, a collection of links on the left-side of the site or the more traditional navigation bar at the top of the website. It is a widely held belief that one of the ways the search engines determine the importance of a web-page in the hierarchy of your website is how it is linked to from other pages on the site – i.e. if you deem it important enough to drive your visitors to, then it will be considered more important to the search engines. Regardless, making sure your products can be easily accessed from your main navigation is crucial for search engines and users alike.
The small links, usually located at the top of the content beneath the main navigation, are helpful in navigating a user back to pages higher up in the hierarchy of a website. For instance, if you have visited the “red-t-shirts” category page of a site you might notice a series of links like Home > T-shirts > Red t-shirts which will allow you to click through to the home page or t-shirts category page.
Probably one of the lesser known internal linking systems is a page which features a collection of links that outlines the structure of the website. It is a great way of ensuring your key pages are accessible to users and search engines but it is often left off of websites or a link to it is hidden down in the footer making it hard for visitors to find and use.