Why Your Ecommerce Site Is Hidden From Your Customers: Part Three

by Helen Pollitt, Head of SEO Avenue Digital

I’m back to share more of my tips and tricks for improving visibility in your ecommerce site and helping your customers to find you in the maze of SERPs. Part three will cover schema mark-up, image optimisation and product sitemaps. To find out more about internal linking, security and load times read part one and two.

Schema Mark-Up

One of the quickest ways to differentiate your website from your competitors in the search results is through employing structured mark-up on your product pages.

Structured mark-up is added to a webpage’s HTML code and essentially works like a labelling system. It helps search engines to understand the content that they are parsing with more certainty, i.e. this list of 11 digits is marked up with <span itemprop=”telephone” and is therefore a telephone number.

One common technical issue for retail sites is not utilising product or review schema or, implementing it incorrectly.

Review schema can enable your search snippet to pull through a star rating which makes your website stand out in comparison to others featured alongside you in the SERPs and product mark-up can allow for the price and stock levels to pull through.

Example of star ratings and product details in the search results.

The best way to check if your product pages have reviews or product structured mark-up is by running a sample of the pages through a testing tool such as Google’s. If they don’t, or a mistake in the implementation is flagged, then this is the time to speak to your development team.

Image Optimisation

One big trick a lot of retail sites seem to be missing is optimising their product pictures for image searches. Image search is an often-forgotten element of the research journey, although it can be particularly important for websites that sell products for which design and aesthetics are important.

Consider you are redecorating your lounge. You might go to Pinterest for some inspiration, searching for “art deco rooms” and at some point you might start thinking of purchasing products. Your search for “art deco floor lamp” could bring you to a set of results like this:

Example of “art deco floor lamp” results.

This set of images has been determined by Google as being pertinent to the search “art deco floor lamps” because of a number of factors including the HTML “alt=” attribute, the image caption and the image file name. Other than that, the standard SEO rules apply; the more authoritative the webpage is that features the image, the more likely it is to rank.

Product Sitemaps

It is generally advised that unless your website is very small you should have an XML sitemap added to it to guide the search engines in discovering the pages on your website that you want to have ranked. The sitemap is a file in XML format that contains a list of the pages on a website the owner wants the search engines to find.

It is prudent to only include URLs of live pages, not ones returning a “404 – not found” status code, or a URL that is redirecting to another page. This is one of the major elements e-commerce websites get wrong.

When stock has a high turnover and products become unavailable their pages are often turned off. This isn’t always a problem, although it will be a frustrating experience for visitors looking for that product.

Including these pages in your XML sitemap list gives conflicting signals to the search bots as to whether they should keep returning to these pages to check if they are live again or if they are permanently gone.

Most website owners do not realise that for larger websites there is merit in having more than one XML sitemap. Google advises that XML sitemaps should only be a maximum of 50,000 URLs or 50MB in size, so if your site is very large, having multiple sitemaps is a necessity.

However, at Avenue we recommend separate XML sitemaps for larger retail sites that split out products and images to give the search engines a better understanding of how your website is structured, and also allow you (or a skilled SEO) to identify any indexing issues easier.