The ultimate eCommerce SEO checklist 2022

eCommerce SEO is a whole different ballgame compared to other industries. I've created an SEO checklist specifically for eCommerce SEO. If you work in SEO for an eCommerce company, you'll probably recognize a lot of these in your day-to-day work, but maybe find new ideas to work on as well.

Wouter van der Meij
Wouter van der Meij
Follow Wouter:

eCommerce SEO is a whole different ballgame compared to other industries. The main pain points in eCommerce SEO are getting your pages indexed quickly and scalability in your optimization. These are the most important aspects. But there is a lot more to keep in mind in regards to eCommerce SEO. Therefore, I've created an SEO checklist specifically for eCommerce SEO. If you work in SEO for an eCommerce company, you'll probably recognize a lot of these in your day-to-day work, but maybe find new ideas to work on as well.

Duplicate content

I believe there are almost no eCommerce websites that don't contain duplicate content. And still, a lot of them rank well. I believe that duplicate content shouldn't be too much of an issue for eCommerce if you work with it in the right way. You probably load your products directly via a feed, or you upload them in some form to your platform. Manufacturers who sell their products send those feeds, with the same product descriptions, to every business they sell their products on. So every webshop that sells the same products, has the same product description. Unless you rewrite it all. But with thousands to millions of products in your shop, that's not really a scalable strategy.

There are ways to effectively deal with duplicate content:

  • Allow product reviews by customers. These are unique, and another benefit is the schema markup you can use to get review stars in the Google search result.
  • Generate a short description based on product specifications. For example The [productname] as an [size screen] inch screen and a [x megapixel] megapixel camera on the back. The selfie camera is [x megapixel] megapixel. The [productname] was released on [release date] and the current price of [productname] is [price]. 
  • Enrich the product specifications on your site by scraping Google shopping results. This sounds a bit hard to do, I'm currently building a service that can do that for you. 
  • Enrich the content with related internal links. Links to categories the product is in, links to filters the product is found in, and maybe even related blogs or news.
  • Scrape people also ask questions about the product and answer them on your site.
  • Using the Google search console API: show related searches of the product on the page. (This is also a great way to optimize even more for keywords the page is already found on).
  • Generate content with knowledge about the content. For example, if a product is part of a series, or a brand, generate content about that. Example: The Iphone 13 is the latest Iphone by Apple. Its release was [release date]. I've personally done this in the past with hundreds of thousands of pages where books were listed by a particular author. It said "The latest book by [author] is [book title], it was released in [year] and is the last in the sequel [series]" (if it was part of a series of course).

These are a few ways to create more unique content on your website. The best part of this is, that you can automate and scale this on your entire website. You'll have more content about the product than others and you'll be able to outrank your competition with scalable content generation.

Internal links

Personally, I really love optimizing internal links. Especially at scale and automated. If you get this right, you'll speed up indexing and rank the most important pages higher in Google.

You need to automate this though! And make it scalable!

Some ideas:

1. Automatic internal linking. I'm actually doing this on this site. I have a database with keyword <> URL combinations. If a keyword is in a text, it will automatically get a link to the page I defined in my database. If I add links to my database, more links get added to my site. If a link changes, I change it in the database and it is changed everywhere. If I want to boost a link, I increase its importance, so it's added more frequent.

You can create this database by hand, or feed it with data from the Google search console API.

2. Product to product and filter to filter relationships. Some products are similar to each other. Or they compliment each other (a phone case and a phone). See if you can link to these with the relationships you have in your backend. Or see if you can do this via a database search or something. 

You can also do this with lists. Link to filtered URLs of categories that the product is listed in. And a link to pages about the product brand or product series.

3. Create some link lists that are tailored to pages within a specific portion of the site, and change that list when needed. For example, start adding links to the Black Friday deals pages in the months leading up to November. And changing them to valentines day after the holidays. And so on. This way you can increase links ot specific pages that are suspect to seasonality.

Faceted navigation

Faceted navigation is often done wrong with eCommerce businesses. If you close all those facets down for Google you will miss out on a lot of opportunities to rank for keywords related to those facets. If you open it all up for Google to index, you create possibly billions of combinations you don't want indexed.

In an ideal world you want the following set up:

1. Every facetgroup that contains facets that are searched for is open for indexation, combined with the categories. For example: Facet colour, category: dress creates the page "Blue dresses".

2. Those pages automatically have a semantically correct H1 and title tag, example: Color + Plural (Blue Dresses). Or with an extra facet: Color + Brand + Plural: Blue Marc Cain Dresses.

3. Maximum of x facets at once. A page like Blue Marc Cain Dresses 20% off size S doesn't need to be indexed. So have rules in place that limits the amount of facets in the URL.

4. One order of facets. You don't want two pages like: /dresses/blue/marc-cain/ and /dresses/marc-cain/blue/. That'll create duplicate content. Stick to one order of facet groups. 

5. Only link to pages you want to be indexed. If a facet group is on your allowlist, create links for it in the frontend. If a facet group is on your denylist, don't create links, but use form events, or javascript calls to change the state of the page. 

This can be hard for a lot of dev teams though. An alternative is to use parameters for facets in the denylist and have canonical tags in place to a page you do want indexed. 

6. Have canonicals in place for URLs that you don't want to be indexed.

7. Only resort to index meta tag if you're indexation is really messed up. This is the case when Google collectively ignores your canonical tags. (I've seen this in the past at a big eCommerce company.)

I've recommended a faceted search strategy to every eCommerce business I've worked with, and a fully ideal solution has never been built. We always end up with 70 to 90% of an ideal solution, and that's fine. At one company they chose to build it one way, other companies chose to build it another way. In the end, you need to cater to what's possible in the development and design process.

Canonicals

Have the right canonical tags in place. If a site generates duplicate pages of some sort, make sure that you fix that with the right canonicals. For example, when multiple vendors sell the same product, and each has its own product page. Make sure you have canonicals in place to the one that is 'best' (best price for example).

Or, if you have parameters in your URLs, make sure you tell google if want those URLs in the search result or if you want to show another one in the search results instead.

And of course, if possible, always link to pages you want ranked, so always link to the canonical page of a URL.

Sitemaps

Getting a lot of pages indexed is sometimes quite hard. Even for the bigger, more authoritative eCommerce businesses. Sitemaps may help with that. And you can be creative with them.

Some ideas that go beyond a normal sitemap SEO strategy:

  1. Create a sitemap with newly added products.
  2. Create sitemaps with products/pages that recently changed their price or content.
  3. Create a sitemap based on server logs with pages that haven't had a hit from Googlebot in the past or in the past X weeks.

Schema markup

See if you can add schema markup to your site where possible. Think about Author schema markup for blogs and articles. Product schema markup for products. AggeregateRating for category pages. Recipe schema markup for recipes. Recipecarousel schema markup for recipe overview pages, etc. 

One you can always implement is the Organization schema markup. And if you have a search functionality you can add sitelinks search box schema markup.

Sold out products

I've had many discussions on this subject. What to do with sold out products? The first question you need to ask is: how big is the problem?

  1. Take an export of product detail landing pages from Google from your favourite analytics tool.
  2. Scrape that list to see if the product is available or not.
  3. Do some excel magic and see what percentage of visits from Google land on a page of a product that is sold out.

In the past, I've seen a site that had about 15% of their product detail page visits on a product that was sold out or never sold again.

The next question is, does it hurt your conversion rate? Is the conversion rate of a visitor that lands on a solod out product lower than one that lands on a product that is not sold out?

Even if it doesn't hurt the conversion rate, you should consider the fact that the visitor is already on your site. You calculation doesn't contain the people who saw the 'sold out' message from your schema markup in the Google search result and skipped your listing altogether.

Next to that, I've seen Google view sold out products as soft 404s in Google Search console.

A visit on a page that sells a product that's available is at least as good, and not worse, than a visit on a page that contains a product that's sold out.

Therefore, I recommend thinking about what to do with sold-out products.

There are three distinctions:

  1. Temporarily out of stock
  2. Permanently out of stock
  3. Out of stock due to season (for example, summer dresses in the winter).

Each case requires its own strategy:

1. Temporarily out of stock

Show a popup that the product is temporarily out of stock and give the possibility to sign up via newsletter to receive a message when the product is available again. Show alternatives in the popup. When a product becomes available again, do not show the popup anymore.

2. Permanently out of stock.

You probably want this page out of the index. But you don't want to lose its ranking. The strict way of white hat SEO is showing a 410 or 404 to Google, and Google will remove the page from the index. But, you might want to squeeze some value out of it. In that case, I would add a canonical on the page to an alternative product, maybe a follow-up product in the series. Next to that, show a popup with the message that the product is out of stock and show a recommendation for a similar product. Remove the product schema markup from the page (to prevent the 'sold out' message in Google).

After a few months, you can redirect the page to the alternative product.

If no alternative product exists, do the above strategy but with the category page of the product.

3. Out of stock due to season

In this case, I'd do the same as for strategy 1. Show a popup that the item is out of stock due to the season and give the reader the ability to sign up for a notification when the product becomes available again. 

The searches and landings on these pages will also probably decrease when you're out of the season, so this is not really a problem.

The upside to this is that you might keep most of your ranking and have a head start when the season starts again.

Link building

Every business needs link building. And so do eCommerce businesses. 


Automated titles and meta's


speed


Indexability and crawlability


SERP features


Product specifications


Scraping competitor prices


Category pages