Recession Proof Your E-Commerce Website

Just incase you haven’t heard, we’re heading towards a nasty global recession. While you might feel reassured by the news that many companies are increasing their SEO spend in 2009, it can only mean one thing – SEO is going to get competitive in 2009. So, if you’re thinking about recession proofing your site in the near future, here are a few things you might want to consider doing soon:

1) Review your keyword strategy

Noticed anything about the way your users are searching for your products? When was the last time you took apart your current keyword strategy? Get as much Google keyword data on exact match for your main search behavioural types as you possibly can. Has anything changed? Are there any new opportunities to be exploited? It’s really easy to get volume data from Google’s keyword tool and seasonality ratios by month. Put it all together and compare your research to any other data (Hitwise, Rankings, PPC) you can get your hands on.

One more thing – use the hard numbers to make your decisions, not trends coming from pretty graphs in Google insights – in fact, leave insights out of the picture for this exercise!

2) Revisit your basic SEO

Even the more advanced SEO’s out there should take a look at their basic on-page SEO and internal architecture again once in a while. Check that each page has the correct arrangement of relevant H1′s, H2′s and H3′s. Check that you’re using a uniform internal linking structure with the canonical urls linked to internally. Check for duplicate content problems and orphaned pages. It’s possible a few unexpected changes have been made to your website since you last checked, especially if you’re working alongside a large team of developers. Taking a fresh look at these basics might highlight new problems or new ideas.

3) Handle your product pages properly

In nearly all cases, your product pages form the largest proportion of your available, optimisable content. Whether you’re running a retail, recruitment or other e-commerce based site, there’s an approach you can take to make sure this content is optimised correctly and that it can be found for long tail search queries.

Firstly, check your on-page SEO (again!). Here’s an example of a pretty sub optimal approach courtesy of ebuyer.com:

ebuyer product page

Firstly, the product name is encapsulated in a H3 tag where really that should be a H1. While you’re working in your product pages template, think code order. Check this out:

ebuyer product page without the stylesheet

It’s not until you get halfway down the page that the product title is mentioned in that H3 tag. As much as possible, reposition your code order to cover off your most important content first and then internal links. Maybe even in order of importance, certainly not “login” and “register” first. While you’re in there, why not chuck a few nofollows in for good measure.

4) Out of stock? Don’t 404 or redirect, use a 200…

You’d be shocked about how frequently this part of the puzzle gets lost. Many websites simply return a 404 error page once a stock item has sold out or worse still, a default “this product is no longer available” page is published at the old item url. The <title> and <description> become default and the page content is lost. The outcome, a slow but sure duplicate content suicide.

What you should do, without fail, is keep all the original content, URL and meta code with a simple message displayed: “This item is currently unavailable – here are similar items we have in stock” Bonus! that way, you don’t lose any traffic (in fact you gain some) nor do you miss out a few sales.

If you’re really on the ball, why not capture an email address at this stage to inform the customer when you are back in stock on the item.

5) Internal links to out of stock items

Consider you internal link architecture carefully. Most websites don’t link internally to their “out of stock” pages and for good reason. Why would they want a user to be able to navigate to an out of stock page? If you don’t find a way to link internally to a stock item page (ie you orphan that page) then it will drop out of the index for all but the most long tail queries.

Consider using a product reviews section to get users to write a commentary on the quality of an item, with a link back to the product in the summary. An example of this can be found on Amazon.co.uk:

Having trouble getting customers to review your products? Offer an incentive, discount vouchers or perhaps even affiliate style commision for every purchase made via links in a review.

6) Structure your site and assign the correct keyword search types

As difficult as it may be to revisit and change your site structure, site architecture is fundamental to successful rankings. Consider your “keyword buckets” or search types, and how they’re assigned to various sections of your site.

Here’s an example sitemap of a e-commerce site offering HI-Fi products:

e-commerce sitemap for SEO

For further reading on site architecture for SEO check out this post using a recruitment website as the case study.

2009 may be a tough year but with a solid SEO approach with recession proofing in mind, hopefully it might just be a little easier… ;-)



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