If you manage, own or work on an eCommerce website, you will know how important it is to appear in Google Search. According to Statista, as of June 2021 Google has 92.47% of search engine market share. So ranking on Google search is vital to any eCommerce business.
Recently, Google published new SEO best practices specifically for eCommerce sites. Often Google documentation will be more vague than it is technical. But this one actually contains a few gems and insights into how Google looks at eCommerce websites and what brands have to do to improve their discoverability on the different Google “surfaces” where their content can appear.
So this post is going to try to summarize some key points from Google’s documentation and give you some advice to help improve your eCommerce SEO best practices.
There is a lot to talk about…
Sharing Your Product Data
How much do you think it costs Google to crawl websites everyday?
It’s an impossible question to answer, though going by some of its statements on power usage, it’s A LOT.
Google’s new recommendations for eCommerce sites detail two things that eCommerce sites should be doing to “increase eligibility for richer appearances and on more surfaces* across Google”.
*Google refers to the different places where content from eCommerce sites can appear as “surfaces”. They are: Google Search, Google Images, Google Lens (a visual recognition search engine), Google Shopping, Google My Business and Google Maps.
The recommendations are:
- Include structured data in your site’s product pages
- Tell Google which products you want to show by uploading a feed to the “Google Merchant Center”
Submitting your products to Google via the Merchant Center helps Google to find all of your product information. Google actually seems to prefer this to crawling larger sites over and over again to discover pages. Which makes sense if we consider how much Google may have to spend on crawling.
This is different to something called “crawl budget”, which is often discussed in SEO circles. Crawl budget is not something most site owners have to worry about.
But the fact that Google highlights submission via product feed to the Merchant Center is something that all eCommerce businesses should think about. Compared to implementing structured data (which will be discussed later), submitting to the Merchant Center is a low resource method of increasing the discoverability of your product pages. This will increase the likelihood that Google finds all your product information, gives you greater control over the timing of updates and lets you share data that is not present on your website. This is also necessary to be included in the Google Shopping tab, which can lead to increased exposure on that surface.
Actions You Can Take:
- Upload a feed to Google Merchant Center
- Feeds can be used for weekly, daily or even hourly updates when you choose
- The Content API can be used for immediate content updates, which is very useful for stock information
While structured data is not specific to eCommerce, it can help Google to better understand your content. It’s a standard, machine-readable format for providing information about what’s on a page.
For eCommerce businesses there are types of structured data that are particularly relevant.
LocalBusiness – This tells Google more about your business. It’s essential if you have physical retail locations. You can tell Google your location and opening hours. This helps people find you in search and Google Maps.
Product – This is an obvious one. Product structured data tells Google more about your products. There’s specific technical guidance on this and it will help your site in shopping related Google surfaces (like…Google Shopping).
Review – This helps Google understand product reviews on your site.
HowTo – If you have guides for the products you sell, mark up these pages so Google can display them as featured snippets in search.
FAQPage – If you have an FAQ page on your site, this can help Google understand it.
BreadcrumbList – This is a big one, especially for large sites. Breadcrumb list schema can help Google understand the hierarchy of your website’s content.
VideoObject – With video becoming more of a feature on eCommerce sites, this helps Google display the videos properly in search.
However, implementing structured data on an existing site can be a pain. So it should be noted that structured data should be a long term aim. Start with key products first and work your way down. Or work with a technical partner, like us here at MAQE! We can help you make these changes at scale.
If you already have a CMS like Shopify you may also be able to use a plugin to help you with this.
Actions You Can Take:
- If you use a CMS, install a plugin or extension to help you implement structured data
- If you do not, start with key products first, then work your way through from there
- Work with a technical partner if you lack the resources to implement structured data at scale
- If it’s completely impractical, focus more on a feed for Google Merchant Center
Handling Product Variants
This is an issue for almost every eCommerce site. For example, if you sell one T-shirt in five different colours, how do you help Google understand this?
The guidance Google has issued here is quite specific. You should use distinct URLs for each variant. This will make the page eligible for product rich results. Google Shopping can also display variants.
Each variant should include a canonical tag back to the root product. This tells Googlebot which URL it should view as your best page from a set of duplicate pages. Google will then prioritize that page in search results relevant to your product.
Using the T-shirt example, your canonical URL should be something like “brand.com/t-shirt”. Your distinct variant URL should be something like “brand.com/t-shirt/blue”, which will have a canonical tag pointing back to “brand.com/t-shirt”.
Actions You Can Take:
- Have distinct URLs for all of your products
- Place a canonical tag on each one that points to the “root” product
This is an area where a lot of eCommerce websites could improve. The good news is that if you are using an eCommerce platform, it will likely have taken care of some of these issues for you.
The simplest suggestion for URL structure is to use words! Google specifically suggests, “Add descriptive words in URL paths. The words in URLs may help Google better understand the page.”
Try to have URLs that a human could actually read and know what the page is about before they even see it.
For example, a URL like “brand.com/products/jeans-blue” is far better than something like “brand.com/products/26547”.
Actions You Can Take:
- Try to have readable URLs for all your products
- Don’t use continually changing values, such as a timestamp, in your URLs this slows down Googlebot
Please read part 2 of our Google eCommerce deep dive for more insights and actionable tips to help you improve your eCommerce website’s performance in search. We’ll be talking about site structure, navigation, UX patterns and how you should launch a new eCommerce website.
Talk to MAQE
If you need technical help or strategic advice for your eCommerce website, talk to MAQE. We can help you improve performance in search and create unique purchasing experiences for your users. Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.