Who here loves a spot of retail therapy? I know I do, especially from the comfort of my own sofa. We’re a demanding bunch though, us online shoppers, and in an incredibly competitive online space where a certain billion-dollar global brand has the overall monopoly, having a strong web presence and user-friendly site is absolutely vital. You can be selling the best products in the world, but if your site isn’t match fit, then I wouldn’t be planning on buying that Bentley *just* yet.

In this article, we'll take a look at seven common ecommerce SEO pitfalls and suggest actionable solutions to help you get back on track (or avoid such blunders altogether!)

Table of contents

Why ecommerce sites need SEO

SEO won’t necessarily guarantee you top spot on the search engine results pages (SERPs), but it does play a pivotal role in ensuring your site is visible to potential customers, helping to boost traffic and increase sales. Quite simply, you can’t do without it. It’s the butter to your bread, the tonic to your gin, the Ant to your Dec… (you get the general idea), which is why getting it right is so important.

Six ecommerce SEO mistakes and how to fix them

But hey, getting it spot on every time isn’t easy and mistakes do happen, as we’ll discover below.

1. Targeting the wrong keywords

A critical misstep many businesses make is focusing on the wrong keywords (i.e. phrases that are too generic or of the wrong search intent) in the belief that higher search volume equals increased conversions.

Targeting keywords based on search volume can be a recipe for disaster and may ultimately hinder your success. You may hope to reach a wider audience, but chances are the well-established names of your industry will already have worked hard to build site authority and produce content that is worthy of the top spot for many of the competitive, high-volume keywords. Focus on these competitive keywords often lead to wasted efforts, no visibility and poor ROI.

This can also happen when keywords you target lack commercial intent or fail to align with your target audience's search behaviour. For instance, an online store selling badminton equipment might make the mistake of optimising for informational keywords such as ‘how to play badminton’ instead of commercial terms like ‘buy badminton rackets online’, meaning they won’t be visible at the right point in the buyer journey.

The solution

Conduct extensive audience research to understand pain points, interests and search behaviours across the buyer's journey. Use tools such as Google Keyword Planner or Semrush to find keywords that align with your products or services and demonstrate commercial intent. Keep a close eye on emerging trends and adapt your keyword strategy accordingly to stay one step ahead of the competition.

2. Overlooking importance of technical SEO

Overlooking technical SEO is a whopper of a blunder which could have HUGE implications for your brand’s success. Many people think SEO is just about keywords and content when in actual fact there is a whole behind-the-scenes side of SEO which encompasses site speed, structure and performance, all of which feed into user experience, indexability and crawlability. One of the worst consequences of neglecting technical SEO is slow loading times, which can be the kiss of death for your brand, as these bounce rate stats from TechReport demonstrate:

The solution

Conduct regular technical SEO audits (or hire an SEO agency to do the audit for you!) to identify and resolve issues such as slow page load times, Javascript issues, broken links, duplicate content and poorly optimised images. Check that your website is secure (HTTPS) and set up serverside caching.

3. Ignoring or not including product reviews

Do you look at product reviews before making a purchase? I know I do, and so do 93% of online shoppers. If you don’t have a review section on your product pages then you’re missing a trick. Testimonials not only offer valuable insights into customer experiences, they also help keep your page alive with fresh and unique content. Additionally, they’re a great (free!) form of marketing for your product (as long as the reviews are positive!).

If you do have reviews on your products / Google, it’s wise to interact with them, even if they’re bad. Ignoring feedback from your customers is never a good look. Of course, it’s not always possible for larger businesses, but for smaller, niche enterprises, interaction with your audience is key to maintaining a good reputation.

The solution

Encourage customers to leave honest reviews following their purchase (using a service like Feefo for example), then monitor and respond to all reviews (or as many as you can) in a timely manner, even if they’re negative. What this demonstrates to your audience is your commitment to customer service and satisfaction, helping to build trust in your brand and sending out an important message that you are a business who cares, which in turn boosts those E-E-A-T credentials (a key component of ecommerce SEO).

Here's a snapshot of one small business getting it right. Responses are short and sweet, but personalised and friendly:

Honey image

4. Poor site structure

Having an easy-to-navigate site structure is essential, especially when you expand your product lines. Failure to do so can lead to frustrated users and diminished search visibility. The larger a website grows with a poorly designed site structure, the more difficult it can be to rectify, causing all manner of issues. And it’s not just the customer who suffers. Search engines need to understand your site structure in order to crawl it. If it’s a tangled mess, it’s highly unlikely the site will rank well.

The solution

Ensure your site has a logical taxonomy by organising products into logical categories and subcategories based on keyword research insights into how your audience searches. Aim to structure your site so that product pages are within three to four clicks from the homepage for discoverability. This is not just helpful to the user; it also allows search engines bots to crawl them. Below is an example of what to aim for:

Site structure image

5. Ignoring mobile-friendliness

According to reports, retail sales from m-commerce in the United Kingdom are expected to surpass the 100 billion British pounds mark by 2025. With an ever-increasing number of shoppers using their phones to browse ecommerce sites, failing to ensure your site is mobile-friendly is an error you simply can’t afford to make. A poor user experience can lead to higher bounce rates and lower conversion rates. On a similar note, Google now favours mobile sites for ranking, meaning it will prioritise mobile-friendly pages on its results pages.

Mcommerce Statista image

The solution

Ensure your site has a responsive or mobile-first design approach that renders seamlessly across all devices. Optimise page load times and implement a simple checkout process for users. Regularly test your website's mobile experience and address any issues swiftly, or else you risk your customers looking elsewhere.

6. Overlooking local SEO

For businesses with a physical presence or a locally focused target audience, failing to utilise local SEO can be a costly mistake. When people want to locate local services or businesses near them, they take to search engines to find what they need. This is evident when looking at search volume using Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool. In the UK, there are over 3 million keywords related to ‘near me’ and 117 million searches per month that contain some variation of ‘near me’. That’s a whopping number.

The solution

It’s essential your business has an effective local SEO strategy so you can ensure your company appears as one of the top results when your audience looks for your products or services online. Optimise your site for local SEO by claiming and verifying your Google Business Profile listing, making sure your NAP details (Name, Address, Phone Number) are consistent across all online platforms and images are good quality. Incorporate location-specific keywords and consider utilising LocalBusiness schema markup which communicates to search engines that you are a local business to search engines (there are handy schema markup generator tools out there that can do all the hard work for you!).

Here's a great example of a site using local SEO (and being rewarded with a high ranking).

Furniture shop Bournemouth image

7. Duplicate Content Issues

When search engines receive similar signals from multiple URLs, it can make it trickier to know which page better suits a search query. This is called cannibalisation and can result in search engines awarding lower rankings to all perceived replica pages or potentially cause the wrong URL being picked to rank. Duplicate content is a reoccurring issue for ecommerce sites which typically generate multiple product pages across numerous categories. In addition to lower / wrong page rankings, the following problems may occur:

  • Wasted crawl budget – this is a finite resource and if Googlebot spends too much time crawling the ‘wrong’ pages, less resource is available to crawl the ‘right’ pages, meaning unique, valuable content doesn’t get seen / indexed.
  • Reduced credibility – duplicate content may result in Google seeing a site as less credible, effectively making it harder to rank well for all pages.

The solution

Rewrite content so each page is unique and for any existing content you want to keep, consider setting up canonical tags on all duplicate pages and changing the canonical URL to a single ‘SEO friendly’ page that you want to appear on SERPs.

A more forceful approach is the use of noindex tags. Whilst canonical tags only set a preference, a noindex tag is a directive which tells search engines what they can / can’t do. If you don’t want to give search engines a choice, noindex any duplicate pages and make sure the indexable page has been optimised for SEO.

Final thoughts

Where you are placed on the SERPs can make or break an ecommerce site. This is why bringing your SEO ‘A’ game is imperative to your brand’s success now and in the future. Making mistakes when it comes to optimisation is not the end of the world (we all do it and the goal posts are constantly shifting) but – as with anything in life – it’s essential we learn from those mistakes and try to avoid SEO pitfalls in the future.

Need help with your ecommerce SEO strategy?

Our team of ecommerce SEO experts consistently have their fingers on the pulse, keeping up-to-date with the latest search trends, ensuring sites adopt search engine best practices and keeping an eye on algorithm changes to ensure we’re in the best position to propel clients further up the SERPs. Drop us a line today to find out how we can help your ecommerce site grow!

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Meet the author ...

Anna Heathcote

Content Manager

Based way up on the Northumbrian coast, Anna uses her creative copywriting expertise and SEO experience to ensure clients have fresh, relevant and optimised content on their ...