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How to Enhance Your SEO When Redesigning an Ecommerce Website - Tarun Gehani, SEO Director - WordCamp Ann Arbor August 2019


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With over 40% of traffic to e-commerce websites coming from organic search, it is imperative to take the necessary steps to preserve your SEO when embarking on a redesign. Learn current, reliable SEO best practices to deploy all along the web design process, to maintain (and increase) your SEO.

It’s generally accepted that traffic loss is inherent to any website relaunch, but with proper planning and preparation, you can mitigate nearly any hiccup to your keyword rankings and traffic. Conducting an SEO audit prior to embarking on the redesign process will enable you to deeply understand which elements of your website are driving traffic in the first place—before you make any design, architecture, or content decisions. This is especially important for e-commerce websites which traditionally are much larger, more complex, and more prone to simple oversights which could have dire consequences. Learn how to preserve (and enhance) your e-commerce SEO by understanding how search engines and users interact with your unique website and set yourself up for a successful website relaunch!

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How to Enhance Your SEO When Redesigning an Ecommerce Website - Tarun Gehani, SEO Director - WordCamp Ann Arbor August 2019

  1. 1. Pure Visibility How to Enhance Your SEO When Redesigning an Ecommerce Website #WordCampAnnArbor
  2. 2. #WordCampAnnArbor Who is Tarun Gehani? 2 ● Started building in WordPress in 2008 ● Learned SEO ~same time by experimentation, testing theories ● Built & managed a web design/marketing consultancy for ~7 years ● Worked w/ GM, Mr. Clean, Delta Faucet, U of M, StudioCDN Tarun Gehani SEO Director @PureVisibility
  3. 3. Nice to meet you! 3
  4. 4. #WordCampAnnArbor 4 Why does SEO matter (for ecommerce)? 81% of people perform online research before making a large purchase. 44% of people start their online shopping journey with a Google search. 37.5% of all traffic to ecommerce sites comes from search engines. 23.6% of ecommerce orders are directly tied to organic visitors. Sources:, Smart Insights, Business Insider
  5. 5. How search works 5
  6. 6. #WordCampAnnArbor 6 Search engine basics In simple terms, there are two main functions, or duties, of Google Search: Store. Crawl information* on the web, store it in its index. Retrieve. User inputs a search query, apply the algorithm and retrieve the most relevant page** of results. *I purposefully do not say “web pages” here. Google now uses RankBrain, adding to the Knowledge Graph. **I purposefully say “results page” here. Not only does Google’s algorithm order web pages based on ranking factors, but they ideally will have the user remain on and so therefore includes related content, media, etc. to match the user’s intent behind the searched key phrase.
  7. 7. #WordCampAnnArbor How Google stores content in its index 7 Web Crawler: ● Follows links from webpage to webpage ● Scans the HTML ● Reviews the content to see if it has changed since last time it crawled ● Updates the page in its Index Index: ● Trillions of webpages ● Has different patents to calculate “term frequency”, evaluate content coverage, determine relevance, site authority, trustworthiness, etc.
  8. 8. #WordCampAnnArbor How Google retrieves content for search 8 When a search is performed: ● Google interprets the words and phrases ● Applies the algorithm and scans the database ● Returns the most relevant page of results Google determines the highest quality results based on over 200 ranking factors. To return the most appropriate answer for the user’s perceived situation, Google considers additional inputs such as user location, device, past searches and content consumed.
  9. 9. #WordCampAnnArbor The fundamental principle of search: 9 Google must always serve the best search results page.
  10. 10. Ranking factors 10
  11. 11. Top 3 Ranking Factors 11 According to Google themselves. Content Long-form: Google Panda Links Real-time: Google Penguin RankBrain ML + LSI: Google Hummingbird
  12. 12. #WordCampAnnArbor Content 12 ● Content length ● Topic coverage ● On-page signals ● User experience signals Source:
  13. 13. #WordCampAnnArbor Links 13 ● Backlinks from other websites pointing to yours ● Seen as a “vote of confidence” or trust signal ● Links from high authority domains pass along stronger signals ● Topical relevance matters
  14. 14. #WordCampAnnArbor RankBrain 14 Google’s machine learning algorithm, in use since 2015. ● Understanding search queries (keywords) ● Measuring how people interact with the results (user satisfaction) Source:
  15. 15. #WordCampAnnArbor 15 Before RankBrain, Google would scan pages to see if they contained the exact keyword someone searched for. Today, RankBrain actually understands what you’re asking (and provides accurate results). RankBrain
  16. 16. The ever-changing search landscape 16
  17. 17. #WordCampAnnArbor New anatomy of the SERP 17 vs.
  18. 18. #WordCampAnnArbor Search engine results page, evolved. 18 Why ranking #1 is no longer enough: ● Knowledge Graph ● Shopping Results/Product Listing Ads ● Ratings, Reviews ● Featured Snippets ● People Also Ask ● Local Maps Pack ● Image/Video Carousels ● Medical/Vertical Cards ● Weather, Flights, Events, Jobs
  19. 19. #WordCampAnnArbor Shopping SERP 19 ● Product Listing Ads ● Google Text Ads ● Featured Snippet
  20. 20. #WordCampAnnArbor Shopping SERP (continued) 20 ● Organic listings ● Top stories ● People also ask ● Local pack ● Related searches
  21. 21. #WordCampAnnArbor As the machine grows, feed it new data. 21 Structured data helps search engines understand the information on web pages and provide richer search results. Tools: ● ● ● (WP Plugin)
  22. 22. #WordCampAnnArbor 22 Common e-commerce SEO mistakes ● Duplicate Content Issues ● Poor Speed Performance ● Unoptimized On-Page Elements ● Complex URL Structure ● Thin Content / Weak Product Descriptions ● Lack of Internal Linking
  23. 23. How to enhance your SEO when redesigning 23
  24. 24. #WordCampAnnArbor Mitigate traffic & rankings loss 24 ● Perform an audit/analysis of where you are today ● Maintain pages that are working well, based on: ○ keyword rankings ○ organic traffic ○ backlinks ○ conversions ● Don’t change URLs if you can avoid it ○ if you do, make sure to set up 301 redirects ● Add more content!
  25. 25. #WordCampAnnArbor How to perform a “visibility audit” 25 Review Google Analytics ● Entrances, pageviews, bounce rate ● Time on site, conversions Review Google Search Console ● Performance report, search queries, CTR ● Indexation, crawl errors ● Enhancements (schema markup) Perform a website crawl ● Use Screaming Frog or Deepcrawl ● Site hierarchy, info architecture ● Internal linking, orphans ● On-page SEO elements Analyze keyword rankings ● Pages ranking, search volume, intent ● Opportunities to combine, expand, or create new content Analyze backlinks data ● Where are most powerful links pointing to? ● Where are greatest number of links (popular content) ● Broken backlinks, 301s
  26. 26. #WordCampAnnArbor To get results, focus on three main areas 26
  27. 27. Building the pillars of support 27 Technical ● Crawling ● Indexing ● Rendering Content ● Keyword Targeting ● Meta Tags & On-Page Elements ● Content Depth & Topic Coverage Links ● Internal Linking ● Referring Domains
  28. 28. #WordCampAnnArbor Technical SEO Influences 28 Crawling: ● How can I make my website quick and efficient for crawlers? ● What people or processes do I need in place for continual optimization? Indexing: ● Be aware of changes to your webpages’ indexation status. ● Ping googlebot when you update or publish new content. ● Periodically review technical aspects of your website. ● Use structured data to give more visibility to your content. Rendering: ● Make sure your site loads quickly and efficiently for its visitors (both human and machine). ● Review the many device/OS combinations and how your site displays/functions.
  29. 29. #WordCampAnnArbor 29 Technical SEO Review Review technical elements influencing Google’s ability to efficiently crawl and accurately index your site’s pages. ● Site Audit (manual checklist/review, SEMrush, Screaming Frog) ● Page Speed (Google PageSpeed Insights, ● Google Search Console Indexation and Performance Report
  30. 30. #WordCampAnnArbor 30 Check in Google’s index ● Perform a site search to see roughly how many of your pages are in Google’s index (this should be close to number of pages in your CMS/ecomm platform). ● If too few results, identify which pages are not showing up in Analytics and look for patterns - (pages not in Sitemap, lack of internal links, unintentional noindexing or canonicalization). ● If too many results, run a site crawl with Screaming Frog or DeepCrawl to identify pages with duplicate titles (since these typically have duplicate content), and then work to fix.
  31. 31. #WordCampAnnArbor Problem: Duplicate Content Issues 31 URL Parameters are the most common cause of duplicate content, which limits crawl budget and can dilute ranking signals. These are variables to the URL structure that instruct the server to: ● Sort or filter items ● Return search results ● Customize page appearance ● Track ad campaigns or signal information to Google Analytics In Screaming Frog, you can identify URL parameters in the URI tab by selecting “Parameters” from the “Filter” drop-down menu. The following URLs all return the same content but Google will treat them as separate pages:
  32. 32. #WordCampAnnArbor How to Fix Duplicate Content 32 For URL parameters that don’t significantly impact the content (i.e. ad campaign tags, sorting product results by price or popularity, filtering, etc.) use the “noindex” tag or canonicalize to the main page. Otherwise, Google recommends: ● Use standard URL encoding in the “?key=value&” format (do not use brackets or commas). ● Do not generate parameters for filters that produce no results (we don’t want empty pages being indexed or slowing down web crawlers). ● Do not allow links to be clicked (i.e. followed by crawlers) for categories or filters that feature no products. noindex tag rel=canonical tag
  33. 33. #WordCampAnnArbor Problem: Slow Page Speed Performance 33 It matters for SEO: Site speed is one of the few signals that Google has publicly stated they use as part of their algorithm. It matters for visitors: ● Slow load times can increase shopping cart abandonment by 29.8% ● A page delay of just 1 second would cost Amazon $1.6 billion in sales each year ● 40% of users will abandon a webpage if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. ● 79% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with website performance are less likely to buy from that same site again. ● For every 1 second of improvement, Walmart experienced a 2% conversion increase. Source:
  34. 34. #WordCampAnnArbor 34 PageSpeed Insights ● Check how your site performs on both mobile and desktop ● Get a list of specific areas to improve ● Main areas of influence: ○ Product Images ○ Scripts (Plugins, 3rd Party Tools) ○ Server (Shared Hosting)
  35. 35. #WordCampAnnArbor 35 ● Use multiple tools or sources in your analysis ● Many variables in page load time ○ User location ○ Device type ○ Network speed ● Reduce Total Page Size and number of Requests ● Use Caching and Compression
  36. 36. #WordCampAnnArbor 36 Analytics ● Review Avg. Page Load Time to see page by page where you can improve ● See if certain page-types or design elements slow down the page and make adjustments as needed
  37. 37. #WordCampAnnArbor 37 Improve Page Speed: Optimize Images The most significant culprit to slow page load speed is usually large images. ● Crop and resize images before uploading them to your site ● Use plugins or tools to compress image file size ○ ○ or EWWW Image Optimizer for WordPress ● Enable Lazy Loading to only display images once the user scrolls ● Delete old or unused images from the Media Library
  38. 38. #WordCampAnnArbor 38 Improve Page Speed: Minify/Combine Minify your code by removing extra lines of space to speed up rendering. Reduce the number of “calls” between the server and browser by combining multiple scripts into one file. Free tools: ● Autoptimize (WP plugin) ● ● ●,
  39. 39. #WordCampAnnArbor 39 Improve Page Speed: Caching Set up browser caching: ● Reduces page load time for repeat visitors ● Particularly effective on ecommerce sites since users regularly visit the same areas of the site WordPress plugins: ● Autoptimize ● W3 Total Cache Consider upgrading your hosting and using a CDN.
  40. 40. #WordCampAnnArbor Problem: Issues With Thin Content 40 Ecommerce sites usually have a large number of products, so it’s quite common for product descriptions to be short, automated or word-for-word provided by the manufacturer. This is a major problem for SEO: ● Short descriptions give Google little to work with. ● Automated descriptions (even those that swap a few words into a template) can create duplicate content. ● Descriptions provided by the manufacturer usually exist on other sites ○ you’re not creating anything unique for search engines to index ○ giving them no reason to rank you above competitors.
  41. 41. #WordCampAnnArbor How to Fix Thin Content 41 It’s not always possible to manually update product descriptions for every page on your site. Focus on a few of the highest-value product pages, based on: ● Number of sales ● Highest profit margins ● Most inventory Expand product descriptions: ● Write about the benefits, not just the features ● Use action-oriented language ● Talk about origins, differentiators, use cases ● Use conversion-focused copy
  42. 42. #WordCampAnnArbor How to Expand Content 42 Maintaining a blog enables you to continually write new content to expand your keyword profile ● Target long-tail keywords ● Create resource or buyer’s guides ● Use rich media ● Entice visitors to dive deeper into the site ● Internally link to category and product pages Source:
  43. 43. #WordCampAnnArbor Problem: Complex URL Structure 43 ● Keep URLs simple and scalable ● Try to keep each page < 4 clicks from your homepage ● Don’t make drastic changes with- out a proper plan in place
  44. 44. #WordCampAnnArbor Takeaways 44 ● You don’t need complex analysis to start on SEO: ○ Talk with people about your products and their challenges ○ Create content around how to solve those challenges ○ You’ll be well-ahead of most of your competition! ● Remember: Search engine algorithms are tweaked to reward new, trustworthy, reputable content that people read and share. ○ Focus on creating value for your users versus on ways to “optimize” for each new algorithm update ● Don’t just guess or blindly follow best practices… ○ experiment, review the data, make adjustments and continue to improve!
  45. 45. Pure Visibility Thank You! | @PureVisibility Pure Visibility Tarun Gehani