SEO is such an important factor in online marketing today that good SEO features are an absolutely crucial part of any website. When building an online store, you need to be sure that your eCommerce platform supports all the features that will let you implement SEO best practices. But what makes an eCommerce platform great for SEO? We reached out to 5 SEO professionals for their input.
1. Customizable HTML <HEAD> Sections
I've used a whole lot of eCommerce platforms over the years and there are very few that offer what I consider to be one of the most important SEO considerations - the ability to change the <HEAD> section on a page by page basis.
There are all sorts of important things that you can place in the HEAD of a web page that impacts how your search listing will appear and, perhaps, even how well it ranks. Every platform we have used has a way to add title tags and meta descriptions but few give you complete control of an individual page to add things like structured data markup, Facebook OpenGraph data, Twitter Hover Cards, meta robots tags, canonical tags or even meta news keywords (not to be confused with the old, deprecated and spammy meta keywords tag).
Find a platform that allows you to add whatever you want to the HEAD section of each individual page, and you've got much more control of your search listings.
— Dave Hermansen, CEO at Store Coach – Boise, Idaho
2. Page Load Speed and Ease of Use for Store Owners
There are hundreds of factors that come into play when ranking an eCommerce store. One common issue I notice with online stores is that all the basics are in place (page titles, meta descriptions, H1, content, backlinks, etc.) but the speed of the site is horrendous. With over a third of purchases made on mobile, it is imperative that your website speed is as quick as possible. This matters from Google's perspective when ranking you, and also from a CRO standpoint. If users can't click around your site and load pages, they are going to bounce off your site.
eCommerce solutions need to include the necessary tools and technical resources for entrepreneurs to make their sites as fast as possible. Image optimization, caching, compression, minifying, etc. are all imperative to creating a beautiful and fast website.
Entrepreneurs also need to select an eCommerce solution that they can use. As simple as this sounds, if you can't make simple optimizations and changes to your store, you are going to have issues in the long run. Store owners should never be fully dependent on developers for upkeep on their online store.
— Lindsay Kavanagh, Digital Coordinator at seoplus+ – Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
3. Canonical Website URLs
CANONICAL TAGS. Can't stress this enough, especially for eCommerce. Everyone in the SEO world knows that having pages and pages with the exact word-for-word content pieces is a big no-no and very common on shopping sites. Using canonical tags helps search engines to be able to consolidate the information they have for the individual URLs (such as links to them) on a single, preferred URL.
Because a search on an eCommerce site will pull up dynamic URLs with the same content, your shopping platform must support this ability, 100x points if it's automated.
Why is it important to use an eCommerce platform built for SEO? Beyond the ease of product management, it's about online visibility. Most business owners are so consumed and concerned with how the solution will be for them on a day-to-day basis that they forget to realize it's about online visibility that makes the business even worth it. When the eCommerce world online is dominated by Amazon, Google Shopping, Walmart and more, you need to do everything you can to give yourself the greatest chances of ranking online.
— Scott Romney, VP of Sales and Operations at LoSoMo Inc – Boca Raton, Florida
4. Indexing Control, Content Features, and Meta Data
The most important SEO feature that an eCommerce platform should offer is "index control". Online shops often have a lot of product pages with different variances, like a t-shirt that's available in different colors. But for SEO you don't want all of these pages to be indexed by Google because they're too similar. This is considered "duplicate content" and can lead to substantial SEO problems. Therefore, a good eCommerce platform can give webmasters control over what's being indexed and what not by providing a so-called "canonical tag".
The two other most important requirements are content and meta-data. If you are free to add as much content as you like to any category or product page it's much easier for you to attract a lot of organic traffic. Not only does content make a page more relevant to search engines, but it can also serve as "online customer service" and answer many questions users have. That also positively impacts conversion rates. Meta-data is important because titles have become a strong ranking factor over the last years. At the same time, descriptions impact the click-through rate, which is also an important ranking factor in 2017.
The impact of having an SEO unfriendly eCommerce platform is devastating. For most online shops, SEO is the number one marketing channel because it scales, comes basically for free and has pre-qualified users.
5. Mobile Optimization
In my opinion the number one SEO feature that any eCommerce platform should offer right now is mobile optimization for a desktop website. An ever-growing number of consumers is turning to their mobile phone to make purchases online, and not having a website that is optimized for this device can turn away a great deal of customers due to slow processes and frustrating interfaces.
Selecting the right eCommerce platform can be the difference between your business failing or succeeding. If you own an online store you need to make sure that your products can be easily found on search engines such as Google, and a fitting eCommerce platform can help you do just that.
— Iris Rigter, Communication Advisor at Dataprovider.com – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Finding the Right eCommerce Platform for SEO
Knowing what SEO features your eCommerce platform needs is a great help to anyone building an online store. Since SEO is vitally important, these features should always be considered when you're evaluating an eCommerce solution. You want to have all the tools for success available from day one, without any obstacles. First, however, you need to be informed of what those SEO tools are and why they matter.
An SEO-friendly eCommerce solution not only includes the tools you'll need, but makes them easy to understand and use. Stay tuned for more expert advice from SEO professionals, and in the meantime, take a look at our free SEO-Friendly eCommerce Solution Checklist ebook to give yourself a head start.