Developing and implementing an SEO strategy is a big challenge for any ecommerce business. With all the tests to run, optimizations to make, and ongoing maintenance, it’s certainly not a one-and-done kind of deal.
It’s tough enough when you have 10 products, but how about if you have 100s or 1000s? And what if you frequently retire and launch products? Then that already tricky task starts to feel a bit overwhelming. The good news is that it most certainly isn’t an impossible task - you just need a little extra planning and assistance.
Understanding what those challenges are is half the battle, so today we’re going to look at the main issues merchants face when managing their SEO, and some tips to do so successfully.
What are the main SEO challenges for large ecommerce stores?
Crawl budget limitations
Search engines crawl millions of pages to find, index, and rank content for users. With so many pages to crawl and new ones being created all the time, search engines can only spend a limited amount of time crawling each individual site. That attention given to pages is otherwise known as a crawl budget.
If you only have a few pages on your site, it’s likely that search bots will discover and crawl all of them. The more pages you have, the less likely that starts to become. Stores at enterprise level or with large catalogs then have so many links to crawl, that there’s a strong chance they won’t all be discovered.
These limitations are a clear challenge for merchants who have hundreds or thousands or even more links to their store.
More product pages = more work to do SEO right
It sounds fairly obvious, but with more products comes more work. Merchants with large catalogs will no doubt understand this clearly already - more inventory to manage, more complex returns, forecasting difficulties etc. SEO for all those products comes with similar challenges.
You’ll need to optimize every product page, so that it has a great user experience, loads quickly, and has all the content users and search engines are looking for. This also includes meta information as well as keyword research and optimization, which can definitely start to become overwhelming if you have lots of different products with their own unique keywords.
And with all that content comes the risk of duplication which can be bad for your store’s SEO. You may have lots of very similar products in your catalog, so coming up with unique descriptions can be difficult.
Greater upkeep required
Similarly to there being more work to do for pages, there’s equally a higher amount of maintenance required to ensure your site is at peak SEO performance. You’ll need to look more carefully at things like 404s, slower pages, historic products, and so on. This needs to be done regularly, so as not to put your store’s SEO at risk.
How to manage and optimize SEO for larger stores
Alright, now let’s talk about how to face these challenges head on. These seem fairly overwhelming, however with a little extra management and some extra tools at your disposal, you’ll find that managing SEO at scale doesn’t have to be so difficult.
#1 - Have a process and template for new page creation
One of the biggest pitfalls for SEO is simply lack of experience or understanding of the subject within a given team. At the kind of scale of store we’re talking about, there are plenty of great graphic designers, marketers, and developers working to craft beautiful, stand-out product pages. However if they aren’t taking SEO into consideration, they can easily miss something important such as optimizing image sizes, placement of CTAs, keyword placement and so on.
One solution to this is to have someone responsible for SEO and search marketing on your team who can be part of the page creation process. They can spot potential issues before they go live on your site, and ensure everything is ready to rank.
Another solution is to have a page creation template or checklist which guarantees that every new page added to your site has gone through an SEO review. This can include key optimizations that must be made before a page goes live.
#2 - Conduct regular audits on key factors such as site speed and navigation
With the ever-changing nature of ecommerce stores, staying on top of your SEO is essential to ensuring you see the best results possible. As with most other tasks in your business, SEO isn’t something you only do once - you need to monitor any changes, and tweak your strategy on a regular basis.
Here are some key things you’ll want to keep on your radar:
Site speed - It won’t matter how great your page content is if it doesn’t load quickly. 40% of customers will abandon a page if it takes more than 4 seconds to load, and 74% of mobile users will abandon it if the page doesn’t load within 5 seconds. Therefore identifying potential issues before they start to impact site speed is vital to reducing bounce rates and increasing traffic.
Keywords - Which keywords see success, and which don’t? Keywords are a major part of discoverability so you want to make sure you’re using the right ones that will attract your target audience. This will allow you to further capitalize on popular keywords and improve pages which aren’t performing as highly.
Broken links and 404s - Broken links indirectly impact your SEO as they provide the user with a poor experience. Search engines are only successful by providing users with a top notch experience, and if they recommend sites which have broken links or too many 404s, the user will become frustrated. Being able to spot these and come up with a solution quickly is essential.
- Navigation/Site Architecture - How users move through and navigate your site is important to their experience. It’s also important to how search engines crawl and discover pages, and understand how your site is put together. It’s important to constantly review your site’s architecture and navigation to ensure it’s simple to navigate, easy to understand, and clear.
Because of how often changes are made to your site due to its large scale, constant monitoring of these key factors is vital to SEO success.
Conducting regular audits on your store’s SEO will ensure that your site is not only primed to rank in SERPs, but that it will climb those rankings and provide potential customers with a great experience. That will in turn result in higher conversion rates, better ROI in SEO, and the more high quality traffic that will come through your site.
#3 - Make use of automation and SEO tools designed for high-growth stores
Apps and integrations have made it so that no two ecommerce sites are the same. Every site has its own unique tech stack that makes it possible to tailor the customer and back-end experience. And one of the best developments in this space is automation. There are many tasks day-to-day that can be taken care of automatically, leaving more time and resources to go into growing and developing your business. And of course, that extends to SEO.
Tools such as SEO Manager are designed to make it easier for high-growth businesses with large catalogs to manage and optimize their store’s SEO. Using this tool, larger merchants can automate large portions of their optimization efforts including adding structured markup, 404 management, bulk editing meta information as well as creating templates, sitemap management, and more. The app also makes it easier for ongoing monitoring of SEO with its checkup scan that enables you to scan a page and understand where it needs to be improved. You’ll also get an up-to-date SEO score for your entire site, so you’ll be able to see when it fluctuates and quickly resolve any issues. Whenever you update a page, a scan is automatically run to make sure the changes aren’t going to impact SEO.
When you’re at the kind of size of store where you have hundreds of products to manage day-to-day, having a tool that can automate part of the SEO process is a worthwhile investment. It will help to keep your store’s SEO in check, allowing your team more time to focus on things like content marketing and site development.
SEO can be challenging for merchants of any size. When you only have a few products, it’s tough but manageable, however once you start reaching that midsize to Enterprise level, it becomes significantly more difficult. By understanding the challenges that face larger stores, using automation, and monitoring regularly, merchants can more easily take control of their SEO and climb search engine rankings.