If you’re in the throes of a new eCommerce web design and eCommerce SEO revenue is business critical for you, here’s 13 nightmarish tales from the dark side, that might just save your new eCommerce web build from turning into a grisly horror story…

Image credit: Dirk Loop


1. Domain Execution

At last the .com you’ve been coveting for years is available, so what better time to move everyone across to it than your new web build? Just make sure the domain redirects are in place and hey presto, whichever .co.uk or .com version customers type in they’ll get to the site? Well yes, they do indeed but… you’ll also need to redirect every single URL on a page by pages basis as well, otherwise customers that find your old site in search engines will get a 404 error when they click through, not land on the product page, likely bounce off the site, killing your rankings and revenue overnight. Never fear though, if it sounds daunting, you can do this dynamically. Plus if you’ve already made the switch, all is not lost, if you still have the old sitemap, page level permanent redirects can still be added post switchover.

2. Architectural Bewitching

You’ve done some UX work on the new site design and the way the categories and sub-categories are structured needs addressing as customers appear to be struggling to use the main navigation. Improving the user experience of your eCommerce site, is great for improving your eCommerce SEO. However, your existing naming conventions are baked into the code of your site including:

  • Page name
  • Page title
  • URL
  • Navigation label

Google and other search engines, place A LOT of importance in keywords contained in these particular places and that means you’re likely ranking somewhere in the search results for your category and sub categories. So changing the structure of your site without checking what keywords you are already ranking for and changing the URLs/navigation labels without carefully assessing the naming conventions of new categories and putting redirects in place will effectively remove the old pages from the ranking results and with it, spirit away your existing eCommerce SEO traffic and revenue, when you least expect it, seemingly overnight.

3. Werewolf Audiences

When planning the content strategy for your new eCommerce website, it’s important to remember that your customers behaviour will change as they go through different stages of the buying cycle. Your content needs to be optimised for search queries at each of the awareness, consideration and conversion stages. They start out fairly normal, searching for generic category terms like “vintage dresses” but as they get into buy mode, they become interested in comparing product details like for like. Then before you know it, they transform into savage shoppers, ready to rip next day delivery and affiliate marketing offers from the clutches of the Internet.

Image credit: Whit Andrews

So optimising your delivery information for keyword terms like “next day delivery [your most relevant category e.g. dresses]” or your email sign up offer page for keyword like “[your brand] discount code” can help to drive rampant buyers desperate to buy direct to your doors. Failing to understand the intricacies of your audiences mood can seriously harm your SEO sales potential.

4. Vanishing Meta Data

Your meta data, including your title tags and meta descriptions which appear in the search engine results pages (SERPs), is still one of the most critical ranking factors for search engine optimisation. Take heed, if you launch a new eCommerce site without ensuring your old meta data is migrated on a page by page basis to your new site. As otherwise, one day your search engine rankings will be there, the next, they’ll be gone. The rate your rankings disappear depends on how often Google crawls your site, it may be that some rankings are whisked away in the middle of the night, whilst others mysteriously drop out of the rankings over a period of several weeks. Depending on how much of your current eCommerce revenue is dependent on SEO, you may notice the effects straight away or it might be several weeks till you work out what happened. By which time, the old site may’ve been deleted and with it the old meta data… lost forever, just like your organic rankings.

5. Ghost Content

In the excitement of making your next generation eCommerce website look clean and modern, the old content is all too often the baby that is thrown out with the bath water. Just like our gruesome meta data tale, launching a new website without every single word and internal link of the old site in exactly the same place as it was before, will be extremely detrimental to your eCommerce SEO health. Whilst you may be desperate to kill off the tired old existing content, it’s worth investing time in analysing which pages are already ranking and then making sure the keywords the site is ranking for are maintained in the content rewrite. Existing internal links are also incredibly valuable in aiding the destination pages to rank for the keywords contained within the anchor text from the linking pages. Remove these and be haunted forever! So a thorough SEO content audit of the site is an ideal requirement of your new eCommerce website and absolutely essential if your site is already generating more than £250,000 per year in eCommerce SEO sales.

6. Alien Analytics

New site, new agency, new analytics. Unfortunately if you do have a new analytics account on your new site, that means you’ll have lost all your old data (unless you can still get access). But, even if you do still have access, that does mean extra faffing about to get to your own data which you could spend on many more useful revenue generating activities, like the ability to quickly compare your year on year data like “amount of eCommerce revenue from SEO” and “highest converting product pages from SEO”. When scoping out your new eCommerce web design, ensure that utilising your existing analytics account in the new site is considered as a requirement.

7. Demonic Ranking Possession

So your new site has an integrated blog on your existing domain which is great news for your SEO. Now when your blogs get shared online, they’ll create links that your whole site can benefit from. Sweet. However, ramping up your eCommerce blogging to increase traffic and rankings is likely to deliver more new visitors, but can attract some unwelcome side effects where your blogs start to outrank your category pages in search results. Basically possessing your shop page positions. If you want to rank higher in search results for big traffic winning category terms like “fabric sofas” it can be ever-so-tempting to make blog posts around these topics. This can in fact, be disastrous as Google really does love fresh content and may prioritise your new blog post over your perfectly honed category page, putting an extra step in front of shoppers and negatively impacting your conversion rate. Preventing your blog outranking your category page can easily be avoided by making sure any category or sub category keywords are excluded from eCommerce blog titles. Instead, include these keywords as anchor text links to the relevant category within the body copy of the piece itself.

8. Conversion Killers

Since the Google Panda updates, user experience, measured by time on page, number of pages visited and ultimately conversion rate is now an extremely important ranking factor for SEO. Your new eCommerce web design may be prettier than the old site, but seriously consider testing the new site design before launch. It’s better to know at the testing stage that the new design isn’t as effective at converting customers as the old site, than after launch. To make matters worse, if your site conversion rate does drop off a cliff on your live site, not only will you be converting less of your visitors across all channels than before, but you could likely drop down the rankings because of it, subsequently reducing your traffic as well. Culminating in massive gouges out of your sales targets and frantic rollbacks (a la a global financial institution who recently slipped the old design back hoping no-one noticed).

9. Merchandising Murders

Woo hoo! Your new eCommerce site has the ability to add beautiful visual merchandising on your homepage, as well as deeper category pages. But changing the products and categories you’re promoting on your homepage or deeper category pages, could result in the unnecessary deaths of any page #1 rankings you have already. So watch out for editing intro copy and internal links on key pages, high in the website structure – such as your homepage and main categories – as what you choose to showcase there for customers, tells search engines what the most important pages they should be ranking you for right now are. Google Trends forecasting data and any previous year on year analytical data you have can be used to inform your timings of when is best to change your visual merchandising displays to suit the current seasons and prevent any no. 1 ranking losses.

10. Poisoning Pagination

You’ve heard mixed reviews about infinite scrolling, particularly with mobile usage so go with each category results pages having 24 product items displaying in a grid format. Then subsequent product items are available through separate pages of 24 items that the user can get to through the paginated navigation at the top and bottom of the page. An excellent choice, but by now you know what’s coming… When you click through each numbered page of results if the URL remains the same, I’m afraid that may mean your lovely pagination is in fact blocking search engines from crawling through to the product pages contained in the pages past page one of the results. Therefore, preventing a large majority of your products from ever being found in search results. Now, it could be that you also have a sitemap which you upload directly into Google Webmaster Tools and all your pages are in fact indexed in the search engines. However, we recommend you be particularly alert to this deadly threat if you have a bespoke eCommerce web build which may not automatically update your sitemap when you add new categories and product pages.

11. Category Wizards

Ecommerce software like Magento does a lot of awesome things to boost your online sales straight out of the box. However, on some occasions in their bid to be helpful, they can also become your very own evil nemesis. As if by some kind of cruel magic, Magento can automatically apply your categories to your product page URLs and in the process create some horrific duplicate content issues. For Magento SEO best practice, this is easily avoided by delving into the settings and simply saying NO to “Use categories path for product URLs”. PROCEED WITH EXTREME CAUTION! If you’re already living with this particular SEO nightmare, changing this setting for your live site could seriously damage your existing rankings. You will need to assess which URL versions are currently ranking for which keywords before careful redirect mapping across every URL. We’ve dealt with this one a lot and it’s usually half of each type are ranking so this work needs to be manually checked. Please only tick the box if you haven’t gone live yet 🙂

12. Zombie Product Pages

Product pages without unique copy are the undead, or are as good as. If they have no description copy, they will likely never rank on page #1 of search results and will never drive any traffic or eCommerce SEO revenue.

Image credit: Menkind

Which is a real shame, as every product page should be treated like an army of independent sales experts that works tirelessly 24/7 selling each of your products. They take a bit of initial investment but once they’re flying they become everyone’s best friends. Visitors who do land directly on product pages from search engines convert at an incredibly high conversion rate as they have likely used a long tail search term (a very specific keyword phrase with more than several words) and the product is just what they’re looking for! At the very least include a few sentences of copy with all possible keyword variations. Ideally, enough copy is needed to sufficiently describe the item and include all possible keyword variations to maximise your long tail traffic including:

  • Unique Selling Points (USPs) e.g. Same day delivery
  • Colour e.g. Neon pink scarf
  • Sizes e.g. 2 seater sofa
  • Styles e.g. 50s dress
  • Materials e.g. Leather armchair

Plus if you’re still using standard manufacturers’ descriptions, so is everyone else. So Google will see your descriptions as duplicate content and won’t likely ever rank you as high as you could get with unique product descriptions on every page.

13. The eCommerce SEO Vampire

The ultimate eCommerce SEO web design nightmare of course, is experiencing multiple attacks simultaneously that will literally suck your eCommerce SEO revenues dry.

Image credit: Biscuiteers

Unfortunately, we’ve seen major drops in SEO revenue happen all too often for many eCommerce businesses when moving to a new eCommerce platform or launching their new eCommerce design refresh. So to avoid the eCommerce SEO vampire, prevent these nightmares at all cost and make sure your SEO revenue is fully protected from being bled dry when launching your next eCommerce website.

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