“How can I SEO my product pages?” – It’s a good question that I hear frequently. After all, who has the time and resources to build links to hundreds, even thousands of individual products on an eCommerce site? Who has the time to write compelling, keyword rich copy for all these pages as well? Obviously, product page SEO must take a different approach. First, let’s start with the problem:

Why Product Pages Get Screwed:

  1. Nobody links to them
  2. They are buried deep within the site architecture
  3. They usually contain crappy, recycled manufacturer product descriptions

In this post, I’ll share the process I use to optimize product pages for long-tail search.

  1. Reduce the Number of Clicks from Your Greatest Source of PageRank: First and foremost, if you want your product pages to rank highly, your internal linking structure needs to reflect that desire. If it takes 5 clicks to reach a product, you’re telling crawler bots you don’t think very highly of it. My top recommendation for implementing this is displaying as many products as reasonably possible on your product listing pages. In my experience a/b testing, product category pages with more items always win out. (who wants to click those tiny 2, 3, 4 pagination links anyway?). In addition, it prevents the Googlebot from having to crawl through them as well.
  2. Determine Whether the Product is Better Suited for Branded, Non-Branded, or Solution Search: For each product, ask yourself this question: “Will people be searching for this item by brand name, by a generic name, or will it be a solution oriented search?” For example, suppose you were selling running shoes. Here 3 possible target keyword phrases:
  3. Generic Running Shoes
    Branded Nike MayFly shoes
    Solution Oriented Shoes for running faster
  4. Create a Unique Title Tag: Once you’ve completed step #2, place this keyword phrase in the title tag. A heated debate rages regarding where (or even if) the site name should be included in the Title. While I believe there are exceptions to any rule, I strongly believe the site name belongs behind the product’s name and keywords for 2 reasons. First, if a potential customer searches for your target keyphrase, they’ll be looking for that phrase, not your site’s name. Second, odds are search engines consider the order of keywords in the Title when determining the relevance. If all your product page Title start with your site name, it may look slightly boilerplate-ish.
  5. Create a Unique Product Description: Too often, product descriptions are a neglected afterthought of online merchandising. Why not just show a few snazzy pics? After all, a picture is worth a thousands words right? While I would never mitigate the importance of good photography, pictures sometimes fall short on communicating specific product details, features, and benefits. If your company has sales people, ask them to write the product descriptions for you, as if they were selling the item face to face with a customer. Getting back to SEO, I don’t generally recommend stuffing keywords in product descriptions. It looks tacky and sounds awkward.
  6. Don’t Forget the Meta Tag Keyword & Descriptions: Yes, they still work. Not for endless keyword repetition, but for showing that you took time and effort and care about your product pages. Typically, I will populate the meta keyword tag with the product name, brand, and any other relevant keywords. In the description tag, I simply pull the product description from the database, stripping out any unnecessary html formatting.
  7. Display Product Reviews: How do product reviews help you in SEO? Interestingly, customers tend to describe products in ways that you would never think of. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a customer review and thought, “Heck, I never would have described it that way!”. Sometimes, I even take the customer’s lead and optimize the Title & meta tags around a product review.
  8. Display Product Tags: Just as you would tag a blog post or a Flickr image, let customers tag your product with words they find relevant. As mentioned in step #6, you may find they think of keywords you didn’t. Checkout Amazon’s product pages for an example of how tagging works.
  9. Don’t Forget the Alt’s: Take every opportunity you have to convey information about the content of your product pages. For the product images, populate the Alt text with product name, brand, or other keywords identified in Step #2.
  10. Give Special Attention to Your Top Products: Identify what you consider to be your top products and highlight them on your landing pages with the most PageRank. Create anchor text that points to these product using the keyword phrases you’ve isolated in Step #2.
  11. Track the Results: So, how do you know if the steps above are working? Personally, I like to monitor the number of total search visitors to product pages divided by the total number of product pages indexed by Google. Over time, you should see this number increase.
  12. Yes, SEO-ing product pages can be overwhelming. If the thought of individually optimizing hundreds, maybe thousands of items makes you break out in a cold sweat, slow down, and take it one step at a time. Over a period of several weeks or months, this daunting task can be completed. The end result will be worth the effort.

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