Overcoming Common SEO Problems for Retail Sites

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July 2, 2008

Overcoming Common SEO Problems for Retail Sites


Posted by Chris Keating, Manager (Natural Search)

Most retail Web sites are built with an emphasis on e-commerce functionality and aesthetics in a dynamic product environment.  Combined with a good aesthetic experience, this approach usually does a good job of fulfilling the needs of the user community.  However, a separate audience is often lost in this: search engines.  Many retailer marketers understand the need to serve this other audience to get their sites indexed and ranked in natural search results.  However, they often lack the internal IT resources needed to implement SEO recommendations generated by in-house staff or an agency. Common SEO problems for retailers include:

  • Indexation: Retail Web site URLs often consist of multiple parameters and session IDs.  If each new visit to a page is associated with a unique session ID, a search engine spider may interpret that URL as a new page and risk becoming trapped in a loop indexing the same page.  According to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, “not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages.  It helps to keep the parameters short and the number of them few.”

  • Ranking: Many retailer Web pages lack optimized content for targeted keywords.  It is often the case that dynamically-served product level pages have unfocused or identical titles, making the page meaning unclear to crawlers.  These dynamic pages are also not optimized to capture targeted search traffic from keywords related to the specific products served dynamically on the page.
  • Messaging:  Many marketers also have difficulty controlling their message on the search results page.  The search engines use title tag and meta tag data for the title and description of the Web page in the search results.  This text should act as a call to action to get searchers to click through to a site, but many retailers can’t optimize this text because they don’t have control over their Web site’s code.
  • Fixing some of these problems on the native site level often entails rebuilding the Web site, overhauling the Content Management System, or writing unique, targeted copy for every individual page.  If obtaining resources to do this is too difficult, retailers should look into utilizing a platform to create a proxy site that can be remotely optimized, such as the Natural SearchDirect platform from Performics.  The proxy site does not require the retailer to use internal IT resources to make changes to their site.  Key SEO components, including the URL, title tag, meta description, body copy and link structure can all be optimized remotely.  In the real-time proxy environment, products and pricing are automatically updated for the natural search results page.

    Here’s how Natural SearchDirect works:  When a search engine spider visits the native Web page, the spider is detected and the Web server requests the spider-friendly, optimized URL from the proxy Natural SearchDirect site.  The crawler indexes the friendly, optimized URL.  When a consumer searches for a particular keyword, the optimized URL appears in the search results for the consumer to click on.  Since the search engine spider and the searcher see the exact same page, this process is completely compliant to search engine guidelines.

    So before you start a SEO program without having sufficient access to internal IT resources, it’s worth looking into a proxy solution that allows spiders to index and effectively rank your content without requiring intensive changes to your native site.


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