SEO Tips for Product Pages
by Geoff Hineman
For e-commerce sites, one of the biggest challenges is optimizing product pages. Initially, you want to make sure you are creating content with relevant keywords so that you can increase your visibility and traffic from search engines.
This is a challenge in itself, as some terms face a great degree of competition, especially from e-commerce giants, such as:
- and more
Even when the optimizations are driving that traffic, the other part of the equation is making your content informative and persuasive enough to convert those tire kickers into paying customers. If your product pages aren't checking these boxes, you are leaving money on the table.
For our purposes in this post, we are going to look at some evergreen SEO techniques that can help small-to-medium businesses compete against the e-commerce giants... and win.
Write Product Pages for Readers and Search Engines Will Follow
The first rule of product-page SEO is to write unique product descriptions that are informative and easy to read. This is paramount. Is integrating keywords important? Yes. Is internal linking important? Absolutely.
Still, these concerns should be secondary to giving users the information they need to:
- find your products
- make a purchasing decision
If you give users the product descriptions they need, everything else will fall in line. Setting other SEO elements aside for the moment, having unique, high-quality product descriptions means your users won't need to look elsewhere to find all the information they are seeking. This results in longer average sessions durations and lowered bounce rates. These are good signs for search engines. They indicate that the user has found a page/site that satisfies the original search query. This could prompt algorithms to leverage this information and factor it into rankings accordingly.
This happens because two elements we normally consider unique endeavors (SEO and UX) actually overlap quite a bit. In this respect, focus on your user experience, because search engines are always trying to return pages that ultimately satisfy the user. In fact, their entire revenue model (e.g., ad serving) is based on this concept.
Short Cuts Get You Nowhere Fast
Many e-commerce sites don't focus on well-crafted product descriptions, because... well... it's not always easy. Their loss is your gain, however, as this lack of effort leaves the door wide open for opportunity to waltz right in. Common shortcuts include using the same product descriptions for similar products and/or (gulp) using automated systems to create product descriptions.
The appeal of these strategies is easy to see. As mentioned, it's not always easy or fast to write high-quality product descriptions. If you don't have the resources on hand to write them correctly, then you need to bring in help to do so, which can be another expense. A happy medium is to create unique product descriptions, then get assistance to push them to the next level.
Short cuts can deliver short-term results from time to time, though. Many customers look to scan details at the start of their research. Through replication or automation, you can churn out product descriptions in a pretty rapid-fire manner. In the end, having even a sparse, generic product description is better than having none at all.
If you are launching a new site and need to have descriptions on those pages right away, these short cuts can be a viable option. If you use these techniques, however, you should do so with the caveat that someone will be updating these subpar descriptions with well-written ones in the (ideally) near future.
Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
When searchers find your page in the search engine results, the first two pieces of information they see are the Page Title (the link in blue) and Meta Description (the snippet that gives more information as to what the page is about). These elements are important because you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Further, you have a limited number of characters in which to convey the requisite information—about 65 characters for Page Titles and 1655 characters for Meta Descriptions. After that, you'll start to encounter truncation issues. In some cases, you can get up to 80 characters in the Page Title and 285 characeters in the Meta Description, but if you can keep them shorter and as informative as possible, that's always a good place to start.
It can be a balancing act to incorporate keywords organically so that they are represented, yet don't seem forced into the copy.
Page Titles Primer
With Page Titles, as mentioned, you run the risk of truncation after about 65 characters. That said, if you have the choice between including the information you need to be found in search engines and getting truncated or leaving out information to avoid truncation, you should go with the former. A nice clean result does not serve you well if people never see it. There are a number of different ways to go about crafting Page Titles. One simple formula that can act as a basic blueprint is this:
Keyword: Product Name | Brand Name - Benefit!
Your main keyword should come first, as that sends a signal that that is what the page is about. Also, if truncation is going to happen, it won't cut off the main keyword. Then, list the product name. Try to be as descriptive as you can, including model numbers, colors, or dimensions if that is particularly relevant to your product(s). Finally, include your brand name so that it is associated with these keywords and products.
If you still have some space left, add a benefit. Sometimes, these are just the incentive a user needs to click your listing. Some options could be, "Free Shipping!", "In Stock!", or even "Clearance!"
An example of a page title might look like this:
ESP Guitars: ESP LTD KH602 Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar | American Musical Supply - Free Shipping!
Meta Descriptions Primer
Meta Descriptions offer more characters, so we can open things up a little bit more. In 2018, Google expanded the size of Meta Description it would show from about 165 characters to about 285 in some cases. As with Page Titles, if you run long, the end cut be cut off. For that reason, you want to be sure to keep the most important information at the beginning.
Just as you want to make each of your product descriptions unique, you'll want to do the same with your Meta Descriptions. On occasion, you'll run into challenges, such as when you carry several products that are exactly the same, except for one element, such as sizes, colors, etc. In those situations, be sure to include those distinguishing elements.
Finally, you can never go wrong with a call to action, such as, "Shop now!" or "Visit us today!" If you have the room, a call to action is no risk and all reward.
The Role of Structured Data and Google Shopping
Now that we've covered the importance of Page Titles and Meta Descriptions, you need to know that users may not even see them. Because of Structured Data and Google Shopping, users may actually find your product in Google's Shopping pane/carousal or with an expanded search result that includes a picture, ratings, and other relevant information.
For those expanded descriptions to show up on the SERPs, however, you need to make sure that you have the right markup on your pages. Most contemporary e-commerce platforms have this capability baked in; it may just need to be configured properly.
For an overview of the different types of structured data that search engines use in their rich snippets results, check out Schema.org. Depending upon your products, there is a menu of different schemas available.
Whether Google shows your structured data is up to Google, though. That said, if you don't make it available, you can be guaranteed that it won't show up.
Let's Review Reviews
When you go looking for products online, do you read reviews? Odds are that you do. You are not alone. A recent study by Influence Central found that, "88% of consumers consider online reviews very influential when purchasing a new product from a brand with which they're not familiar."
Reviews promote conversions. Your customers trust them. Google trusts them. If you configure your structured data to include information for ratings and reviews, that information could be shown right from the SERPs.
This kind of information could help you earn click-throughs, even if your result isn't in the number one or two position.
Another benefit of getting reviews is that e-commerce sites that publish reviews have pages that are updated more frequently. Frequent updates are favored by search engines, because it sends a signal that those pages are up-to-date.
Finally, in January of 2015, Bazaarvoice released its Conversation Index Volume 8. The study leveraged information from 35 billion unique visits to product pages and more than 57 million reviews. The results showed a correlation between the number of reviews and sales. When a product receives just one review, it sees a 10% increase in orders. If a product has 100+ reviews, the increase in orders climbs to 37%.
At Lett Direct, our clients often ask us about basic SEO best practices for product pages. What we have highlighted here are some basic, evergreen techniques that should put your products in a good position to be found and also to convert. There are certainly a number of other techniques that can be employed, and we do them regularly for our clients. In terms of a solid SEO foundation for product pages, the information included in this report serves as a great jumping on point.