Webinar: Demystifying SEO for Ecommerce

If you're confused about SEO for your ecommerce websites, you're not alone. With unlimited and conflicting information available at every turn, it can be challenging to know what strategies to focus on for your online store. To help you sort through the endless possibilities, watch our team of SEO experts as they answer your most troubling SEO questions and share best practices to help maximize your online marketing efforts.

Here are some answers to some of the most asked questions during the webinar:

I heard that you will get dinged for not being mobile friendly. Is this true? Volusion mobile is not very appealing. Are there new mobile friendly forms in the works?

Mobile is very important, and ecommerce traffic is increasingly coming from smart phones and tablets. Sites with the Volusion mCommerce feature enabled will pass Google’s mobile friendly standards. If you are looking for a more robust solution, we do have responsive templates that will allow you to that will allow your site to rearrange automatically based on screen size. In terms of SEO, there are many advantages to using a responsive template. Our Design team offers free options in addition to premium and custom templates that will be responsive on all screen sizes. Here is some additional information on getting one of those new templates for your store: http://www.volusion.com/responsive-ecommerce-templates

Are there any fields in the SEO section on Volusion that are no longer relevant?

Volusion aims to give you all the fields that can be used for this purpose, however, not all of them give you the same advantages. As discussed in the webinar, Google is more or less ignoring the keyword field and is looking for keywords as a part of your overall content on the page. Bing may still be using this field, so while it is not entirely obsolete, your time is better spent on other fields and on-page content.

Can we get rid of the .-s/73389.htm on SEO friendly URLs? I would like it to be com/name, not .com/name-s/73389.htm - Or does that not matter to SEO?

The –s/73389.htm is an important part of our software’s functionality, and as such cannot be removed. That information helps the software understand what category or product to direct the visitor to, an enables effortless redirects when you change the URL text on a specific page.

This is a little off topic, but does Volusion support XML data feeds for import into your own store. Currently I've been using CSV files.
While it is technically possible to import XML through the Volusion API, this requires the creation of an application and is a bit more of an advanced import. The .csv method is a little easier and just as effective. If you are looking to break into API imports, we do have some additional information here to help you decide if that is a good solution for your store.

Everything I've heard is that off-the-shelf packages like Volusion are less than ideal (to put it nicely) in terms of SEO. What is your take? Do you have evidence to the contrary?

While you may have less overall control of the settings in a comprehensive ecommerce solution like Volusion, there are also benefits. For example, we have made updates to the software to include Schema product markup for all of our merchants. If this is something you didn't know about or were unsure how to implement, being on Volusion would ensure that these steps were taken for you. In terms of evidence, we certainly have many Volusion stores that rank very well on search engines and make a significant amount of money from organic search traffic. Building something from the ground up is a lot of work and requires you to keep abreast of all kinds of technical trends. By using a solution like Volusion, you can spend your time on some of the more important signals rather than spending all of your time on the structure. The things that are easily in your control are also the most important, like adding thoughtful content to excite your customers. If you have a site full of great products and engaging content, you will do well in organic search.

We have a small store with the same product in different colors and sizes. All have the same descriptions. Will Google see this as spammy?

Having the same descriptions across several product pages is considered duplicate content. The main problem with this is that you aren't telling search engines which page to show in different situations because they are all identical. This confusion does not work in your favor. If the products are too similar to warrant unique descriptions, we recommend consolidating that to one product page with color options rather than having landing pages for each color. This is really going to help streamline the shopping experience and make a stronger page for Google and other search engines to show.

We are a niche store specializing in all online sales and selling spiritual products. Some of our items people have never heard of before, any advice on how to get more traffic?

Organic search is a great place to help people find what they are looking for. It sounds like you need to do a little work and educate the market about that need to get some traction. In terms of the website, you may want to broaden your keywords to other terms people may be using in that market. Blogging and Social Media are also great ways to start telling people about your site, educating them about the product and creating some demand. These activities also help send good SEO signals, so hopefully once you have gotten the word out there, people will begin searching more for your products.

I’m creating a new page but do not have it done yet. Is it better to hide the page until it is done, or can I create the page and have it there and add the content over a period of time? Will having a blank page hurt our google ranking?

As we discussed in the webinar, it is always important to think of the end user. If you have a category or a link to a page without content, this could be confusing to customers. We would recommend hiding that page until you feel like it provides some value. Once you have that base, you are more than welcome to add content or make changes going forward, but it will work in your favor to have something there before you show it to the world.

Our business is growing so fast, we can barely keep up with customer questions and general marketing. Any SEO work is done when time is available, which is very rare. Are there trust worthy companies that you can recommend to help us?

We absolutely understand it can be difficult to find the time for SEO, and when you look to outsource, it can be hard to find trustworthy companies. Volusion actually has its own in-house SEO services for this very reason. We would be more than happy to help take care of some of that SEO legwork for you while you focus your time on other aspects of the business. Here is some additional information on our Ecommerce SEO services.

Does a blog have to be in the same Volusion store or can be in a different domain to help SEO?

The best solution for a blog with a Volusion store is to create a subdomain such as blog.yourstore.com to show the relationship to your store. Here is some great information on creating a subdomain for your externally hosted blog:

Do you think YouTube is the strongest social media outlet for SEO?

YouTube is absolutely a strong social network and the fact that it is owned by Google certainly does not hurt. Search results often feature a section for videos, and videos often show a higher engagement than text on social media outlets in general. Essentially, people respond to and share videos, so if this is relevant to your business it is probably worth it to try and generate some interest through that channel. Working with social media, it’s especially important to spread yourself out across a few different networks as they all have distinct advantages. Essentially, try not to put all your eggs in one basket — YouTube is powerful social network, but the most important thing is reaching your audience where they are with relevant and shareable content.

Google and Twitter recently befriended each other again — Please discuss this effect on future search result strategy.

The biggest takeaway of the Twitter fire hose integration with Google right now is that social signals are increasingly important for SEO. We expect Google to continue to make some changes as they try to figure out exactly how to reliably interpret social signals, but it is clear that Google understands this is vital information. It is important for you to be on sites like Twitter and Facebook because it’s another place for people to discover your business. Social media should absolutely be a part of your comprehensive marketing strategy.

Hi, we are a B-to-B site and have not used social media as such, as it seems irrelevant. We were heavily penalized by Google in October, and feel it was Penguin 3. e.g. A lot of searches have gone from page 1 to page 20. Seems Google is only concerned with B-to-C ecommerce websites.

Dealing with a penalty is tough, and we feel for you. The Penguin update you are referring to has to do with a site's backlink profile. The best thing you can do to address that issue is to go to take a good look at the link profile for your site and try to remove/disavow links that aren't relevant in your Google Webmaster Tools account. We talked a little about this in the webinar, but if you are seeing links that are not relevant to you, you should be sure to remove or disavow them.

How is social media impacting SEO now?

There is a lot of debate about whether the relationship between strong social signals leading to improved search rankings is one of causation or correlation. What we do know is that social sites can bring you engaged customers and offer a great way to create and disseminate more content about your business and reach potential customers. People use social media sites as little search engines to discover new things, and each social network you are active on has the potential of showing up as a search engine result of its own. It is really important to include social media in your overall marketing strategy.

If I want to start a blog, is there a benefit to using a third party application like WordPress and then add a link to my site for the blog, or should I add the blog as an article on my site so I don't drive traffic away? Also will this provide more valuable content on my website if I write my blog as a series of articles?

Important informational material, such as a Resources section, is great to add to your site through articles. For more trend-oriented blogging, we would recommend using a third-party site like WordPress or Blogger and adding it to your URL as a subdomain, such as blog.yourstore.com. Here is some more information on linking that 3rd party blog to your Volusion site.

I've been adding videos and a request for samples on every site, figuring that it would keep people on our site longer. Does that seem like a reasonable strategy?

At the end of the day, the only way to answer this question is to think about the end user. If these videos and other content are engaging and you think that is going to help the customer make the decision to buy your product, then you should absolutely include them on your site to help them through that process. If you are adding these things just to try to improve those signals to search engines, you may be cluttering the pages with confusing information. Try to think about whether this is going to be helpful for a customer first to help you make your decision. Additionally, you are able to add some of this content to a few pages and keep track in analytics of whether you really are keeping people on the site longer or getting better views. It is always a great idea to test things out and make sure you are coming across to the customer the way you want to be seen.

My question in SEO is with all the secondary search engines - should we fill out all the directories like yelp, local, foursquare, best of the web. Superpages etc.

If you have a local business, some of these directories can help with those results. Sites like Google+, Bing Places and Yahoo Local allow you to list your site and help feed each other when it comes to showing you are a good result for searches in that location.

Will Volusion ever have the option that when you add a new listing you can automatically share on social media?

In the Volusion dashboard, you can head over to marketing > social and easily share products or categories to those networks. In terms of social media, we always want to add in some context for the link and a short description, so automating this process wouldn’t be beneficial. It is important to make sure these product posts are mixed in with more lifestyle or informational posts to engage your fans.

What would be the best social media platforms to start with when it comes to SEO? Is less more when it comes to the number of social media platforms integrated for our websites or should the focus just be on a handful of popular social media outlets? Does this depend on your site’s content?

We do recommend joining multiple social media sites, however, you should not join so many that you do not have time to post regular content. Think about your customers when deciding what social media outlets to use. If you are dealing with moms and DIYers, you want to be sure to have a presence on Pinterest, for example.

What is a good number of keywords to add assuming they are ALL relevant?

A general rule for SEO is to optimize each page for about 3-5 primary keyword phrases. While there’s no concrete rule, we recommend following this general guideline in performing keyword research for each page. The total number of keywords depends on the number of pages being optimized. Instead of choosing keywords that represent your business as a whole, try to focus on the words that best fit that exact category or product that you are optimizing, and make them unique to each page.

Can someone use your brand name to get on the first page?

Although it could be possible to optimize titles, descriptions or on-site text using a brand name that is not the company’s, it is definitely a practice that can (and likely will) turn away users as it’s not a good search result for the query of a competitor’s brand name. We recommend to our clients to not use competitor’s brand names in their on- and off-site content, even if it is a search term they know there is traffic for.

Are .net URLs searchable through Google like .com URLs?

Absolutely. While .com websites comprise a majority URLs, that it is not going to be any more favored by Google than a .net, extension would be. A domain extension doesn’t determine whether or not we're dealing with a high quality site. There are other factors that determine the quality, such as content, backlinks, and general authority.

I've heard that writing product descriptions that have not only keywords but things like "xyz for sale" "buy xyz" can be helpful. Is that true or is that a negative SEO practice?

This is absolutely an SEO-friendly practice and something that we do all the time when doing work for our clients, as it is an easy and popular way to search for products. Try working phrases like that into your Meta Titles, Meta Descriptions or on-page content in a way that sounds natural and fluid.

Does Google Ad traffic affect SEO?

Google will not necessarily favor websites that use its PPC or Shopping Feed services in rankings, but PPC can get you “fast traffic” to your website, which can in turn lead to more visits and conversions. This would send signals to Google that your website is trustworthy and authoritative, which are all positive signs and could lead to an increase in organic traffic and rankings.

Can Google pick up text written on a jpeg? Or are they just looking that the description of the jpeg?

No, unfortunately Google cannot read text that is on a jpeg file, or any photo file for that matter. For example, you may have a great banner or slideshow image with some text on your website’s homepage, but unfortunately Google is not going to be able to read that text. Try using the “alt tag” of the image, which can be found in the SEO fields on your product pages in the back end. For example, if you have a picture of a slice of pizza on your website, Google won’t know that it is a slice of pizza unless you identify it as such in the alt tag. In addition to filling out your Meta Titles and Descriptions when uploading your products, this is another great field to make sure to complete when adding new products to your website so you won’t have to go back and fill it in later. Learn more about how search engines see your images.

Do I have to pay Google or Volusion to show up in search engines?

For organic traffic, you cannot pay to appear in search results. SEO involves building the content of a site for optimal search engine visibility to users entering relevant queries. SEO is a long-term marketing activity and results take both expertise and time to achieve. You may, however, appear in pay-per-click ads that are paid. Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing uses paid advertisements on search engines and sites to attract qualified clicks to a website. Advertisers pay for each click generated through PPC campaigns, with the cost per click determined by a competitive bidding system. PPC allows you to target specific keywords and have your advertisement appear when those keywords are entered by users. Our Volusion Marketing Services team has many trained specialists and consultants whose primary goal is to help you appear in organic or paid search traffic. However, unless you are running paid search ads in a search engine, you should never be paying to appear in search traffic. Anyone offering you that “guarantee” for organic traffic may be leading you astray.

Are there any resources or training for optimizing Google Maps?

As you may have seen in the Volusion Blog, we recently focused on Local marketing for a whole week, with some great articles and tips on optimizing your website for local search traffic. Check out these two below for some helpful knowledge for those that may be new to Local SEO, and for some extra tips and best practices for gaining that great local traffic.

You mentioned Google Analytics. Where did you recommend that I go for a good how to start using it on my website?

We have a great step-by-step guide on the Volusion Blog to easily guide you through the Google Analytics set up process using screenshots and simple-to-follow directions. Also, just last summer our Marketing Services team led an online webinar that some of you may have tuned in to that gave some great advice on how to harness the power of Google Analytics for ecommerce.

What is a good bounce rate?

Unfortunately, this is not a one-size-fits-all answer, between stores, industries and even pages on your own website. The best thing to do is look at the bounce rate for a specific page on your site and assess whether or not that page is meeting the purpose it was designed to do. For example, your Contact Us page may have a relatively high bounce rate, and that’s okay. The purpose of the page is typically to give your customers your phone number, and they may leave the page after calling. However, if you have an especially high bounce rate for a particular product or category, you could do a few things to diagnose why that could be happening. Try looking where your visitors are originating from – organic search? Referral traffic? Social Media? Next, determine if they are looking for products or information. One major factor to consider is if your website looks trustworthy and safe. A shopper might be likely to click away from your site if you don’t look to be a reliable vendor.

Can you confirm which are the important fields to fill out first as a priority for SEO?

The top priority fields in your Volusion back end to fill out are your Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions, which can be found in the SEO section at the bottom of your category, product, or landing page. They are what will most easily and concisely communicate to the search engines – and your shoppers – what the page is about, and what sets you out from the competition.

If I have five products for example that are relatively the same the only differences are maybe the style and color of the items can I use the same Meta Tag descriptions and Product description for all five items?

If you have your products set up as distinct pages, rather than as a drop down on a single product page, you may having similar titles and descriptions, but they could certainly still be unique. Communicate in the title and description what makes that product page unique – be it style or color – and try to add something enticing in that description to tell the customer why you are the best source for that product, rather than a competitor.

I have all 4-star and 5-star reviews for the products on my site -- how can I benefit from that with SEO?

Reviews are important for SEO because they can be such a powerful conversion tool. Once a customer sees that not only do you sell great products, but you might offer great customer service and fast shipping for example, others are much more likely to trust those third-party opinions and want to buy from you as well. Reviews are particularly important for Local SEO. If you have a brick-and mortar-store in addition to your Volusion store, try taking advantage of third-party review websites to create trustworthy backlinks to your site. Additionally, your Volusion store has a code markup on reviews that helps search engines show Rich Snippets alongside your result. These snippets can show your average review numbers right on the result along with other meta information, so if you have some great reviews, make them known! Be sure to implement an automatic review request in your Volusion template to send to your customers after their purchase, encouraging them to give positive feedback on your site.

Does Google manually penalize having the same Meta Title and Meta Description on multiple pages?

Google will not manually penalize your site for having the same title and description on multiple pages, but you are certainly not doing yourself any favors with that duplicate content. You will not be able to appear in unique search queries if you do not communicate to search engines and your customers why each page is unique.

In the meta description fields, I am putting in a description followed by "at my store name.” Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

If you could use some help establishing a brand identity, it is absolutely fine to include your brand name in your titles or descriptions. However, remember that you only have limited pixel or character space for those fields! It may be more important to use that space to describe your product or establish what makes it unique and superior to your substitutes and competitors. Try using the description field to give a brief overview of that product, and end it with some kind of call to action for the customer.

Are sitemaps submitted automatically on Volusion, and if so on what frequency? If not, how do we submit a sitemap?

Sitemaps must be submitted to Google through your Google Webmaster Tools account. If you have major refresh to your website, you may consider resubmitting your sitemap to Google, or if you are nervous that your site is not being indexed quickly, you can indicate to Google that you have made changes by resubmitting your sitemap. Otherwise, you do not need to do so at a frequent rate, as search engines are adept at crawling websites without a new sitemap every time.

Using Webmaster Tools, how can I determine as to which URLs are indexed and which URLs aren't?

Unfortunately, you cannot know exactly which URLs are being indexed. It is not a cause for concern if every single page on your website is not indexed in the sitemap, so do not fret if those numbers are not exact. Instead, just look for a high ratio and check on it every once in a while to double-check that it stays that way.

How do I get rid of a backlink? There is a tattoo parlor in Russia that has my website listed!

You can easily disavow a backlink in your Webmaster Tools. When signed into your account, go to “Search Traffic” and select “Links to Your Site” to inspect your backlinks. Look for the relationship between the sites. If you cannot immediately tell what the relationship is between your store and the website linking to it, it is probably not a great link, and you can disavow it. Be careful though – once you disavow a link, you cannot get it back! So if you accidentally disavow a good link that makes sense to be naturally linked to your website, you regret it.

How often do I need to do disavow to Google – once a month? Or anytime when I find low quality links?

The first time you look at your link profile, you may see a number of backlinks that you want to disavow. Afterward, you may continue to check in and see that you aren’t getting any unrelated links for a while. As a good rule of thumb, you would probably want to be inspecting your links about once a quarter, but do not fret too much if it is a little less frequent than that.

Are H1 tags still important?

They are important, and you should certainly be using them when they make sense for the page. While the Title tag is more important, an H1 can help to reinforce the ideas that you introduced in your Title tag, and is a great place for the page’s heading or call to action. They also can make for an improved readership experience, H1s (and H2s/H3s, etc) can be a great way to break up the content on your page, and encourage your customer to continue to read your content.

What type of text would you use for H1 tags?

The H1 tag is the header of your on-page content and should be a nice, neat description of the content that will fall below it. Choose a short phrase (preferably using some of those strategic keywords) that will give the customer an idea of the products that are on that page or category just by scanning the text quickly, and they can tell if that information is going to be important for their shopping experience. Similar to a magazine or newspaper header, your H1 text may be slightly larger than your content text, and might be in bold, italicized or centered. Above everything, make sure that your H1 text is easy for the customer to read!