On August 11th our team hosted a webinar focused on optimizing your product pages for SEO and shopping feeds success. We discussed H1 tags, product descriptions, product photos and more. During the webinar, we received so many great questions, but we weren’t able to tackle a lot of them. Here are the answers to some of the common questions:
Q: I have a lot of similar products from different manufacturers. They all have similar titles, descriptions, meta tags, etc. What can I do to make them better? Will I be penalized by Google if I don’t have unique title tags?
“Penalized” is a harsh word, but the search engines do prefer to see unique title tags and meta descriptions for each page of your website and they’re more likely to place a page with unique tags higher in the search results. It’s okay if your product names, title tags and meta descriptions are similar; you just want to make sure that each one is unique in some way. A good rule of thumb is to take a look at two similar tags and ask yourself whether you can tell that they’re related to two different products. For example, noting the difference between a 3’ cable and a 6’ cable should be enough of a differentiator.
Q: When you separate out nearly identical products, how do you mitigate duplicate content?
This can be tough if you have a really large inventory with lots of similar products, but it’s important to try to keep the content on each page as unique as possible. Try phrasing concepts in slightly different ways each time. If you’re creating a bulleted list of features, make each bullet concise and be sure to list what’s different about each product variation. Remember that it’s not necessary to have a ton of text on each page—about 150 words per page will do.
Q: You mentioned to not have text repeat what is on other pages or sites. What about something specific that needs to be said such as "This tour is not wheelchair accessible." Does it hurt to have that sentence on half of your products?
That shouldn’t be a problem. It’s perfectly acceptable to repeat short phrases like this in your product descriptions, especially if they’re related to safety instructions or something similar. The idea is to keep the entire product description from sounding like it’s been duplicated from another page on your site or the manufacturer’s site.
Q: Is it acceptable if have product photos are on white background, but offer additional photo of the product in use? For example, for a baby product, using a baby in a commonly used space?
Absolutely. Having images with white, gray, or light colored background is a Google recommendation. They state that the image must accurately display the product and include minimal or no product staging and that main image of a product should include a main and/or clear view of the product being sold. If you have multiple images feel free to use the 'additional image link' section. This will give your customers more views of your product once they arrive at the product page, which is great for conversion!
Q: Relating to photo quality, do you have a suggested DPI level or format for best results?
Google recommends images which are at least 800 pixels in width and height. The bare minimums are 25x25 and 250x250 for apparel. When applicable, the largest, highest resolution copy of the image you have is the one to submit.
Q: I am selling art which has copyright issues and needs watermarking - how do we address this?
Unfortunately Google does not allow you to watermark your images as it is considered 'obstructing content.' While your landing page may contain watermarks, the image link in your data feed should not.
We had so many questions about H1 tags, here’s a quick guide below. The SEO team will soon be compiling a separate blog article explaining these tags more thoroughly. Watch the Volusion blog for this upcoming post!
Web pages use heading tags (H1, H2, H3 …H6) to describe the hierarchy of a page’s content. Each heading can introduce a section of content, with H1 tags indicating the most important section. The use of H tag hierarchy tells your users and the search engines about the most important information on each page. While we do recommend that each page on your website should have an H1 tag, it’s not necessary to include H2s, H3s and so on unless your content would benefit from that kind of structure.
H tags are extremely easy to add to your code. When you include an H1 tag for a product page, it will look like this as entered in HTML:
<h1>This is the Most Important Heading on My Page!</h1>
Here is the content related to this heading.
And here’s how it will appear on your site:
This is the Most Important Heading on My Page!
Here is the content related to this heading.
Shopping Feeds Questions:
Q: Do you have any resources to learn more about google shipping and optimizing campaigns?
The best place to learn about Google Shopping and optimizing campaigns is the source! Google has lots of AdWords optimization resources (https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/3455573?hl=en) and our blog contains many helpful mini-webinars and articles as well! (http://www.volusion.com/ecommerce-blog/search/shopping+feed)
Additionally, Google lists their shopping policies and regulations here: https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/188484?hl=en
Q: I am seeing conflicting information that the new Google Numerical Taxonomy has to be done by September 15th. Other information online says that the new taxonomy categories have to be done by Sept. 15th, but do not necessarily have to be the numerical categories.
Good job keeping up with Google's changes! Per their announcement here https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/6231410?hl=en, Google is introducing stable numeric Product Category IDs. You are able to provide either the text or numeric based category identification, of which can be found here: http://www.google.com/basepages/producttype/taxonomy-with-ids.en-US.txt. Please note though, it should be one or the other. And as always, try to be consistent.
Q: My page is in Spanish, so accented characters have to be there. We set up our keyboards as US international and just type. No accents means we appear illiterate. Can you point me to a conversion tool that'll insert codes or do I have to just search & replace before we upload to Volusion. What's the easiest way to do this?
We stress to avoid special characters so that when Google crawls your products there are no broken characters. If you're using a foreign language the HTML markup for these characters is the way to go - likely your keyboard is automatically doing this for you. A quick export of your datafeed file and a review of your descriptions will show if these items are being displayed correctly or not. If the way you’re doing it allows Google to read it without issues, keep doing that. Also, for quick help if your meta tags are showing incorrectly, enable your unicode meta titles: http://support.volusion.com/article/enabling-foreign-language-characters-meta-tags
Q: Our business rents (not sells) books, therefore the books are $0 on Volusion. Customers have to subscribe to our service. Under these circumstances, does it make sense to do shopping feeds?
Unfortunately, in this instance, it would not make sense to do feeds, as Google Shopping is for products that are being sold. You cannot advertise products for rent.
Q: What is the value of "Google Trusted Stores” in your opinion?
Google gives this badge to sites that are reliable shippers with a record of positive customer feedback, this instills trust to shoppers. This can give you an advantage over a competitor that is not a Google Trusted Store. In order to receive this badge, your store needs to meet certain criteria. You can learn more about Google Trusted Stores here: http://www.google.com/trustedstores/
Q: How do we create the product URL for each product?
By default, your product URLs will take on the standard Volusion URL structure:
By editing the Product URL Text field in the Advanced Info section of your product inventory, you can change that URL to something like this:
Q: My site has proper caps in the product url text. Will I be penalized by google for this? Do i need to change this, and can I change it without being penalized by the search engines?
In most cases, URLs are not case sensitive. This means that it probably won’t hurt you to have capital letters in your URLs. However, it’s considered an SEO best practice to use all lowercase letters for a few reasons. First, it looks cleaner and more uniform. Second, most users will type your URL in all lowercase anyway, if they’re visiting your site directly or linking to it. Third, search engines have occasionally mistaken uppercase and lowercase versions of URLs for separate pages, and if both versions are indexed, the search engines will recognize the content on those pages as duplicate content. That would be bad news.
Switching URL text to all lowercase is simple, and it won’t cause you to lose any traffic or incur a penalty from the search engines as long as you’ve checked the “301 Redirect to SEOFriendly URLs” box within your Config Variables, found in the Settings section of your admin area.
Q: Is there a way to prevent category names from being labeled as numbers? eg www.sitehere.com/Product-Name-s/145.htm
Every page of a Volusion website has a number attached to it. That’s how the pages of your site are organized, and it ensures that each page will have a unique URL as soon as it’s created. However, the text before the s or p on your page (in your example, the “Product-Name” part) can be customized however you want.
Q: Regarding Meta Tag Keywords and how they are not important for SEO: Is it best to just leave that field blank for product pages as well as category pages? Or should I still put a few relevant keywords in there, such as product color, size, etc.?
It’s best to leave it blank. Neither your customers nor the search engines can see this information, so it won’t help you at all to include any text in this field. This is true for every page on your site, including product pages, category pages, your home page, blogs, etc.—it won’t help you to have keywords listed on any page.
Q: On alt text what is optimal number of characters?
There’s no “correct” number of characters for image alt tags. Use this tag to describe the image as best as you can, even if that means including multiple descriptors. “Size medium red and blue polka dot dress for girls” is a perfectly fine alt tag. It’s concise, but it can still describe all the visual aspects of the image.
Q: Where should we go on site to input Google Analytics tracking info?
The Google Analytics tracking code that’s assigned to your website when you set up your Analytics account must be inserted in the head section of your template. In your Volusion store, you can access the HTML code by hovering over the Design section of your admin area and choosing File Editor. Under Shortcuts, you’ll see a section called Template Files with a link to your template’s code underneath.
IMPORTANT: Use extreme caution when editing your template’s code and always save an original copy of your code before making any changes. One small coding mistake can cause your site to misbehave.
Near the top of your HTML file, you’ll see a section that begins with the head section opening tag (<head>) and ends with the closing tag (</head>). Copy the entire tracking code script from your Google Analytics account and insert it just before the closing tag. It should look something like this (the highlighted section is an example of the script you’ll enter):
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" />
<link href="vspfiles/templates/template/css/Imports.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" />
<div id="if_homepage"><link href="vspfiles/templates/template/css/Homepage.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" /></div>
ga('create', 'UA-XXXXXXXX-X', 'mysite.com');
Q: I'm only doing SEO and wholesale. I'm currently bringing in new items and colors and I'm putting the expected delivery date in the product name. Is that a bad idea?
We wouldn’t recommend including delivery dates, or any other information that’s likely to change, in your product names, title tags or meta descriptions. Those fields are really intended to describe the product without any extraneous information. If your expected delivery dates, prices or shipping policies were to change (which is likely to happen at some point), you’d have to go back in and change all those product names, title tags or meta descriptions. It’s best to use those fields to state what the product is and leave it at that.
Q: If Free Shipping, etc. is a no-no in product descriptions, where else on a Volusion product page could that be presented?
For Volusion Stores, You can check off the box for "Free shipping item" in the advanced info of your products. This will display a "free shipping" icon underneath the product price on the product page. This can be done quickly through the import/export feature as well.
Q: In Product Description, are the other tabs like "Features," "Technical Specs,"etc. important?
It’s not necessary to use these tabs if you don’t have any information to put there. However, if your products have a ton of technical specifications and they’re causing your product descriptions to run long, separating them into tabs could be useful.
Q: Are complete sentences important?
It depends on your brand voice and writing style, but generally speaking, you should write your product descriptions with a human audience in mind. Write in a way that’s comfortable for your customers to read. Your content should sound natural, and you should always ask someone you trust to look at a few of your product pages for an added perspective.
Q: I have a ton of traffic from Russia on my site... and my products are supposed to be for Mexico.
The traffic you’re seeing from Russia is probably due to referrals from spam bots. That means your referral data within Google Analytics is being skewed, but there’s an easy way to exclude that traffic so that Analytics doesn’t recognize it as legitimate. This article explains more: https://moz.com/blog/how-to-stop-spam-bots-from-ruining-your-analytics-referral-data
Q: If your product has many different options (sizes and color), should you optimize each product option page or just the main product page?
If they’re listed on your site as being different products, meaning each one has its own unique URL, then you can optimize each page individually (and you should!).
Q: Is it important to fill out title tags and meta descriptions for child products as well as parent products? We sell clothing and have color/size variations for each parent.
For SEO, those products are hidden and only used for pricing/stock as they aren't in the sitemap and not accessed by visitors, it is not needed to fill those out. The same can be said for shopping feeds, those fields are not submitted to the shopping feeds so it is not necessary.
Q; Is it ok to put banners into the Product Description?
We would not recommend putting banners in product descriptions, Google displays your description as text in product ads. Banners don't allow Google to crawl descriptions and display them properly.
Q: Is it okay to put promotional information in the description box "Product Description Above Pricing"?
This is possible, as long as you are submitting a different description field to Google. The description field that gets submitted in your datafeed file should not include promotional information, but under Google’s current rules it is okay to have that information in a different, unsubmitted field. With any instances like this, we always suggest keeping up with Google’s Shopping Policies (https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/188484?hl=en), as they may change over time.
Q: Is setting up SEO for a particular product a one-time thing or an ongoing one—where I need to keep updating things about my product such as unique descriptions etc?
Once you’ve set things like title tag and meta description for a product, they’ll stay that way until you change them. As long as they’re unique from other pages on your site, there’s no need to update these regularly. Just make sure they reflect accurate information about the product.
Q: Is there a big difference if my product "description" is human readable versus a bulleted list description?
Either way is fine, as long as you keep in mind that humans are your audience. Presenting product features in paragraph or list form makes no difference, but the content should always be unique and natural-sounding.
Q: My boss wants a FREE SHIPPING icon above the description on my product pages. Will the alt tag text mentioning "free shipping" count against me?
No, text within alt tags will not have a negative effect on shopping feeds listings.
Q: Should you use the same text for title tag and product name and meta description, if the product is known by name and where it is coming from like Italian wine?
It’s fine to include similar phrases in all three of these fields (title tag, product name and meta description), since a phrase like “Italian wine” is probably an accurate descriptor of the product. However, you’ll still want to make these bits of text unique from each other in some way.
For example, your product name might be:
750 ml Italian Pinot Grigio by Cazato
While your title tag could read:
2010 Vintage 750 ml Fine Italian Pinot Grigio | Cazato Vineyard
And your meta description might say:
Try a delicious pinot grigio from the Lombardy region of Italy. Low acidity with a spicy finish, Cazato's 2010 vintage is a dream come true for wine lovers!
Q: The DOGMANIA store page shows a product (hat with bow) that has variations (colors)... you previously mentioned the NHL bracelet client, who had more success listing the variations out as individual products (i.e. san jose sharks nhl bracelet). In that instance there are actual physical differences, so i can understand the benefit to listing them separately. Would you suggest doing this, if a product has one physical version, however, it has multiple options for compatibility.. i.e. an auto part. Would it be better to list the same part multiple times with the different makes/models that it's compatible with, or would a drop down (like the dog hat page, which has color and size options) work just as well?
Because the product sounds highly specific in this instance, it is reasonable to assume that shoppers will be searching for very specific parts, and likely search for their specific make and model. However, making a specific product page for each individual product in this case may make your site overwhelming and difficult to navigate. Another option could be to have your product description list compatible makes and models, as the description field will also be indexed by Google and used to pair your products with shoppers.
Q: When you mention product description, do you mean the field just called "product description" or all of the various product description fields such as "product description above pricing" "product description short", etc?
In this webinar, we were speaking specifically about the field called “product description”. This is the field that in most cases will be submitted to Google to describe your product.
Q: I have capital letters in the product name only to classify the range, is that ok?
While it is considered best practices with Google to not use all capital letters in your product names and descriptions, you will not be penalized if a few words are in all caps.
Q: When writing tags say for wooden watches, should you tag as (wooden watches, wood, watches, wood watches) or does (wooden watches) cover it all?
Search engines can usually recognize slight keyword variations, such as the difference between “wood” and “wooden.” While you shouldn’t be using the Meta Tag Keywords field, if you use the phrase “wooden watches” in your title tags and product descriptions, the search engines will probably associate searches for “wood watches” or “watches made of wood” with those pages as well.
If you weren’t able to attend the live webinar you can view the slides or listen to the recording here!