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SEO and E-Commerce: looking for some input (TLDR)

Discussion in 'White Hat SEO' started by likwidneo, Oct 24, 2012.

  1. likwidneo

    likwidneo Newbie

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    So a little under a month ago I was hired in-house full time by my new employer as an SEO. So I've been doing my thing, but from day one that I actually got my hands on their websites and began learning about their products I began to realize a few things that are less than uplifting.

    #1) Optimizing an e-commerce website is very different from optimizing a blog or some other type of site.

    We've got close to a thousand products between 2 websites. We've got in some cases 35 or more varieties of the exact same products, each one on it's own landing page, the only difference being a color. 97% of the content on these pages is going to be identical and we'll wind up getting slapped with duplicate content penalties. Content spinning might help increase SERP ranking but would damage our conversion rate if people can't understand what it is they're buying because the words are all jumbled up. Spinning is great for articles, not so much for your own actual website. I recommended converging many of those products into single product pages and using drop down lists to let customers identify their color of choice, but I was met with resistance. It's too much work and my boss doesn't want to do it or let me do it, and the other problem is our CMS is quirky and I don't think we can assign the images to change in accordance to the customers selections of the drop down fields. It's true that customers do need to see the colors in order to make the decision to buy. The other option I suggested was de-indexing the majority of the pages so as to avoid duplicate content. They swear up and down that I'm wrong and that they can work with the duplicate content and still achieve results in the SERPs. I'm beginning to see why it is blogs and blog-style sites always outrank other websites and why e-commerce sites typically rank so much lower than other types of sites. While we aren't competing against blogs per se, this is still a bit of a problem.

    #2) The organic competition is outrageous. It's like a swarm of locusts.

    The results of almost every keyword I've run on niche watch are not pretty. The top 10 are locked down TIGHT in more than 90% of our keywords. And I'm not just talking about the big keywords. There is practically no such thing as long tail keywords in our market. If the keywords generates even the smallest iota of traffic, it is already densely targeted by dozens of competitors with strong SEO campaigns. We've got competitors (and I'm not talking about big national brands or amazon either) that have close to 600,000 back links to their homepage ALONE. I didn't even bother to count the back links to the other hundreds and hundreds of converting landing pages. My bosses also don't want to outsource ANY content or back link creation and I am our only SEO and am expected to compete against this kind of shit single-handedly. I've often heard the advice that you should pick your market first and THEN do your SEO, however they've been in this market for 33 years and our e-commerce is just a side business to their brick and mortar efforts.

    I honestly feel like SEO is a gigantic waste of time for my company but I'm the only one who feels this way. Everyone else, who doesn't know the first thing about SEO, swears it's the answer to their problems. The main competitor that they want to emulate has virtually no SEO strategy that I can see. 5,500 back links to their homepage, and they do large amounts of business so it's entire plausible that those 5500 links are naturally occurring and zero back links to their other converting landing pages. From what I can tell, the bulk of their business comes from Adwords and Amazon, and a lot of repeat business as these guys have had that business and that URL since 1997. And yet, even though they want to emulate this competitors results, they don't want to emulate their methods. They think Adwords doesn't work and it is a waste of time and that's not the strategy they want to pursue despite the fact that they know very well our competitor has a massive Adwords budget. I mean is it just me, or are these people bats hit out of their minds?

    I have a million ideas and directions that we could take this business, Adwords, Comparative Shopping Engines, Affiliate Marketing, Social Media and Social Media Advertising. We have amazon and ebay stores but even though I don't have any experience with amazon/ebay I'm willing to bet our stores are far from optimized. Problem is I'm just an SEO guy and that's the only thing I have experience in. I'm willing to learn all these other things, and I mean hell, I learned more about Adwords in my first week than my boss did in a year of running adwords campaigns at an 89.1% LOSS. We had an argument the other day where he swears up and down that our CPC has absolutely NOTHING to do with our Quality Score and is purely determined by competition. But I'm just an SEO guy and I don't know if the owners will allow me to take their business in these other directions after my boss has sold them already on SEO.So... does anyone have any experience with SEO as it relates to e-commerce? Any thoughts or pearls of wisdom? Do I have the right ideas in what we need to do and what we can do? Does SEO really have any value for us and if so what direction should we take it in? Because I can tell this business requires a degree of SEO that's very different from what other business should do.
     
  2. dubious

    dubious Regular Member

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    Occupation:
    Project Manager/Business Development Manager
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    Australia
    a) Do not deindex content, that is my advice straight up. That would be a huge mistake. A better strategy would be to use blockquote html or cite to avoid duplicate content, but don't be scared of duplicate content especially for e-commerce sites.

    b) Sounds to me that your site structure sucks. I remember I had a similar issue with a client (non-seo, actual project management) in which there were variations of a product via color of pins, number of pins, male/female adapter etc.
    A good silo structured e-commerce website for SEO would include all varieties in a similar structure. ie: site.com/product/product-name, site.com/product/product-name/blue-large, site.com/product/product-name/red-small, site.com/product/product-name/specifications et all.

    The idea is to have a parent page, and all variations of that product. They way I would do this if I had full control via the CMS (ie: direct HTML input) is to use the almighty power of the blockquote to boost the power of the master product (whether it be the one that would have the most variation) [note: If I had true power, those 35 products would just be one their own page, with pricing etc done via client side scripting, AJAX, but ciest la vie]

    So the master product, your target product if you will, would have the following HTML:

    Code:
    <p>Sales copy, blah blah blah</p> <h2> Feature that you might want to rank 
    Whilst the other variations would have this input:

    Code:
    <blockquote cite="site.com/product/product-name" title="Prodcut name">Sales Copy, blah blah blah </blockquote><h2>Feauture that you might want to rank for</h2>
    c) It would probably be easier to rank for category pages, each with custom text, microdata (very important for ct %) etc.


    d) The first step, the most obvious one, is to submit a product feed to Google Merchant Center, even if you don't expect much conversions from Google Shopping, helps your site immensely in SERPS for products because it identifies those particular pages on your website as products. How readily available would it be for you to create a feed considering development work, etc.
    Random Squidoo Lens on the subject:
    Code:
    http://www.squidoo.com/submit-product-feeds
    Anyway, it sounds to me you are in quite a tough situation and it will take a lot of work, and more importantly, a lot of resources for your efforts to be productive. Things like Video Production, Creating external blogs that would review your products, etc.
     
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  3. freefly

    freefly Newbie

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    Great info!

    Thanks