These are exciting times if we want to sell products to as broad an audience as possible. It’s relatively easy to set up a website to display our product or services, and there are many payment processing solutions available to help gather the cash. But nobody said that it would be easy to make everything work once we are ready to be found on the web and attract customers, and much will depend on how we configure and set up our site.
In short, we need to make sure that it both makes sense to a visitor and is structured correctly from an SEO perspective. I like to pay attention to the fundamentals and consider best practices from the start. So if you are getting ready to begin your journey, let’s have a close look at website architecture and structure.
To begin with, remember that we are structuring a site with two key stakeholders in mind – a potential buyer and the search engine. We need to ensure that the website makes sense for all our visitors so they can find the information they need and make a purchase. We must also ensure that the site is structured correctly so that Google (and the other engines) understand what we are trying to sell, what we have to say and why we should be taken seriously. It’s very important to make this as intuitive as possible for the search engine robots if we want to rank well from an SEO perspective.
Google, in particular, is very sophisticated. They have complex algorithms designed to make their job as simple as possible, bearing in mind that there are billions of web pages to crawl. It’s very important that we tell them where to find the content so they can index it and get it into the system. For a website to rank these days, it needs to have high-quality and regularly updated content as well. And, as this process is dynamic, we need to have a system in place to manage everything. This will help us avoid an accidental drop in ranking.
Logical and Clean
To get higher rankings within the system, we need to keep the site as clean as possible. We need to avoid any confusion caused by duplicate or relatively similar content. If we are not careful, we may end up competing with ourselves unless we tell the search engines which pages are more important than others so that they can index the site correctly.
If all of this sounds confusing, it doesn’t need to be. I make sure that my site is structured according to the “pyramid” approach. At the top of the pyramid will be the home page, as you might expect. Then, we will have categories or silos, with individual pages or blog posts beneath those.
Home Page – the Starting Point
Our website menu is one of the most important elements of the entire site. It must be intuitive and make it very easy for visitors to follow a trail to the place of most interest to them. Each page must also have a breadcrumb, which gives visitors a clue as to exactly where they are, and it must always be easy to jump back to the home page at any point.
Categories and Pages
So what about those categories? Divide products into logical sections, and each one will have its own category. We may have subcategories below a category if we can further subdivide our products into other sections. The same goes for our content. Structure this carefully and make sure that any written content can be neatly categorised under its own heading.
Then, beneath each category, we can add all of our products or our individual content pages or blog posts. This type of structure will make it easy for the user and the search engine to make sense of the site. Everything must be neat and tidy.
As our site gets more complicated, it may become more difficult for a visitor to find their product of interest. This is where tags may come into play. Create some tags for the most important subjects and display a tag cloud in the sidebar. I like to include a search element in the header as well so that visitors can search my site and jump to something of interest.
It’s also important to include contextual links to give your visitors some help and, once again, to keep the search engine happy. We should put these links within the body of the content on each page, and it points to another relevant page within our site. Google will look at the anchor text (keyword-based) to understand why we are linking. It’s also an important ranking element.
Think about what your shoppers are looking for as well. We can then link from an individual product to a related special offer, for example. We can also take the lead from some of those giant retailers and link to a section that tells readers what other customers may have previously purchased. However, always be selective when linking from any product page so we do not break our visitor’s attention. After all, the primary goal here is to get them to buy.
Search engine land is populated by keywords. The entire ranking system is built around these individual words or short phrases, and we need to ensure that we have a clear policy in place. At the outset, we need to do the right amount of research to uncover our primary, secondary and tertiary keywords. The main goal will be to rank for the primary words, but don’t underestimate the value of ranking for some of those long-tail keywords as well. We need to make sure that our content is optimised, and this is where landing pages come into the equation.
The Buying Cycle
Just remember that people may be at a different stage in the buying cycle. They may simply be looking for information and do not intend to buy today. Or, they may have a desperate problem and need to purchase the product right now. We will need to create content and a site structure that caters to these different types based on their search intent.
Two Types of Landing Page
When it comes to landing pages, there are, essentially, two different types.
We can create simple landing pages for our products, and these should be designed to elicit the sale. Make sure the content can also make it easy for the search engine to index the page properly.
Cornerstone pages are very important as well and much more detailed. Here, we give visitors valuable information and show them that we are experts in our niche. We also show Google that we are worthy of achieving a high rank. Cornerstone articles are in-depth and will typically be long-form or more than 1,000 words.
Keeping Things Fresh
Finally, remember to keep your content fresh and get rid of anything that doesn’t make sense anymore. However, we shouldn’t simply delete an old page, as this could harm our SEO and confuse a visitor if they simply get one of those nasty 404 pages. Redirect to a more appropriate page instead.
We Can Do It
As you can see, there is quite a lot of work involved in ranking an eCommerce site. However, if we stick with the rules and make our site welcoming, informative and logical, the world is our oyster.