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eCommerce Category Page Optimization for Search & Sales


ecommerce category pages are often the neglected middle men of the online sales world. This is unfortunate, because there is a lot of opportunity in these pages for increasing performance in SEO and sales. Ryan McLaughlin breaks down some of the main characteristics of a great ecommerce category page.



Video Transcript


Hey guys, this is Ryan McLaughlin from Clarity Ventures. I want to make a video for you guys today that is short and sweet, but also really actionable. I'm going to make it about ecommerce category pages and the optimization of those pages for SEO and also sales and generating more revenue for your ecommerce business. Now we're going to go through some of the basics today, but it is stuff that you have to have locked down if you own an ecommerce business or if you work on an ecommerce site.

I'm going to hop right into the anatomy of the page and it starts with the controls. Now it's going to be your main nav here and also your sidebar here. The main nav can either be a mega menu or a drop down menu. I usually like the mega menu, especially if you have a lot of products, categories, subcategories because it allows you to have more real estate and list more things on the menu which gives you a flat side architecture. It allows search engines and also users to get to more pages within one click, no matter where they are on the site.

The filtering system especially if you have your ground covered in the main nav is really helpful if you have an Ajax-based system. Also, especially if you have a lot of parameters and attributes that define your products that people are looking for specifically and need to find quickly. Basically what I mean by that is that you can take an Ajax filtering system that lists the parameters and attributes of your products here on the left and as users click through the things that they need out of the product that they're looking for then without reloading the page, this content section gets refreshed with the products that match the attributes that the user's clicking on.

That is really helpful especially if you're in the B2B space. What you're looking for is to get the user from where they are to the products that they need to buy as quickly as possible because it's an emotionless decision and usually speed to purchase is going to be the difference between winning or losing in a lot of cases.

Now, getting into content this first point here is the top description. That's going to be this little blue rectangle here. This is a really important point guys and I can't emphasize it enough, but I'm going to try with an example that I have from a client's site that I worked on. This client had millions and millions of SKUs of products, and as you can imagine, from that, had a lot of category pages.

Now I wanted to go through and after finding out that most of these category pages didn't have descriptions or even decent content on the pages. I wanted to go through and sweep the site and just write a bunch of content for them because I knew it was the right thing to do, but on big sites like that I usually like to run a test first. So I took the first ten pages that I found that were ranking for their main target keyword between two and five, and also didn't have this top description here of content and I wrote new content for those pages between about 100 and 150 words.

Not a lot of content, but it was descriptive. It did tell the user what page they were on and, you know, what the products applied to and it also showed the search engines, the relevance of the page and the reasons that the page deserved a rank for the target keywords. So out of these ten pages, seven out of those ten pages ended up ranking number one from their two through five spot and then nine out of the ten improved rankings from where they were previously.

The most important point there is that nothing else changed on the page. I, as best possible, created a vacuum environment for the experiment and the content was what made the difference. So real important point there guys, you want to have content on your category pages. It is real important.

Titles. The point I want to make here is the order of your page titles. You do want to go subcategory, category, site name. Kind of a reverse engineer of your bread crumbs. The reason for this is twofold. Number one, for search engines you want to have them see the most important words first, upfront in the page title. And also you want to have the same thing for users because especially if they have a bunch of tabs open in their browser, they're only going to see a couple or a few words out of the tab and you want it to be as relevant to the page that they're on as possible.

Then getting into the items of the page which are going to be in orange here. Basically, the product listings, you want them to be interactive and you want them to be engaging. Of course you want to have as much information about the product as possible for your user before they click through. This might include price, if it's in stock. You might also want to give it social share buttons if you think that makes sense for your business. That will just kind of emphasize the echo effect of the products that you have in stock.

Also, if you have a lot of products that people know what they need and as soon as they find it they're going to add it to cart. A lot of times, sometimes in these scenarios, they're going to be buying multiple products. You might want to add an add to cart feature button here so that within the category page they can add products to cart and go through and click one, one, one, one and add all of those in so that they can check out quicker than if they had to click through to each individual page.

Wrapping all this up guys, you really want to be tracking everything on your category pages, but also your ecommerce site. You're going to have things like, people that are coming in through SEO, people that are coming in from direct traffic referrals. You want to get the behavior metrics like, bounce rate, exit pages, but also what I'm going to recommend is you guys put some sort of heat-mapping software or visitor tracking software in place that at least gives you the mouse movements on the page, where people are focusing, where are they spending their time, how far do they scroll down on the page.

Also there's tools out there that give you pseudo recordings of your visitors that are visiting your site. Basically, via the JavaScript snippet, it's going to allow you to, from the entrance to your website to the exit, watch them browse through and kind of watch them run into difficulties if there are some. Watch where it's really easy for them to kind of navigate. Watch where it's not. Maybe you find out new things about your site that you would have never found in Google Analytics. That's going to be really important and it's going to kind of circle all this back to things that you need to improve on in the future, and as you know, we never stop improving.

That's going to be the basics today for ecommerce category pages. Please let me know if you need or if you have any questions in the comments below. I also provided a notes section, a transcript and I will see you next time. This is Ryan McLaughlin for Clarity Ventures. Have a great day.

Notes! (from Ryan)

In the video I mention that there are tools that will allow you to collect heatmaps, visitor recordings, and more. I'd like to provide some options for you here:

Notes on the content experiment:

I want to take advantage of the notes section and summarize the experiment I described in the video. Essentially, a large ecommerce site had category pages that mostly had no content, just product listings. No active management of the pages was happening and it was one of my first touches on the site, so we essentially had an opportunity to tinker with a single variable on the page and track the results. That variable we added was 100-150 word descriptions of the categories right above the product listings.

I picked 10 category pages that ranked #2-5 for their main keyword term, and were lacking any content to support the product listings. One month after the content additions, these were the results:

  • 9/10 pages improved rank
  • 7/10 moved from #2-5 to #1

Thanks for taking the time to watch and read. I'm working on making this better for you all each and every week, please provide any feedback or topics you'd like to see covered in the future.

** Bonus! If you're looking for a resource to help shape the specific keyword game plan for your ecommerce site (and of course, category pages), look into this advanced SEO for ecommerce keyword guide. It is a bit advanced, but is extremely valuable and if you follow the instructions there it can create outsized SEO returns for your site.

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