4 ecommerce optimisation tips for online retailers

Ecommerce optimisation
Ecommerce websites are typically a lot more complex than brochure websites. For one thing, ecommerce websites require some kind of online payment system, but there's also the issue of sheer size - by dedicating an entire page to each and every product you sell, you're potentially saddling yourself with a website that's hundreds or even thousands of pages deep.
And, as you can imagine, organising and optimising that many pages can be a mammoth headache. Fortunately, our website optimisation experts are here to share a few tips and suggestions that will help you to both climb the Google rankings and do a better job of satisfying your customers. If you're serious about optimising your ecommerce website, here are some things to bear in mind:

Every page should have its own unique title tag.

Google's guidelines demand "distinct, descriptive titles for each page on your site", and this includes the many product pages that form the bulk of your ecommerce website. The page title tag is an extremely important ranking factor for search engines, and since you ideally want all of your product pages to rank highly for relevant search terms, it's a good idea to come up with a different title tag for each and every one.
Let's say, for example, that your company sells decorative lampshades. Your lampshades come in dozens of different colours and designs, so it doesn't make sense to use a generic title tag like Buy Cheap Lampshades for Your Home on every single product page. A better approach is to craft title tags that give a more detailed description of each individual product; for example:
  • Dark Blue Lampshade | Buy from Spiffing Shades
  • Bright Red Pendant Lampshade from Spiffing Shades
  • Black & White Lampshade for Floor Lamps
  • Gingham Lampshade | Order Online with Spiffing Shades
These page titles tell search engines (and the people who use them) a lot more about each of your products, and this will make it easier for Google et al to index your product range and list your pages on relevant SERPs. Each title tag should also be accompanied with a unique meta description that offers a little more information about each product. For instance, here's what the description for that dark blue lampshade might look like:
This dark blue lampshade is handmade by the experts at Spiffing Shades, and includes a dual purpose fitting that's compatible with ES and BC lamps.


The recommended maximum length for a title tag is just 55 characters, so the meta description is a good way to go into greater detail about the page you're optimising.

Avoid duplicate content.

You might think that, once each of your product pages has its own unique title tag and meta description, you don't have to worry too much about what's actually on the page. Unfortunately, if you're serious about conquering your competition in the Google rankings, you'll need to write unique copy for each of your product pages as well.
This task can be particularly tedious if a lot of your products are very similar to one another, but it still has to be done. If Spiffing Shades sell a hexagonal lampshade in five different colours (red, blue, white, yellow and black), the company's copywriter will need to write five different descriptions to give each product page the best chance of ranking. Of course, Spiffing Shades could simply choose to list the hexagonal lampshade as a single product, with customers selecting their preferred colour via a drop-down list; this would mean less work for their copywriter, but that single product page would struggle to rank for colour-specific terms like 'hexagonal red lampshade' or 'black lampshade hexagon shape'.
So why can't the Spiffing Shades team just create five different pages and re-use the same product description on all of them? Because search engines don't handle duplicate content well. Each of those hexagonal lampshade pages will look practically identical to Google's bots if the same text is used on each one (and no, changing 'red' to 'blue' won't make a difference!)
If Google finds multiple pages that all look alike, it will usually only index one, which means that all the other similar pages cannot possibly appear in search engine results. Too many identical pages may even result in an outright Google penalty that affects your entire website - is it really worth taking that risk just to save a little time on writing product descriptions?

Put your most important products on the homepage.

We at Designer Websites have created a lot of ecommerce websites in our time, and one thing we've noticed on numerous occasions is that product pages seem to rank significantly higher when linked to directly from the homepage.
This may be because putting a product on the top page of your website makes it much easier for bots to find, crawl and index; whatever the reason, it seems to work, so if there's a particular product that you'd like to see on the first page of Google results, we'd always recommend including that item among the products listed on your homepage.

Put some effort into your images!

Images are an absolutely crucial factor for any ecommerce website - whether you're selling cookers, toys, laptops, or combine harvesters, nobody will be interested unless they can see what they're buying. 
But that's not the only reason to make sure you've got high-quality images for each of your product lines. There's also the small matter of Google Images; we've seen websites pull in thousands of visitors every month from image searches alone, so it's well worth getting your pictures done properly. Attractive, eye-catching product images will help you to stand out from all the other image listings (they're also essential for a successful Google Shopping campaign), and adding clear, concise alt tags to each of your images will help them to get closer to the top of the results page.
Need more help with your ecommerce website? Get in touch with Designer Websites for a quotation - whether you need some website optimisation or a brand new website design, we'll listen to your requirements and work to achieve the results you want!

Is SEO Dead?

We've seen a lot of articles in the last few months with titles like this:

"Yes, SEO Really is Dead!"

"Stop Doing SEO - It Doesn't Work Anymore"

"SEO is over. Here's the new way to get your site seen!"

Invariably, these pieces will talk about the supposed demise of search engine optimisation as a worthwhile practice. They use the following arguments to convince readers that SEO is, indeed, a thing of the past:

  • Link-building doesn't work anymore. Seeking out links from external websites used to be a huge part of SEO, but inbound links are no longer an automatic guarantee of high rankings - these days, quality is far more important than quantity, and it can be very difficult to manufacture a really good link to your own site. Also, Google are getting much better at spotting unnatural and/or manipulative links and punishing the sites on the receiving end; this has put an end to linkbuilding as an effective means of boosting rankings, or so some bloggers would have you believe.

  • Keywords are more complicated than ever before. Once upon a time, you could achieve high rankings for a search term like 'cheap sofas' by simply mentioning 'cheap sofas' a hundred times in your site copy. Nowadays, the system is a lot more complex - search engines are aware of things like synonyms, closely related topics, and a whole variety of other ranking factors that don't have anything to do with keyword density. Also, Google and their competitors have learned to spot keyword-stuffed content from a mile away, and the penalties for this can be just as severe as the slap you'll get for dodgy link-building.

  • Sites should be optimised for users, not search engine bots. The problem with a lot of old SEO practices (particularly keyword stuffing) was their tendency to make things unpleasant for the user. You can write a 500 word essay that uses the phrase 'best mobile phones' in every other sentence if you so desire, but even if it ranks highly, it's not going to make especially riveting reading; in fact, all of that keyword stuffing might well make it harder for your customers to find the information they need. Nowadays, a good user experience is valued above high rankings, and since aggressive SEOing can quite easily get in the way of a strong UE, those practices no longer have a place on most websites.

Now, these are some good points - keyword stuffing and link farming do more harm than good, and we would certainly advise any webmaster to stay well away from these practices if they value their site traffic. But SEO isn't just the black hat stuff; those three letters may have picked up some negative connotations over the years, but search engine optimisation is still alive and well, and if you want your website to have any kind of presence on Google, Yahoo! and Bing, you absolutely must take it into consideration.

First of all, you need to stop viewing SEO as a shady effort to fraudulently boost a site's rankings. SEO is actually a very important part of website design, and it starts with the code itself - our developers have spent the last decade building sites in a way that's easy for Google and other search engines to digest. We also work hard to create lightning-fast pages, user-friendly functionality, and so much more; all of this is as much a part of SEO as strategic keyword placement.

But we won't bore you with an in-depth dissection of good quality code. Instead, allow us to address the points above, and demonstrate why SEO remains very much alive:

  • Links are still important. Building a lot of low-quality links to your site is unlikely to do much for your rankings nowadays, but remember what we said about quality and quantity? That's an important thing to bear in mind - Google themselves have stated that inbound links are still a major part of their algorithm, it's just that they're now more interested in the value of your links than in how many you've amassed. Of course, since artificial links can land a site in very hot water, it's better to focus your SEO efforts on creating a site that encourages people to link unsolicited - make it easy to link, and make sure you provide something that's worth linking to. This is what really impresses search engines at the moment.

  • Keywords still have their place. Modern SEO demands a rather less ham-fisted approach to keyword placement, but that doesn't mean you should forget about keywords altogether. When creating your website, think about the search terms you would like each page to show up for, and then tailor your copy and any other content to those keywords. Make sure you're providing potential users with the clear information and the useful resources that they are likely to be looking for, and this will make each page's purpose clear to search engines as well.

  • User optimisation and SEO are, in many ways, the same thing. User optimisation makes your site more appealing to humans. Search engine optimisation makes your site more appealing to search engines. These two practices are very closely related, especially as search engines get smarter and more capable of thinking like humans. The articles we've read always tell you to forget about SEO and concentrate on the user experience, but this is misleading - they are two equally important undertakings that will yield sizeable rewards if done properly in tandem.

To answer that million dollar question, then: no, SEO isn't dead, it's just different to what it was a few years ago. Mind you, this shouldn't surprise anyone (least of all the type of people who are liable to write 'SEO is Dead!' aritcles) - SEO has been an ever-changing entity since day one, but none of its transformations have ever negated its usefulness as a practice. In fact, as web designers, optimising for search engines is one of our most important jobs!


Howells Legal website screenshots 

Howells Solicitors are one of our long-term customers - it's been a couple of years since we first worked on a website for them. The site we created back then was slick, stylish, and functional, but times do changes, and any businesses that want to stay successful and relevant need to change with them.

With this in mind, Howells asked us to give their website a responsive revamp. Responsive design (which ensures that your site looks good on any and all devices, 'responding' to the size of the screen you're using) is very much the 'in' thing right now, but it's far more than a mere fad. A massive slice of internet usage now occurs through smartphones and other mobile devices, and a responsive site ensures that you're attending to the needs of each and every segment of your audience. An old-fashioned site that was designed solely with desktop PCs in mind may well look rubbish when viewed on a phone, and if that's the case, it's bound to be a massive turn-off for your mobile visitors.

Not only is responsive design better for the customer - it's also better for search engines. Google now recommend responsive design as best practice, saying that such sites are far better for the ever-expanding mobile demographic. The guys at Howells knew all of this and, keen to please clients and search engines alike, they came to us and asked if we could update their site.

And, well, that's exactly what we did! We're pleased to announce that www.howellslegal.co.uk is now fully responsive, and we think that the site looks better than ever. If you need a responsive design for your website, pop over to our Quote Request page now.

We have just developed and published a new ecommerce website for a national garden products company called Greensquares Products Ltd. The website sells everything from bean bags and benches to Astro turf and composite decking.

So if your in the market for some fantastic Garden Products then look no Further than Greensquares.

We have just developed a fancy dress costumes ecommerce website for Freeda Promotions. It's the latest in a series of ecommerce websites for the growing online retailer.

The costumes website was actually great fun to develop and we really enjoyed putting the design work together for it. The client is extremely pleased with the results and has provided very favourable feedback for the Designer Websites team who worked on the website.

The website contains automated feeds from costume suppliers as well as allow the owners to add in their own products and products from other suppliers. The ecommerce website has a fully automated ordering process for some of the suppliers of costumes and a semi-automated ordering process for other suppliers. The website is very optimised, very sophisticated and actually looks pretty good.. we think anyway!

If you are looking for a fancy dress costumes website then we highly recommend these guys.. check out Zule at Fancy Dress Costumes.