When I am asked to take a look at the SEO of an ecommerce site, 9 times out of 10 there is a major issue that immediately leaps out – lack of content.
Hundreds (or indeed thousands) of product pages with 1 line descriptions, or worse still product descriptions which have been copied verbatim from the product manufacturer, or a competitor’s site (naughty, naughty).
So, what to do?
Well, there are two options.
Option 1: De-index Product Pages
The first one is to take the radical step of deindexing all your product pages. You can do this through the use of a robots noindex tag, or by blocking product pages completely through robots.txt.
This is the nuclear option and definitely not the one I would recommend.
Certainly it will clear up the problem of thin content, but you are also losing the ranking potential of all those internal pages. This pretty much defeats the purpose of what you are trying to achieve, particularly as a visitor coming directly into a product page will be targeted traffic – exactly the kind we want.
So, what is the other option?
Option 2: Get Writing!
To achieve real rankings success with your ecommerce site and get the edge over your competitors (which is what we’re aiming for right?), you should aim to have a 250-300 word product description for every product.
This must be unique content, written for your site. Not only that, it should also be well written and compelling – after all it is your chance to sell your product to a potential customer.
Now, if you have hundreds or thousands of products this will be a daunting task. So what to do?
Condense Your Catalogue
The first thing to do is take a review of your product range.
Are there products which can be condensed?
For example if you sell a red widget, a green widget, a blue widget and an aqua marine widget with pink polkadots and they all have separate product pages, you would probably be better having just one page for widgets with an option to select the colour you want. This is both a better experience for your visitors and is also reducing clutter from your site’s index.
And of course it will be much easier and quicker to write a good quality product description for one widget page than writing four separate product descriptions for what is essentially the same product.
So, taking a long hard look at your catalogue should hopefully reduce the number of products/pages, what next?
Not Enough Hours In The Day?
Let’s say you have 300 product descriptions to write.
For the sake of illustration we’ll say each 300 word description will take you about 30 minutes to write. Remember, we’re not just throwing words down onto the page for the sake of it, we want a compelling, well written description for each product.
So, it’s going to take 150 hours to write our 300 product descriptions. Assuming an 8 hour working day, that’s about 20 days.
There are roughly 20 working days in a month, so you could sit for one month doing nothing but writing product descriptions. Great, the only problem is that after a few days you will probably have lost the will to live and after a week you are liable to be heading for the top of the nearest tall building.
So, is there a better approach?
Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day!
Apologies for the oft used cliche, but it is pertinent to what is I believe a good approach to building up your site’s content.
Instead of trying to hammer through your descriptions as quickly as you can, why not aim to write say 4 product descriptions a day?
In a week you will have written 20, in a month 80 and after 4 months you will have 300 shiny new product descriptions ready to leap up the rankings and importantly will have retained your sanity.
There is an argument to say that google will also look favourably on a gradual increase in the site’s content as opposed to a smash of 300 new product descriptions all at once.
Work Your Way Down The Tree
Hopefully you will agree that this is a much better tactic for building up your content. To maximise the benefit you should also work your way down the tree as it were.
Organise your products by popularity and start with the most popular first, working your way through writing the descriptions until you get to the obscure ones at the bottom of the list at the end of the period.
This way your popular products will be the first to start to see ranking gains.
Pro tip: Before you even start on products I would make sure that there is good content (300 words minimum) on your category pages – this is the level up the tree.
Another good way of building the content for your product pages (and indeed increase sales) is to offer the facility for customers to add product reviews.
This should not however be a substitute for a well written, unique product description. Combine them both for ranking glory!
Beefing up the content of your product pages will: -
1) Stop any potential Panda thin content penalties
2) Increase text content on your site, which will lead to an increase in long tail traffic and also allow your product pages to rank
If you have an ecommerce site and thin content is an issue, then don’t put this off! Start planning today and get writing those descriptions (or hire a content writer…) as soon as possible.
The quicker you start, the quicker your site will start to move up the rankings and before you know it those aqua marine widgets with pink polkadots will be flying off the shelves!
Do you have any other tips for building up your content you would like to share or any questions? Please feel to leave a comment below.
This article was written by David McSweeney. David is a programmer, blogger and SEO expert from Scotland, who writes about all things internety at his SEO and internet marketing blog Top 5 SEO and spends pretty much the rest of his time playing his guitar and listening to The Beatles back catalogue on a loop. You can follow David on twitter @top5seo
Image Credit: commerce.