Let me first say that all credit goes to David McSweeney and the Ahrefs blog for this article. We at 1Digital liked these case studies so much that we just had to share them. If you want to learn about SEO, and you’re not reading their blog, get on over there!
Google’s algorithm can be a ruthless opponent. Cutting down sites left and right that it deems not up to snuff. The two case studies below describe two eCommerce sites that Google was penalizing for particular SEO mistakes, and how they turned it around. How they got their traffic back, and then some.
Before we jump in, you should first understand that in 2011 Google rolled out a new filter for their algorithm called Panda. Though named after the cutest of the bears, Panda was actually a ferocious predator. Panda was designed to penalize web pages that were content thin, according to 23 criteria that Google decided. As a result of this, the rankings for many eCommerce sites tanked. The success of the two case studies below depended largely on buffing their content, and working their way back into Google’s good graces.
Toy Universe – A lot of Little Problems
The main problem with Toy Universe’s approach to eCommerce SEO was everything. Fortunately, with Ahrefs’ help, they were able to increase their search traffic by 116% in just four months. In this section I’ll point out a couple of the content fixes that worked for Toy Universe, which 1Digtial Agency’s eCommerce SEO professionals also use in their approach.
Category Pages: Category pages are key pages for bringing traffic to an eCommerce site. Toy Universe had problems with both their tags and their content. Ahrefs took inconsistent tags and fit them all into a template format that included the intent keywords ‘buy’ and ‘online’. This quick change not only built consistency in search results, but it also connected the category pages to long tail keywords targeting customers who are ready to buy. The category pages were also lacking in unique content. Ahrefs simply wrote a unique description of each category, and added it to the page. This not only gives Google’s SEO robots something to find, but it also prevents content thin penalties.
Product Pages: Toy Universe had similar problems on their product pages. They rectified this by adding those same intent keywords to the tags on the product pages, and by beefing up the product descriptions. Ahref’s wrote unique descriptions for all products using a template that consisted of:
- Product name and secondary keywords
- Introductory paragraph
- Bullet pointed product features
- Closing paragraph
- Product video (if available)
Ahrefs also compressed product images so pages would load faster, and wrote unique meta descriptions to increase click through rate (CTR).
Blog: The Toy Universe blog was hosted elsewhere, not integrated into their site. This means that all that juicy content that Panda feeds on wasn’t helping the ranking for their eCommerce store. Ahrefs simply brought the blog and the store under the same roof.
There are a few other things that helped Toy Universe increase their traffic, but these examples of SEO mistakes speak to the central point. By making common sense changes, and putting the time into creating quality, unique content, your eCommerce store can get on Google’s good side. Sometimes you just need a professional to tell you where your site is missing the mark.
Spoiled Brat – One Fatal Mistake
The clothing retailer Spoiled Brat had been operating online for years, slowly climbing up and up in the rankings. Then Panda rolled out in 2011, and their rankings crashed and burned. Their traffic was down by 50% over the next few years.
It turned out that Spoiled Brat was making many of the same eCommerce SEO mistakes that Toy Universe was making (lack of content, duplicate content, etc.) but there was one feature that was destroying their ranking more than any other: their category menu.
The Spoiled Brat category menu allowed customers to filter by product type, brand, color, size, and more. While this is super convenient for shoppers, all these different variables created over 85,000 discrete pages connected to a 6,000 product store. This meant that Google was reading a massive amount of thin and duplicate content connected to Spoiled Brat’s site.
Ahrefs solved this by adding a tag (noindex,follow) to almost all the different category pages, besides the main categories and sub categories. Essentially this tells Google SEO robots to ignore pages with this tag. This allowed Spoiled Brat to keep their shopper friendly menu, but when Google re-crawled the site the number of pages it found dropped dramatically. Since that time the number of pages that Google registers as connected to Spoiled Brat’s site has dropped by about half, and their organic search traffic has started to return.
What this case study shows us is that something a simple as one web development choice has the power to undo years of SEO work. In Spoiled Brat’s case it was a menu that seemed like a great feature, but created an indexing problem. Bloated indexing will read as duplicate, thin content and will kill your SEO rankings. It will take every little problem with your on page content and multiply it by a staggering factor. Checking how your category pages are indexed should be one of the first things an eCommerce SEO marketing firm does when auditing your site.
What Have we Learned?
What you should take away from these case studies is that if your web page is not preforming well on Google there could be a myriad of reasons why. These problems are most likely very simple to correct, but not so simple to identify. If you correct these SEO mistakes, and have SEO friendly content creation habits, you’ll have a nice advantage over a lot of people in eCommerce who don’t bother with this stuff. Keep reading blogs like Ahrefs’ and ours to pick up tips and tricks, and keep your site ranking ahead of the competition. If you want to bring in some professional eCommerce SEO marketers to take a look under the hood, our top rated marketing team is always available to talk.
- Joe Chilson
- March 14, 2016