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Tips on optimising an ecommerce website – advice to a friend

I was recently sent an email from a marketing friend who is in the process of putting together an ecommerce website. She was interested in my seo advice on optimising an ecommerce website. I thought it would be useful to share my thoughts:

seo advice from internet search marketing expertHer email (anonymised) went something like this:

“Hi Simon,
Long time, no hear!

I’m being asked to build an e-commerce site in Magento and SEO it. It will start off with 250 to 500 items. That is a lot of pages to individually SEO!

Is there any way to just bunch the site into categories and then write 250+ word unique content for each category and still have a chance in hell of the products showing up on Google?

How would you go about SEO-ing a brand new ecommerce site? It will specialize in XXXX products. They already have a successful business selling their products on eBay and Amazon, have a 10,000 person emailing list and other ways to send traffic, which we’ll put into action once we have a site for them. The big questions are:

  1. Is it worth trying to SEO the site generally?
  2. If so, how?

By the way, they are also going to create their own XXXX products and we will be creating specific pages for those products and SEOing those specific products, the question is should we try to SEO the whole site and if so, how?

I would be very interested in your input for this very low-budget project!!!”

I’ve done this a fair few times myself and I’m deep in the middle of getting an ecommerce project off the ground at the moment, so I’ve got some thoughts on it. Here’s my reply (with a few bits chopped out for obvious reasons):

“SEO the site as best you can, it’s going to take a long time to get it to build up if the market is competitive, you’re lucky that they’ve got their own products as you can focus on those – especially if they’ve got a bit of a brand themselves. Do they also sell other people’s branded products? That’s always a good place to start.

The secret to getting an ecommerce site to rank is to go to town on the categorisation. I mean create multiple tree structures that are heavily silo’d and deeply interlinked with keyword rich anchors – create a lot of categories, even if you’ve just created a category for one of two products – be really specific and niche in the categories, they’re your long tail pages and you’ll be surprised how many you will get. I’d say for 500 products you could have as many as 100 different category pages, maybe more. Be creative.

Once you’ve done that and the site is live, they’re going to have to create content and a lot of it! Don’t expect a lot back in return from the content creation for a year or so.

So my advice would do what you can with the SEO, get going with the content but segment out the email database and concentrate on marketing to that to get things moving.”

Of course there’s any amount of advice you can give in these situations and this was just a quick reply to an old friend – however I thought I’d share it here.

How would you have advised someone if they made this request?

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