For some of us, the holiday season is a chance to put our feet up, take a break from our usual routines, sip hot chocolate by the fire, and enjoy time with family and friends.
But relaxation is the last thing on a retailer’s mind between November and December.
Why? Because the holiday shopping season can make or break retail revenue for the year. This is where a thorough ecommerce SEO audit comes in handy.
Holiday sales account for about 19% of total retail sales. But the figure is even higher for some retailer sectors. Also, holiday sales are often more profitable because the increase in volume comes without significantly increasing retailers’ fixed costs of doing business.
Unfortunately, this often means that ecommerce SEO takes a back seat to more pressing issues like processing orders, shipping packages, restocking inventory, and dealing with customer service inquiries.
Before you know it, you’re neglecting your ecommerce optimization, which causes you to lose out on valuable organic search traffic and sales.
Here are seven common ways SEO slips for your ecommerce site during the holidays and how you can turn it back around once the dust settles.
Let’s dive in.
SEO Ecommerce Tips to Keep an Eye Out For
1. Broken links
Broken links are one of the most common SEO slip-ups during the holiday season.
How often have you wanted to buy something from an ecommerce store only to find that it’s sold out? It’s a common problem and can sometimes cause broken links.
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For example, your online store ran out of stock on a particular product or size because it was so popular or went viral on TikTok. Or maybe your sale period has ended, and you haven’t updated your site to reflect this new information.
Whatever the reason, broken links are a colossal pain impacting SEO in a variety of different ways:
- Broken links create a terrible user experience, leading to higher bounce and lower conversion rates.
- Search engines may penalize websites with broken links, as they may perceive the site as low-quality or spammy.
- Search engines stop crawling your site once they detect a broken link and move on to the next result. Any content after the broken link won’t be indexed or ranked.
- Broken links can cause your website to load slowly, negatively impacting your SEO.
As such, fixing any broken links on a website is essential to maintaining good technical SEO. Leverage an SEO tool like Semrush or Ahrefs to perform a site audit and help you identify your broken links.
To avoid any issues with broken links when you are conducting ecommerce SEO audits, ensure that any outdated information on your ecommerce site is promptly updated and removed.
Depending on the circumstances, you can also use redirects or a 404 page.
For instance, if you are planning to receive new inventory for a sold-out product soon, you can use a 302 redirect.
A 302 redirect passes HTTP requests from one page to another. This temporary redirect helps preserve the old URL’s search engine rankings while you work on updating the inventory.
Plus, it directs users to another relevant page to prevent them from bouncing. But don’t forget to turn it off once the inventory is replenished.
Use a 301 permanent redirect when your item goes out of stock for good. Point the page to another relevant product you think your customers might like.
Lastly, create a custom 404 page for when a user finds a broken link or types in an incorrect URL. Your page should include other helpful internal links and a short message to tell the user that the page doesn’t exist.
Check out this 404 page from Abercrombie & Fitch if you need a model to follow.
Not only does it include internal links and a quick message, but it also guides the user on what to do next: refresh the page or continue shopping with the CTA buttons.
2. Poor user experience
When Google searches your site, it also analyzes how users interact with your website. It looks at how long it takes them to find what they’re looking for and gives higher rankings to websites that perform well on these metrics.
A bad user experience (UX) due to broken links, slow page speeds, or confusing navigation menus can lead to fewer people converting to your site or leaving without purchasing anything.
If users can’t find what they’re looking for on your site, they’ll leave and go straight into the laps of your competitors. That means you’re losing traffic and potential customers.
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Also, less time spent on your site (which impacts the time on page metric) negatively impacts your ranking in the SERPs.
Keep in mind that people who run into issues on your site are also more likely to tell their friends about their bad experiences with your brand — and that can hurt both repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals. Both are crucial drivers of sales after the spike in holiday shopping is over.
As we reviewed the SEO tips for ecommerce websites above, leverage permanent and temporary redirects to solve your broken link issues.
It all comes down to adding a search bar on your website to tackle the confusing navigation. This feature is a must-have item on any ecommerce website.
When you sell hundreds (if not thousands) of products like Nordstrom does, there’s no way that a visitor is going to manually click through every product page to find what they are looking for.
The search bar allows users to find exactly what they are looking for in seconds.
Don’t forget to add a clean navigation menu at the top of your home page and on the left sidebar to encourage users to search by different categories.
We’ll share more details on how to improve page speed later in this post.
3. Lack of internal links
Placing internal links is probably the last thing on your mind when creating your holiday landing pages.
You’re more focused on getting your festive designs published before the end of October and properly categorizing your products into gift guides.
But internal links are one of the most underused SEO strategies. And they sound incredibly boring.
After all, it’s just a hyperlink that points from one page on your website to another page on your website.
But they’re critical to helping search engines understand the structure of your site, which allows them to index it properly. But most importantly, internal links help distribute page rank or link juice.
You want to link from high-authority pages to boost the authority of lower-authority pages on your site.
When appropriately placed on your product and landing pages, internal links also help improve the user experience by enhancing navigation to relevant content on your site.
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Even though adding internal links is a tedious process for many, it is vital that you conduct a thorough internal linking ecommerce SEO audit to improve your site.
If your website runs on WordPress, you can enlist the help of Link Whisper to speed up the process and help you rank better in Google.
Or you can take a page out of Lululemon’s book and add internal links to your product pages with a relevant product section.
As a rule of thumb, try incorporating at least 3–5 relevant internal links per page to other relevant products on your site.
4. Slow page speed
Let’s face it — every ecommerce site has thousands of images.
For every product you sell, you have at least three or four photos to show off the product from all angles. Plus, there’s one to show the context of the product in a realistic scenario. For instance, a luxury watch brand can show a photo of the watch in the box and on a model’s wrist.
When you rush to take all-new holiday pictures of your products and then get them uploaded to your site, it’s very easy to skimp on your standard image optimization tactics to improve page speed.
Maybe you forgot to save all your product photos as JPG files and instead uploaded heavier PNG files. Or you didn’t compress the images to the appropriate size. Both scenarios would harm your site speed.
Google uses site speed as one of its algorithm factors. If your site is slow or has performance issues, this could hurt your content’s ranking in the SERPs.
Additionally, a slow-loading website can turn off users and cause them to leave your page before they have even read what you have to say.
Every second counts. If a user clicks on your link and it takes too long to load, they’ll simply click back and find another, faster resource.
As a rule of thumb, your site should load within three seconds.
Thankfully, there are a few free Google marketing tools for marketers and developers that can help you test your page speed and point you in the right direction toward solving any issues it identifies.
You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see if your desktop and mobile site passed the Core Web Vitals Assessment.
If it passes, you’re good to go. If not, check out Google’s detailed explanation of what is slowing down your site.
5. Shortage of content
With the holidays in full swing, you focus on generating more sales, shipping orders, and keeping your customers happy.
But what about your content? It’s the most critical part of your SEO strategy — if you lose focus on it for even a few weeks, it can significantly impact your rankings and, therefore, your organic search traffic.
Therefore, when doing an ecommerce SEO audit, content optimization should be a major part of your strategy.
If you want your website to rank higher in Google search results, it’s essential to publish high-quality content regularly.
Google’s algorithms favor websites that provide users with a positive experience, and content is a vital part of that. By publishing well-written, informative articles for a targeted keyword, you can attract more visitors to your site and improve your chances of ranking higher in search results.
By consistently publishing new content, you can show Google (and your visitors) that your site is active and relevant, further improving your rankings.
So if you’re serious about improving your ecommerce SEO slip, focus on producing quality content regularly.
Holiday shopping guides and other middle and bottom-of-the-funnel content are always in high demand during the holidays.
People want to make informed decisions before they pull the trigger on a purchase. So help them by providing fresh, timely information while boosting your online visibility.
If you are short on resources or if writing isn’t your strong suit, leverage an AI blog writer to help you speed up the process and reduce any bottlenecks in your content workflow.
You can also repurpose content by refreshing it with new details every year. For instance, this extensive gift guide for pets looks like it was just published for the 2022 holiday season.
But if you look at some of the SEO metrics using Ahrefs, you can see that the page has already existed for over two years.
Even more astonishing is that it ranks for 5.9 million keywords and generates 19.6 million monthly organic traffic. Talk about a goldmine.
Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Save time and money by repurposing your past holiday content and building up authority over time.
6. Lackluster product pages
Your online store’s product pages are one of the most important areas of ecommerce SEO, so make sure you are taking the time to optimize them effectively. This might mean adding rich snippets and optimizing your title tags, meta descriptions, and URLs.
You can have the best site in the world, but without high-quality SEO for ecommerce product pages, your business will struggle to make sales.
One of the biggest mistakes people make with their product pages isn’t considering what their customers want to see in them.
There are lots of elements that can contribute to a good product page, but here are some ways you can make sure yours stands out:
- Include images that show off your products well
- Explain how each product works or why it’s useful (if necessary)
- Give customers an idea of what they can expect after making a purchase
- Share customer reviews as social proof
- Write detailed and compelling product descriptions
To prevent any detrimental damage to your site with lackluster product pages, focus on building high-quality pages that are more SEO-friendly.
Each ecommerce product page SEO should consist of unique and relevant content. This content should include proper product descriptions, keywords, and links to other relevant pages on your site.
Wayfair does an excellent job writing detailed product descriptions to share powerful insights with shoppers looking for more information about their furniture.
They also go above and beyond by mentioning items not included in the box upon shipment and other essential features.
Don’t forget to include high-quality images relevant to your selling products. It doesn’t hurt to have pictures of different colors and from different angles. These images should need alt text so that search engines can index them.
Finally, by adding internal links, ensure that your product pages are well-linked to the rest of your site. This will help search engines crawl and index your product pages more effectively.
With these essential SEO tips for ecommerce sites, you can create robust product pages that are both informative and SEO-friendly.
7. Messy URLs
When you sell many products online, keeping up with an organized URL structure can be highly challenging.
Every URL has to be unique and should relate to the product you are selling.
When you rush to get all of your pages ready for the most significant two months of the year, you probably aren’t double-checking every single URL string as often as you usually would.
This ecommerce SEO slip can lead you into dark waters down the road. The last thing you want is for Google to flag you for duplicate content.
To avoid this dreaded fate, stick with creating evergreen landing pages for all of your holiday sales events and gift guides. That way, you’ll only have one URL to manage, and it’ll slowly build up authority as you reuse it every year.
You should also follow a URL schema to organize category and product pages.
A good URL should be short, easy to remember and share, and descriptive of the page or product it leads to. Use keyword-rich URLs for specific pages on your site like “https://www.example.com/red-yoyo” or use category-based URLs if you have a lot of products with similar attributes like https://www.example.com/toys/red-yoyo.
The main idea is that you want to make sure search engines can easily understand your URLs so they know where they should send people when someone searches for something related to the URL itself.
Add canonical tags to prevent duplicate content on your e-commerce website.
When you offer products in multiple colors or sizes, using various pages with identical or similar content is common. This strategy can cause problems for search engines, which may struggle to index your site properly.
Canonical tags help solve this problem by telling search engines which version of a page is canonical (official). These tags ensure that Google only indexes one page and passes the link juice to the appropriate page.
Wrapping up the Most Significant SEO Ecommerce Tips
SEO is an essential part of any ecommerce business.
So if your dream is to eventually sell your online store, having a solid SEO strategy in place will help set you up for success and improve the valuation of your business.
Follow these tips to get your website back on track after any holiday SEO slippage, and keep your site at the top of the search engine results pages for years to come by conducting a regular and thorough ecommerce SEO audit.
Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant who specializes in influencer marketing, content marketing, and SEO. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Content Solutions, a digital marketing agency. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.