Practical Ecommerce

2017 SEO Checklist for Product Detail Pages

Product detail pages are an online merchant’s most potent persuasion and conversion tools. Making those pages findable and desirable on search engine results pages should therefore be an important strategy.

For the most part, it is on a product detail page that a shopper will decide whether to buy a product. So these pages, first and foremost, should provide a good, productive user experience.

Know Where SEO Fits

Imagine for a moment that a new restaurant has opened up. Its owner invests heavily in local SEO, so that when a local consumer searches for a restaurant on Google or Bing, this restaurant comes up at top of the list. But when you go to the restaurant for dinner, the food is mediocre at best. The owner tells you he’d decided to build traffic first and, after that, he was going to focus on his food.

This would not make much sense for a restaurant — or an online store. The experience in the restaurant or on a product detail page should take priority over getting folks to it. So, as a prerequisite to focusing on SEO, ensure your product pages have all of the information your visitors need to make an informed buying decision. Put conversion optimization ahead of SEO.

After that, review the following product-detail-page SEO checklist for to attract new shoppers.

Ensure your product pages have all of the information your visitors need to make an informed buying decision. Then focus on SEO.

Ensure your product pages have all of the information your visitors need to make an informed buying decision. Then focus on SEO.

2017 SEO Checklist for Product Detail Pages

1. SEO-friendly product descriptions. After providing your shoppers with useful information about the product in view, a product description should use the language your prospects use to search for products like the one you’re selling — think keyword research). It should present this information in a way that is unique to your site and your brand.

If SEO is your goal, it is almost never acceptable to use a manufacturer’s product description. Rather a custom, well-done product description is likely to be much better for SEO.

Recently, an account manager from a major SEO agency was trying to sell me a solution that, in part, duplicated product content on thousands of sites. She repeatedly said, “Google says there is no duplicate content penalty.”

Technically, this is true. Google has gone out of its way to say it does not penalize things like duplicate product descriptions, but it also does not reward them.

Imagine for a moment a sprinter stepping up to the blocks before a race, but rather than wearing track shoes, this runner has chosen to wear heavy, steel-toed work boots. Technically, there is no penalty for trying to sprint in work boots, but you’re still likely to go slower. This is analogous to using a product description duplicated on other ecommerce websites.

2. JSON-LD or microdata structured content. Structured data markup helps search engines identify product information and display that information in rich results, potentially increasing how many clicks the product page will earn on a search engine results page.

You’ll have a couple of options for product detail page structured content, including Schema.org’s product, offer, and review vocabulary and the more recent JSON for Linking Data standard — JSON-LD.

Structured data markup enables rich results on Google and Bing.

Structured data markup enables rich results on Google and Bing.

In either case, you’re helping software systems, like a search engine bot, better understand the information on your product detail pages.

3. Fast load time. Depending on which expert or study you choose, somewhere between 40 percent and 60 percent of shoppers will abandon your ecommerce website and go to a competitor’s if a product detail page takes longer than one or two seconds to load.

Of the patient few who do wait more than a couple seconds for a product page to load, perhaps, 70-to-80 percent — again depending on which study you choose — won’t buy, because your site’s poor performance makes them think your business is not professional or trustworthy.

And Google has said it considers page speed to be a ranking factor, particularly for mobile search.

4. Unique product page title tags.  Page title tags go a long way toward helping customers and search engines understand what a page is about. So be certain to include a specific and descriptive title for every product.

Search engine optimizers usually recommend page titles that include one or two descriptive phrases — keyword phrases — and a site’s brand name, separated with pipes or, perhaps, a hyphen.

Keyword phrase one - phrase two | Brand name

In the case of product detail pages, you may wish to include the product manufacturer’s name or brand name and even the product’s specific part number. The aim is to include the keywords your potential customers are likely to use when they search for this product on Google, Bing, or similar.

5. Metadata descriptions.  Think of the metadata on your site’s product detail pages like a little ad that will show up on a search engine’s results page and entice folks to click on your organic listing over another store’s listing.

Writing a good metadata description is both an art and a science. You’ll want to be brief — about 160 characters or less. Use active verbs, and include a call to action meant to encourage a click.

6. Good image tags.  This one should be fairly easy to check off of your product detail page SEO to-do list. Simply ensure that you have good and descriptive alt tags for your images. There is evidence that search engines use image alt tags as an indication of what your page is about.

7. Social media tags and share buttons. Include Facebook Open Graph tags, Twitter Summary Card tags, and the standard complement of social media share buttons.

While some SEO professionals will be quick to point out that Google, as an example, has said repeatedly that it does not use social share counts in its algorithms, there is a strong and noticeable correlation between pages with a significant number of social shares and pages that rank well in search engines.

What’s more, we should probably broaden our definition of SEO to include searches conducted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and similar sites. Open Graph tags are likely to play a role in findability on these sites.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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Comments ( 5 )

  1. Jerry Leach May 22, 2017 Reply

    Good guidance and essential to carry out to be successful with and online store. I became very frustrated with the lack of tools to properly analyse a web page for the Keywords and text on the page so I built one myself – http://www.webtextanalyzer.com which shows a full breakdown of every aspect of the text on a page.

    This is essential to get the best on page optimisation. It also displays a comparison page side by side so you can take a competitor and see what they are doing with their text. As I explain to all of my clients, there is no point having a page which emphasises Fishing Equipment if you are trying to sell Wellington Boots.

  2. Roger England May 22, 2017 Reply

    Armando, a good summary of the on-page SEO priorities for ecommerce sites. Totally agree with getting the customer experience right above all else – get that wrong and its irrelevant how much traffic you atttact to your site.

    • Armando Roggio May 22, 2017 Reply

      Thank you, Roger.

  3. Rose May 24, 2017 Reply

    Question for you. We have our own eCommerce site, and while we have our own brand, 90% of the items are other brands’ products.

    On Amazon, we’re adding many of our items that are already in Amazon’s catalog.

    We’ve been invited to Walmart’s marketplace, and they’re asking for product descriptions for a huge number of the product catalog, since they don’t have them on the marketplace already, like Amazon does.

    If we just copy + paste our original site descriptions we’ve created for our site, that’s duplicate content, right? My thought is doing that would hurt our site in the long-term. What do you think about it? I’m not sure how to proceed with Walmart.

    • Armando Roggio May 28, 2017 Reply

      This is a case wherein, I would try to use the product manufacturer’s description for the items listed on the Walmart marketplace.

      A.