I have helped out a few people in the forums by auditing their websites and making recommendations. I have found that many of these websites have the same general problems and I would like to share these findings with everyone. By making these changes to your website you are sure to see an improvement in rankings and hopefully and improvement in traffic.
Problem: Bad choice of keywords.
Explanation: Keywords are everything in SEO. You need make sure you are using keywords that people are searching for and that are not too competitive (good luck ranking for “weight loss”). More importantly, you need to make sure you are using these keywords in your meta title and in your page copy. If you don’t have the right keywords, your pages will struggle to rank.
Solution: Use Google’s Keyword Tool (https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal) to see how many monthly searches certain keywords have. Just enter some keyword phrases that you think apply to your website and Google will suggest a list of keywords along with the monthly searches for each one. The rule of thumb is only one or two keyword phrases per page. The tool also has a competition meter showing you how competitive each keyword is. This meter refers to the competition in Google AdWords (pay-per-click) and while it will give you a general idea of the search competition, it is not very accurate.
Problem: Lack of keyword usage in page copy and meta titles.
Explanation: One of the biggest factors that cause a page to rank is keyword usage in the meta title. That said, if you have very little or no copy on a page, you will be severely disadvantaged and most likely will not rank well for the target keywords.
Solution: Place your targeted keywords at the beginning of the meta title and try to keep your meta title below 70 characters (Google cuts off after 70 characters). Make sure you have a good amount of copy on your pages with your keywords used throughout it. The general rule of thumb is to use your keywords 1-3 times for a short copy block and 4-6 times for longer page copy. For a great guide outlining how to optimized a page check out http://www.seomoz.org/blog/perfecting-k ... timization. (This is a MUST READ for all e-commerce webmasters)
Problem: Duplicate Content
Explanation: Duplicate content refers to exact or even similar text that is found on multiple web pages. This can occur either within a website or between multiple websites. If you copy and paste your product descriptions from the manufacturer or another source, chances are those pages won’t rank well because of the way Google deals with duplicate content. Google can penalize the rankings of that page and sometimes even remove it from the index. If there is too much duplicate content throughout the website as a whole (100s or 1000s) of pages, there is a possibility your website as a whole will be penalized and your traffic will drop significantly. Lately duplicate content has been a bigger focus in the SEO community because of the “Farmer/Panda” update in February that penalized many sites for having large amounts of duplicate content.
Solution: Make sure your copy is unique and write unique copy. This is obviously easier said than done when you have hundreds or thousands of products. If you do have a large site than just focus on your most valuable pages and work your way down. There was a recent article that addressed this issue in great deal: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/fat-pandas-and-thin-content.
Problem: Not enough inbound links from other websites.
Explanation: Having links to your website from other websites has the HIGHEST impact on rankings than any other factor. If your website is new and has less than 10 inbound links, don’t be surprised if your pages aren’t ranking well.
Solution: I wish there was a nice step by step guide for building links to your website but there’s not. Link building is the probably the most difficult part of SEO, which is probably why Google values it so highly (it’s not easy to manipulate). That said, here are some strategies you can use to get links to your website: http://www.seobook.com/archives/001792.shtml.
Note: Do not buy links unless you know what you’re doing. Buying links is against Google’s guidelines and by doing so you risk getting your website completely removed from the index. Please do not fall for the “1000 links for $10 deals.”
Problem: Not using search engine friendly URLS.
Explanation: Having keywords in the URL improves your page’s rankings and increases the chance that someone will click your page in the search engine results page (people tend to click on bolded text more). Also, longer URLs don’t rank as well as shorter URLS. Compare yourdomain.com/index.php?route=product/category&path=37 with yourdomain.com/sports-footwear/
Solution: Use SEO Friendly URLs. In your admin panel, navigate to System -> Settings and click on the “Server” tab. Here you can tell OpenCart to “Use SEO URL’S”. Make sure you follow the instructions and rename htaccess.txt to .htaccess.
Problem: Two versions of the website exist – http://www.yoursite.com and yoursite.com (non-www)
Explanation: In Google’s eyes, every URL is a different webpage. When Google crawls your website it sees two different pages even though to you it is the same page (http://www.yoursite.com and yoursite.com). In general Google is pretty good about deciding which page to use, but with e-commerce sites that have 100s or 1000s of pages, don’t take that chance. Also, if a http://www.yoursite.com has 10 links and yoursite.com (non-www) has 10 links, you are dividing your “link juice.” By consolidating these pages with a 301 redirect you can get the benefit of all 20 links to one page.
Solution: Choose which version you want, www or non-www, and stick with it. Assuming you have a .htaccess file, 301 Redirect the non-www version to the www version, or vice versa, in the .htaccess file (Instructions: http://www.seobook.com/archives/001714.shtml). Also, go to Google WebMaster Central and navigate to Site Configuration -> Settings. Then next to “Preferred domain” choose the version you would like Google to use.
Beginner’s Guide to SEO - http://www.seomoz.org/beginners-guide-to-seo
Learn SEO in 15 minutes - http://www.webconfs.com/15-minute-seo.php
How Search Engines Value Links - http://www.seomoz.org/blog/10-illustrat ... n-of-links
Link Building for Small E-Commerce Sites - http://www.seomoz.org/blog/link-buildin ... erce-sites
I hope this helps, if you have any questions feel free to post them here and I will do my best to answer them.
To the developers of OpenCart here is my SEO wish list:
- Ability to add rel=”canonical” tag to category and product pages
- Custom meta titles for category and manufacturer pages
- Custom meta titles and descriptions for information pages
- Breadcrumbs that don’t link to the non-seo friendly URL of the page for information pages