Setting up an ecommerce website can be a daunting task, it feels like you have to learn a hundred different skills and use them all at the same time. It feels like you could be making all sorts of mistakes without even realizing it, and it can feel like the only way to avoid that is to become a master in so many different fields.
We understand, and we’ve broken down 5 of the most common errors that we notice among new eCommerce stores, to help you get off to a great start. Whether you’ve already launched, or you’re still on your way, keep these 5 things in mind and you’ll be well ahead of the pack.
1. Using Canonical Tags
Duplicate content is a serious concern for large eCommerce sites (and every other site, for that matter), especially if they have a lot of similar products, or SKUs where the only difference might be the color, the size, or other minor details. Search engines aren’t going to be too pleased if they’re picking up a ton of duplicate content on your site, so using canonical tags gives you the opportunity to let them know which page is your main page for any given topic.
Another area where this can be an issue is if one product is listed in multiple categories on the site. Here is a useful resource for more info on how to set this up correctly according to your site’s content.
2. Page Response Codes
Page response codes are a helpful way to understand a number of different errors or statuses that can occur. HTTP statuses are coded as follows:
- 1xx: Informational.
- 2xx: Success.
- 3xx: Redirection.
- 4xx: Client error.
- 5xx: Server error.
Here’s a helpful resource from Shopify with more information.
3. Using HTTPS instead of HTTP
The extra S stands for secure, and what this addition does is encrypt data that travels between your visitor’s web browser and your website. This security protocol is crucial when it comes to sending payments or personal information, and it’s your responsibility as the shop owner to make sure that your security is on point.
You may have heard of an SSL certificate or been asked to buy one when you registered your domain or webhosting if you’re running a self-hosting store, and we strongly recommend you do this. If you’re using a platform like Shopify, Wix, or Weebly, this transition should be a bit easier, but it’s not that tricky to do if you’re self-hosted either. Reach out to your eCommerce platform or your webhost and they’ll be able to help you with this process.
4. Segmented Sitemaps
With so many categories, tags, products, and even blog pages and articles, a sitemap can be really helpful in terms of letting search engines, and your customers, know exactly where to find everything. These days, they’re more for the crawlers than for actual customers to use for navigation, but it’s still a very important part of a website, and you definitely need to consider generating an xml sitemap if you don’t have one yet. You can use a plugin like Yoast SEO, if your site is based on WordPress, to help you generate a sitemap.
Segmenting the sitemap can further increase the effectiveness of it. Not every page needs to be crawled and updated by search engines with the same frequency. Products that never change could be in one segment, blog posts could be in another, to ensure that your latest posts are getting indexed as quickly as possible.
You can submit sitemaps from within Google Webmaster Tools.
5. Categories and Tags
Whether you’re using WordPress or a different CMS, chances are it will have some sort of tag and category feature to help you organize your content. They work similarly to one another, and you can use them in whichever way is most intuitive for your site and what you’re trying to categorize.
A general strategy is to use categories for product categories. For example, a clothing store might have a shirt category, a pants category, an accessories category, and so on. Then, they could use tags to help differentiate between different traits, for instance they could tag the colors of each garment, whether it is for men or women, or tags could be based on the materials used, or sizes, and so on.
This allows your visitors to easily add filters to their search, for example they may want to see all women’s shirts, or everything for men from every category. Another option would be to create different categories for men’s shirts, women’s shirts, men’s pants, women’s pants, and so on, but you end up with a lot of categories, and less flexibility by going that route.