Although all evidence says that e-commerce and online product catalogs are the future of retail business on the web, many jewelers have been slow to deploy those types of websites. In preparation for this current holiday season, I was working on the search engine optimization (SEO) settings for several sites that either launched e-commerce sites or large product catalogs. I'll explain a few of those settings in this Daily Golden Nugget.
Many of the good content management systems and shopping carts have satisfactory built-in ways to manage SEO settings, but those systems need a lot of improvement. Most product catalogs are plagued with SEO issues like duplicate title tags, duplicate descriptions, duplicate content, thin content, and plagued with various canonical issues.
There's only one shopping cart I know of that had a reasonably good built-in way of handling these SEO settings, but I won't mention their name here. Send me an email or direct message through social media to find out who that is.
Some other shopping carts have extra widgets you can install to solve a few of these issues through automated means. Of course, you can have additional automation added to your website by a really good programmer who also understands SEO methods.
Here's a brief discussion of each of the above named issues and ideas on how to solve them.
Every page on your website has a Page Title. Most of the time, Google will display this page title as the large blue text in the search results. The page title is also absorbed into social media sites when you share the page from your site.
Most good shopping carts will display the product name as the page title; however there are inherent pitfalls with that specific approach because many products have the same name.
For example, think about how many 14k white diamond halo engagement rings styles you sell in the store. One site I worked on had 27 halo rings in their online catalog using the name "14k White Gold Diamond Halo Engagement Ring" for each one. Within Google Search Console, these 27 items appeared as 27 pages with duplicate title tags.
Google's webmaster guidelines recommend that every page of your site should have a unique title, and this includes individual product pages. Google has a few ways of dealing with duplicate page titles. Sometimes they change the title as shown in search results, and sometimes they just ignore all pages with those duplicates. You should never leave it up to Google to decide these things for you.
The best way to manage this situation is to have someone manually write the SEO settings for each product, but that's usually too time consuming for most retail jewelers. Alternatively, you could have your website programmer create a way to generate unique titles. This usually means adding the style number to the title or changing it in some way that will always auto-generate a unique result.
Successful online product catalogs have unique product descriptions for every item. The really successful sites will have a lot of product detail that even surpasses what a sales representative knows. Most of the jewelry products I find within online catalogs have no descriptions at all.
Most good shopping carts will use the product description as the meta description for the page. The meta description is absorbed into Google and social networks, and is shown as the descriptive blurb search results and in social shared posts.
In less sophisticated shopping carts, when you leave your product description blank in your catalog it causes the meta description to be blank, which is a detriment to your social networks. Google will attempt to scrape your page to glean something as a descriptive blurb.
I've witnessed a few systems where programmers tried to create automated description generators, but they are not foolproof at all. The best solution here is to manually write out unique product descriptions for every product.
Duplicate Product Content
Every page of your website is supposed to add some type of value to the internet. Google doesn't want to see duplicate content on your website that they already found somewhere else, sadly though, this duplicate content issue is creeping into the jewelry industry.
The setup process and cost to build your own e-commerce and product catalog website is high. There's no denying it. You'll either pay an agency a lot of money to do the work for you, or you pay an employee several months of payroll to do the work for you. You could also do it yourself, but usually leads to months and months of further delays because you have so many other responsibilities.
A few website agencies have created convenient methods of managing large product catalogs of jewelry products that are offered to individual retail jewelers. The best benefits of these systems are the low cost or the retail jeweler and the speed of which a website can be deployed. Simply choose which vendors to load onto the site and most of the work is done.
I regard these as entry-level product catalog systems because they have inherent SEO problems, namely, duplicate content. Every retail jeweler using these types of systems will have identical products, images, name, and descriptions because they are served from a single central database. According to Google's guidelines, this duplicate content should be avoided. In fact, the Google Panda filter is designed to block this type of duplicate content from appearing in search results.
I certainly agree and support the decision of a retail jeweler who wants to save money by using one of these centralized database services as their entry level website. Once you dig deep into the SEO that will make a product catalog thrive online it's easy to recognize the limitations imposed by a centralized database that you can't edit.
Thin Product Content
Similar to duplicate product content that doesn't add value to the internet, thin content also offers little or no value to your website and how customers find you in search results.
To put it simply, thin content is any page on your site that has very little unique content on it. This includes product catalog pages that only show a single photo along with the style number and no other details.
Many of the online jewelry catalogs I evaluate are devoid of product descriptions and product names, and some don't even have style numbers showing online next to the jewelry photos. In addition to the meta description issues mentioned above, these catalogs fall firmly into the category of thin content.
We can debate different points of view regarding jewelry product catalogs all day long. While I'd like to see all catalogs fully fleshed out with tons of product information, I recognize that you have to start small. It's okay if you have to build your product catalog with thin content initially, just as long as you keep in mind that it will not help with your search ranking. However, customers who do find your website will appreciate being able to browse your inventory.
I have to warn you that whenever you hear a website designer or programmer using the word "canonical" it's always in reference to some technical aspect of your website. A few years ago, the search engines recognized that duplicate content was accidentally running wild on some websites, so they introduced a hidden method to help identify what pages should be read, and what pages to ignore.
In tomorrow's Daily Golden Nugget, I explain the topics of canonical pages, and canonical previous and next settings.
Until then, give me a call, send an email, or direct message me though social media if you have specific questions and need help identifying and correcting any of the issues I've mentioned here today.