So we’ve talked a lot about how you can optimize your blog posts, but if you’re an e-commerce business, blog posts may not necessarily be the most lucrative aspect of your website for your customer experience. Instead, you’re probably focusing on getting your customers to spend time on your product pages.
So learning how to optimize your product pages is super important to bring the right customers to your website and get them to buy your products!
Now, just because you have an e-commerce business doesn’t mean you can’t blog – you just might not need to because you might have enough in your product descriptions to bring people right in for exactly what you’re selling. The benefit of potentially having dozens or hundreds of different products is that you can optimize each one of those pages for different target keywords.
Product listings vs. blog posts: How are they optimized differently?
Product listings and blog posts are different types of content and therefore show up differently on your website. They have a lot of similarities between them, especially in the way that they’re optimized and the places where you can put those specific target keywords.
Their page goals are different
For many blog posts, the goal is education. And maybe at the end of your blog post, you can try to get people to sign up for your email newsletter.
Whereas the goal of a product description page is a sale. You don’t need to tell a story and you don’t need to educate your readers. By the time people make it to your product listing, they’re either going to buy or they’re not, so they may not need that much more education that would come in the form of a blog post.
The page structure varies
Blog posts tend to be a little bit more long-form content. They might have a story and are typically more structured (broken up with section headings and images) because the goal is to talk people through a transformation in a blog post.
Whereas a product listing is structured in a different way. It typically will include a title, the description, and how to buy it. It gets to the point much quicker.
Images are used differently
In a blog post, an image supports the idea that you’re trying to get across; The blog post is more focused on the text.
Whereas on your product listing, you want to give people as many ways as possible to visualize themselves using that product – so images are key.
So you’ve gotten a better idea of how blog posts and product pages are different. Now, what can do we do to optimize those product pages? Keep on reading for 5 tips!
Product Page Tip #1: Check your SEO title tag
You want to make sure that whatever shows up on the Google search engine results page reflects what that product actually is. A good rule of thumb is to include two to three keywords in your SEO title so that people can find it.
Remember that your SEO title tag is only 67 characters, so you have a really limited amount of space here. Here are some things to take into consideration when titling your products for SEO:
- What are one or two things that you want people to know about that product?
- What are the search terms people might be looking for when it comes to this exact product?
- How is this product different from the other products in your shop?
For example, you would want to name your SEO title, “Black Dress With Ruffle Sleeves” instead of something vague like, “Dresses”. This title includes those specific search terms people might be looking for and it differentiates the dress from other dresses in your shop.
Product Page Tip #2: Nail your meta description
When you’re thinking about the SEO for your product listings, your meta description is super important. This is the text description underneath the blue text on the Google search engine results.
The title tag (the blue text) is really what Google is paying attention to while the meta description (the black text) is more about what you want your searcher to know about that product.
There’s a real person out there who might be looking for exactly what you’re selling. And when your product shows up in the search results, they’ve got a bunch of other search results there. So this might be the time to appeal to them with something that’s not quite tangible.
You might say something about the softness of a sweater or the experience of what it’s like to have that plant in your office.
This might also be a place to show some of your personality or include some “behind the scenes” of what went into that product.
What can you say in your meta description to make people want to click through to your website instead of the other nine listings on that page?
Product Page Tip #3: Check your headline
Okay, cool. So someone clicked from Google over to your website! Now you’ve gotta take a look at your headline, or H1 tag which in most e-commerce websites is also your product name.
Now, whatever you put here doesn’t necessarily have to be the same description that you have in your SEO title. This could be a place where you let some of your personality shine through.
So if you’re selling a painting of Nantucket, you might have your SEO title be a bit more informational – something like “Nantucket beach with seagulls oil painting 24×36”.
And then the meta description might say something like, “If you’re envisioning a weekend at the beach, and you want to bring it home with you, here’s how you can bring that little piece of Nantucket into your home office.”
And then your product name can be a combination of these two things. Like, “Whimsy Nantucket inspired beach with bright white seagull painting”.
The title, meta description, and headline don’t all have to be the same, but they should all have the idea of what people are looking for in those key places.
Product Page Tip #4: Images & videos
For product pages, images are really important. So you want to make sure to take all of the best practices of image SEO and apply them to your product pages. (Maybe you even want to have a product video available for people to watch!)
The person who’s searching for your product wants to think of themselves wearing your clothes, hanging your painting on their wall, having their books on your bookshelf. So having that visual representation of what your product can be like in their lives is so important.
So think about all the ways that a person could potentially interact with what you’re selling. Some good ideas are:
- a video of somebody using the product
- an image of somebody holding the product to show its size
- a mock-up of the product in a real space
- a rendering of what the product could potentially look like in someone’s room/home
The takeaway here: the more information that you can give visually, the better.
And once you’ve shown how people can visualize themselves with these products, now make sure that Google knows what’s in the images. Here are the 3 places you can optimize an image:
- File name: When you upload the image from your desktop to your website, give it a descriptive file name. Google is way more likely to understand yellow-umbrella.jpg than IMG_1724.jpg. (Pro tip: For file names, you should include dashes or underscores between words; Google would think that “yellowumbrella” is a whole ‘nother word.)
- Alt text: Every image on your site has a place for you to include a description called “alt text” (which stands for ‘alternative,’ like if the image doesn’t load). In almost all platforms, you can add alt text hovering over the image and clicking “edit,” or it can be added at the same time that you upload the image.
Alt text can be more conversational than file names, but have all the information people might be looking for about that image. An example could be “Couple shares first kiss at The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville, TN | Wedding photography by (brand name).” That way if people are looking for wedding details at that venue, your image might show up in the Google image search, and they could potentially click through to your website to see more.
- Caption: On some platforms, you also have the option to include a caption to go underneath the image. You can leave this out entirely if the relevant information is in the body text, or think of this like a shorter descriptor that goes with the image.
Think of the caption like a wall label under the paintings at a gallery — you probably don’t need to explain what’s in the image, because they can see it, but they might want more details about what’s in it.
Pro tip: File names and alt text are only visible within the code, but captions are visible to any visitor on your site.
E-commerce images aren’t just for looking pretty or growing your brand awareness; they’re a key part in the sales process, so the photography tips are a little different! Here are some image SEO best practices straight from Shopify.
And the last key element of the product page: the ever-elusive product description …
Product Page Tip #5: Have a good product description
I’ll be honest, writing product descriptions for SEO isn’t easy, because sometimes, the information that you know you need to include is yawn-inducing. BUT.
The product description is really important, not only in explaining to users why they should buy the product, but also in helping Google to send the right traffic to the product page.
If you’re selling something physical, you want to include the height, weight and the materials that are used. You can use an accordion drop-down or bullet points in the description so people can easily see whether or not that bookshelf will fit into their house.
Include info like delivery information, if it’s a physical product or a digital download. Is shipping included? What’s the shipping cost?
Any information that you can give about how people will receive your product can be helpful here as well as any features and benefits of the product.
Don’t forget to ask for reviews! Nearly all e-commerce software allows you to easily collect & display product reviews, and these are incredibly helpful not only to help users to trust that your product is awesome but also as additional searchable content that could help you rank for terms you wouldn’t have considered.
My product listing is short. Is that considered thin content?
Let’s define the term “thin content” for those who aren’t familiar. Some people think “Thin content” means “low word count,” and while that CAN be associated with thin content (and is often a factor), Google doesn’t actually care about word count, it cares about VALUE.
Back in the early days of search engines, SEO was a lot shadier: lots of keyword stuffing, bad copywriting, and duplicate text across multiple pages. Google was basing rankings on quantity (the number of times a word shows up on a given page or site) instead of quality (something that people are actually looking for and want to read).
Thankfully, in the past decade, the Google algorithm has gotten more complex and smarter, and pays attention to more than word count or keyword density … factors like whether people return to Google search results, how much time they spend on the page, etc.
But there’s still a prevalent myth that for SEO, short content is “thin” (bad) and long content is “rich” (good).
But what if I have limited information to share about the product? What’s the minimum word count of a product page?
I always wince at the question, because the answer is “as long as they need to be, to give the reader what they need.” There is no minimum word count for good SEO.
With educational cornerstone content, this often looks like a long-form blog post of 2000-3000 words. But that doesn’t mean that every page or post or product on your site needs to be 2500 words or it won’t rank. Far from it! I have pages on my site that rank well that have 500 words … because they answer the question people are searching for!
So back to the question at hand: Are short product listings considered thin content?
The answer: Maybe. But the distinction is not only based on the word count.
If you include the bare minimum, it’s probably thin content. If you copy/paste someone else’s description of the product, it’s probably thin content. If you don’t think about what people would be looking for when they’re searching for that product, it’s probably thin content.
(Ok, now this is starting to sound like Jeff Foxworthy’s old “You might be a redneck” jokes, so I’ll knock it off.)
So the REAL question inside the question here is not “is it thin content?” but “how do I make sure it’s NOT thin content?” And that answer is: Give as much value as possible.
Think of every question somebody could ask about that product. Answer it. Tada! Your content has value, and therefore it shouldn’t be penalized as thin.
(And if you really have nothing to say about the value of the product, ask yourself, “Is this really something I want to sell?”)
3 tips to differentiate similar product listings
Now, this is often where people get a little bit stuck because they have products that are really similar in their shop.
And so if you have 20 different kinds of bookshelves, and the only difference is their size, but you use the same materials when creating them, there are a couple of things you can do to make sure that you’re setting your products apart from each other and not getting penalized for duplicate content across multiple products. Here are three tips to help with product listings that are really similar:
- Consolidate your product listings.
If you have five t-shirts in five different colors and five different sizes, that doesn’t mean you need 25 different product pages. That might mean you need one product with two dropdowns, each having five options in that dropdown. This way, you can really spend some time building up the SEO of that t-shirt instead of trying to spread it out between 25 different pages and have them all competing against each other.
- Create a product category
Another option is to create a product category and try to get the category to rank for the overarching term. Then you can give more specific details in the individual product pages.
If you have seven different herbal tea blends, you don’t want each one of those seven pages attempting to rank for the term “herbal tea blend” because they’ll be competing against each other. Instead, you can have a product category for herbal tea blends, and then you can include a lot of different information in those specific products without each of them trying to rank for the overarching category.
- Add shop-wide links
If you have things that are going to show up across all your pages, you can just create shop-wide links, and then include them in your footer and maybe link to them from the product listings.
So if your shipping policy is the same across all of your products, just say, “Here’s a link to our shipping policies” so you don’t have that same block of information about shipping on every product page.
I do recommend optimizing your product description pages before you start creating educational content for your website, so when people eventually get to the educational content, you can lead them directly to the corresponding product description page and they can go buy your products.