Tips for optimising and maintaining a large ecommerce product catalogue

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Does your ecommerce store have a large product catalogue?

Knowing how to organise a store with thousands of SKUs is something every large scale ecommerce company has to master to be successful online.

Why Is A Well Optimised Store Important?

A properly optimised ecommerce store is important for 3 reasons:

  1. Logically ordering your products helps users find what they want faster and easier.
    Less friction = Less drop out = More sales.
  2. Grouping and bucketing products correctly helps search engines like Google to better understand their relationships to one another, and serve more useful pages to users with buyer intent.
  3. Properly optimising and refining your product database makes maintenance and product updates easier. Saving you time and money.

1. Choose A Clear, Clean, Consistent Structure

With a large product set, choosing a clear, logical structure for your product catalogue is even more crucial than ever.

The way your organise and group products, tells users and search engines alike a lot about how those products relate to each other.

An appropriately nested category structure helps people and search engines to navigate their way up and down your product tree, quickly find what they’re looking for and also discover other related products on their journey too.

Let’s say you’re in the motoring industry…

You sell car parts for Ford cars, trucks and vans.

Clearly, your product database is going to be huge.

There are dozens of models of Ford vehicles. Each of those models has thousands of parts. And each model has a version, depending on what year it was built, where some part sizes may change.

Now let’s say I come to your site looking for a steering wheel for a 1997 Ford F150.

That’s a pretty specific part, and if you can get it front of me quickly and without making me think too much, there’s a good chance I’ll buy it.

The key here being “without making me think too much“.

A thoughtless browsing experience is a frictionless shopping experience, and simplicity and ease of navigation have been a cornerstone of awesome web design since the early 2000’s. Read Steve Krug’s epic “Don’t Make Me Think” if you’re interested and have the time.

A thoughtless browsing experience is a frictionless shopping experience.

But a clean and clear site structure is more than a UX essential or a handy Conversion Rate Optimisation trick.

It’s a cornerstone of any great ecommerce SEO campaign.

As Google’s algorithms evolve and as machine learning and artificial intelligence play larger and larger roles in serving ever more targeted results to ever more demanding and specific searches, the way you organise your products and the pages on your site says a lot about

a) how those products relate to each other and

b) what products may be similar or equally relevant to a particular user.

Helping Google and the other search engines to better understand that, helps them to better serve the correct page on your site for those highly targeted, bottom of funnel searches.

Creating the ultimate site structure for your ecommerce store involves blending specific expertise from two sources.

  1. Knowledge of your industry, an understanding of your products and your target market (you)
  2. Detailed research to uncover exactly how people search for your products online – what keywords and phrases they use, how often they are searched for and what exactly is their search intent? (your SEO company)

 

You’d be surprised just how often these two things don’t overlap the way you’d think they would do.

Do your research.

Work with a reputable and reliable ecommerce SEO specialist to make sure you’re covering all your bases, and that you’re spending time and resources creating and optimising category pages that your target marketing is actively searching for online.

2. Refine And Expand Your Filtering Options

Think about all the different ways people could come into your category pages – create a filter structure that quickly gets them to where they need to be.

Why?

As we mentioned in point 1 above, making users think is a sure fire way to nudge them back to the search results and on to your competitors.

If your product database is large enough, even a site with the most optimal structure and architecture is going to naturally have category level pages that contain dozens or maybe even hundreds or products.

Equip your users with the tools they need to filter down those results and quickly find what they’re looking for.

3. Avoid mass duplication or creation of thin category pages

When it comes to building a structure into your store, not making categories is sometimes just as important as making them.

Dont create categories just for the sake of having them, or because you have 2-3 products that kinda sorta have 1 thing in common.

They must offer a unique angle and serve a purpose.

Having 100 different collections all containing subsets of the same 50 products is a sure fire way to confuse your users and/or trigger a penalty from search engines like Google for having too much thin and duplicated content.

4. Condense and consolidate

If you have highly similar products, consider using one variable product in place of multiple single products.

This will reduce the number of similar or duplicated pages on your site drastically, whilst simultaneously making it easier for you to maintain your product database.

5. Improve your site search

For SEO, your internal site search isn’t really a factor.

But for conversions, it could be crucial.

Navigating through large data sets can be frustrating and time consuming for visitors.

And we know from much, much research (citations needed here) that the more specific a users intent is, the more likely they are to convert.

So, when a user on your site is looking for a specific product, it’s vital to get that product in front of them as easily and as friction-free as possible.

Auto complete and query suggestions

What’s better than a fast search that returns highly accurate results?

A search that knows what you’re going to search, before you’ve even finished typing it.

Many CMS systems are extendable to enhance their internal search capabilities to include auto complete and predictive search functionality.

These can be a great way to speed up getting products in front of customers and further increase your sites conversion rates.

Regularly monitor your site search usage

Your site search contains valuable data and insights into what your users are looking for.

If you find that certain products or keywords are being searched for more regularly, you can use this knowledge to inform your wider marketing or SEO strategies.

Getting lots of searches for category level keywords but don’t yet have a category for them? If you’re seeing internal searches, chances are, there’s lots more searches for these terms happening on Google. And without a landing page for Google to return in those search results, that’s all money you’re leaving on the table.

6. Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are a very useful SEO tool for larger ecommerce stores.

They’re an easy, low hassle way to help Google better understand your sites structure and architecture.

They’re also an under appreciated and under utilised user navigation element.

Let’s say someone lands on a product page from the search results in Google. But the product isn’t exactly what they’re looking for. Breadcrumbs give the user a way to quickly backtrack and take one step back up your site structure to the parent category to find other similar products.

7. Prioritise your most profitable products

Whilst it isn’t vital to have unique product descriptions on every product in your store, we’ve seen time and time again how much it can help rankings on individual, key product pages.

A good SEO company will always ask you for a list of your top products by margin. They’ll then go away and research search volumes for those products and together you’ll formulate a list of top priority products by their potential £/$ profit based on margin and volume.

These priority products have the most potential to increase your bottom line, and as such, it’s worth the time and investment to go all out on their product pages.

Write awesome, unique and compelling copy for your key product pages and watch your rankings – and your conversions – increase.

8. Fill the gaps, with killer content

Take a step back up your funnel.

Up until now, all of our tips and recommendations have been focused around serving bottom of funnel users with strong buying intent.

If you follow all of these steps properly, you’ll be well on your way to a great ecommerce strategy.

But a killer ecommerce strategy requires going to the next level.

Finding and nurturing users who aren’t yet at the buying stage is the key to loading up your funnel and really beefing up your bottom line.

The best possible way to increase your brand awareness and make your brand ‘sticky’ with potential future customers, is to provide them with value upfront.

Top of funnel searchers are usually at the research stage of their buying journey. They may be researching their problem, they may be researching the merits of (your) potential solution, or they may not even know they need you yet!

Drilling down into who your target customers are, is key to developing a content strategy that gets your brand in front of new eyeballs every single day.

Take the time to really get to know your existing customers. Get to know your target market. Find out what their pain points are, what they like and are interested in, what they need and what they like to read about.

Then find a way to create the content that connects with them.

Really killer content marketing strategies aren’t afraid to take big strides up your sales funnel and create the kinds of content that gets you noticed.

Your content strategy should be driven by a complete understanding of your audience, coupled with data driven research from your SEO specialists to help you target the most impactful keywords for your business.

Find out what your target customers are searching for. Then be the ones to give it to them.

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