Recently I have been reminded how daunting a task SEO can be even on small eCommerce sites. The complexity of optimizing for thousands of product pages, and having to understand the features and limitations of different shopping cart package can pose some real problems.
Surely I am not the first person to suggest that a major cornerstone to SEO success in eCommerce is having unique content and not just using the manufacture provided content. Search engines love unique content. If your product page looks identical to the same product page on all of your competitors sites you aren’t creating much value. The search engines (and your customers) will know it too! Using only manufacturer provided information on your product pages will cause duplicate content issues with search engines, but even more importantly, there is almost no reason for anyone to link to your product page.
While it is easy to suggest that you never use a manufacturer description in your store and viola, SEO problems solved, the reality of that is not so simple. Rewriting thousands of product descriptions can be a huge undertaking. Changing a few words here and there is not going to cut it either. Additionally if you have several products which are very similar, you should always try and write a unique description for each product. If you don’t not only do you run the risk of duplicate content issues with your competitors, but you have duplicate content and pages competing against each other on your own site.
Unfortunately unique isn’t enough. Unique junk is still just junk! It’s important to remember the main goal of the search engines is to deliver the best results to their users. So delivering unique content will help aid them in that goal but is not an end in itself. Their goal is not to deliver unique content, but valuable content!
When evaluating your site, store or a product you are trying to rank for, you should ask yourself, why should you rank #1 for a search term? Do you have the best product on the market? Do you offer the best user experience? Do you have the best user reviews? The point of this exercise is to take an honest look at what about what you offer is unique AND valuable from the standpoint of a visitor to your website.
Here are some great examples of e-tailers offering great unique valuable content!
Amazon.com is one of the best examples of this. With literally millions of products, manually rewriting every manufactures product description is not feasible. One of the ways they have dealt with this is through User Generated Content. Amazon has fostered a community of unpaid product reviewers. In fact not only are they unpaid but they are also their customers, and they tend to be some of the best in the industry. I often put much more faith in reviews I read on Amazon.com then I do in professional reviews from places like consumer reports or similar sources.
Amazon also shares some very interesting facts that they mine from their customer database without compromising privacy information. By sharing what other products are frequestly bought with the product and what customers ultimately buy after viewing a product, they are not only providing a better user experience, but they are also encouraging someone who may be blogging or writing about a product to link to the product. Some other ideas would be to share sales trends, or how popular an item is compared to other similar items, etc. Great user experience and lots of great reasons for someone to link to your page.
Zappos has taken an interesting approach to providing unique, valuable content. They have done an excellent job of photographing every product in their catalog. They go way above and beyond the photos provided by the manufactures. A quick visit to their site and I can see my new Innov8 F-lite 230 running shoes (see how they just got me to link to them) from 7 different angles, in all four colors available and complete with a minute and a half video of the founder of Innov8 talking about and showing you this very shoe. Pretty cool considering I am hard pressed to find this shoe in an actual store, and the manufactures site only has 2 pictures of it.
The other benefit to this is that Zappos now can license this content, which it appears they are doing after a quick visit this product page at Shoemart.