SEO for Your Web to Print Storefront (part 1)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of getting your website to rank in the search engine results pages. SEO helps you get traffic and sales, and it’s also great for brand awareness and positioning your website as an authority in your industry.
The premise of SEO is based on keywords and content, but it actually starts in the foundations of your website, before you write a single page. This part is called technical SEO.
Technical SEO is a one-time process, to make sure your website complies with the necessities of search engines – such as crawling, website hierarchy, mobile friendliness and page loading speed.
Crawling and Indexing
Crawling is the process of a search engine “Spider” or “Bot” following all the links on your website and discovering all the pages. Indexing is the process of adding your website’s page to the search engine’s Index. In order to help the crawler discover your content pages quickly and efficiently, it’s best to use a “flat” and organized website architecture.
A flat structure is when you have main categories, subcategories and content pages. All pages can be reached in 2-3 “clicks” from the homepage. Also make sure not to have any empty categories, cluttered categories, mixed content, etc. The hierarchy should be nice and neat for search engines to follow. You can verify your website hierarchy with this visual tool: http://www.visualsitemapper.com/
Use consistent URL structure and consistent naming. Make sure your URLs are not over 115 characters long. Make sure all the categories can be reached from the main menu, and all the product pages can be reached from the category pages. If your website is especially large (over 200 product pages) you can also use “breadcrumbs navigation”, which notes the structure path on each page, like so: Homepage > Category > Subcategory > Product Page
Make sure your website has an XML sitemap (which lists all the product and content pages on your website). To make sure your website is being crawled and indexed correctly, use software tools such as Google Search Console, ScreamingFrog Website Crawler or SEMrush Site Audit.
The main issue with duplicate content, is that search engines will choose one instance over the other, and it’s not always the one that you intended. Additionally, if two identical pages receive links, the SEO “juice” may be wasted on one of them.
Most websites will have some duplicate content. Sometimes the same product may appear under two different categories, other times when sorting products by price or by popularity produces a duplicate of that same page. Even products with color or size variations may be considered duplicates. Duplicate content is often inevitable, the issue is making sure only one instance is getting indexed.
The first thing you can do is make sure that “known” duplicates are tagged as “noindex”. Secondly, make sure your website uses “canonical” tags. The canonical tag simply indicates that a page is it’s own original version, so if the page gets duplicated, the new instances will have the canonical link to their original, and will not be indexed.
This is especially important when running any ad campaigns, which usually get tagged for analytics purposes. Such tags may look like “page.html?utm_campaign=paid-search” which is actually a duplicate of the original “page.html”. A canonical tag will make sure such duplicates will not get indexed.
People don’t like waiting for websites to come up, and neither do search engines. A fast-loading website is a sure way to get on the search engine’s “good side”. There are quite a few ways to make sure your website loads as fast as possible:
- Small web page (HTML) size in KB.
- Small image size in KB.
- Caching and compression.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN).
Rich content “Snippets” are bits of information about your content. When search engines “know” what your content is about, they often add these snippets to the search results pages, in addition to your page’s title and description.
There are hundreds of such snippets that may be shown for your web pages in the search results. For example: product prices, in-stock availability, store opening hours, customer reviews, and many more.
In order to get this data to the search engines, these snippets must be coded in your website template. You can check https://schema.org for all the various types and properties of the rich snippets tags.
If your print-shop website is multilingual, make sure to use the hreflang tags to let the search engines know which page belongs to which language. Google’s documentation for this tag is not very clear: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/189077?hl=en
So make sure to check out this tool as well: https://www.aleydasolis.com/english/international-seo-tools/hreflang-tags-generator/
Optimizing your Web-to-Print website using SEO tactics is a great way to get customers straight from the search engines, and to promote your printing products and expertise. In this part we discussed the technical basis required for your printshop to get indexed and ranked. In part 2 of this SEO guide we will discuss keywords, content and links.