It’s a fact that many small business websites fail. Structuring your website to produce sales is one of the first and most essential factors to gaining success online.

The basics of a good e-commerce website are fairly straightforward. Try to think of search engines as you would a typical user; if you fill a page with too much code and too little text or, at the other end of the scale, fill your page with too many keywords, you will not rank well. Start with your homepage, this should be full of informative text that encourages your users to look further. There is a saying in the search industry that ‘content is king’. Your homepage should be rich in keywords without overusing them, and full of valuable content. Try and keep any ‘call to action’ above the fold and try and include customer testimonials and any accreditations or affiliated logos. This leaves your visitors feeling more assured that your website is safe, particularly when parting with credit card details. Don’t feel you have to try and address everything here, but make sure it leaves the visitor feeling a need to explore your site.

This leads us to your section pages. Try and think of each of these as a homepage for the section. Again these should be rich in content and keywords. You must also ensure that each of these pages are linked to from the homepage so users are only one click away, and so search engines understand that these are also important pages in your site. Make sure your section pages are focused on what the visitor is looking for therefore driving the user towards sales. Try to keep your site structure as ‘flat’ as possible – ideally, less than 3 tiers. In other words, don’t build a page within a page, within a page, within a page. The deeper the user must go to find the product the more chance that they will leave before finding it. Search engines will also struggle to find these pages. Finally each page should be unique. If you were to use a template for these section pages and did not write enough unique content then the search engines would decide which one they think is most important and discard the rest from searches, this could have a detrimental effect on an e-commerce site.

Product pages are slightly harder as they don’t fit neatly into this formula. First and most importantly try and ensure that every product page has a unique browser title and meta tag. This is also where most duplicate content is hard to avoid. If you are selling a widget available in 5 colours, try and include these 5 colours as an option rather than listing five individual widgets. Break up any text needed on these pages with bullet points as your users will find this more easily digestible than a 200 word essay on each product. Keep it short! Try and keep them fresh by regularly updating your products with new releases as you would restock a shelf in a shop.

Finally produce a sitemap and link to it from your homepage. This ensures that your users are never more than two pages away from what they are looking for, and that the search engines can spider every page on your site successfully.

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Hayley

Search Analyst at Silkstream
SEO, blogger and Google geek. Committed to helping small business thrive during economic austerity.