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Increase eCommerce Site Exposure and Relevance with an SEO-Structured Taxonomy

Walk into any grocery, home improvement, or hardware store and you’ll find clearly marked signs telling you what types of items you can find down each aisle. Retailers group and classify products in a way that makes sense to the shopper – like motor oil in the automotive aisle or mangoes in the fruits and vegetables section – so they can be found quickly and easily.

Online, buyers want that same experience when they shop for products, and that’s where a well-designed and SEO-structured taxonomy comes in. In fact, the way you classify, organize, and name your products on your eCommerce site is even more important than how you present them in your brick-and-mortar store. Why? Because online shoppers are more focused on their intent to purchase products, and they want to find and compare products with the least amount of effort. A proper taxonomy and relevant terms are key to making this possible.

Optimizing your site taxonomy for users

eCommerce Taxonomy Expert Clint Elmore says that when it comes to designing a taxonomy, a business should optimize its site to serve its users’ needs. While a user constitutes any online shopper, it also includes search engines like Google. Although both users generally search the same, it’s important to know the distinction and incorporate SEO terminology into your taxonomy that mutually satisfies their needs.

SEO for search engines

Terms used in a product hierarchy should accurately describe the assortment you offer, but they also need to be relevant to Google. In many cases, Elmore says the terms will be one in the same. However, he admits there will be times when Google will prefer a particular term to that of your taxonomist or onsite search person; in which case, you should defer to the Google SEO term because SEO is more important to the health and long-term sustainability of an eCommerce site. Additionally, he suggests going beyond your taxonomy terms and site content to include SEO terms in page URLs and meta descriptions, which give Google additional signals to find and share your site with online users.

SEO for buyers

While the merchant community is the industry expert when it comes to their products, Elmore says they tend to create product terminology driven by what he calls “insider terms.” These terms may be familiar within an organization but, outside of their business, no one else understands them. In order for your taxonomy to help a buyer, it has to speak to a broader audience. Regardless if you have a B2B or B2C business, Elmore stresses the taxonomy must relate to a human on the other end of your site. “You have to talk in terms that most humans understand, especially in today’s economy,” says Elmore. “Nowadays, you’re not always dealing with a buyer who’s been in the industry for 20 years. You may be dealing with interns and entry-level employees who have only been doing that job for a couple of months, maybe a year. And if you’re using insider terminology, you can really miss the boat in reaching those people.”

How do you know you’re using the right SEO terms?

If you are designing a new taxonomy or updating your current taxonomy, Elmore has three ways for you to measure your site’s SEO effectiveness:

  1. Competitive analysis – Look at what the major players in your competing space are using. Large industrial suppliers like Grainger and big box stores like Lowe’s have already invested millions into user testing, research, and SEO reviews, and if they are calling an item a specific term, then you probably should, too. These big companies continually spend money optimizing their sites, so take advantage of their insight. There may be instances when you have swim upstream and use different keywords, but it’s a matter of knowing when to go off course and when to swim in somebody else’s draft.
  2. User search behavior – You have the data right readily available, so find out what your customers are typing in your onsite search box using website analytics. Buyer search terms and overall search behavior on your site are very important factors in determining and validating your taxonomy and terminology.
  3. SEO meta tools – A tool like SEO Meta is helpful in identifying what you need to do to improve your communication with Google. If SEO Meta is catching it, Google’s catching it, and if Google’s catching it, then you’ve done everything you can to properly communicate with Google the intent of each page, as well as the content on each page. Incorporate good content and meta description tags throughout your site to maintain relevance and increase your share of SERP (search engine results page).

Creating a well-designed taxonomy is not a one-time effort. It’s a continual process because terms change and buyer behaviors change, so you must always be ready to adjust with them. SEO best practices evolve as well; what was done five years ago to optimize a site is no longer relevant, or the most effective solution today.

If you’re looking to design or optimize your eCommerce taxonomy, reach out to the specialists at Unilog. From taxonomy design and attribute enrichment to product description development, our eCommerce optimization services will help increase your online relevance and engagement with users.

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