Low search rankings can signal the beginning of the end for e-commerce websites. If your e-commerce website ranks low in the search results for an extended period, you'll have to use paid advertising to generate traffic. High search rankings can reduce or eliminate your dependence on paid advertising by driving targeted organic traffic to your online store. So, if your e-commerce website isn't ranking in the search results, you'll need to evaluate your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy to determine the reason.
Here are nine of the most common reasons your e-commerce website isn’t ranking in search results:
1. Excessive Competition
The amount of competition your e-commerce website faces can affect its search rankings. Search engines only display about 10 listings on the first page of the search results. As a result, if you optimize your e-commerce website for the same short-tail keywords as hundreds or thousands of other sites, you'll have a hard time earning first-page rankings. You must prove to search engines that your e-commerce website is better than nearly all of its competitors, which is difficult if you target highly competitive short-tail keywords. Instead, opt for a handful of unique long-tail keywords that will draw the right attention of web crawlers.
2. Security Vulnerabilities
The presence of security vulnerabilities can prevent your e-commerce website from ranking. Search engines demote or blacklist websites that suffer from security vulnerabilities to protect their users' information. If your e-commerce website contains a security issue, a hacker may exploit it to steal your customers' personal information. Until you fix the security issue, search engines won't award your e-commerce website with high rankings.
Some of the most common types of security vulnerabilities from which e-commerce websites suffer include:
- Outdated content management system (CMS)
- Weak admin passwords
- Using HTTP rather than HTTPS
- Allowing user-generated content (UGC) with few or no restrictions
- Cross-site scripting (XSS)
- SQL injection
3. Generic Product Descriptions
If your e-commerce website has generic product descriptions, it may fail to rank in the search results. Product descriptions provided by a manufacturer or vendor, for instance, perform poorly because they are treated as duplicate content. Manufacturers and vendors sell their products, usually in bulk, to countless retailers. Therefore, using a manufacturer's or vendor's product description means your e-commerce website will have the same content as other sites.
Search engines usually won't rank two or more websites with the same content. Rather, they will rank the original website that published it first. If you use generic product descriptions, you'll inadvertently create duplicate content that harms your e-commerce website's search rankings.
4. Negative User Experience
Maybe the reason your e-commerce website isn't ranking is because it offers a negative user experience. In recent years, search engines have given more weight to user experience as a ranking signal. If your e-commerce website fails to meet the needs and expectations of its visitors, you may struggle to get it ranked in the search results. As visitors quickly leave your e-commerce website (also known as a bounce) without engaging with it, search engines will identify its negative user experience, which may cause them to rank your site lower.
5. Long Loading
Another possible reason your e-commerce website isn't ranking is that it takes too long for visitors to load. Visitors are only willing to wait so long after clicking a listing or link to your e-commerce website. Research conducted by Google shows that mobile visitors, on average, will wait just three seconds for websites to load. Desktop visitors are a little more patient, but they too have their limits. If your e-commerce website has long load times, visitors will leave, rather than staying and engaging with it. When search engines see all these visitors abandoning your e-commerce website, they'll respond by lowering your site's rankings.
With that said, Google's Senior Principal Product Manager, Maile Ohye, recently revealed that two seconds is the threshold for load times in the e-commerce industry. Whether a visitor is trying to access your e-commerce website on a desktop computer or a mobile device, he or she should be able to load it in two seconds or less.
Don't make the mistake of over-optimizing your e-commerce website. If you make too many updates or changes to your e-commerce website with the primary goal of ranking higher, you'll send the message that you are trying to manipulate its rankings with SEO. Search engines may not remove your e-commerce from the search results for over-optimization, but they will probably demote it at the very least. Therefore, you should practice a more cautious approach to SEO, avoiding tactics associated with over-optimisation, including keyword stuffing, hidden links and misleading meta tags.
7. No Customer Reviews
You should embrace customer reviews with your e-commerce website. Without them, search engines may question your site's credibility. Customer reviews show search engines, as well as human visitors, that your e-commerce website is legitimate and not an attempt to scam consumers.
Whether customers publish their reviews directly on your e-commerce website or on a separate review website, each legitimate review will increase your site's credibility, which in turn improves the effectiveness of your SEO.
8. Not Enough Backlinks
How many backlinks does your e-commerce website have? Search engines use backlinks to measure a website's popularity and relevance. If your e-commerce website has lots of backlinks, they'll view it as being popular among its visitors as well as relevant to its target keywords. With only a few backlinks, on the other hand, search engines will view your e-commerce website as irrelevant and unpopular.
9. Low-Quality Content
Finally, low-quality content can prevent your e-commerce website from ranking. Websites and pages with low-quality content, as well as pages without any content (or don’t meet minimum word counts), generally don't rank high in the search results. They offer little or no value to visitors, so search engines typically rank them low. For your e-commerce website to rank high in the search results, it needs high-quality content.
With online retail sales expected to reach $4.5 trillion over the next two years, according to Shopify, there's no better time to start an e-commerce website. If you notice your e-commerce website isn't ranking in the search results, you should take action by investigating your SEO strategy or speak with a specialist in Organic SEO strategies - such as Marketing Your Brand.
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