If the road leading to a brick-and-mortar retail store had huge potholes or redirected traffic due to construction, that store would probably lose business. The same is true when an e-commerce site has indexing issues. Few online companies can rely on direct traffic alone to generate enough revenue. For most online brands, organic traffic plays a significant role.
But you’ll have a hard time generating organic traffic if search engines aren’t crawling your site correctly. To set your store up for success, be aware of these four common indexing issues in e-commerce stores.
Use 301 redirects to fix important 404s, but don’t go overboard redirecting every 404 on your site. Focus on the 404 pages that have backlinks, receive traffic, or are closely related to an existing page. You can see a list of your store’s 404 codes in Google Search Console under ‘Crawl’ and then “Crawl Errors.” To retain traffic on a 404 page, create a custom 404 page explaining the issue and list other pages the user might want to check out.
There are five types of redirects in SEO, but the primary one to be concerned with is a 301, or permanent redirect. Imagine you’re selling makeup from home and your product selection runs into the tens of thousands. What do you do every time a product is discontinued? You don’t want a defunct page to sit there, so you 301 redirect the page (page a) to a comparable product from a different brand you carry (page b). Fast-forward a year, and you discontinue that brand. But now you’re selling a new (but similar) product by the original brand (page a), so you redirect the page back to the original URL. You’ve now created an infinite redirect loop, dooming any visitor who comes to your site from page b to never-ending loading.
When you have a large e-commerce site and want to ensure you’re communicating clearly with search engines, creating a sitemap is like providing a translator. Without a proper sitemap, search engines may not crawl the deeper levels of your pages as much, or at all (though, your site’s domain authority also plays a factor).
Check the status of your sitemap in Google Search Console under ‘Crawl,’ then “Sitemaps.” If Google is having issues with your sitemap, you’ll have a warning. As an e-commerce store, you should regularly make sure your sitemaps are accurate, especially as your product offering changes. It’s also best practice to link smaller sitemaps together if you have a ton of pages rather than have one big one as Google will only allow sitemaps up to 10MB. Though, to be fair, 10MB equals 50,000 pages.
Running a successful e-commerce store means mastering a non-stop rotation of varying details. When it comes to the longevity of your store, nothing is more important than an SEO-structured, user-friendly site. You’ll have an easier time achieving these goals when you regularly monitor your e-commerce store for these four common indexing issues.