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Why I “Hate” E-Commerce (Catalog) Sites

Maybe “hate” is a little strong… but I definitely “dislike” e-commerce/catalog type sites for lots of reasons…

But mainly these three:

Problem #1 – Product, Product, Product

catalog sitesThey only ever seem to be about “product”!

Pages and pages of product, product and more product… and not much else.

Now I know that sounds a little strange, as they are about “selling” stuff, but most times they are little better than the catalogs that get thrown on my lawn twice a week.

What “selling” is done? What “emotion” is there? What sort of “shopping experience” do they provide for a visitor?

What sort of work is the site owner doing to establish trust and all of that stuff with their customers?

Usually… not much!

The vast majority of e-commerce sites are usually just a collection of goodies you might stumble across IF the timing was right – i.e. a friend had a new baby, or Mother’s day is coming around, or it’s Christmas etc…

Most out-of-the-box shopping cart/catalog programs do little to encourage shop owners to add extra “useful” information to their pages.

Want to stand out from the crowd with your site? Do something that isn’t all about product!

Problem #2 – Not Enough Unique Content

The second problem with catalog/product pages, is that they are often very hard to find on search engines!

And that’s because there is often never enough “unique” content on each page at these sites – in the catalog/product pages. There’s nothing much to differentiate one page from the next in the eyes of the search engines.

They really can’t decide which ones to include… so they simply won’t if it all looks like duplicate content to them.

The solution to this problem is quite simple!

Add more content to each page!

Add more content to the top of each of the catalog/category pages. Make your individual product descriptions much more interesting.

Hey… if people can write a sales letter that’s 30+ screens long to sell a $47 e-book, how can you expect to flog a similarly priced item in 20 words or less? OK… you DON’T need something that’s 30 screens long, but you DO need to add some salesmanship into your product copy!

Problem #3 – Not SEO Friendly

The third problem with catalog sites is that often the software used to run the back-end and display all the products etc is NOT very SEO friendly. There’s probably not much you can about this (unfortunately) but check it out if you can!

similar search resultsIn other words… the title tag, meta description and meta keyword tags are the SAME on every single page of the 300 or 400 or how ever many products pages you have!

Again, this does NOTHING to help the search engines differentiate between pages. And because they have little “text” to display in their results when someone is searching, they could end up displaying a list of results which all look the same to a searcher (see previous diagram).

This article is in response to a site review requested by a friend who sells gift baskets in Sydney, Australia. Her Google product listings are shown above and as you can see… they all look pretty much alike.

Easy Solutions?

While she may not be able to “do” much about the title and meta tag problem with her software, she can certainly easily fix the other two problems!

Wonders will be achieved by adding introductory paragraphs to each of the “catalog” pages, and by including some more “emotive” text with every single product listing.

That will give Google lots more different and (hopefully) highly targetted keywords to play with for indexing purposes, and will help it to display better (and different) search results.

So now she’s heading off to make some changes to her catalog and product pages to give her site some more Google “love”… and make it a better “buying experience” for her visitors!

Good luck with that Donna! I know it’ll take a little time to edit all those product listings, but you should see results for your effort fairly quickly.


3 Responses to “Why I “Hate” E-Commerce (Catalog) Sites”

  1. Miltski on April 7th, 2008 5:17 pm

    I totally agree with what you’re saying. So if the online product catalog kings were someone like, are they an example to aspire too ?

  2. Stephen Spry on April 7th, 2008 6:07 pm

    Hey… look at the “shopping experience” places like Amazon provide… I’d like to aspire to doing even 1/10 of what they do… if only I had the resources to do it 🙂

    But to the “small” people with e-commerce sites, remember that users are comparing your “shop” to others in your niche – even if they are only looking for the lowest price.

    Your challenge is to do something better and/or different so you stand out from all the other sites in your niche.

  3. Michael Visser on December 30th, 2009 9:06 pm

    You’re preaching to the choir with this one, it’s amazing how many shopping cart solutions still have duplicate TITLE tags let alone support for per product/category meta description. I like your comment on introductory paragraphs and am doing that now.

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