Online shopping has become the new normal for consumers across the globe. The COVID pandemic has forced even late adopters to learn how to do their shopping from their smartphone or computer. And they loved the feeling of safety and convenience. In this context, Google has published a new set of guidelines for ecommerce websites.
These guidelines will help business owners and webmasters update and optimise their websites to be more search-friendly and show up in Google Search results. In this article, we will discuss these guidelines for ecommerce websites, so that you can find new customers and grow your sales.
First Step: Register on Google Merchant
Many of the guidelines published by Google will refer to Google Merchant, a new service created for the convenience of both businesses and consumers. These step by step instructions will teach you how to sign up for Google Merchant Centre.
As with any Google tool or service, please make sure that you read their terms of service and comply with them. Google offers businesses a lot of opportunities to attract more customers, completely for free, so you should take advantage of any such opportunity.
Before we move on, a few words on the Google Merchant Centre. This is a platform where businesses can upload and manage their product inventories on:
- Their own website
- Their brick-and-mortar store.
Practically, business owners can control how their product listings appear on various Google properties, including:
- Google Search
- Google Images
- Google Lens
- Google My Business
- Google Maps
- Google Shopping tab.
With these being said, let us explain to you the latest Google guidelines for ecommerce websites.
1. Guidelines for Content
Content, in the meaning of these guidelines, refers both to written content and to media files (images). Your content can appear on all six Google properties listed above. The guidelines indicate that:
- Written content should meet the criteria of SEO best practices
- Images should be optimised in terms of size and SEO (title, ALT tag, description).
Moreover, you can display products listed on your Google My Business account in Google Merchant Centre by linking the two accounts. To do this, go to your GMB account and select Settings -> Linked Accounts. Click on the “Link” button and the Google Merchant Centre will automatically request and approve the linking of the GMB account.
Regarding the actual content guidelines for ecommerce websites, here is what you should know:
- You should create a brand story that customers can relate to
- Focus on educational content, that helps consumers solve problems and understand how your products may benefit their lives
- Showcase special seasonal offers with clear and attractive description
- Strive to collect as many customer reviews as possible
- Create accurate and helpful product descriptions
- Engage with customers through live videos
- Improve customer service by displaying information on delivery and returns prominently.
2. Guidelines for Product Data
Business owners and webmasters should share product data with Google in order to increase their visibility on Google properties. In this respect, websites should use structured data for product pages, as Google relies on these to display product rich events.
Secondly, companies should upload their product descriptions and photos in Google Merchant Centre. In this way, you are certain that Google will know all your products. There is no guarantee that the Google spiders crawl your entire website and index all your products.
3. Guidelines for New Ecommerce Websites
The Google guidelines for ecommerce websites also offer helpful advice to businesses that prepare to launch a new site. This is a critical step, which you should plan and execute carefully. It is easier to make sure that your site is completely Google compliant from the start, than go back to fix issues.
Here are the key aspects related to your new website being indexed by Google:
- Verify your website ownership
- Use the URL Inspection Tool to ask Google to index a site with a small number of pages
- Provide Google with a sitemap for websites with a large number of pages
- Use the Index Coverage Report to monitor how Google indexes your site
- Sign up for Google My Business and Google Merchant Centre.
4. Guidelines for URL Structure
A good URL structure helps Google understand what the page is about and improves the chances of being found in search results. Here are a few guidelines for ecommerce websites:
- Do not use uppercase and lowercase letters in the URL – keep everything in lowercase
- Minimise the number of alternative URLs that point to the same content
- Add descriptive words (especially keywords) in the URL.
5. Guidelines for Navigation
A simple and clear navigation menu is a basic prerequisite for user experience and for Google. The menu should be clearly structured from category to sub-category and contain breadcrumbs and links between pages to help users move quickly between pages.
Also, consider creating a navigation menu on the principle of topic clusters: start with a main topic and create sub-pages that explain it in more detail.
6. Guidelines for Displaying Subsets
Subsets represent clusters of content that require a user to move from one screen to another, such as large articles. The guidelines for ecommerce websites recommend business owners to choose displaying solutions depending on the device used by user:
- Pagination (clicking Next) for desktop version
- Load more (expanding a listicle article) recommended both for desktop and mobile versions
- Infinite scrolling, recommended for the mobile version.
These guidelines for ecommerce websites are not highly technical, so anyone can follow them with confidence. We believe that they should become a part of your best practices for updating and maintaining your website, as well as for managing your accounts on Google properties.