7 Best Tips for Web Developers When Coding for Ecommerce Websites
Want to get the most out of your eCommerce store? Being at the helm of a successful eCommerce platform, Jimmy from Shift4Shop (formerly 3dcart) knows a thing or two about successful online stores. So we invited him to share his insights on how web developers can optimise their eCommerce site — for humans and for search engines.
Give it a read and share it with a friend.
Ecommerce has been on the rise for the past few years. By the end of 2020, some product categories recorded over 150% increase in online shopping compared to the year before.
When coding for an eCommerce website, there are some things a web developer may not consider. It’s a complex platform, after all, and it is crucial to use the right tools and skills following the specifications of the eCommerce website.
Here are 7 best tips for web developers when coding for eCommerce websites.
1. Choose a suitable programming language
First of all, you need to decide on the programming language. There is a lot to choose from that will let you build a great eCommerce store. However, most eCommerce websites use one or more of the following languages.
Python is the second most popular programming language globally, and its popularity has grown in recent years. Its best features include excellent performance and optimization. It’s highly scalable, multipurpose, embeddable, portable, and comes with extensive libraries.
From an eCommerce perspective, there may be struggles with speed limitations.
Python is relatively easy to understand and learn. However, it’s not a good language to use in mobile computing.
Java is a language used by big brands like Amazon and Flipkart for their eCommerce websites. It’s used to build online stores that work within most web browsers.
By far, Java is the most reliable programming language. It’s secure, object-oriented, as well as multi-threaded.
However, the eCommerce websites created with Java leave much to be desired when it comes to their look, feel, and performance. The language has high memory and processing requirements, which means higher hardware costs.
2. Optimize the source code for SEO
Optimizing an eCommerce website for SEO is critical to keeping up with the competition. We can’t control what Google does, but we can adjust specific aspects of a website to improve its search ranking.
Writing the correct source code for a site will increase the number of visitors and boost sales.
The fundamental rule is to use the right keywords but not overstuff the code. They have to be used naturally.
The words in the anchor text are essential, and the search engines pay attention to them. It lets the crawlers figure out what that page is about. Next, an algorithm is used to understand the whole website and whether the pages are helpful to search engine users.
Many people keyword stuff their e-commerce web pages to try to get around the algorithm. Unfortunately, this isn’t the right way. The content has to feel natural and usable. Using the right keywords in the right places in the right amount, and link-building strategies are critical elements of a successful SEO strategy.
In the next point, we’ll focus on how to write the best metadata when coding for eCommerce websites.
3. Focus on metadata
Metadata includes titles, descriptions, and links. It’s a way to communicate information with particular relevance to eCommerce businesses. The SEO-friendly metadata copy should include keywords for the page. When writing meta titles and descriptions, focus on the internet user rather than the search engine.
Some marketers think that the title is the most important part of a web page. It’s the first text users will see when they look for something on Google or other search engines. When writing one for eCommerce, don’t exceed the 70-character limit while briefly explaining what the reader can expect to find on the page. Here’s an example:
<meta name="title" content="Bags by O bag | Create your bag and customize it online"/>
Because your title tag should reflect the page’s content, it should include your target keywords. Overdoing it, though, may bring the opposite effect. You might end up ranking low in SERPs. Make the tag unique, don’t make it sound too general, and use the active voice as much as possible.
The meta description should be convincing. It should invite people to take action and be sales-oriented. Keep it under 230 characters. The rest of the copy will be cut off anyway, like in the example above. Google replaced the end of the sentence with the three dots.
<meta name="description" content="The iconic and inimitable modular bag that can be carried by hand, shoulder or cross-body. Choose the accessories that best suit your style: handles, shoulder straps, edging and inner bags."/>
A good eCommerce meta description includes a clear call to action like buy, choose, create, learn, etc. Give the searcher a compelling reason why they should click on the link.
The image alt tag is another essential tag for an eCommerce website’s visibility. This tag tells Google what an image is about. When a search engine learns what an image is, it can decide where to place it among the other images out there.
Focus on giving tags to product images, company’ logos, infographics, and images showing the brand’s owners or employees.
When writing your image alt tag, keep it short, and think about how to describe the image to someone who can’t see it. Search engines are not human and cannot see the pictures to interpret them.
The O bag’s logo, seen in the top left corner of the store’s homepage, has the following alt tag:
alt="O bag Official Website"
On the other hand, a picture of one of the components has alt text similar to its description appearing on the page:
alt='Handle black double "T" chain - O bag'
Whether you choose to use a popular eCommerce software and adjust its code as needed or build an eCommerce website from scratch, make sure you update the metadata accordingly.
4. Avoid duplication
To avoid duplications, write a unique source code for every website’s page.
Notice how Adidas does it. Different pages have different metadata, although some are similar.
Many small businesses skip this part and duplicate their homepage meta description content on every page. Although it doesn’t affect search rankings, they are letting go of the chance of free advertising on Google.
5. Include canonical tags for similar product pages
You can now communicate to Google your preferred domain through good site architecture. Google says in their documentation that you could use these four methods to help the bots determine your canonical domain:
- Use rel=“canonical” link tag on HTML pages
- Use rel=“canonical” HTTP header
- Use a sitemap
- Use 301 redirects for retired URLs
What does “rel canonical” mean anyway?
A canonical tag tells search engines that a specific URL leads to the definitive copy of the page. It lets you tell Google or other search engines that you want them to direct users to a specific version of a page with duplicates while keeping your site from getting penalized for duplicate content.
It’s essential to get this right, as if you don’t, it can result in poor visibility of your eCommerce website.
If you cannot avoid having web pages with similar content, use this feature for better ranking.
6. Increase page speed
Google also stated that page speed is a ranking factor. The search engine rewards fast sites. As a result, the faster the website is, the better for the user and its search result rankings.
Let’s say you’re coding for an eCommerce website and using loads of different scripts for additional functionality features for the users. Things like live chat or similar item suggestions are standard popular extras. Loading all the code files at once can significantly decrease your site’s performance. You can combine the individual code sheets into a smaller number of files instead. That will minimize the site’s load time and improve the site’s SEO.
To see how quick (or slow) your website is, use a page speed diagnostic tool such as Google PageSpeed Insight, WebPage Test, or Site 24×7. Google PageSpeed Insights gives you performance numbers for both mobile and desktop platforms, allowing you to tweak your site for both types of devices.
7. Update your sitemap
Although sitemaps don’t help with better search rankings, updating them helps crawlers find a new or updated website quicker and index them much faster.
Creating a sitemap.xml file is the minimum you should do for an eCommerce website. This sitemap typically consists of XML code that indicates URLs and their respective locations:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
You can send your sitemap directly to Google using the Google Search Console. You may also add it to your robots.txt file if you feel like being more hands-on with your code.
Search engines like Google consider user experience the most critical factor for website rankings. Most components you will add or codes you will tweak on an eCommerce website affect the user experience.
You now have learned the best tips when coding for eCommerce websites. Start by choosing the correct language and optimizing the source code for SEO. Remember to focus on metadata, avoid duplication, include canonical tags, increase the speed of the web pages and update the sitemap.
Go on and write clickable headlines for high-ranking and super fast sites. Follow these tips, and your eCommerce websites will yield the results you and your client are looking for.
Jimmy Rodriguez is the VP of eCommerce of Shift4Shop, a completely free, enterprise-grade eCommerce solution. He’s dedicated to helping internet retailers succeed online by developing digital marketing strategies and optimized shopping experiences that drive conversions and improve business performance.
Enjoy this article? Check out Jimmy’s other guest piece piece for us: building an email list for your eCommerce business.