So you’re in the mood for a spooky Halloween story, but you don’t want it to be as stay-up-all-night terrifying as Pet Cemetary or the upcoming election. We’ve been there! May we suggest some frightful SEO tales for ecommerce store owners? It’s a niche topic but hey, it’s our niche.
These five stories will send shivers down your spine and provide some useful takeaways. So grab some hot cocoa, shove a flashlight under your face, and join us in some spoooooooooooky Halloween fun (for nerds). Ready? Let’s begin…
The Spider’s Last Crawl
Once upon a time, there was a spider who loved crawling through websites more than anything in the world. She would scoot through tunnels and creep from page to page, collecting fresh content to carry back to her index.
Most ecommerce store owners liked the spider. She was a little scary-looking, but they knew she did important work for them. So, they did their best to make sure she had a clear and easy path. They’d give her internal links to explore and entice her with new content, hoping they could encourage her to come back often.
Jan was one such ecommerce store owner. She sold roller skates, and her website was discovered by thousands of roller skate-lovers every month — all thanks to the spider. In gratitude, Jan would always do whatever she could to help the spider out. Her website soon became one of the spider’s favorite places, and the spider would often return to see what was new.
At the same time, Jan kept a sandbox site where she and her team would test out code before pushing it live, an exact duplicate of her live ecommerce site except for one thing: it had a noindex tag. Jan didn’t want to confuse the spider by giving it two sites that were exactly the same, so she used the noindex tag to keep the duplicate version off the map.
Everything was going great until a new developer pushed an update live from her sandbox site, copying the noindex tag to the live site in the process. The spider ventured out gleefully that day, already imagining all the delicious content she’d crawl when she got to her favorite site. She hit the site’s entrance and…found a pile of boulders blocking her path!
The spider turned around, sadly. She would never crawl that website again.
Moral of the Story: Watch the code you push live. Double-check on the elements that aren’t exact copies between the two sites; internal links, noindex/nofollow tags, and other search engine directives are common offenders.
King Midas And His Dynamically Generated Pages
King Midas loved usability. He loved it so much that he’d do everything in his power to give his customers the best possible experience: faceted search, filtered categories, easy access to product variants…the whole nine yards.
But it was never enough for King Midas. “More usability!” he’d scream, and his terrified designers would scramble to appease him.
One day, King Midas stormed into work, furious. “Why does every visitor to a page have to see the same URL?!” he roared. “Why doesn’t it change depending on what the user searches for? Why doesn’t it log their session? FIX IT!”
King Midas’s poor designers rushed to do just that, building out page URLs that dynamically generated for the user.
The URLs worked — and for a time, it was great! But King Midas got more than what he bargained for. Every time a new URL was generated, it became its own page. And since new URLs were created all the time, the site became bloated with duplicate content. On top of that, the dynamic URL system started running amok, generating nonsense pages that people hadn’t even asked for.
The pages grew and grew, thousands upon thousands of them, weighing King Midas’s site down so much that it sank like a rock in the search results.
And that, friends, is where we must leave King Midas today: all alone, reigning over a kingdom of useless pages.
Moral of the Story: It’s a good idea to consider usability first, but never implement UX changes (or other major website changes) without looping in an SEO specialist first. It’s absolutely possible to implement these changes in an SEO-friendly way, and doing so can even be as easy as a fancy new set of canonical tags. These features are notorious for wreaking havoc on SEO, but it’s a preventable problem as long as you actually consult with an SEO expert.
Old MacDonald’s Link Farm
Jim, an ecommerce store owner, knew a thing or two about SEO. Back in ‘04, his blog ranked on page one for several oddly-specific search terms — so Jim was basically a professional.
Jim knew that to rank a page, you had to feed it lots of fresh inbound links. But growing your own links was so time-consuming and expensive! He was way too smart for that. So, Jim decided to visit a farm he’d heard about that sold ready-grown links for cheap.
When Jim got to the farm, he noticed some pretty unsettling stuff. The links didn’t look healthy, and the farmer, Old MacDonald, was vile and incoherent. Most horrifying of all was the PBN section, which housed links that were so inbred, they didn’t even look like links anymore. They just stared at Jim with cold, fishy eyes, slowly plinking away on a banjo.
Shuddering, Jim squared his shoulders and bought some links. He was too smart not to. Then he hurried home and happily fed his website the new links.
About four hours later, Jim’s website keeled over and died. It turns out the links were full of poison, surprising nobody except for Jim. He dropped his face into his hands and screamed a long, mournful scream. Rumor has it, he’s been screaming ever since.
Moral of the Story: Any time you start to feel “a lot smarter” than the people who do something for a living, reconsider everything. Also, don’t buy links.
Lonely Lisa’s Lost Clicks
Lonely Lisa ran an ecommerce store that sold supplies for lonely people. It was quite a niche. Because there wasn’t much competition, Lisa’s website was soon ranking for priority keywords like “loneliest games to play” and “bagpipe car alarm.”
The only problem? Lisa’s meta descriptions did a terrible job of selling people on the site. In fact, they literally read, “Don’t shop here it’s awful.” Lisa knew that meta descriptions weren’t a ranking signal, so she never put much thought into hers.
Imagine Lisa’s frustration when she saw her site ranking for all of her priority keywords, drawing millions of impressions, without bringing in a single visitor. Every time her website appeared in the search results, her would-be customers would take a look at the other websites and visit one of those instead.
Lisa finally made peace with her lost clicks. At least she still had her rankings. But before long, even those faded away. Google didn’t want to serve people a site nobody clicked on.
Lonely Lisa’s ecommerce store then became the loneliest ecommerce store of all, for it only had one customer: Lisa herself.
Moral of the Story: Treat your meta descriptions like they’re ad copy, and write the most enticing and helpful blurb you can. Add CTAs when possible. Using schema markup can also help you stand out!
Irrelevant Stan, the Keyword Man
Irrelevant Stan couldn’t get enough of keyword rankings. They were his favorite thing in the world! He loved it all: looking at the data and finding that special keyword that had just the right combination of volume and competitiveness. Building a new page for that keyword, or rewriting an existing one. Writing 100-word blog posts with clickbait headlines. He’d found his life’s purpose.
Every time he caught another keyword, Irrelevant Stan would feel as happy as a clam. Who cared if nobody stayed on his site?! He was ranking for so. Many. Keywords! He was the mayor of Keyword City!
Then one day, Stan’s rankings began to slip. Frantically, he performed more keyword research and wrote 15 more blog posts. It didn’t help. Google had cottoned on to the fact that his pages weren’t useful for their target queries, and eventually the search engine gave up on Stan altogether.
Stripped of his rankings, Irrelevant Stan felt like he’d lost his life’s purpose. So he went back to school to become a hedge fund manager, and now he’s a billionaire.
Moral of the Story: Quality and relevance matter. If you’re not sure if a page is relevant for a particular keyword, Google the keyword to see what else ranks. Is your page in the same ballpark? Then you’re good to go!
We hope these frightful tales didn’t scare you too much. As long as you’re willing to learn — or have an SEO expert by your side — you’ll be just fine. If you need any help, the SEO pros at Grow With Studio are happy to work with you. Have a safe and happy Halloween!