On-Page SEO Optimisation in the fashion industry

First, it is important to work closely with the development team. Fashion sites need a clear HTML structure and the right set of Meta tags. This point is crucial for the fashion brands online since most of their content is mainly graphics. Moreover, luxury brands try to stand out and use a lot of flash or animated content. Such websites, however, are destructive for Search Engine Optimisation. Every fashion SEO manager should have a look at their blank HTML code to identify if there is enough data to read for the web crawlers or spiders.

Since fashion brands use a lot of images a proper ‘image strategy’ has to be put in place.

Main points to consider when optimising your images for SEO.

Start by giving your images descriptives file names thus giving Google a good idea about what your images are about. To make it clear red-dress-spring-collection.jpg is a lot more informative than DC12944.jpg. Don’t forget that if Google cannot find relevant text on the page, they will use the image filename as a snippet in the search results.
Your second aim should be to ensure that everybody involved in the image upload understands the importance of good alt and title attributes for images.

<img title="image tooltip" src="image.jpg" alt="image description" />

<img title="Red Dress by Gucci Spring Collection 2016" src="gucci-red-dress.jpg" alt="Red" /> 

What are alt and title tags?

The alt text describes what’s on the image or in some cases the function of the image on a particular page. Each image on your pages should have an alt text. Google relies heavily on the alt text not just to determine what’s on the image but also to understand the topic of the surrounding text. But do not get carried away. You should not spam your keyword into every alt tag. You should have high quality and related images on your pages and it only makes sense to have the focus keywords in the alt text.

Tip: To make them easily found include both the full name and the product ID in the alt tag of your images.

You may ask: But what if an image does not have any purpose? Well, if you have images on your pages for purely design reasons they should be in your CSS and not in your HTML. If your development team can’t do anything about it give it an empty alt tag like this:

<img src="topbackground.png" alt="" />

Don’t know if you’ve noticed earlier but in the first example above I gave you the same alt and title tags so you can just hover to see them. You may think that the alt text is quite long but in fact, this is what your alt text should look like.

Last but not least make sure all your images have width and height. Web browsers can begin to render a page even before all the images are downloaded provided they know the dimensions of the non-replicable elements. This can greatly improve your page speed and your customer experience – two very important elements from an SEO point of view.

One element that not many people are talking about when it comes to e-commerce website is facet navigation for increased conversion and better rankings.

What is faceted (or filtered) navigation?

Faceted navigation is a design element that allows visitors to your website to select and search for attributes that are important to them, in other words, to filter a list of products down to the ones that match their needs.

For many e-commerce sites, facet navigation is vital. By helping your visitors to find what they are looking for the facet navigation helps greatly increase your conversion rate. On the other side, many SEO managers are blocking the filtered category pages (after called facets) thus not having the specific pages required to rank for many mid-tail terms (the keywords your consumer is typically searching for when in the consideration phase of his purchase journey).

In my experience, I see many small websites outranking industry giants only because they have better technical set up. Whether the blocking of the ‘facets’ solves the over-indexation issue I see many big websites ranking for ‘ red dress’ but not ‘evening red dress by Gucci’. Search engines are allowed to access the ‘red dress’ page, but not the ‘evening red dress by Gucci’ page or ‘red dress size 18’ page.

I am not going to go into details of how to your facet navigation should work but I will just mention the need of a proper keyword research. You should be able to identify all of the keyword phrases your customers may use and build crawlable category pages for those search terms.

Tip: Make sure the content on every filtered category page is changing in order to reflect the facets that are selected: as a bare minimum, this means the page title, meta description, and H1.

If your facet navigation is not set up properly you may run into some duplicate content issues (other factors like pagination can also increase the possibility of you having duplicate content present on your website).
Here are some best practices to fix them before they even happen.

Using Robots.txt to tackle duplicate content occurrences.

The robots.txt file gives you the power to control what pages search engine can access. Here is an example:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /*search

This wildcard will ask all search engines to ignore any URLs with the word ‘search’.

Tip: Look into your Google Analytics account to identify which version of the page receives the most traffic.

Parameter handling

Parameters are a very common cause of content duplication and they can be handed in the configuration section within Google Search Console. As parameters can get very complicated I would recommend consulting an expert before making any changes.

Canonical Tags.

The canonical tags are a line of code that tells search engines which page you would like to be indexed from a set of pages with identical content. They should be present on each version of the duplicated page and normally they look like:

Tip: To ensure there is no room for duplicate content on your website use a combination of the three methods mentioned above.

404 or 301 your old pages? Which is Best for SEO?

The question many website owners in the fashion industry ask me is ‘What to do when products run out of stock’.

For retailers in the fashion industry with constantly fluctuating inventory, it’s common to see tonnes of 404 euro pages for products or even product categories that are out of stock or no longer exist.
On closer inspection, 404 redirects can cause short-term and long-term damage to your SEO. Unlike 301 redirects, 404 utilise a new URL and will eventually register as a broken link which will affect how helpful (and functional) your website is to search engines. The more broken links your website has the less attractive it will be as a search result.

In my opinion, the best way to maintain SEO and keep the customer confusion to a minimum is to maintain the page but install a widget telling the visitors that the product is out of stock. Even better if you know when the product will be back in stock you can include a product restocking date (you can even prompt the user for an email address and provide an automatic alert when the product is restocked). Another good idea is to insert a widget showing similar products in order to keep the visitor on the website.

If the product in question is obsolete either 301 redirect to the newest model or if this is not an option redirect to the parent category displaying similar items.

Tip: Reuse URLs if you sell products where model number and specifications are not important.

The importance of keyword research.

When it comes to keywords start by analysing the keywords used by your competitors, to get inspiration for your own brand. Do not use keywords that are not related to fashion.
If you are in the fashion industry the most important thing to understand is that search engine’s most significant aspect is topical relevance.
To understand relevance please read Google Semantic Search by David Amerland or join the Google Semantic Search community where Teodora Petkova will bring you up to speed in no time.