Home – New Forums Tech talk Seo advice please on product variations

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  • #987994
    aaron.miller
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    Hi,
    I sell satin ribbons, for one brand of ribbon we sell it comes in 42 colours, 5 widths and 2 lengths. I have used option sets in bigcommerce so on the category page i have the 42 colours displayed, the customer chooses the colour, then once on the product page chooses the width and length.
    The only difference between any of the products is the colour.
    From a seo point of view, I understand that i should have good original content in the descriptions, so for each product it has the same description with only the colour being different.
    How do I do this without google penalising me?
    I really don’t think I can come up with 42 ways to say the same thing?

    My website is ribbonprint.com.au and its the elan ribbon im using as an example.

    Cheers

    Aaron

    #1165176
    Anonymous
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    Great question Aaron! I’ll be interested to see what our resident SEO experts have to say on the subject.

    Good luck with it all,
    Jayne

    #1165177
    JohnW
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    Hi Aaron,
    You pose an Internet information delivery problem.

    There are only two ways people can find your information, they know its address and type it into their browser or they click on a link to it.

    Generic SE results are not the only option and they don’t suit all Internet marketing communications problems.

    SEs are good for delivering “new” customers to text based information. They are hopeless at delivering new customers to graphic based information.

    That said, it seems to me you are limiting your thinking when you say the only product difference is the colour of the ribbon.

    You have to think like a searcher. Some people will search for “Ribbon supplier Sydney” or “Ribbon supplier Brisbane”. I know you won’t be found by searchers who include a location word because you dont use them on your site.

    If you think I’m joking go to Google and type into the search box, “ribbon su”. Google will give you the predictive search phrases that include, “ribbon supply company”, “ribbon suppliers”, “ribbon suppliers Sydney”, “ribbon suppliers Brisbane”, “ribbon supplier Australia” and more. Your site won’t qualify for most of these search queries.

    What are the application for your products? Who are you targeting? I’m guessing you don’t have pages that answer any of these types of search questions.

    The biggest SEO problem is that site owners don’t think like searchers and their pages don’t qualify for 70% of the search phrases that people use.

    A final comment…

    If you still have trouble coming up with text based information that your potential customers will want, I’d be exploring graphic based information delivery mediums like Facebook and Pinterest for your application.
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1165178
    John Romaine
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    I would create one product, then hang all of the available colours for it under that.

    It makes no sense to create unique product listings to show such small differences/variations.

    If you end up with urls that look like this ribbonprint.com.au/ribbon.php?colour=green be sure to use canonical urls.

    This will ensure that Google knows which url is the one you want indexed.

    What you want….

    ribbonprint.com.au/ribbons/

    What you want to avoid

    ribbonprint.com.au/ribbon.php?colour=green
    ribbonprint.com.au/ribbon.php?colour=red
    ribbonprint.com.au/ribbon.php?colour=blue

    When Google sees numerous pages that are near duplicates it will drop them, and this inturn will affect your site index ratio (the actual amount of pages that Google deem to be of any importance)

    More on canonical urls below.

    https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/139066?hl=en

    #1165179
    Y LearnMarketing
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    I agree with John,

    Create one product page of your ribbons & give the options of different colours for people to choose from.

    You can also use Google Adwords Product Listing Ads by creating an account at Google Merchant Center, enter the feed of your products.

    When people search ribbons related keywords, your ad would show above all organic search result with the images & description of your products.

    You will be charged by the number of clicks just like all paid ads, but you can imagine the CRT of those ads.

    #1165180
    aaron.miller
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    Thanks everyone for your feedback and suggestions.
    JohnW, Our wider ribbons such as elan ribbons are typically used for three uses. Place ribbons for school carnivals, body sashes and animal show prize ribbons.
    Chances are quite a few flying solo members kids have received our ribbon and if you have been to a royal show you will have seen our ribbon adorning some of the animals.
    We have two types of customers. mum and dad established operators who typically don’t use the internet. The other group is stay at home mums. These mums are very computer literate and net savvy. These mums are who I am targeting. I think one of my biggest issues is the customer doesn’t know that the technology to print on ribbons exists. Our ribbon printer only works on satin ribbon,
    there are many types of ribbons and we only sell one type.
    I have a facebook page which has been neglected and has only had 12 likes in a year, but i am trying to revive it and have put a female focus on it. Its early days but several customers have been positive about this so far.

    John Romaine, I can certainly implement what you have suggested, I have created a test product and am seeking feedback from several of my key web customers about how it would affect usability of the site. The test product can be found at http://ribbonprint.com.au/ribbons/elan-single-sided-satin-ribbon/test-elan-product/
    As far as I can tell changing the colour doesn’t effect the url.
    If i search for woven edge satin ribbon on google oz my first organic listing is on page 3. This would be I believe a common search term. If I search woven edge single sided ribbon then i am the 5th organic listing on the first page. Incidentally my ebay store is ranked no1 on the first page as well, but thats a different story.
    I believe having so many identical listings with only the colour changing has lead to being penalised ans the 3rd page serp.

    Thanks guys

    Aaron

    #1165181
    JohnW
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    aaron.miller, post: 191318 wrote:
    JohnW, Our wider ribbons such as elan ribbons are typically used for three uses. Place ribbons for school carnivals, body sashes and animal show prize ribbons.
    We can only offer suggestion in a forum like this as we don’t know enough about your marketing and resources to be specific.

    That said, a limitation of most shopping carts is that they don’t or can’t sell products

    What they offer is a single set of often very limited product features and that opens them to being only capable of competing on factors like price, location and distribution costs.

    Example: Your words, “body sashes”.

    Google predictive search tells us people are looking for:

    sashes sydney
    sashes for awards
    sashes online
    sashes for wedding dresses
    sashes for formal
    sashes for dresses
    sashes for hens night
    sashes for pageants
    sashes for graduation

    Do you offer to print the sashes? Then you have:

    personalised sashes
    personalised hen party sashes
    personalised birthday sashes
    printed sashes
    promotional sashes

    If these are major potential customer groups then you need pages to “sell” to each group and you want a cart “buy” function repeated on each page.

    If you have separate pages for “formals”, “weddings” and “hens nights” and you have a bunch of pics of people wearing your sashes, you should be able to start “selling” your sashes/ribbons instead of “warehousing” them and limiting yourself to price differentiated sales.

    If you can adopt this content strategy, you should be in a good place to implement SEO. Start by checking your competition for the phrase – I checked “hens night sashes”, most are shopping carts. That means they will probably have trouble improving their search ranking points. They also don’t “sell” in their page titles. You might try a page title like, “Ideas for hens party sashes. Buy online”.

    Now you have a page format where you can add more examples of your products in use, mini stories and testimonials. Keep adding pictorial ideas, each with a sentence or so of description. As it grows in length it should be improving its search ranking and soon your page should be ranking top 10. BTW, add your newest pic idea at the top of the page and it will lend itself to also being a landing page link for social media marketing.

    These can only be by way of online marketing idea starters.

    As a marketer, I hate shopping carts because they focus site owners on the mechanical process of warehousing limited information and the ordering/distribution function, not selling, merchandising and marketing. No wonder so many fail.
    Good luck and regs,
    JohnW

    #1165182
    John Romaine
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    aaron.miller, post: 191318 wrote:
    Our wider ribbons such as elan ribbons are typically used for three uses. Place ribbons for school carnivals, body sashes and animal show prize ribbons.
    Chances are quite a few flying solo members kids have received our ribbon and if you have been to a royal show you will have seen our ribbon adorning some of the animals.

    Your answer lies in content marketing. That is what can make this work. Infact, this is what makes most sites work.

    If you intend on trying to rank “products”, then you’re going to struggle.

    For instance, let’s say you’re trying to rank “pink ribbons”….you have your photo, maybe a description and price. That doesn’t mean much.

    However, if you’re shooting videos, writing content, uploading pdfs, recording podcasts, photos, examples, uses, customer reviews etc etc etc.

    THAT is going to make a difference.

    Problem is, most people don’t bother. They’re either too lazy, too busy, or don’t think it’s important.

    Any ecommerce store that fails to implement a content marketing strategy (especially within the next few years) is doomed.

    #1165183
    JohnTranter
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    aaron.miller, post: 191318 wrote:
    John Romaine, I can certainly implement what you have suggested, I have created a test product and am seeking feedback from several of my key web customers about how it would affect usability of the site. The test product can be found at http://ribbonprint.com.au/ribbons/elan-single-sided-satin-ribbon/test-elan-product/

    Hey Aaron,

    Just to give ideas, I implemented something similar for a client. The difference from your implementation is that I showed all the colour variations on the category page
    (e.g. http://ribbonprint.com.au/categories/ribbons/elan-single-sided-satin-ribbon.html)
    But each variation linked to just one product page, similar to your test page, which would allow users to select a new colour if desired. I used a parameter to automatically set the colour to the one selected from the category page.
    I also used a canonical url so that Google effectively ignored the parameter and just indexed one page. (you could also use webmaster tools to ask Google to ignore that parameter as well)

    I’d be interested to see what problems the the SEO guys might foresee with this implementation.

    As a quick aside, is it possible that the main image on your test page changes to match the colour selection?

    #1165184
    aaron.miller
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    Thanks again guys,
    JohnT re your last point yes, when properly implemented the main pic changes when they choose the swatch colour. I don’t believe its possible to change the main pic depending on what the chose on the category page but will dig into it. Thanks

    JohnW we don’t produce any printed ribbon ourselves, we simply sell the blank ribbons, foils and ribbon printers. I think that is for us the really hard part. We are looking to attract people to buy our wares and then produce the final product themselves but we need to plant the seed in their minds that they can actually do this. So if we make say personalised sashes a key word then the majority of the people who search for that are looking for someone to produce the sash. They will visit our site realise that were not who they are after and then quickly leave, which will then effect our ranking on google. However someone looking to produce personalised sashes might also search for the same term, but because we have been penalised not find us.

    My conversion rate at present is around 4%, what is a good figure?

    Aaron

    #1165185
    John Romaine
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    aaron.miller, post: 191351 wrote:
    My conversion rate at present is around 4%, what is a good figure?

    4% of what?

    Enquiries?
    Sales?

    #1165186
    aaron.miller
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    good question, I had to double check
    Bigcommerce work it out as number completed orders divided by the number of unique visitors.

    Regards
    Aaron

    #1165187
    JohnW
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    JohnTranter, post: 191336 wrote:
    The difference from your implementation is that I showed all the colour variations on the category page
    (e.g. http://ribbonprint.com.au/categories/ribbons/elan-single-sided-satin-ribbon.html)
    But each variation linked to just one product page, similar to your test page, which would allow users to select a new colour if desired. I used a parameter to automatically set the colour to the one selected from the category page.
    I also used a canonical url so that Google effectively ignored the parameter and just indexed one page. (you could also use webmaster tools to ask Google to ignore that parameter as well)

    I’d be interested to see what problems the SEO guys might foresee with this implementation.
    Hi John Tranter,
    You asked for an example of SEO at work in another thread.

    Here is one…

    How mundane a product do you want? How many ways might people search for “railway sleepers”? Might you expect there to be more or less ways than for “satin ribbons”?

    Take a top level search phrase like “railway sleepers Sydney”. Would you expect that to generate most of the sleeper site’s SE referrals if the site ranked # 1 in Google?

    In fact, that single search phrase, even though it was one of the top 5 referring search queries, only generated 1.5% of all generic SE referrals to the site.

    What generated most of the site’s SE referrals were the 10,350 unique search phrases that were used to send less than 10 referrals each. These numbers are for a 5 page website, BTW. I’m citing numbers for nearly 2 years of referrals.

    Most people don’t believe or can’t imagine how huge the pond is with search queries that they have not fulfilled. I suspect they have been misled by Keyword tools that don’t report the hundreds of thousands of infrequently used unique search phrases. (Actually, it is around 4 billion every month according to Google.)

    The major SE referral problem for Aaron is that his current product page and the category page you reference are incapable of attracting many generic SE referrals for the simple reason that they use so few unique words.

    If Aaron’s pages do not include all the words used in the search query, they won’t even get into the search results list.

    If he doesn’t publish individual pages (landing pages) that focus on important search questions he is unlikely to score enough ranking points for a top 5 search ranking.

    Does that answer your question?
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1165188
    JohnTranter
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    JohnW, post: 191374 wrote:
    If Aaron’s pages do not include all the words used in the search query, they won’t even get into the search results list.

    If he doesn’t publish individual pages (landing pages) that focus on important search questions he is unlikely to score enough ranking points for a top 5 search ranking.

    Does that answer your question?

    Hey John W,

    Sort of, I think Aaron has to weigh up SEO issues (duplicate content) with conversion optimisation (showing his customers the full range on colours on his category page) No one wants to have to click on a product to see what colours it comes in, so it’s best to show all the colours as early as possible on the site.

    I understand the idea of landing pages and having as much rich content as possible, I was just asking about whether my solution to his particular problem was ok or not.
    Or are you saying that having 40 duplicate pages is relatively unimportant and he should be concentrating on creating landing pages?

    #1165189
    JohnW
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    JohnTranter, post: 191410 wrote:
    Hey John W,

    Sort of, I think Aaron has to weigh up SEO issues (duplicate content) with conversion optimisation (showing his customers the full range on colours on his category page) No one wants to have to click on a product to see what colours it comes in, so it’s best to show all the colours as early as possible on the site.

    I understand the idea of landing pages and having as much rich content as possible, I was just asking about whether my solution to his particular problem was ok or not.
    Or are you saying that having 40 duplicate pages is relatively unimportant and he should be concentrating on creating landing pages?
    Hi John T
    We can’t be specific here because we don’t know enough about Aaron’s situation.

    I’m offering marketing thought starters and observations about issues that plague many shopping carts – lack of content.

    The typical shopping cart configuration only offers access to information based on product category > product type > product name > features and a picture.

    That configuration is fine for those people who want to access info in this format – retain this but…

    I’m suggesting that there will be many other types of information wanted by different types of customers for the same product and that the typical cart does not accommodate this.

    The examples of weddings, hen’s nights, awards, etc. are all product applications. If you want to rank high for these types of searches you need a page specifically about ribbons/sashes for weddings, etc. Simply adding a para at the top of the page that talks about a list of uses for the ribbons that includes “weddings” and “hen’s nights”, etc. is not enough. If folk run a few check searches they will see that the top ranked pages are invariable completely dedicated to wedding dress sashes or hen’s night sashes, etc. Generic SE referrals are reliant on a page scoring more ranking points than the other pages. When you see top search results that are all dedicated to the search phrase, it is a clue to the level of competition and what you need to do about it.

    So, one SEO tactic is to identify specific information seekers that can’t find the site’s info and create content that delivers them what they want.

    The SEO example I posted was to show people how huge the missed opportunity may be.

    Back to your question about 40 near duplicate pages…

    I’d expect them to be irrelevant from a SE referral perspective. G relegates near duplicate content to its supplementary index and it seems to me that this is where all but one would end up.

    Google tells Aaron how big a problem the site’s lack of content is right now.

    G has indexed 2,750 pages from the site and relegated 2,637 (96%) to its supplementary index. I don’t see how 40 more near duplicate content pages will help with referrals.

    From a usability issue, I agree, no one wants to click to different pages just to order different colours of the same product.

    If there was a landing page for wedding dress sashes, I’d want to have all sash colour options and ordering functions on that same page. Ideally you don’t want to send people off to another page for ordering as you risk breaking the spell.

    Did I cover your questions this time?
    Regs,
    JohnW

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