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Ecommerce websites are unique in that they're constantly evolving, because of product inventory that's coming and going. These websites tend to be very large as well, which can increase the chances of technical issues being introduced. If you're running an ecommerce site, there are some specific things to watch out for, and some things to put on your to-do list. First, if you're out of stock of a product, the product changes slightly, or you're not selling it at the moment, but you expect to at some point in the future, make sure to leave the page intact, but of course update the page with the appropriate messaging.
You don't want to have to start from scratch, especially if you're already getting good traction with the search engines. But if a product no longer exists in any form, make sure that that product URL returns a page "not found" with a status code of 404. You should make sure that your 404 page has been customized to provide an appropriate message letting users know that you're sorry that they didn't find what they're looking for. You'll also want to include navigation, a search bar, or perhaps even some suggested pages so that anyone that lands here has a way to continue shopping on your website.
If the product page location has just moved, like if it was assigned to a different category, you'll want to make sure to implement a 301 permanent redirect to take users to the right place, and to let search engines know that this is the new home for this particular product. With content that's always changing, we also want to make sure that the search engines have a way to discover your new content right away. Make sure your ecommerce platform generates an XML sitemap of all your website URLs.
Most ecommerce platforms can dynamically create these XML sitemaps, as your site changes from the same database that drives the website itself, and many of them can submit the sitemap URLs to the Search Engine Webmaster Tools as well. Making sure this process is in place, ensures that search engines will always discover your new content right away. And don't forget to place the rel="canonical" tag on each of your pages. This will make sure that search engines are indexing only unique URLs for each of your category, subcategory, and product pages, and it will ensure that you don't run into any duplicate content issues.
Again, many ecommerce platforms will do this for you or offer it as a feature that you can enable and configure. Last, a common presentation style on ecommerce sites includes paginated content. For example, you might have 30 products in a particular category, but they're displayed 10 per page. To a search engine, this might look like three different pages, and it can be confusing to search engine crawlers as they traverse your website. Fortunately, you can use the rel="next" or rel="prev" attributes on your pagination links, to tell search engines not to treat the linked page as a unique page, but instead, as just an extension of the current page.
Keeping in mind the extra technical components of an ecommerce website will help search engines to clearly index your content and understand the products you offer, setting you up for a better chance of being returned when users come searching.
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