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The Most Common Mistakes an E-Commerce Website Makes What holds back online e-commerce websites is the fact that many of them make mistakes that are very bad for business

By Rohan Ayyar

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Online shopping is rapidly growing in popularity and millions of Indians, young and a bit older, prefer to shop online rather than shopping in an offline store. While this spells a bonanza for online retailers big and small, some online retailers may not be as well positioned as they should be to take advantage of legions of new online shoppers. Online stores are rapidly replacing offline stores or "brick and mortar stores" as they used to be called as the preferred places to shop. However, the enormous success of relatively young online retailers like Flipkart doesn't guarantee that every online store in India will succeed, far from it.

Most online e-commerce websites in India have a long way to go before they give serious competition to offline retailers. What holds back such online e-commerce websites is the fact that many of them make mistakes that are very bad for business. Just a few such mistakes were captured by a recently completed study which analysed 1,300 e-commerce websites and revealed how many such sites are unwittingly driving away potential customers. The mistakes captured by the study are described below.

Poor Crawlability Is Holding Back E-Commerce Sites

While many of the largest e-commerce sites have excellent brand recall and visitors directly enter such sites URL into the browser to visit them, less well-known sites have to attract traffic. To attract traffic such sites have to allow search engines to index their content. However, while many e-commerce sites allow search engines to index their content, such sites also have to be cautious and not allow search engines the freedom to crawl some parts of the site. This is because faceted navigation that allows people to search sites with the application of multiple filters can lead to the creation of duplicate content. Shockingly many e-commerce sites don't take measures to prevent the creation of such duplicate content.

Internal Linking is Very Necessary

The pages on a website need to be linked internally as it allows users and search engines to find content on a site. Surprisingly it was discovered that as many as 900 websites had broken internal links. This clearly shows that even leading e-commerce companies with large marketing budgets can get the simplest things wrong.

Letting Search Engines Know Which Pages to Index

Sitemaps let search engines find content and let them know if the content has been updated. However, this doesn't mean that every page on an e-commerce site should have a place in the sitemap. Many pages that redirect or have no index tag should not have a place in a sitemap. However, it was found that companies were sending search engines information about pages which should not be in a sitemap. Such mistakes must be avoided to allow a site to serve customers well.

Sites Should Have HTTPS Implementation

Website security is a priority for all e-commerce stores because nothing scares away potential customers faster than a warning from a search engine that a connection is not secure. It is however common for e-commerce sites to have pages linking to an old HTTP version of their site and to pages with mixed content. Such linking doesn't allow search engines to verify whether a page is secure which costs companies business.

Poor Website Performance Hampers Business

People who shop online want a pleasant shopping experience. Such an experience should be fast and the landing page on e-commerce sites should load quickly. A websites loading speed also impacts how a site is ranked by search engines. It is estimated that for every second of delay in loading companies can expect a 7per cent decrease in conversation. Many e-commerce sites are not optimized for speed and they should be if they expect to fight it out among other sites and to win.

Using the Robots.txt File

The robots.txt file allows a site to communicate with a search engine before the search engine begins to "crawl" a site. This is very important because it allows a site to tell a search engine which area of a website should not be processed or scanned. However, it was shocking to discover that 195 e-commerce sites did not have a robots.txt file. Such gaffs can make e-commerce site less functional and less reliable for users.

Being Search Engine Optimised Internationally

For most e-companies growing internationally is a challenge. A site that does grow to sell globally should let search engines know that it has similar content for different locations. Hreflang tags help e-commerce sites do so however it was found that many sites with such tags had them configured incorrectly. Mistakes such as these lead to complications when selling products in different markets.

E-commerce is here to stay. However, to succeed in this cut-throat market it is necessary for companies to leave no stone unturned in keeping their sites well functioning and optimized so that they can effortlessly serve the larger and larger numbers of those eager to buy online. By solving the issues mentioned above e-commerce companies can better their chances of succeeding in a business that is reshaping how people live, buy, and sell.

Rohan Ayyar

Regional Marketing Manager

Rohan Ayyar is the  Regional Marketing Manager India, SEMrush. He is an avid blogger, with posts featured on MarketingProfs, Social Media Today and Business Insider, among other places.
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