Oracle Commerce Cloud SEO Benefits

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05 Apr Oracle Commerce Cloud SEO Benefits

Oracle Commerce Cloud (OCC) is a flexible eCommerce solution utilized by large brands and retailers for B2B and B2C commerce.  Oracle Commerce Cloud has numerous technical and business level features to help run an eCommerce operation such as Design Studio, Product Merchandising, A/B Testing, Dynamic Product Recommendations, Multi-Store / Multi-Currency and more.  One of the more understated features of OCC is its Search Engine Optimization (SEO) benefits.  Our blog today covers some of the benefits of OCC’s impact on SEO and how you can leverage the out of the box tools to win positioning on Google and Bing.

301 Redirects (Akamai)

A browser will display an Error 404 page when a page cannot be found on the server, for example, if a shopper tries to access your store with a URL that they found in an old email newsletter for a product your store no longer carries.  You can mitigate this problem with the out of the box traffic routing.

One of the benefits of OCC is that you get Akamai at the top of the system.  Akamai is best in breed when it comes to content delivery, traffic routing, speed optimizations, and security.  With Akamai, you can batch load in 301 redirects that can redirect old URLs (from your previous site) to the new URL (on your new site).  This makes sure that any bookmarks, email links, article links, etc. all navigate to the correct page for the end user.  While the Akamai interface lives on the Oracle Cloud, and you don’t have access to that as a customer, you can make a request to your client support team and get high-level reports on 404s.  You can then remedy those 404 issues as they happen.  If you want more control you may also elect to use Google Webmaster Tools to track your own 404s.

One of the major benefits of using Akamai to serve your 301 redirects vs letting your application do it is that the first connection point (which is your Akamai CDN) will route people to the correct page before they hit the application infrastructure.  What that means is that it saves some stress on the cloud server and doesn’t impact the server in a negative way.  In theory, this could save you money long-term (with the page view model) because the client won’t hit extra useless pages.

Search engines will deprioritize any links that they can’t “follow” or index the URLs so this process is critical.  Ask your SI about their plan to migrate URLs from your legacy platform to OCC.  The end results of properly setting up all 301 redirects are that it saves organic ranking (also called ‘link juice’ ) in search indexes like Google and Bing.

 

Configure URL patterns

If you choose not to do 301 URL redirects there is an option out of the box that allows you to set the “URL Pattern” of your new OCC links to try and match your old links.  For instance, you can change the Collection or Product page URL link structure to match what you had on your legacy site thus minimizing the need for 301’ing all your links.

By default, Oracle Commerce Cloud uses the following URL patterns for Collection and Product pages:

Collection pages: /{seoTitleDerived}/collection/{id}

For example, /mens/collection/graphic-tees

 

Product pages: /{seoTitleDerived}/product/{id}

For example, /striped-polo-shirt/product/prod1234

 

Tip: If you plan on customizing your URLs it is best to complete this task within a development project before it goes live in production.  If you wait until after the project is live you would be forced to 301 all your original OCC links (before you changed things) to the new ones or suffer the 404 organic consequences.

 

XML Sitemap

Oracle ships with a dynamic XML sitemap generator out of the box.  The XML sitemap is an index of all the URLs on your OCC instance.  The purpose of the sitemap is that it helps search engines crawl your site more efficiently and effectively.

Only pages, products, and collections that can be seen by a generic visitor session are included in the generated sitemaps.  This means that if a page is behind a login wall it won’t be indexed.  This login wall is common for B2B sites that don’t allow the site to be seen without logging in first.

A new feature in OCC Version 18A is that each sitemap entry includes a <lastmod> tag that provides the date and time stamp of when the content was last published.  The benefit of this tag is that it provides Google with an indication that something changed on your site and that it should take that new version over old versions of the page in the index.  This tag also benefits your “freshness rating” in which Google sees your site changing and gives you link priority because you have invested the time to update your pages.

 

Set up keyword redirects

While not a foundational benefit of SEO, OCC keyword redirects help you send shoppers to specific pages on your store to make sure they aren’t bouncing off your site and spending more time on your site.  The end goal is to make sure that customers find what they are looking for.

For example, keyword searches for a brand “Nike” could redirect to unique collection page instead of a typical list of search results.  This is a more engaging experience and can’t help foster discovery for customers.

Again, this isn’t a direct organic ranking metric, however onsite metrics such as Page views per session, Length of session visits, and Bounce Rate (meaning they didn’t find what they were looking for and left the site) are high indicators to Google that your site is worthy of them ranking your URLs high in their index.

 

Customize the Error layout and Page Not Found widget

In conjunction with other 404 mitigation tools, Oracle Commerce Cloud uses the ‘Page Not Found widget’ to display a message to the visitor that the page they searched for has not been found.   This tool can go hand in hand with your 404/301 redirect execution plan.

A retailer can utilize this front-end website widget to give the visitor some options for 404 Not Found resolution such as:

  • A customer service phone number to call
  • A customer support email address or live chat feature
  • A few links to social media profiles (as many customers prefer to handle customer service via social media now)
  • A few links to top collections
  • A few links to top selling products.
  • A link to the homepage

The goal of updating this widget is to minimize site abandonment and keep the visitor engaged on your site.

 

Tag Store Pages – Meta Information

It is safe to think of Google and Bing search robots as very intelligent ‘blind’ bots.  To inform them of the content on the website they have to read the HTML source code and any code tags to clue them in on what that page is about.  Remember search engines can’t see images and read a page like humans can, so you have to assist their bot crawlers.

Oracle Commerce Cloud automatically adds the <title>, <meta name=”keywords”>, and <meta name=”description”> tags to the headers of several types of page templates on your store.  You should fill out each tag’s information in to inform search engines of what type of content is on each page and what information should show up in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).  Note:  Not every search index uses meta keywords anymore (Google does not), but it is still best practice to fill them out.

Here is an example of “Button Down Dress Shirt” product metadata.

<title>Brand Name Button Down Dress Shirt</title>

<meta name=”description”> The latest Brand Button Down Dress Shirt features 100% American Made Cotton and long-lasting materials.  It is a limited time product, once it sells out it is gone.</description>

<meta name=”keywords”>button down shirt, mens button down shirt, men shirt, cotton shirt, business shirt</keywords>

Note: You can also customize CMS pages on OCC to have the same type of SEO information.

 

Customize URL Slugs

A URL slug is the SEO-friendly, human-readable, front-end part of product and collection page URLs.

Take this URL:  www.domain.com/product/button-down-shirt the slug in this example is “button-down-shirt”.  The importance of this slug is that it tells users and bots alike what is to be expected on the page.  You want your URL slugs to be as concise as possible while communicating what is on the page.  If you struggle to define a custom slug Oracle Commerce Cloud automatically creates a URL slug for each product and collection page that is set to the value of the Name property for the product or collection.  This saves a ton of time and the mental overhead of having to remember to fill it in.  If you wish to change the slug to something shorter, more branded, or more keyword rich you can customize the URL slug when you edit a product or collection on the Catalog page in the administration interface.  A good rule of thumb is to think like a potential customer is looking at a Google search result.  What is better and more descriptive “domain.com/product1234_2123ABC” or “domain.com/special-dress-shirt-green”?

 

Tag Images “Alt” Text

Going back to HTML code level support, OCC automatically adds “alt text” and title attributes to the <img> tag for each image on a product or collection page on your store.  Search engines read that alt text and use it to return images descriptions to the searcher.  Alt text is also important for ADA Compliance and in assisting people with poor vision to use your site.  For example, a blind shopper’s screen reader reads an image’s alt text when it reaches the image on a category page on your store.  The use screen readers and “tab” through the content and the content is read back to them in their chosen language.

Similar to URL slugs, both alt text and image tag attributes are set to the value of the Name property for the product or collection to make sure you have something [generic] in place.   However, you can customize the alt text and title when you edit a product or collection on the Catalog page in the OCC Admin UI.

 

Add Open Graph (OG) Tags

The ‘Product Social Meta Tags widget’ that ships with OCC automatically adds Open Graph (OG) protocol meta tags to product pages to control the content displayed when a page is shared on Facebook.  Similar to how Google and Bing read the normal HTML tags, Facebook and Twitter read these unique OG tags to know how to show links on its respective platforms.

For example, if you ever share a link on Facebook or Twitter it will preload your title, image, and URL.  While it can guess what content it should show in the link embed it is better to define it as best you can.  This is where the OG tags provide that context.

 

Robots.txt file

The robots.txt file controls how Google crawls (or doesn’t crawl) your store’s pages. While bots don’t have to 100% follow the rule you put forward in your Robots.txt file you can utilize the Robots.txt rules to deny access to certain bots and crawlers from indexing ‘non-essential’ areas of the site.  A common example is to deny the “Baidu” spider from indexing your site if you only sell in the United States, as Baidu is a Chinese international search engine.

The default Oracle Commerce Cloud robots.txt file looks like this:

User-agent: *

Disallow: /cart

Disallow: /en/cart

Disallow: /checkout

Disallow: /en/checkout

Disallow: /profile

Disallow: /en/profile

Disallow: /searchresults

Disallow: /en/searchresults

Disallow: /confirmation

Disallow: /en/confirmation

Disallow: /wishlist_settings

Disallow: /en/wishlist_settings

Disallow: /wishlist

Disallow: /en/wishlist

Sitemap: https://www.clientdomain.com/sitemap.xml  (it’s always nice to tell Google exactly where to go to get your sitemap)

User-agent: * means that the exclusion rules should apply to all robots. You can replace the * (asterisk) with the name of a specific robot to exclude, for example, Google.

Each Disallow: /[page] entry indicates a page that robots should not visit. You should not remove any of the Disallow: entries from the default robots.txt file, though you might want to include additional pages that you want robots to ignore. If you are testing your store and do not want any robots to crawl any pages, you might want your robots.txt file to look like this:

User-agent: *

Disallow: /

Note: You cannot edit the robots.txt file in the administration UI. You must edit it with the Commerce Cloud Admin REST API.  Your Oracle SI should be able to help make any updates quickly.

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