The 3 Biggest Mistakes Online Retailers Make Today

3 Biggest Mistakes Online Retailers Make Today

There’s still a lot to be learned about optimizing and improving your online store. The three biggest opportunities for improvement that are generally overlooked include: Duplicating Product Descriptions, Failing to Utilize Semantic Markup and Not Optimizing NoSERPs for In-site Search.

1) Duplicate Product Descriptions

Many retailers still use the default description from a product’s packaging. Historically, this was a best practice. It’s difficult and time consuming to come up with product descriptions that rival the ones brands invest significant resources into perfecting. However, with Google’s algorithm updates, this can be a deadly practice. You may get penalized for duplicate content, which will dramatically affect your organic search rankings. And if you’re like most stores, organic search drives a significant proportion of top-line revenues.

If you’re not strictly selling exclusive products, spend the time and resources to write unique, engaging product descriptions.

2) Failing to Utilize Semantic Markup

With Google’s most recent Hummingbird update, semantic markup is  more important than ever. Semantic markup provides search engines with additional information on your content that goes beyond conventional HTML standards. Google is continuously moving towards providing users with more information directly in search results.

Although there is debate whether semantic markup actually affects search rankings, there is no doubt it increases click-through rates.

Semantic Search Markup Example with Rating, Price, Availability

Rating, Reviews, Price and Availability Shown Directly in Search Results


Semantic Markup for Video

Semantic Markup for Video – Which Result Stands Out?

Google has continued to increase their emphasis on semantic results, even for image queries.

A query for Roxy returns results categorized by clothing, bags, backpacks, logos and wallets:

Google Image SERPs - Roxy

Invest the time and resources to properly markup your site with semantic markup. Start with your product pages, as this will have the highest impact.

For more information on semantic markup, check out

3) Not Optimizing NoSERPs for in-site Search:

The No Search Engine Results Page (No SERP) occurs when a visitor over-constrains their search query so there are no results. Most e-commerce sites mishandle these by thinking the consumer is to blame or utilizing this space for advertisements. However, the No SERPs provide a significant opportunity to connect prospective customers to what they are looking for.

There are three common strategies for dealing with NoSERPs: Partial Match, Auto-complete, and Auto-suggest.

a) Partial Match

A Partial Match strategy helps alleviate over-confinement of their query by showing content that matches part of their query. This also reduces the chance that the user will simply add more information to further constrain their search following a No SERP.

b) Auto-complete

Auto-complete helps reduce the frequency of consumers landing on the No SERPs by auto-completing the search query as they type. The auto-completion helps by both reducing typing and showing the most popular keywords that finish the user’s string. Some search engines that use auto-complete even load the SERPs for the most popular search term that has been added to the end of a user’s string before they finish typing or click.

Auto-complete Ecommerce Search Optimization

c) Auto-suggest

This helps users discover what they are looking for by suggesting similar or related content. Often, this occurs through algorithms or human “votes” or tagging.

Auto-suggest Ecommerce Search Optimization

Amazon auto-suggest (below search bar & above results) and Filtering (by link) on the left.


When someone lands on a No SERP, remove all filters, which would result in further over-confinement and frustration for the end user.

Ecommerce Search Over-confinement Reduction Technique


In the end, we should always be working to improve our onsite user experience. An in-site search signals high intent, and thus failing to optimize your No SERPs is a missed opportunity to turn another shopper into a customer. So why not seek feedback?

In-site Search Feedback



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