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Product Options: The Most Commonly Overlooked Ecommerce Element Likely Affecting Your SEO and Conversions

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Your product pages are one of the most important elements of your ecommerce website. Every successful online store owner knows the essential elements of a highly converting product page –– but to give you a quick refresher, here they are: Currently absent from this list, however, is one critical element even the ecommerce pros often miss –– the proper use and implementation of product options. Online store owners either have too many, too few or neglect to include options on their product pages altogether, which can have rather large implications when it comes to SEO and your search engine rankings. So, let’s dive in to fix the problem.

What are Product Options?

Product options allow you to add variations to individual products. Popular examples include different colors, sizes, yes/no checkboxes or custom text fields indicating a specific size, fabric or what have you. Here are a few examples:

US Paint Supply

This online store has a simple, yet robust set of options. Not only do they include the basic options needed to purchase paint online –– i.e. color, size and sheen –– but they have scaled their customer base enough to also include a customized “Color Picker” on certain products, like their C2 LUXE Paint.0x9wkUA

Tiny Pies

Tiny Pies not only allows for you to select your flavor, but you can also specify what day you would like to pick up your item or have it delivered.
Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 10.09.13 AM

Son of a Sailor

Meanwhile Son of a Sailor keeps their product options a little more traditional, using three different kinds of options including; color swatches, radio button and a drop down menu on their  Goomsman Gift | Shave Kit.0CsPyC7

The Benefits of Product Options

Many online store owners feel product options are complicated or not worth their time. However, by ignoring product options, these merchants are missing a huge opportunity to set themselves up for success. The return on investment is significant when you consider how product options help you streamline order fulfillment and order management, boost your store’s conversion rate and even help your search engine ranking.Per usual, though, don’t just take my word for it. Here are some examples of exactly why product options are worth the time and effort.

Easier Order Fulfillment and Inventory Management

In setting up product options for your product or service, you also gain the ability to set up inventory tracking per product SKU. Not only can this help you stay organized when fulfilling orders, this can also streamline your ability to work with a third-party order fulfillment service.[Tweet "Insight into your high-selling and static products is key to developing a business strategy."]In addition, you’ll gain an understanding of your product catalog's performance on a granular level. For instance, your small, red dog bed may be selling like hot cakes while your large, blue dog bed might just be taking up space in your storage facility. By tracking this, you can then know to discontinue your large, blue dog bed to possibly make room for inventory that is actually moving, increasing your potential revenue rather than decreasing it by taking up storage space.As you can imagine, understanding your business on this level is instrumental in growing and scaling. Gaining insight into the high-selling and static products in your store is key to developing a profitable business strategy. It is also one of the best ways to keep your finger on the pulse of what your customers want.

Increase Your Conversion Rate

By implementing product options, you’ll be working to improve the shopping experience for your customers and a better user experience leads to increased conversion rates. However, this is not to say that you should overwhelm shoppers with too many options as this could actually lower your conversions.[Tweet "Too many options can be overwhelming, while not enough can make your customers feel pigeonholed."]Too many options can be overwhelming, while not enough can make your customers feel as though they are being pigeonholed. So, where’s the goldilocks zone? A study conducted by the New York Times, run on two different Saturdays, found that when they offered 24 different flavor options for jam, there was a conversion rate of 3%. In contrast, when they offered six flavor options, the conversion rate jumped to 30%. The median option variations, then, seems to lay somewhere between more than three and less than 10.

Impact Your Search Engine Ranking

Quite often, ecommerce store owners do not leverage product options and instead create a single product page for each option. By having a dedicated product page for their item that’s available in orange and having another separate product pages for the same product that’s available in blue, store owners are actually running the risk of harming their search engine ranking.Take a look at the following two product page examples. Each of these pages are nearly identical product pages. The product name is nearly identical along with the product description and imagery. The only difference is the color.PicMonkey CollageSearch engines will view this as duplicate content, potentially dinging your site and lowering your rankings. In addition, shoppers will need to flip back and forth between pages to figure out which option they like best –– which creates a less than optimal customer experience. All of this can be avoided with proper use of product options. Here, you’ll find a single page allowing for shoppers to easily select the size and color of the product, generating better SEO as well as an improved customer experience.wJPEEaR

Worried You Have Duplicate Content Issues?

Arguably, the most important aspect of your ecommerce store are your product pages. Also, it’s likely your product pages make up the bulk of your website. As a quick, easy and free spotcheck tip, you can simply export your products and use conditional formatting to find out if you have duplicate product titles, descriptions, image descriptions, etc. Once you edit them, go ahead and import them back into your store and –– voila –– you’ve rid yourself of duplicate content issues!Be warned, you will also find a great deal of free tools out there –– like Siteliner.com –– that can help you identify duplicate content. These resources will not only identify duplicate content issues, but they can also identify broken links, which can impact your customer experience, as well. We recommend using these free tools sparingly, as many of them want you to sign up for accounts or loop you into paying for some sort of service that may or may not provide you with accurate, actionable results. So, use these with caution.Are you looking for a sure thing? Feel free to reach out to our expert marketing partners. They can help to make sure you’re on the right track. Many of them also offer a free consultation to ensure you feel comfortable working with them and will take the time to understand the dual expectations required for working together.

How to Implement Product Options on Your Bigcommerce Store

If you're interested in getting started with product options right now or simply want to spruce up those options you already provide to your shoppers, check out our Product Options: Getting Started video on Bigcommerce University. We’ll walk you through the essentials and make sure you get going on the right foot. Bigcommerce provides a great deal of built-in options for you to leverage, including: You can also learn about fancy tools that come in addition to product options and can allow you to even further enhance the customer experience. Once such addition is the ability to have an automatic image or price change when a new option is selected, much like the below.w2N6nraIf you’re looking to streamline your business on the back-end and make your life easier, check out the Product Options: Tracking Inventory video. Here, you’ll learn about the advantages of SKUs, how to generate SKUs automatically and how to begin tracking inventory by options so you can grow and scale your business –– quickly and successfully.Thanks for reading and stay tuned for our next #SellMore post! If you’re a Bigcommerce client and want to ask specific questions about your business and gain insight from our experts, click on the link below. We’d love to help you sell more!
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  • Organic Merchants

    Apparently our comments regarding this issue have been removed…..

  • Paul Rice

    As usual – “Coming Soon” and “wow you in upcoming months”… well it has been 7 months and still nothing but more broken promises.

  • Organic Merchants

    This is core functionality we are in dire need of at this time. Condensing product information is great, but unique URLs are even better. We’re forced to offer the same product in 5 different variations due to URL issues. We’d ultimately like to show 1 product with 5 different quantity/weight variations and show the customer how much $ they’ll save by purchasing a larger variant. This is very difficult to do when listing products individually. I hope this feature is added soon, otherwise we’ll need to explore other SAAS options. This feature should be included for Google Shopping compatibility alone, never mind the numerous CSE/marketplaces where I’m sure this is an issue as well.

  • Fahad (Eddie)

    It’s a good idea to perform SEO specifically for the product page of your ecommerce website. Not only that, SEO tactics for new products, seasonal products, and out of stock products are different. You should be up to date with these tactics to preserve your existing ranking, and perhaps even boost placement in search results. I’d suggest you research all of this just to be sure, even if you’re a seasoned SEO professional. I had publish a post on Cloudways to acknowledge these issues too :)

  • Paul, that is something I am uncertain of at this time. More details to come shortly though! Again, thanks for reading!

  • Paul Rice

    Is it only going to be available for Enterprise customers?

  • I think we are talking about the same thing as I was getting hit for duplicate content even on very similar items within google shopping (and in google organic). I understand there is a huge difference between including a groupid and variant info because it is required versus optional. My answer of using different urls on specific items due to out of stock issues works good for me. I probably did not use a good example as the product I choose has different item numbers and even different manufactures – but using the groupid relating the products to each other as similar but different sure helped and putting variant type info in the title increased my organic search results dramatically. (Also my conversion rate because it helped google narrow the search to my more exact product when the search term included that variant info – kind of like keyword info for organic).

    Anyways – it works for me and after I did that (after help from a 3rd party on optimizing my titles and google feed and all the reading materials suggested) I saw a dramatic increase in conversion rate for those specific items.

  • Paul, in short, we have dedicated staff on this issue and we are looking to have something to “wow” you in the upcoming months. It’s pretty exciting, I wish I could say more at this point in time but we’re in the infant stages. Thanks again for reading!

  • Connie, I think we’re getting into what I like to refer to as the chicken and egg conversation with “items” and “variants.” You’re required to include common title of the variant items if you use different items for the variant. You don’t have to use different items because you’re required to include it.

    This is from Google: “We use the term item to describe a single product listing. If you are using Text or Tab delimited format, an item is equivalent to one line in your data feed. Items are similar to products, but we assume that products can occur in multiple variations. These variations – product variants – differ by color, material, pattern, or size. We use item to refer to a single variation of a product.”

    Later: “This is the name of your item which is required. We recommend you include characteristics such as color or brand in the title which differentiates the item from other products.”

    For variant products, you are required to include the common title of the variant items. For example if “Mens Pique Polo Shirt” is available in red and blue colors, you can have one of the following titles:

    Mens Pique Polo Shirt (Can be used for both variants)
    Mens Pique Polo Shirt – Red (For the red shirt)
    Mens Pique Polo Shirt – Blue (For the blue shirt)

    Check out: https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/188494?hl=en

    In other words, if I have multiple variants it’s perfectly acceptable to use the common name of “Mens Pique Polo Shirt” in my feed, but if I’ve got different variants as different products, then I’m going to be asked to include them as separate items in my feed and call out the variant within the title.

    As for sending people to an OOS item, is there any reason you are paying for clicks to a product that is out of stock? I might suggest removing that ad or change your Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) as your inventory changes or as necessary. That might challenging hard with a massive inventory, but if that’s the case, you may want to consider finding staff or a partner that is dedicated to helping manage your ad campaigns to help save you money.

    Thanks for reading and asking such great questions! You’re welcome to chat us up at forum.bigcommerce.com. Our forum will allow for us to leverage our entire community of experts to help get answers to future questions.

  • Also – before I just started putting items on separate pages where I felt it was imporant – I used a 3rd party feed who allowed me to upload a spreadsheet to my site (I do not know if that can be done on BC) with my product options – where the option color/style etc was important or required by google shopping.They used that data to create my feed. I haven’t read the terms/conditions so I do not know if stating the feed service I used is ok. For my items (non-apparel) listing the color etc is NOT required. I just base it on what I wrote in the previous post.

  • I have some products on the same page and some on separate pages. It depends on the item and how likely I think someone might search for a specific color of that item. I have gumdrop ornaments that if blue is out of stock, they will likely take yellow. I put them on the same page. Then people are not upset when their preferred color is out of stock when they come to the page.
    My metal music instrument ornaments however, I always put on separately pages because brass versus silver is very important and if the preferred color is not in stock, I paid for a click in google shopping with no chance of a sale.

    For google shopping – When on separate pages – you can create a group ID (noted on google feed specifications) and then specifiy the color/material/size etc difference.

    Important: I found guidelines a few years ago that stated for organic or paid search – the difference MUST be stated in the title – size/color/material differnce and in some way in the description AND (VERY IMPORTANT) in the title it should be stated in the same order for all related items (see my examples below).

    For google shopping – Also if there is a price difference, they must be on different pages. If the differences is inches it should be written also as small, med, large if possible (per the article I read)

    Example – I have group iD’s set up for my music instrument ornaments:
    Google Feed:
    Group ID: Trumpet size: small color: gold
    Group ID: Trumpet size: medium color: gold
    Group ID: Trumpet size: large color: gold
    Group ID: Trumpet size: medium color: silver

    Title:
    Gold Metal Trumpet Ornament – Small
    Gold Metal Trumpet Ornament – Medium
    Gold Metal Trumpet Ornament – Large
    Silver Metal Trumpet Ornament – Medium

    I have not had problems with them being listed in the organic searches nor google shopping.

    I will take another look to see if I can find the article but that’s been a few years ago. Maybe someone else knows where that article is located (it was part of google help pages)

  • Paul, wanted to let you know I’m in communication with our Product Team now. I’ll get back with you very shortly. Thanks for reaching and your post!

  • Paul Rice

    Katey, there is one huge caveat you didn’t mention here… IF you use options in BigCommerce, the individual items (red widget, blue widget, etc.) will not be exported properly to your Google Shopping feed.

    This issue has been brought up with the product managers repeatedly, but it is still not fixed.

    Until this is fixed, many of my clients are choosing instead to have separate product pages for each color, size, etc. It is not optimal from an SEO and duplicate content perspective, as you have noted. But it is the only way to use the automated Google shopping feed from BigCommerce to drive Google Shopping sales for items with multiple styles.

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