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Don’t Overlook Technical SEO in 2021

Good ecommerce and blogging platforms should, by default, take care of most technical search engine optimization concerns. But this doesn’t mean B2B and B2C ecommerce companies can ignore technical SEO in 2021 thanks, in part, to ecommerce growth, the emergence of alternative search environments, and the need for new digital experiences.

SEO often starts with making it easier for web crawlers to discover, crawl, and index a site. This task, which is called technical SEO, has been a priority since the beginning of the search engine era.

Thus technical SEO may include techniques such as server maintenance, the use of structured data, or just including a sitemap.

Content Management Systems

Back when most websites were hand-coded and completely custom, technical SEO practitioners had to worry about URL formats, 301 redirects, internal linking structures, and more.

Over time, however, content management systems in the form of ecommerce and blogging platforms started to take care of technical SEO natively.

A properly set up Shopify or BigCommerce store, for example, will have many of the technical SEO basics covered. Therefore, an online merchant could focus on other aspects of the business and feel pretty safe.

Three factors, however, may bring technical SEO back to the forefront in 2021.

3 New SEO Factors

Ecommerce growth. Ecommerce grew significantly in 2020. There are likely more online businesses now than before the pandemic.

This was one of the predictions that Bloomreach CEO Raj De Datta made during a recent presentation for CommerceCo by Practical Ecommerce.

De Datta’s prediction depends in part on the assumptions that more businesses will sell directly to consumers and that relatively small specialty retail businesses will emerge even as the so-called traditional retail model could become less effective.

More sellers will likely result in more competition. In 2021, dozens of businesses could be selling very similar products.

Imagine 100 companies all selling bath bombs from Shopify and BigCommerce sites. Each of those businesses would have about the same level of technical SEO. Sure, they could compete for on-page SEO, content, and advertising. But a certain level of technical SEO would be table stakes.

Any of those businesses could seek to change the odds by focusing on technical SEO beyond what the platform provides — perhaps better taxonomy, title tags, or image sitemaps.

Image of bath bombs

When every ecommerce business has a similar website and a similar platform, technical SEO is not a competitive advantage. Photo: Mathilde Landenin.

Alternative search environments. SEO isn’t just for Google. In 2021, there are many viable search alternatives, such as Amazon, Facebook, eBay, and any of a few thousand specialty marketplaces.

For example, B2C and B2B ecommerce companies can list an entire product catalog on Facebook. That catalog can be uploaded daily as a comma-separated file or equivalent. But most businesses will depend on a programmatic upload process that might include one or more application programming interfaces, FTP sites, or similar.

How these various technologies are used and combined is most certainly technical and also important for SEO.

Facebook, for example, has specific field requirements for product data feeds. Experimenting with how or what product information is included in a given field could make it easier for Facebook to index.

Technical SEO could evolve to include algorithms that adjust product data feeds to improve discoverability on any number of these alternative search environments, thus providing a competitive advantage.

Digital experiences. The need to gain a competitive advantage has led some commerce businesses to focus on user experiences.

Digital experiences matter in the technical SEO context because they often go beyond what is available from popular ecommerce platforms. This could include a headless technology stack and static-site generation, as examples.

More Important?

Collectively, ecommerce growth, alternative search environments, and the technology behind new and exciting digital experiences could all make technical SEO even more important in 2021 and beyond.

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