13 ecommerce spring cleaning tips

Website developers, ecommerce experts and SEO pros discuss some simple ways to dust off, declutter and freshen up your Web or ecommerce site.

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Ah spring, a time of renewal. A time to take stock and get rid of the things that you no longer need or use and replace them with things that you now do. This applies not just to your home but to your business. And if you own or manage a Web or ecommerce site, doing a bit of spring cleaning is critical – for search-engine optimization (SEO) and to attract new customers. So here are 13 tips for getting rid of the clutter and freshening up your Web pages.

[ Related: 8 ecommerce categories that will be hot in 2016 ]

1. Do a content audit of your site and figure out which pages are performing well and which ones are not. “A content audit is a great website spring cleaning project,” says Gretchen Roberts, CEO & chief inbound strategist, Smoky Labs, a B2B inbound marketing firm. “Most websites are a goldmine of old, forgotten content that can be consolidated, updated, repurposed or even deleted to create a better user experience and actually boost your SEO rankings and on-site conversions.”

If you have the time, “download a database of your entire website and get to work labeling each page as Keep, Discard, Update, Repurpose or Consolidate,” she says. “If time is an issue, go straight to your Web analytics program and find the top 10 pieces of content,” as well the 10 worst.

“If a page is getting close to zero views per month, that's a clear sign you've got a problem,” says Marc Prosser, cofounder & managing partner, Fit Small Business, which provides product and service reviews for small business owners. “Maybe the page is dated. Maybe people just can't find it. Maybe it needs a serious revision. In any case, you can spot your problem pages and determine how you want to fix them.”

One way to do that is by taking a look at successful pages (ones that are getting clicks and have low bounce/exit rates), he says, and trying to duplicate what works.

2. Do an image inventory – and clean up, optimize and refresh your images. “Images can date your website faster than words, so new images can make your site feel fresh and new,” says Chad Jaggers, product manager, LightCMS, a website builder and content management system provider. “Your sales could also benefit from new product shots showing the product in action.”

However, before you start adding new images, take the time to inventory the ones you have.

“Most people tend to neglect cleaning [i.e., deleting or replacing] product imagery that is no longer in use,” says David Attard, founder, DART Creations, a provider of Web design tutorials and tips. “Large ecommerce or web sites tend to accumulate thousands of images that have been superseded. [Smaller businesses have this problem, too.] Besides hogging disk space, it makes it longer and more frustrating to find and add the images you actually need to use.”

To fix this problem, “implement a naming convention for images,[putting images in] folders by year or by product line,” he says. “This will make it easier both for image everyday use and for cleaning up.” Then go through your folders and figure out “what stuff can go and what needs to stay.”

While you are at it, take the time to optimize images. “The most effective way, by far, to speed up the loading time of your website is to compress your images,” says Robert Brandl, founder, WebsiteToolTester.com. “TinyPNG is a free tool that does a lossless compression for Web images. For WordPress there is even a plugin that will do the compression automatically.”

3. Fix your broken links. “They hurt your Google rankings, but even worse, visitors and potential customers that click on a broken link will usually bounce,” says Brandl. “There are several tools, e.g., brokenlinkcheck.com (Web-based, free) and Integrity (Mac), that let you find broken links.”

“Broken links are terrible from a usability point of view (and can have bad SEO implications), but on a large ecommerce store they inevitability happen,” says David Heacock, CEO, FilterBuy.com. “We periodically use the Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool to crawl our site and show us any pages with a ‘404 not found error.’ Once we get this list, we can easily redirect that page to the correct resource. Run this on your site, and I guarantee you that you will be surprised what you find.”

4. Delete old style sheets. “Review your code and remove unused CSS and JS [JavaScript],” says Emily Lord, front end developer, BrainJocks. “You can be as detailed as you want with this task, but going into the weeds will significantly help your performance (for improved speed) and organization (ensuring other team members can pitch in without being lost). You can also run your CSS file through a linter, like http://csslint.net, to catch errors or issues.”

5. Review your SEO strategy and freshen up product descriptions.“Product descriptions and related content that have not been refreshed in a long time can lower search traffic and directly impacts the bottom line,” says Vishwanath Jayashankar, assistant vice president of content solutions, Ugam, a retail analytics provider. Replace canned, manufacturer-generated product descriptions with your own descriptions. And review keywords.

“Quite often, keyword terms that shoppers use to search for [an item] can change over time,” he says. And “not updating [your] content with the latest search keywords can result in losing out on demand.” However, “an easy way to find out which search terms shoppers are using is by using Google Trends.”

6. Check to see if you can improve your site navigation. “Have you surveyed your customers to find out how easy or difficult it is to find products? Or have you picked a few customers and asked them for feedback on your drop-down categories?” asks Robert Gilbreath, vice president of marketing, ShipStation.com, a provider of ecommerce shipping and fulfillment software. “Even talking to a handful of customers will generally yield some ideas for positive site navigation changes.”

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