An online store catalog is often compared to a storefront or something similar. After all, it gives the user an idea about the range of goods, directly affects the user experience and provides a user flow in the direction of purchase. We consider such a comparison to be too poor, because the catalog is not some kind of “showcase” of the store, it is its soul.
A successful online catalog of catalog products determines the fate of the site: it ensures its position in search engines, attracts traffic, and stimulates sales. Properly selected product categories can serve well as landing pages in social networks and contextual advertising.
Compiling a successful catalog is not easy: you need to combine SEO requirements with business realities and maximum user friendliness. Let’s see how such problems are solved.
Why is the structure of the product catalog important?
The catalog structure of an online store can be represented as a “tree” that brings logic to an extensive list of products on the site. The assortment is somehow divided into categories, groups and subgroups – both for the convenience of the user and for SEO-promotion of the site.
From the user’s point of view, the catalog should be friendly – help to find the right product among hundreds and thousands of other positions. It is important that the buyer can get to the card of the desired product in three or four clicks. The emotions that the user will experience when visiting the site directly depend on this. If the store is inconvenient and slow, no discounts will force the user to check out from you. You can also forget about customer loyalty.
At the same time, the directory should work to promote the site and generate traffic. The structure must be thought out taking into account the needs of the audience, based on search activity and key queries.
Work on the structure of an online store should start even before the design and layout design stage, otherwise it will probably have to be drawn all over again. This stage of development requires marketing and SEO analytics, compiling a semantic core, and studying competitors. At the same time, the conclusions of specialists will need to be coordinated with internal processes and the specifics of the client’s business.
As a result, the development team must present the basic structure (the main site, categories, subcategories, product pages), and additional pages (tag pages, manufacturers’ pages). Here you can think of filters for searching directly on the site. We usually present the product structure in the most visual form: we make a mind map, we show schematic page prototypes.
Trying to skip the research and create a catalog of products “just for fun” usually ends up wasting valuable time and money. The catalog still has to be redone, but potential positions in the search results and traffic have already been lost.
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The semantic core of the Internet catalog
Let’s make a reservation right away – here we will not go into the depths of SEO-craft. Let’s touch on it only from the point of view of thinking through the logic of the site.
The nice-sounding concept of “semantic core” means a list of key queries for which users google the products they need. Understanding these requests will not only help promote the site faster, but also make the resource closer to the real interests of buyers.
There are many ways to collect semantics. Often, special services are used for this, such as the Google scheduler, or Serpstat. The essence is the same: you need to pick up the main keywords, expand the semantics and clean it up from queries you don’t need.
When collecting semantics for an online store, you can go in different ways. Basic queries are selected in accordance with product groups, category names in the catalog are formed by key phrases. A good solution is to involve the client in the creation of the structure: take a list of goods from him and analyze it in terms of search. We must not forget about studying the sites of competitors.
The semantic core will help to solve a number of tasks:
- Correctly break the directory structure into categories;
- Optimum selection of filters;
- Make website promotion in search engines cheaper and faster;
- Simplify the work on contextual advertising
- Create landing pages for targeted traffic.
Proper work with semantics will give you answers to key questions. How to identify the main categories? Which product groups are in the highest demand? What product features are users interested in? What keeps the user from buying?
A successfully selected semantic core allows us to build a category tree – it forms the basis of the product catalog structure. Gradually, this tree acquires “branches”, that is, it acquires subcategories of a lower level.
There is no universal formula for building a catalog tree – each store, each market niche has its own requirements here, based on user requests and the characteristics of the assortment.
The simplest tree model can be described as follows:
- Main menu;
- Main categories;
- Subcategories of the first level;
- Subcategories of the second level.
Under ideal conditions, the production of subcategories is more harmful than useful. After all, each level of nesting makes it difficult for the buyer to get to the desired product card. In reality, a large online store operates with an assortment of tens of thousands of commodity items, and it becomes almost impossible to manage with a couple of subcategories.
One solution to this problem is to develop the directory structure horizontally rather than vertically.
Immediately, the user comes to the aid of a flexible system of filters and masks for searching, compiled on the basis of significant characteristics of the product. Tags can be used for the same purpose.
Organizing an online store catalog
It would be good practice to add a sorting tool to the catalog by price, availability in stores, date of receipt, rating and reviews.
Organizing an online store catalog is always an experiment. As the site develops, the structure will need to be adjusted based on analytics and feedback. But if the foundation itself is formed correctly, then the changes will be small and gradual.
How to improve the product catalog of the site
No online store will be able to bring its structure to perfection. But efforts in this direction can bring many benefits. Here are just a couple of ideas to make your online product catalog more efficient.
See what competitors are doing. Have you already analyzed the sites of all your competitors in the market? If not, get started right now. If so, then keep an eye on their sites anyway. How did competitors categorize? What keywords do they use? Rivals can give you both valuable ideas and examples of how not to create a catalog of goods on the site.
Do not produce entities. Other stores and marketplaces operate catalogs with dozens, even hundreds of thousands of product items. The worst thing that can be done for such a site is to confuse the user in a multi-level hierarchy of categories and subcategories. When building a catalog, it is critically important to be able to concentrate on the main thing, not to go beyond three, maximum four levels of nesting. The more alternative routes to the product card the site can provide, the better.
Keep a balance. It’s difficult, but it’s better to create a catalog tree taking into account the balance between categories – they should be comparable in size. If there are hundreds of product names in one category, and several dozen in another, then something is clearly wrong. This leaves the customer with a sense of scarcity. Partitions that are too large can often be split without problems, and small ones can be merged without sacrificing optimization.
Pay attention to design and aesthetics. The issue of UX and visual performance is beyond the scope of this issue, but is important from the point of view of the buyer’s emotions. Practice shows that sites with a well-established structure generally look more organic and evoke a more positive response from users.