SEO

Demandware Commerce Cloud SEO Issues & Solutions

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Ryan Stewart
November 12 13 COMMENTS

Demandware (aka Commerce Cloud) is an enterprise eCommerce management solution.

There’s a number of unique SEO challenges associated with Demandware, all of which our agency is familiar with from servicing dozens of clients who run on the platform.

This article will cover the most common Demandware SEO challenges we’ve come across and how to address them.

TL;DR

  • Demandware has funky out of box configurations, mainly issues with URLs
  • Failure to understand and manage these issues can be severe at the enterprise level, mainly leading to a wasted crawl budget and decreased indexation rate
  • Make sure you’re consistently crawling your website to check directive, indexation and status codes – we recommend re-crawling [at least] quarterly

Our team of expert SEO consultants are standing by, ready to assist you if necessary. Drop us a line, let’s chat.

1. Category page duplications

Category pages are incredibly important in eCommerce SEO because they satisfy a different search intent than a product page.

For example, say you’re searching Google to “buy protein powder”.

Even though you’re looking to buy, the intent behind that search is NOT to view a specific protein powder (i.e. a product page), but instead to browse various proteins (i.e. a category page).

When searching for “buy whey protein”, the SERP supports this – all results are category pages.

protein powder SERP results

Now imagine you own a Demandware store that sells various types of protein supplements:

  • Soy protein
  • Whey protein
  • Protein bars
  • Protein drinks

Your keyword research should identify that each of these has enough search demand to warrant it’s own product category page. For example:

  • Soy protein = yoursite.com/protein/soy-protein/
  • Whey protein = yoursite.com/protein/whey-protein/
  • Protein bars = yoursite.com/protein/protein-bars/

Let’s say you carry 100 SKUs of whey protein powders – it’s a general best practice for user experience to “hide” more than 12 products on initial load.

Demandware gives you the option to “hide” some products in order to save on page load times, and then a visitor can “unhide” all products by clicking a “view all” button.

category-pages-seo

Upon clicking “view all”, Demandware will append ?viewAll=true to the end of the category page URL.

demandware-category-page-canonicals

Since this is a crawl-able URL, this creates duplicate content issues on key category pages that need to be addressed.

Solutions

On ?viewAll=true pages, you can add canonical tags pointing back to the root category page, or alternately you can block this URL parameter from being crawled outright via the robots.txt file (more on that later).

<link rel=”canonicalhref=”https://www.site.com/protein/whey-protein/” />

These changes (along with targeted link outreach) provided a massive boost to our client’s category pages.

demandware technical SEO

 

2. Issues with Faceted Navigation

“Faceted navigation” refers to how your store filters and sorts products using a secondary navigation; usually housed within a sidebar.

faceted navigation

Demandware’s faceted navigation appends parameters to URLs each time a new search filter is added.

Using our whey protein category page as an example, let’s say you want to filter by brand:

fixing-faceted-navigation-errors-demandware

As you can see, &prefv1 was appended to the category page’s URL. This page alone has 40 options to refine the whey protein category, including sorting by:

  • Brand
  • Price
  • Size
  • Serving

Each of these serves up a different URL parameter, creating thousands of new URL variations, all indexable by Google.

If you don’t address this you will deplete valuable Googlebot crawl budgets on useless pages. On an enterprise eCommerce website with tens of thousands of products that need to be crawled, this will cause harmful indexation issues.

Solutions

There’s 2 options:

  1. Block these URL parameters URL’s from being crawled outright utilizing via Robots.txt file, or
  2. Configure Google Search Console’s URL Parameters so Google knows which URLs to crawl and which to ignore

Here at FTF, we use GSC’s URL parameter settings whenever possible because it allows us to implement the changes without burning programmer hours.

Below is a Demandware example we put together on behalf of a client:

demandware URL parameters

You can then take these, add them into the URL Parameters report in GSC manually, and then set them to not be crawled:

configuring URL parameters

NOTE: If these URLs have already been indexed by Google, we suggest using the “noindex” tag on all URLs that contain these parameters. Check the indexation in Google Search Console to verify once these pages have been removed from the index, then proceed with URL Parameters.

3. Product Page Duplication

Let’s go back to the whey protein category page one more time .

When a visitor clicks on a product in your grid, the platform will append URL parameters based on the position of the product in the grid.

demandware-duplicate-product-page-urls

For example, if you click on the product in the first position, the URL will read:

https://www.predatornutrition.com/whey-protein/predator-nutrition/predator-whey.html?cgid=Whey%20Protein#start=1

Again, this will create Googlebot crawl traps – wasting your crawl budget on low quality URLs.

Solution

Use canonical URLs to point to the root product page. So for this instance, the canonical would read:

<link rel=”canonicalhref=”https://www.predatornutrition.com/whey-protein/predator-nutrition/predator-whey.html” />

 

4. Dealing with /demandware-{}/ directories

Whenever we crawl a new client’s website we always discover directories that are not useful for crawlers and search engines.

These directories can include:

  • Staging domains
  • Login pages
  • Product variations

directories

These pages are carbon copies of the root page, creating [you guessed it] issues with duplicate content and wasted crawl budgets.

Solution

We recommend disallowing and “noindexing” /demandware.store/ and /demandware.static/ in your robots.txt file.

Below is a sample from our client’s file:

demandware robots txt file

 

5. Silo’s Within Internal Link Structures

Internal links help distribute equity across your pages. Since Demandware has so many issues with URLs, it’s easy for the system to default to linking to the wrong version of a page.

internal linking visualization

A visualization done for an FTF client to show internal links across the site.

When we go back to the whey protein category page and click on the first result, you can see the page is linking to an appended product page URL.

demandware seo issues

While this URL is canonicalized, we’re losing some of that internal link equity being passed through.

You can see how Adidas fixed this issue on their site (they also run on Demandware):

better commerce cloud seo

Solution

Double check your page templates to ensure that all internal links are pointing to the absolute URLs. Once the template is updated, we suggest blocking the “?cgid=” parameter in your robots.txt file.

6. Check your 404 page setup

It’s SEO best practice for your site should deliver a 404 error for a page that’s not found. For some reason, almost every Demandware install we’ve seen defaults to a 302 redirect or a 301 redirect when a page is not found.

For example:

yoursite.com/dead-page/

Default redirects to:

yoursite.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-leatherman-Site/en_US/Default-Start

Which is a duplicate version of the home page.

Solution

Make sure to setup a custom 404 page on your site. A great example of a custom 404 page on Demandware is 1 800 Contacts. Their 404 page notifies users (and search engines) and distributes equity to key pages on the site.

demandware 404 page

 

 

7. Title Tag and Description Defaults

Title tags are not only a ranking factor, but they influence a searcher’s click behavior.

It’s critical to create page title’s that capture keywords but also drive user action.

Demandware let’s you set default page titles and meta descriptions – take advantage of this. If you have thousands of products, it will save you a ton of time.

You’ll still want customize your titles, as sometimes the defaults can backfire if not periodically reviewed (see below).

Recommendation

Set default titles and metas.

  • Title tags should default to the product name
  • Description tags should default to the product description

We always suggest split testing page titles and metas to increase CTR in SERP, but for Demandware clients we insist on reviewing page titles for accuracy quarterly.

Additional SEO Limitations of Demandware / Commerce Cloud

I didn’t want to give each of these their own section, but I did want to mention them as well.

1. No access to server log files

We’ve discussed a lot of issues with Demandware URLs. This increases the importance of analyzing your site’s crawl budget using server log files.

This is not possible on Demandware. Commerce Cloud is a self hosted solution – they manage your data, code and hosting. Shared hosting means no access to server log files, making crawl optimization ….challenging.

You’ll need to be extra diligent using other tools (mainly GSC) to monitor your crawl.

2. Capitalization in URLs

Using uppercase letters in a URL can confuse search engines by causing duplication issues. While this isn’t a huge issue, we suggest getting out front of the issue to manage it.

3. Automate image ALT attributes

Editing image ALT tags on Demandware is a ridiculously tedious process.

Work with your developers to see if they can automate image ALT tag creation.

4. Homepage Configuration

Sometimes Demandware will generate long, ugly alternate homepage URLs. This will probably look familiar to you:

yoursite.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-YOURS_US-Site/default/Home-Show

Identify these URLs and make sure you use 301 redirects pointing back to the root home page.

Next steps

Commerce Cloud is a great solution for enterprise eCommerce management. However, it comes with a built in set of technical SEO challenges.

We strongly suggest evaluating the technical elements of your website quarterly with a fresh crawl.

If your website is too large for enterprise SEO crawlers, contact us, we’ve built a number of custom crawlers in Hadoop for clients.

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Ryan Stewart

Partner at FTF. I have an unhealthy obsession with being considered the world's BEST internet marketer. I'm highly active on social media and love a good debate.

COMMENTS (13)

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  • Avatar Jason Mun says:

    Nightmare of a platform. On par with pieces of crap like IBM Websphere and eStar. You’ve covered it all. The faceted nav crawl trap is the worst and hardest to clean up if they are already indexed.

  • Avatar Devin Concannon says:

    Yes. Out of the box it’s SEO is pretty bad. So many issues around faceted navigation and product pages creating duplicate content for different variants or nav choices. All those prev and pref params. Blech!

    Also, the store location pages (if the company has brick and mortars) is terrible and uses parameter driven pages rather than static urls. They don’t always get indexed and for whatever reason Demandware didn’t allow us to change them to hardcoded URLs.

  • Avatar Stacey Franklin says:

    I’ve had a lot of issues with demandware that i don’t know how to deal with. Thanks for this in-depth article. Really helpful!

  • Avatar Pinky says:

    Good to know that Demandware or commerce cloud issues which is manily afftecting URLS can be thoroughly handled by your agency it just needs people contacting you for this service. Notable consultants here.

  • Avatar Mozer Torancher says:

    I can see how Demandware is such an efficient way to publicize content with its expert navigation and category page duplications. Thanks for sharing. I know if I ever need to upgrade my websites’ technical software where to turn for the best results.

  • Avatar Janine Marie Alexandra Bocateja says:

    Thank you so much for posting this very clearly explained article. I’ve been assigned to work on a Commerce Cloud website and have had issues with it. I love how you explain everything in this article. Awesome!

  • Avatar Orlani Sanchez says:

    Good that Demandware gives one the option to hide some products in order to save on page load times all what a visitor have to do is just to unhide all products by clicking the view them all button. I’ve struggled with this in the past.

  • Avatar Alma says:

    Not a good e-commerce platform. SEO problems can affect the entire website. Demandware should have resolutions in every pitfall possible.

  • Avatar Jim Benedict says:

    Great article to give you the foundation of Demandware and other SEO software. Thanks for the update on Commerce Cloud being a self hosted solution. Lot of good points here to pick and choose from.

  • Avatar Bradley Lavender says:

    Sounds like user friendly programming once you get the logistics. I really love your offer to build custom crawlers for clients whose websites are too big. Thanks for sharing.

  • Avatar Rae says:

    We’ve seen an uptick in sales from migrating to Commerce Cloud but a decrease in organic search performance. Now isn’t the best time for us to contract an agency, but I will follow back up in January. Great read!!!

  • Avatar Cara says:

    I did not know that it was possible for internal links not to link to the absolute URL. That has been a perennial problem with our business’ website.

  • Demandware SEO!
    Impressive and Interesting Tips I found here.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

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