SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” The term refers to the process of improving your site so that it will rank higher in search results than others when people search for products or services related to your business on Google. When you have good visibility in search results, you are more likely to draw attention and gain customers.
How does SEO Work?
Search engines such as Google and Bing use bots to crawl the web, going from site to site, collecting information about those pages and putting them in an index. The index is like a giant library where a librarian can pull up a book (or a web page) to help you find exactly what you’re looking for at the time.
The next step in the process is for algorithms to analyze and sort pages based on hundreds of ranking factors or signals. In our library analogy, this would be like a librarian who has read every single book in the library and can tell you exactly which one will have the answer to your question.
Our SEO success factors are proxies for aspects of the user experience. Search bots estimate how well a website or web page can give the searcher what they want by looking at these factors.
While paid search ads are simple to implement, SEO involves more work. Experts must create high-quality content that users will want to share and link to. Search engines can’t be compelled to promote certain brands, which means they reward businesses that make it easy for users to find their websites.
Why is SEO important for marketing?
SEO is an important part of digital marketing because people conduct trillions of searches every year. These searches often have commercial intent, and they often find information about products and services on search engines. Greater visibility and ranking higher in search results than your competition can have a material impact on your bottom line.
However, as time goes on, search engines have been changing their results to give users more direct answers and information that is likely to keep the user on the results page instead of driving them away.
Ecommerce SEO is the process of making your online store more visible on search engine results pages (SERPs). If people search for products that you sell, you want to rank as highly as possible so you get more traffic.
E-commerce SEO typically involves optimizing your headlines, product descriptions, meta data, internal link structure, and navigational structure for search engines and user experience. Each product you sell should have a dedicated page designed to draw traffic from search engines.
However, you don’t want to forget about static, non-product-oriented pages on your site, such as the following:
- About Us
- FAQ Page
- Blog Articles
- Contact Page
Why E-Commerce SEO matters:
What do consumers do when they need a product or service? Many perform Google searches. They’re looking for options, tips, comparisons, and other information to help them make informed decisions.
If your website doesn’t appear in the SERPs, you lose critical access to qualified and interested e-commerce customers. Your products might have a space on the web, but are they findable?
That’s where e-commerce SEO comes in. It provides you with a way to reach your target audience without paying for ads. Once you get people to your site, you can delight them with high-quality products, intriguing copy, and motivating calls to action.
If you only optimize your site for the people, you do yourself a disservice. SEO for e-commerce addresses the first hurdle to acquiring new customers: getting people to your site.
Common SEO Problems Plaguing Almost All E-Commerce Companies:
E-commerce is a great way to sell goods and services online. The true challenge lies in getting customers to the website. The internet is filled with billions of pages, so it can be hard to get noticed.
SEO, is ideal for all businesses because organic traffic from search engines is virtually free.
Let’s focus on what problems plague almost all E-Commerce Companies when it comes to SEO:
- Low Quality Content:
While it’s true that content is king in brick-and-mortar stores, it’s also vital to online businesses. With the rise of e-commerce websites and blogs, there has been a huge focus on content creation and web copywriting. The saying “content is king” applies just as much to your online store as it does to traditional ones.
In the past, most SEOs got away with copying and pasting product descriptions from manufacturers.
But today that’s far from ideal.
Product pages need to be more than just a photo and some blurb about the product. You can’t just copy-and-paste descriptions from the manufacturer either.
Online stores are more than just a way to offer products. They’re also a great way to share knowledge and add value to your customers.
Demand Metric has found that 91% of B2B marketers and 86% of B2C marketers use content marketing.
Blogs give people a reason to check out your business. Visitors to your blog can be customers who haven’t purchased anything yet or those who have and want to return.
- Technical SEO:
Just because content is king, doesn’t mean you can neglect the technical side of things. Even the greatest content is worthless if Google isn’t able to index it properly.
E-commerce sites can be tricky to optimize. They have more moving parts than standard web pages, and the same SEO fundamentals don’t always apply. That said, there are a few quirks that make things more difficult. Fortunately, the solutions aren’t as difficult as you would expect.
Improper Internal Linking:
Just as you get frustrated when you’re shopping in-store and can’t find what you want, customers will feel the same way if they can’t find what they need on your website.
An essential part of simplifying your navigation is to leverage breadcrumbs throughout your site.
The benefits to this are two-fold. You’ll be able to improve clickthrough rates while also improving the usability of your site.
A core tenet of any SEO strategy is ensuring you have quality metadata throughout your site. E-commerce sites especially need unique meta titles for products.
Now, there’s going to be some instances where descriptions will overlap. For example, when selling products from the same or similar brands.
But coming up with unique titles doesn’t have to be difficult. You can use the “brand-model” title tag formula.
This means structuring your title tags in the following way: Brand – Model – Item Type.
This method of writing content works so well because most search queries are phrases rather than single keywords.
On the surface, this might seem tedious, but it’s essential to put in the effort since click-through rates affect search rankings.
Have you ever gone to a website only to see the address go from Example.com to something along the lines of Example.com/store?006ID0CH4?pf_rd_m
In the SEO space, we commonly refer to optimized types of URLs as “clean URLs” because they’re easy to read and understand by both humans and search engines.’
This not only provides you with another opportunity to add keywords to your website, but it also gives your visitors another reason to share the URLs on social media.
URL parameters are also important. These hold a ton of information about your page, including how many times the link has been clicked and where people found it. Setting up effective parameters will help you and search engines understand your website better.
Slow Load Speed:
In the past, it was common to wait minutes for pages to load online. However, today even a few seconds of lag can cause customers to abandon their carts.
Cart abandonments increase exponentially between load times of up to 10 seconds.
While you can’t necessarily flip a switch and speed up your site overnight, there are a few simple tips you can follow to get more speed out of your server.
You can easily use Google Page Speed Insights Tool to analyze your website.
As you can see below, Google doesn’t just measure your speed, but they also provide actionable insights into how to optimize your site.
Importance of SSL:
One of the final components I want to touch on regarding technical SEO is enabling SSL across your entire website. Google puts a significant emphasis on user experience and part of that involves embracing security best practices.
Over the past few years, Google has increasingly emphasized SSL in regards to SEO. In fact, half of page 1 search results on Google are from SSL enabled sites.
In the past, SSL certificates were expensive and difficult to obtain. Today, however, they’ve become so common. Virtually all web hosts have them installed by default – including e-commerce specific sites like Shopify.
Not a good Link Building Strategy
It’s challenging to get people to link to your product pages. Affiliate programs are one way people use to build links, but those links aren’t always helpful. To build natural links, consider a varied approach to link building.
- Use of review websites
- Use of discounts and coupons
- Influencer partnerships
- Lack of Balance between SEO and SEM Team:
If you’re like most e-commerce site owners, you’ve probably leveraged pay-per-click campaigns to some degree. PPC is a great strategy for making sure your website gets noticed in search results.
PPC, unlike SEO, provides website owners with more control over their traffic. It also provides immediate results while SEO takes some time.
The search engine giant Google has had a secure search feature for the past couple of years, which has prevented SEOs from seeing the keywords that drive traffic to their sites. Organic clicks on Google Analytics are now labeled simply as coming from Google, but no longer display the query string.
Even the most experienced SEOs are going to have trouble ranking for keywords. For example, it can be difficult to rank for a competitor’s brand name. PPC can help you fill this void while providing immediate results, whereas SEO can take some time to show an effective return.
All that being said, PPC and SEO both have their pros and cons. While SEO provides a steady flow of traffic over time, PPC is able to deliver more traffic quickly. On the other hand, SEM is extremely expensive without any sort of guarantee on whether it will work or not.
Although combining SEO and SEM efforts might take some effort at first, in the long run, it provides you the best of both worlds.
How to Develop an Ecommerce SEO Strategy
Becoming an e-commerce SEO expert might seem like a daunting task, especially if you already have a website with tons of products. Yes, it will take time to build up your strategy, but it can be fastened by following a solid plan.
- Prioritize Pages: Which pages on your site get the most traffic? Start optimizing them first. Additionally, if you want people to focus on a specific or flagship product, optimize for that product first.
- Create a work flow: SEO involves meeting a lot of specific requirements. Choosing keywords, adding meta data, naming your images correctly, adding image alternate attributes, and incorporating related keywords all fall under this category.
- Competitor Analysis: Your ecommerce SEO strategy should be designed to outwit the competition. Look at your top competitors’ sites and check out their SEO efforts. Identify ways to make yours better.
Best Practices for Your Ecommerce SEO Strategy
Let’s look at some of the best SEO tips for e-commerce sites that need to improve their presence in the search engine space. If you want your products to be more visible, you need an e-commerce SEO strategy, and checking each item off your list will make it more effective.
- Focus on Right Keywords:
Keywords still matter. You don’t want to overload your product titles and descriptions with keywords, but they need to be present in the copy.
Make sure to include your primary keyword in the title, meta description, and sub-headlines. You should also use latent semantic index (LSI) keywords throughout the text of the page to help Google understand what your page is about.
Analyze the Keyword Search Volume, CPC, and User Intent
Search volume is a measure of how much interest the consumer shows in the product. The more search volume there is for a particular keyword, the more popular it is.
CPC is short for “cost per click” and it tells you how much people pay when they buy advertising based on a particular keyword. A higher CPC indicates more competition. If your target keyword is very competitive, consider finding a long-tail alternative.
Finally, user intent describes what people want to find when they type a specific keyword into Google’s search bar. Let’s say that someone types “shower” and hits Enter. Does that person want information about shower installation, shower repair, baby showers, bridal showers, or something else entirely?
- Analyse and research your competitors:
If you have no clue where to start with on-site optimization for your e-commerce site, your competitors are a good place to start. Larger competitors, in particular, have probably already put in the legwork for optimizing their websites. You can learn a lot about what they did from reading their sites.
Keywords are very important for both your homepage and any product. You’ll want to analyze the keywords used on those pages as well as their top product pages.
How can you tell if a website is optimizing for a particular keyword? You can start by using the Moz browser extension to see the SEO title and description your competitors use.
You can also use tools like SEMrush to see what keywords your competitors are ranking for on both organic and paid searches.
Don’t stop your research with just keywords. Check out the competitor landing pages too, so you can see how they use those keywords to optimize those pages.
- Focus on Home Page:
The homepage is typically where most businesses focus their SEO budget and energy. While it is definitely one of the top pages of your website to optimize, it is by no means the only one you should focus on.
That said, you do want to optimize your homepage well. The key things you want to add and optimize are included the following.
The SEO title tag is one of the most important elements. It should include your business name and the main keyword phrase you are targeting. Your title tag should be less than 70 characters and in a way that is appealing to search visitors, as they will see it in search results.
While meta description for your homepage is not all that important as far as keyword rankings go, it is the 160-character description of your business that will also show up in search beneath the title tag. Write it in a way that encourages people to want to visit your website.
Content on your homepage should provide visitors with clear and concise information about your business. Avoid overwhelming or confusing visitors with too much information. You can feature a few of your products or features that are most important to you on the homepage, along with a unique selling proposition that will help differentiate you from competitors.
A cluttered homepage is a turnoff for visitors and search engines alike. For instance, maybe you sell products in many different categories. Google will struggle to identify what you sell and who you’re targeting with your products, so get specific about what your site offers.
Optimize your Site Structure
As you add products and categories to your store, keep in mind that site architecture is an important feature for SEO. You want to have a distinct hierarchy of navigation from your homepage to product categories to the products listed within them.
Search engine bots will discover your pages and products on your website based on a clear internal linking structure that is easy to follow — and not too deep.
The rule of thumb for search engines and visitors is to make sure people can reach everything within three clicks. From the homepage, they should only have to make a maximum of three clicks to get to any product on your website.
- Optimize Product Pages:
Product pages are the heart of your business, so you will want to focus a lot of energy on optimizing them. Many e-commerce store owners simply write a few lines of text about each product and throw up an image or video.
You need more information on your product pages so Google can find them. Here are the specific things you want to work on.
The name of your product is important. It’s often used in the title and URL for your product page, so if you have a commonly searched phrase, you may want to consider using it.
For example, if you are selling T-shirts, be sure to include “T-shirt” or “tee” in the product name. That way, the keyword also ends up in the SEO title and URL.
As an added bonus, when people share your product on Facebook or Pinterest, that keyword will be in the title of the shared post.
Images are an important part of your product page. Stand in your customer’s shoes for a moment. Are you more likely to buy a product from a site that clearly depicts the product from as many angles as possible, from a site that has no image at all, or from one that is small and illegible?
Not only are images important for your customers, but they are important for search optimization.
To optimize your images for search, start with the filename. Don’t add images named IMG0010.jpg to your product pages. Instead, use the product name and main keyword, such as eastcoast-skinny-jeans.jpg
Also, when you add your images to your product page, include the product name and keyword in the ALT text for the image.
The result? Your images now have a chance of appearing in Google Image Search, or in the main search results page as a part of the additional media showing.
Reviews can be a great way to boost customer confidence in your product, so if you’ve got a good product, let people review it.
Bad reviews aren’t always a bad thing. If you have an item that costs more money and has good reviews, but a lower cost item with mediocre reviews, people will be more likely to buy the higher priced item resulting in greater sales for your business.
- Use an interactive and responsive design:
People are shopping more on their phones these days. A responsive design for your ecommerce website can not only lead to a better user experience, but it can also improve search results. Google’s mobile-first index uses mobile friendliness as a ranking signal.
- Reduce Page Load Time:
Page load speed is also a ranking signal, both for desktop and mobile. The faster your pages load, the better Google will rank you.
In order to decrease page load speed, you need to focus on removing any unnecessary elements from your page. For instance, a huge background image that’s mostly covered by a white body column might not be necessary. Similarly, remove add-ons or plugins that don’t contribute to your ecommerce business’s bottom line.
The larger your images, the longer a browser takes to load them. If you reduce an image’s size from 1,000×1,000 pixels to 500×500 pixels, you’ve reduced its “weight” by half. You can also save your images as lower-quality JPG (JPEG)s with a program like Adobe
- Create Backlinks:
Backlinks are another ranking signal that Google uses to determine where your pages belong in the SERPs. The more backlinks you have from high-quality sites, the more authoritative your site becomes.
Building backlinks for ecommerce sites doesn’t have to be difficult. Guest posting on blogs related to your niche is one easy, white-hat way to build links. Simply email the owners of the blogs you’re interested in and offer them three or more ideas for potential guest posts.
Best E-Commerce SEO Tools:
If you want your e-commerce SEO strategy to work, you need the right tools. The following are some of the most helpful websites for finding ways to improve your on-page and off-page SEO for greater visibility in the search engines.
This tool is very helpful for learning about related keywords. Simply type in a keyword related to your product. The tool will scrape various sources on the web for information about related keywords, CPC, search volume, and more.
Ahrefs is the best tool you can use to optimize and track your e-commerce SEO strategy. It’s great for finding backlinks to your site as well as to your competitors’ sites. If someone has linked to your competitor, you might be able to snag a link to your own site by emailing that person and establishing a rapport.
ScreamingFrog is great for finding problems on your site, such as broken links, missing meta descriptions, and duplicate content. When you identify those problems, create redirects or add missing content so you don’t get penalized in the search engines.
The free version offers plenty of useful tools, but if you have more than 500 URL extensions, you might want to upgrade to premium.
MOZ is a great tool for ecommerce SEO. It helps you analyze your competitors’ page metrics, find link-building opportunities, and allows you to track and find keywords that matter. There are free and paid versions of this tool, so you can choose how much power you need to fuel your campaign.
If you are planning on starting an e-commerce store, or if you already have one up and running, then SEO is a must. With the right SEO strategies in place, your store can get more sales while spending less money on advertising.
With new E-commerce SEO strategies being developed every day, it can be hard to keep up with all of the changes.
Digital Marketer by Profession with over 4 years of experience | Google Certified in SEO, SEM & SMO | Strive for greatness | On the path of learning