Search engine optimization is low-hanging fruit for ecommerce websites. Despite the fact that SEO has one of the highest ROI of any ecommerce marketing campaign, many online stores are put together with little to no consideration of search engines.
Instead, many rely on social media or paid ads which can be great for companies but typically require a constant effort and stream of income. Ad spending costs companies billions of dollars every year — an amount that is only increasing.
On the other hand, SEO primarily requires effort upfront — once you rank, you can practically make sales on autopilot with no recurring expense.
With this in mind, understanding SEO best practices can help transform and unlock your ecommerce business.
On-Page SEO Strategy
On-page SEO for ecommerce platforms is all about making sure your keywords are in the right places. It’s a way of ensuring Google knows precisely what your page is about.
On-page SEO is essential because it also helps you appear in other Search Engine Results Page (SERP) features.
The factors that involve ranking for SERP including the following:
Ecommerce keyword research.
Keyword research is the critical first step in an ecommerce SEO campaign.
If you get this part wrong, one of two things will happen:
You’ll target keywords too difficult to rank for and won’t make it to page one.
You’ll rank for keywords that don’t garner traffic or cause customers to buy.
Neither of these situations is ideal, which is why ecommerce keyword research is so important — it will ensure you target keywords that are easy to rank for, have decent search volume and have high conversion rates.
However, there is more to choosing keywords than simply looking at how difficult it is to rank or how many people search for them. The following four options can help you to perform ecommerce keyword research, find keyword difficulty (KD) and search volume and uncover buyer intent:
1. Determine if you are choosing the right keywords.
Unless you use a tool like Ahrefs, you likely won’t have keyword data for the phrases you picked. You need to determine keyword difficulty, search volume and buyer intent to know which keywords to use.
Using Google Keyword Planner, you can find rough search volume and CPC to determine buyer intent. However, it doesn’t give you keyword difficulty (KD) or spread.
If you want to get serious about your SEO efforts and maximize your keyword spread, consider creating a keyword matrix.
A keyword matrix is a way to dig through relevant keywords and organize your spreadsheet to quickly determine the best possible keywords to use on each of your pages. It’s based on KD, search volume and search intent.
2. Use Amazon for keyword research.
Amazon is a gold mine of high buyer intent keywords since people typically search on Amazon with the intent of buying something.
To find keywords with Amazon, start typing in your seed keyword. In response, Amazon will spit out autofill suggestions. These are all keyword ideas — put them in a Google spreadsheet to keep for later.
As you can imagine, if you have hundreds or thousands of products, this could take a long time. That’s where the Amazon Keyword Tool comes in.
This tool automatically scrapes Amazon’s autofill suggestions for any keyword you type in. Each time you search, check off all the keywords and add them to your list, then download that list to a CSV with the “Download Selected Keywords” button.
3. Find keywords through competitor research.
If you have competitors who rank higher than you in search results, you can use their site to take keyword ideas. First, type your keyword into Google, choose a competitor and scan their category and product pages for potential keywords.
It is important to remember that you shouldn’t blindly use the same keyword as your competitors simply because they outrank you — there are other factors such as domain authority.
It is also critical to consider breadcrumbs, an advanced navigation function that helps Google scan and index your site. You can tell if you’ve set up breadcrumbs correctly by entering your site into Google. If you see “yoursite.com -> category -> subcategory”, you have breadcrumbs set up.
4. Use Ahrefs to help you find keyword opportunities.
Through its easy-to-use system, you can view built-out reports of keyword rankings on your site and your competitors, allowing you to see how you stack up and where you can make improvements.
Ecommerce product pages.
Product and category pages are arguably the most important pages to rank. If someone finds them in Google, they immediately have access to all your products in that category.
To properly optimize these pages, you need to put your target keyword in the following places:
In the URL.
Putting your primary keyword in the URL is a simple way to improve search rankings. This is especially relevant for websites competing in more competitive niches as optimized URLs are an additional way you gain the edge on your competitors to drive more traffic.
You can also customize them to whatever keyword works best for your category page rankings.
In the title tag (H).
The page title tag, or H1 tag, should have the keyword as close to the beginning as possible. This works to promote the central themes of the page and help you rank organically for the title tag.
In body copy.
Body copy is where things get a little trickier. Most category pages get straight to the products without an introduction, which isn’t ideal for Google.
It would be best to aim for at least a 300-word intro with your keyword included at least 2-3 times.
In image alt text.
Since Google can’t read images, they rely on alt text to know what the image is and what it includes.
Image alt text can give you another opportunity to include your keyword on the page and gives you a better shot at showing up in Google image results.
In the metadata.
While including your keyword in your metadata hasn’t been shown to impact rankings directly, it can improve click-through rate (CTR), which has been shown to improve rankings.
This is because when you include your main keyword in the meta description and description tags, Google bolds it in the search results:
Rinse and repeat for all your category pages, then do the same with your product pages.
96% of marketing decision makers say content marketing has been effective for their brand.
More than half of marketers use organic traffic to measure their content’s success.
70% of marketers are investing in content marketing actively.
Quality content is one of the easiest ways for your ecommerce store to rank for more keywords and build backlinks. Consider that product and category pages can only rank for so many keywords. Once you’ve maxed those out, you cannot cover any more search real estate.
Content can help to fill in those gaps. Now you can rank for both short and long-tail keywords that relate to your industry. Content marketing can increase your traffic — and ultimately your sales — and make it easier for you to build links to your site to improve your domain authority.
Technical SEO Clean Up
The SEO process isn't just about keywords. There is also a technical side that deals with the fine details and minutia of a website
When performing SEO clean up or ecommerce SEO audits, it is critical to review and understand the following aspects of your site:
Ecommerce site architecture, or structure, is how you set up your navigation, category pages and product pages. At its core, it’s about getting the best, most relevant content in front of potential customers and reducing the number of times they have to click to find it.
There are two “golden rules” to great site structure:
Make it simple and scalable.
No page should take more than three clicks from any other page.
Use keyword research to create highly relevant page URLs and subdirectories.
Bad Site Architecture Example For Ecommerce.
This image is an example of bad site architecture. It takes four clicks to get to a category page, and if you want to add a product or category page, you have to hide it deep inside the bowels of your site.
Not only is this poor for navigation, but it also hurts your search rankings since your home page is the most authoritative page on your site. Internal links from one page on your site to another pass authority from one page to another
Good Site Architecture Example for Ecommerce.
This image is an example of good site architecture. Your home page should link to all your major category pages and potentially even some of your best product pages as well.
Proper navigation and internal linking can ensure those pages get the most authority from your home page and thus have a better chance of ranking highly in search.
Site speed is essential to your site’s ability to rank and user experience. According to a study from Radware, 51 percent of online shoppers in the U.S claimed if a site is too slow, they will not complete a purchase.
To get an idea of what you can do to improve your site’s speed, go to Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool and plugin your URL. Google will score you on Mobile and Desktop from 1 to 100 and give you steps to speed up your load times.
Redirects are a way to send users and search engines to a different URL from the one originally requested.
Redirects will affect your SEO, though whether it is a good or bad thing is determined by multiple factors. Search engines often rely on unique URLs to identify them. When Google reviews the page and the redirect, it will attempt to pinpoint the relevance between the new page and the original page’s keyword.
Ensure that there is a connection between the old URL and the redirected one, or you may lose out on SEO rankings.
Internal linking within product category pages can help guide users and searchers from one page to another on your website, and is one of the most overlooked parts of an SEO Strategy.
By placing internal links on your pages, you are building an ecosystem within your website, keeping readers on your pages and increasing your likelihood of engagement or conversions.
Ensure that each of your URLs is designed with the keywords in mind.
URLs are often created automatically, with many marketers leaving it as is before moving onto another page. That is a mistake and the loss of a potential opportunity. By crafting each URL as an extension of the page itself, you can increase your rankings and SEO capabilities.
By the end of 2021, more than 60% of Google searches were performed on a mobile device.
With this in mind, it is evident that ensuring that your website is not just mobile-friendly but mobile responsive is critical to the success of your SEO strategy.
Google actively dislikes duplicate content and will penalize sites that have too many redundant pages.
Make sure that when you're crafting content or category pages, they are unique and can separate themselves from the rest of your site.
Hreflang is an HTML attribute used to identify the language and geographical targeting of a webpage.
In terms of your SEO strategy, Hreflang can be helpful if you have multiple versions of the same page in alternating languages, as it can help set them apart on Google. You don't want to be penalized for trying to reach different audiences across the globe.
Canonical URLs or tags help your website by telling Google which version of a URL you want to appear in search results.
Within similar topics or pages, keywords can appear within several different URLs. Without the tagging of the master page, your SEO results can suffer as Google will penalize you based on the redundant search terms.
A sitemap is a file that provides information about pages, videos or other files on your site. Essentially, the sitemap works to tell Google which pages on your site are important ones, allowing them to crawl your site more efficiently.
Sitemaps are an underrated but vital part of your SEO strategy. By telling search engines where to look, you can work to move potential readers and viewers onto specific pages — raising their rankings and allowing you to dictate site traffic.
Link Building Strategies
There are two ranking factors Google cares about more than anything else:
Backlinks from other websites with high domain authority to your website can improve your rankings more than nearly any other ranking factor.
Because they are considered off-page SEO, it’s a little more complicated and time-consuming than simply making a tweak to your website. You’ll need to collaborate with other bloggers and retailers to acquire those links.
The following five unique link-building opportunities are among the most effective and easiest to learn:
1. Resource page link building.
Resource pages are, for lack of a better definition, pages full of resources concerning your industry.
They may take several forms, often as a blog post or even a simple, static page. While static pages may not provide the same authority as a blog, they are typically much easier to produce and can help boost your rankings. While the latter may not give you authority due to the sheer number of links on the page, they are much easier to get and give you some boost in your rankings.
To find resource pages, simply Google “inurl:resources + X” (X being your product, topic, or industry). Once you find a promising page, add the URL and the site’s contact info to a spreadsheet.
Once you have a good list of leads, it’s time to send them an email. Make sure you customize each email not to sound robotic.
2. Partnering with influencers.
Influencers are people in your industry or niche who have a large following and/or a website with a high domain authority but aren’t competing with you directly.
You’ve probably heard of influencer marketing. Partnering with influencers for SEO is a little different, however.
Rather than paying an influencer to share your product on social media, the goal is to link back to your site from their site. This could be a blog post featuring product descriptions or a link from an existing page on their site.
3. Broken link building.
Also called “building links by fixing the internet,” broken link building is one of the most effective and easy link-building tactics.
It works by using a browser extension such as Check My Link to search websites in your niche for broken links. You can check resource pages for a double-whammy or blog posts around your topic.
With an extension like this, broken links appear highlighted in red and are easy to spot. Once you find one on a site, you can email the owner to hopefully solve the issue.
4. Stealing competitor's links.
How would you like to improve your rankings while simultaneously pushing out the competition?
Using a tool like Ahrefs can let you view your competitor’s keywords and find out where they’re getting all their links from — and try to appropriate them for yourself.
Plug in their URL into the site explorer.
Click on the “backlinks” tab on the left-hand side.
Filter by “One link per domain” and link-type “Dofollow” (Dofollow links tell Google to follow them, nofollow links tell Google not to follow them).
With this, you can see exactly where your competitors are getting their links and what pages.
5. Guest posting.
Guest posting with blogs or articles is a great way to build links. It can help your site craft relationships with industry experts and sites while using their expertise and readership to increase your own site’s exposure.
Guest posting can also allow you to gain high-quality links to and from your site to increase your SEO keyword rankings.
Measuring SEO Success
SEO isn’t as cut and dry as pay-per-click (PPC) — you can’t immediately calculate ROI after a day of ad spend. Instead, the signs are more subtle and take longer, relying on small increases in rankings.
In order to track your rankings, there are two things you should do:
Use Ahrefs to track search rankings.
Ahrefs has a built-in rank tracking feature you can use to be notified whenever your rankings increase or decrease.
They enhanced this feature to give even more helpful information, like comparing your progress to your competition and seeing your overall search visibility. It can give you a general sense of whether your rankings are overall going up or down.
A general increase, even a small one, in your rankings for your targeted keywords over time is a fantastic result.
Use Google Analytics to measure organic traffic and engagement metrics.
If you want a free method to see search ranking improvements, or want more structured data, install this free SEO dashboard to your analytics.
With Webris, rather than looking for immediate ranking improvements, you’re looking for more subtle clues, including:
Increases in search traffic
The landing page that search traffic is reaching
These two pieces of information can determine which keywords you’re ranking for. Then, you can perform an incognito Google search to see where you’re at.
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The Final Word
There are many ways to get traffic, from social media to paid ads and email. However, search traffic is the only one that’s reliable, free, self-sufficient and relatively easy to get.
If you want your site to garner significant traffic and receive the visitors you expect, learning the ins and outs of ecommerce SEO strategies can transform your business.
A simple SEO campaign can result in exponentially greater sales. The best part? It doesn’t have to take you years to achieve. By following this guide, you can find yourself there in no time at all.