Huge growth in eCommerce and online shopping in 2020 has made the online space more competitive than ever. How do you compete with so many big brands in Google’s limited search results? How do you get your little online store showing up above the big guys?
This is where a solid eCommerce SEO strategy will help you bring in more qualified traffic and generate more sales.
Luckily, an effective eCommerce SEO strategy isn’t as hard as you might think. If you break it down into actionable steps, it becomes quite simple.
This guide lists a simple 7-step process that you can start implementing today. Read on for actionable ways you can get more traffic (and more sales) for your site.
1. Troubleshoot Your Existing Site
When you first set up your store’s site, you might’ve had no idea what you were doing. Or, maybe you hired an SEO “professional” who was just as clueless as you were.
Whatever the case may be, we’re willing to bet your existing site is full SEO no-nos. These issues are relatively simple, but they can drastically affect your site’s rankings.
Luckily, most of them are pretty easy to fix. And once you fix them, your site will serve as a solid foundation for the rest of your eCommerce SEO campaign. It’ll position you to rank better and prevent you from having to backtrack to problems that you should’ve already dealt with.
The problems might be easy to fix, but how do you find them? That’s where auditing tools come in.
There are hundreds of auditing tools you can use to find your site’s eCommerce SEO issues. However, the two we recommend are SEMRush and AhRefs. They are affordable and very effective at generating accurate audits.
Best of all, they’re super easy to use. All you have to do is enter your site’s name and set the audit’s parameters (or use the site’s default settings). From here, you’ll get a report that lists everything wrong with your site. The tool even gives you clear suggestions on how to fix specific problems.
Both SEMRush and AhRefs offer 7-day trials, allowing you to get a feel for auditing tools. The former’s is free, and the latter’s only costs $7.
When you run an audit, tools like SEMRush and will flag common issues such as those listed below. Note that many store owners choose to fix these problems straight away. However, you can also keep them in the back of your mind and address them as you move through our 7-step eCommerce SEO process.
When stores don’t have time to write their own product descriptions, they’ll use descriptions from the manufacturer. This copying and pasting, however, may result in lower rankings. You can fix duplicate content issues by writing original descriptions.
Subpar Content on Product and Category Pages
Poor content isn’t much better than duplicate content, and neither is no content at all. Ensure everything you write is original, accurately describes the product, uses keywords, and compels the user to buy.
When you have different pages with similar content, Google may register them as duplicate content. This issue can also happen when multiple URLs direct to a single page.
In any case, you can stay one step ahead by choosing a canonical URL. These tags let search engines know which site they should crawl and prevent duplicate content issues.
Non-Optimised Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Title tags and meta descriptions are crucial to eCommerce SEO. They help search engines show your products to relevant consumers and use copy to close the deal. If your tags aren’t optimised, you’re missing out on lots of potential sales.
Lack of Indexing on Google
Due to 404 errors and other issues, Google might not index certain pages. Pages that aren’t indexed are a major problem as they won’t show up in search results at all.
2. Conduct Keyword Research
After troubleshooting and making the necessary adjustments, it’s time to conduct keyword research.
Keyword research will give structure to your eCommerce SEO strategy. You’ll have a better idea of what you’re trying to rank for and be able to create your content around optimal terms.
The 4 Key Characteristics of eCommerce Keywords
When finding keywords for your eCommerce SEO campaign, look for these 4 key characteristics:
1) Search Volume
Of course, you want keywords with a decent search volume. Optimising for unpopular keywords is a waste of time as your customers aren’t using them.
2) Commercial Intent
The keywords you use also need to have commercial intent. To illustrate this concept, let’s use an obvious example:
Let’s say you sell homemade bread. Someone who wants to buy your product likely won’t search for “tips for making homemade bread.” Better phrases to target would include “homemade bread for sale,” “where to buy homemade bread,” etc.
Your keywords need to be hyper-relevant to the pages they point to. For instance, if someone searches for “kayaks for sale” and clicks on your page in the search results, they better see kayaks for sale. If they don’t, they’ll hit the back arrow and find a more straightforward competitor. What’s worse is that a high bounce rate doesn’t just lead to fewer conversions; it also can affect your rankings.
4) Achievable Competition Level
Let’s be honest — as a small business, you’re not going to outrank the industry’s biggest names. Maybe one day, but not today. So, make sure the keywords you choose are at an achievable competition level—the more specific and hyper-focused, the better.
How to Quickly Find the Best eCommerce Keywords
Finding eCommerce keywords can be time-consuming. If you want to speed up the process, take a look at what your competitors are doing. It will save you a lot of hassle and ensure you get the optimal results. The phrases your competitors are using work for them so that they can work for you, too.
Two foolproof methods include those from AhRefs and SEMRush. They involve analyzing your competitors’ pages and using them to structure your own pages. But, to set yourself apart, you identify and fill content gaps.
How to Organise and Map Keywords to the Right Pages
When you do keyword research, you need to do it on a by-page basis. Yep, that’s right — you need to go through the process for every product and category page you have.
This eCommerce SEO task can seem daunting, especially if you have hundreds or even thousands of pages. But, it’s doable when you break it down into chunks. Start by optimising the most important pages first.
On each page, you need to choose a designated head keyword. From there, you can find long-tail phrases and other relevant keywords that may increase page traffic.
3. Create High-Quality Category Pages
Once you find the right keywords, you can start incorporating them throughout your site — including your category pages.
Category pages provide organisation to your site. For instance, if you own a shoe store, you might have a category page for running shoes. This page serves as a home for all of your running shoes and tells Google that you sell these products.
Many eCommerce SEO campaigns neglect to create high-quality category pages. They often don’t realise how important they are, which is a shame considering that this simple step can boost your SEO.
But, the lack of category pages out there is good news for you. By creating your own, you can set yourself apart from the competition.
Quick Wins for Category Pages
If your category pages currently have poor rankings, never fear. We’ll use the following example to show you how you can optimise yours.
When we Google “folding pocket knives for sale,” this page from Knife Center is the first organic result. The title tag features a relevant keyword and tells us exactly what’s on the page. The meta description is also optimised and lets the user know what they can expect.
When we click through, we land on an optimised category page. The content at the top provides a brief introduction while making it easier for users to view products quickly. It also optimises rankings by not shoving a bunch of content “below the fold.”
As you scroll down, you’ll notice that the listings are attractive and well-organised. The simple layout compels users to click through. Additionally, the website caters to search engines by using H2s (Modern Pocket Knives, Tactical Folding Knives, etc.).
It’s also worth noting that the site has an optimised URL. And, seeing that the site ranks high in Google, we can assume that it designated a canonical URL.
So, in summary, here are the key elements you should focus on when optimising your category pages:
- Title tag
- Meta description
- Written content
- Tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.)
- The URL
- The canonical URL
4. Optimise Product Pages
Many stores fail to create category pages because they’re too focused on optimising product pages with the wrong tactics. Even with all the effort, their product pages still fall short.
If your product pages don’t rank or fail to drive conversions, it’s time to re-think your strategy.
The process is very similar to that of category pages:
- You must ensure the title tag and meta description have an optimal length, use keywords, etc.
- The written content also needs to have keywords and explain what the page is about (for the sake of both Google and your customers).
- You should also optimise the URL, canonical URL, heading tags, etc.
While basic optimisation techniques are relevant to product pages and category pages, you can’t use an all-in-one solution. They serve different purposes and, therefore, require unique approaches.
When optimising your product pages, here are three important tips to keep in mind:
When buying something online, people want to have a good idea of what they’re purchasing. Let’s consider this product page for a Fender guitar.
The product photos are professional-quality and show the item at multiple angles. It helps the user feel confident and increases the chance of them sealing the deal. So, when creating your product pages, make sure you have amazing pictures that represent just how great your product is.
Not sure where to start optimising your images? Check out our 5 quick and easy eCommerce image hacks to really get the most out of your images.
Answer User FAQs Within the Content
Well-written content is also crucial to a successful product page. Using the same Fender example, you can see a snippet of the product description at the top of the page. When you click to read more, you get the full details.
This information is everything the user could need to know. They learn how the guitar sounds, who it’s for, and other important specs that help them become a more informed buyer.
Last but not least, good eCommerce SEO says that reviews should be readily available. Buyers often seek out reviews from third parties, but on-site reviews definitely don’t hurt. They build trust among your users and clear their minds of any doubts.
Just take a look at this review page from Fender. The digestible information at the top provides users with a good overview of how others liked the product. If they want more in-depth testimonials, they can scroll down.
5. Add Internal Links
Once you optimise your product pages, you need to put them to good use. What better way to do this than through internal linking?
Internal links will help you give your eCommerce SEO strategy the boost it needs. When Google notices internal links, it can better group your pages and rank them accordingly. These internal links are also a great way to plug your products to consumers who might be interested in them.
How to Add Internal Links
There are tons of ways to add internal links to your site. For instance, consider Best Buy’s category page for Printers, Ink & Toner.
The site is doing it right by linking to everything you might need. For instance, if you want laser printers or printer accessories, you can navigate to the more-specific category pages. If you aren’t sure which printer is right for you, you can opt for the Printer Buying Guide.
Category pages aren’t the only places you can add internal links. Think about any product page you’ve ever viewed — many sites will add a “Recommended Products” or “People Also Bought” section to cater to your interests. You can also include internal links within buyer’s guides, blog posts, etc.
Wherever you use internal links for eCommerce SEO, just make sure they are relevant to the page they’re on. Otherwise, users will be confused or even frustrated about why they end up on a page that has nothing to do with what they want. Additionally, you might mislead Google and cause the search engine to incorrectly group your pages (which can affect your rankings).
6. Use Link-Building Strategies
As you learned above, adding internal links is easy. You have tons of products to promote and know how they connect.
However, you also need to focus on broader link-building strategies. These strategies involve adding external links to your site and getting other sites to link to your pages.
External links, also known as backlinks, are a powerful component of eCommerce SEO. They direct new traffic to your site and boost your credibility with Google.
Overcome the challenges of external link building by using the following tips:
Steal Competitor Links
With programs such as Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, you can enter a competitor’s site to view their backlink strategy. The first page will give you an overview such as the following:
From here, you can navigate to the “Referring domains” section. By filtering link type to only show “Dofollow” links, you can view credible sites that link to your competitors. Then, you need to edit your pages and work to get these same backlinks.
Another useful program is SEMRush. It works similarly by analysing your competitors’ pages and showing you what backlinks they have. One useful tip is to visit the page and view the author’s information when working with these links.
For instance, if a competitor got a backlink on this Forbes article, you might consider contacting Jonathan Ponciano. He might be looking for other content (like yours) to link to in future articles.
Write helpful content – product reviews and buyer’s guides
These types of articles are generally much easier to acquire links to, because they’re genuinely helpful to a wide audience, meaning building links from other reputable websites is a much easier process.
Additionally this is a great tactic to capture traffic in the informational / research phase – when they’re not quite ready to buy, but they are looking at and comparing different product models trying to figure out which is the best fit for their needs.
Writing this form of content to answer all their common FAQs will help you establish a relationship between potential buyers and your brand, and will position you as the ‘product expert’ – building credibility and trust.
Hire a Professional
Unless you’re experienced with eCommerce SEO, building backlinks can be difficult. It might be in your best interest to hire a professional. Using their connections and years of experience, they can help you get the external links you need to establish credibility and get more traffic.
7. Implement Schema Markup
The last step in our simple 7-step process might be the most technical-sounding. But, you shouldn’t let the name scare you.
Schema markup is microdata that creates rich snippets for your listings. For example, if you Google “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the second result is as follows:
The rating, release date, and other extra information are rich snippets that the website owner created via schema markup. Compare this result to one further down the page:
Without the rich snippets, it’s less impressive to users. So, we can assume that schema markup can help improve click-through rates.
How to Implement Schema Markup
Want to start creating rich snippets to impress users? This eCommerce SEO process differs depending on which CMS/eCommerce platform you use.
For instance, if you use WordPress, you can download a plugin to streamline schema markup. If you operate via Shopify, you can install the Schema App. Both platforms also let you manually edit the code, but this process can be difficult.
Curious how your current pages are performing? Test your existing schema markup using this handy tool.
Creating a Successful eCommerce SEO Strategy — The Bottom Line
Most people flinch when they hear the term “SEO.” But as an eCommerce store, you can’t afford to neglect it. The first step is to accept it as crucial to your success. Then, with the help of this comprehensive guide, you will be on your way to creating an effective eCommerce SEO strategy.
Our 7-step process makes it easy to get started on your campaign. By breaking down the work into actionable chunks, we ensure you don’t get overwhelmed.
Yes, there’s a lot of work ahead of you. But ultimately, it all boils down to creating your website with search engines and your customers in mind. By catering to these audiences, you’ll optimise traffic and conversions and benefit from a more profitable eCommerce store.