How to Search Engine Optimize (SEO) an Ecommerce Website
Ecommerce businesses face unique challenges when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). In an attempt to rank dozens to potentially thousands of product pages, many ecommerce store owners encounter duplicate content issues, broken links, poor user experience, and more.
With all of this in mind, a generic “how to do SEO” guide just isn’t going to cut it. You need ecommerce-specific SEO strategies that consider your specific challenges. Plus, how users search for products can be very different from how they search for other types of information.
In this article, you’ll discover the ins and outs of ecommerce SEO, including tried and tested strategies for ranking your online store.
What is ecommerce SEO?
Ecommerce SEO refers to the practice of optimizing an online store to rank in search engines. It is a type of marketing that employs a combination of on-page, technical, off-site, and content optimization strategies to improve a store’s appearance in the search results.
Considerations for Ecommerce SEO
As previously mentioned, SEO for ecommerce differs from SEO for other types of businesses in that there are added complexities in ranking a website that sells products online.
Most blogs and service websites have the benefit of having very unique content with less risk of cannibalization; ecommerce stores must rank tons of product pages, often with similar content, and manage optimization across a large inventory of pages.
While the ranking factors are more or less the same, there are some special considerations to take when optimizing an ecommerce site.
Ecommerce stores are prone to broken links
As products go out of stock or out of season, the go-to is usually to pull the page from the site. But this can result in broken links - or “404” pages. This can create a poor user experience, misdirect Google bots to broken links, and make managing your content a massive task.
It’s common to produce low-quality content
Many ecommerce site owners publish product pages with a photo, a product description, price, and maybe some purchase information. Do this across dozens of pages or more, and you’re likely to run into low-quality content issues. There’s not enough context for Google to distinguish one product page from another.
Since the Panda algorithm update, Google has been more focused on content quality. With that, ecommerce businesses need to pay close attention to the value provided in their content and its uniqueness from other pages.
Many ecommerce platforms cause duplicate metadata
Duplicate metadata (like page titles and descriptions) is common with ecommerce sites, particularly for those using a template or automation to create new pages. Basically, as a new page gets created, some ecommerce websites duplicate the titles and descriptions from other product pages. This is confusing for users and for search engines.
With SEO for ecommerce, every page should have a unique title and description. Some platforms allow you to create a formula for this (for example, “Product Name - Type - Brand”) while others require a manual override. It may be a headache but it’s worth the effort.
Confusing navigation can deter ecommerce customers
While any website can have a confusing navigation, ecommerce businesses in particular often struggle with this due to the sheer volume of URLs. If you have multiple product categories, with multiple products, across multiple languages, and more, you can see how this might get out of hand.
It’s important to make your pages easy for users to find by having a clear navigational structure (i.e. ecommerce site architecture). Add in internal linking to relevant pages, and this makes it easier for search engines to find your content as well.
SEO is critical for ecommerce organic growth
SEO is one of the best ways to drive organic traffic to your ecommerce store. As many consumers use Google and other search engines to find products, you want your website to rank at the top for your target customers. This is where SEO for ecommerce makes the difference.
In fact, studies show that search engines drive 10x more traffic to ecommerce sites than social media does. SEO enables you to generate traffic, nearly on autopilot, for months and even years to come.
Benefits of SEO for ecommerce sites
There are many benefits to SEO marketing for ecommerce sites. Beyond organic traffic generation, SEO can help:
- Increase brand awareness and visibility online
- Improve user experience on the website
- Attract traffic across various stages of the marketing funnel
- Drive conversions on-site through conversion rate optimization (CRO)
- Attract audiences for remarketing (e.g. with Facebook Ads pixel)
- Support paid search efforts through data and research
- Generate traffic for the long-term
- Build trust with customers and businesses
- Attract authority-boosting backlinks
10 Ecommerce SEO Strategies
Now it’s time to get into the meat of search engine optimization for ecommerce. Below you’ll learn 10 effective strategies for optimizing your store, ranking higher in Google, and driving more sales through your website.
1. Conduct ecommerce keyword research
At the foundation of every successful SEO strategy is keyword research. Keyword research is done in order to identify the search terms your target audience is using to find businesses and products like yours.
- Search volume: How many searches are conducted for this keyword on a monthly basis. Note that this can vary based on location and language.
- Keyword difficulty: How difficult a keyword will be to rank for in search, based on how many strong domains are ranking for this keyword already.
- Relevance: How applicable the keyword is to your business and what the user is searching for (can be rather subjective).
One approach is to take stock of all of your current pages (web pages, category pages, product pages, etc.) and consider what search term would best apply to that page. You can then search this term in your keyword research tool, validate the search volume and difficulty, and then decide if it’s relevant to your business.
Using a spreadsheet like Google Sheets can make it easy to pull all of your website URLs, map keywords to each page, and organize your keyword research. Over time, you can use analytics tools like Google Search Console to see what you are ranking for and use this to inform your keyword strategy.
2. Develop a user-friendly ecommerce website
Creating an engaging, user-friendly website experience is important for any business. With the special consideration that you will likely need to organize a lot of pages, you should have a site that has a simple navigation, clear internal links and icons, and interactive pages to make it easy for customers to find and purchase your products.
Consider working with a skilled web designer to optimize your website. They will take into account user experience signals, page depth, content hierarchy, site speed, and more to ensure your site is friendly for all users.
3. Implement on-page SEO
Once your keyword strategy is set, you can begin optimizing your pages for your target keywords. The goal is to target a unique keyword or set of keywords per page, in order to avoid multiple pages targeting the same term.
For example, let’s assume you have a product page that sells black leather boots for women.
After doing some keyword research, you discover the terms “black leather boots for women” (4,400 searches) and “women's black leather boots” (1,600 searches). These terms will be distinctly different from what you target on your “black leather boots for men” page.
Then, you will want to follow on-page best practices to optimize your product page:
- Include your target keyword in the title tag (e.g. “ The Heather - Black Leather Boot for Women | Brand”)
- Include your target keyword in the body content of your page
- Have a high-quality product photo with optimized image alt text
- Include an H1 heading and descriptive H2 headings on the page
- Link internally to related pages and products
- Remove stop words (like “of” and “the”) from your page URL; make sure the URL hints at what the page is about
- Write engaging content that describes the product and appeals to customers
For any page on your website, you’ll want to follow on-page SEO best practices to help search engines better understand, index, and rank your content. On page SEO for ecommerce makes a world of difference when it touches on all the pages on your website. (Just be sure to do this without keyword stuffing!)
4. Create valuable, descriptive content
You might have heard the phrase “Content is king” when it comes to SEO. This definitely rings true for ecommerce businesses. Besides optimization, your content plays a huge role in converting traffic into paying customers.
After all, who would want to go to a website and be met with boring, flat content? Your content is your chance to stand out from the crowd, share your brand voice, encourage users to take action, and, yes, help your site rank in Google Search.
Consider these copywriting best practices to write amazing content for your ecommerce brand.
5. Invest in other organic marketing channels
Your website isn’t the only platform that can drive traffic to your business. Other search algorithm-driven platforms like Amazon, Pinterest, and YouTube are great platforms for helping customers discover your products.
Each of these platforms has its own “surfacing” factors. For Amazon, those include keyword usage in your product listing, customer reviews, and product description. For Pinterest, engagement and keyword optimization play a huge role. And with YouTube, keyword use in your video title, description, and profile can help users find your content.
6. Improve site speed and mobile responsiveness
Consumers want information and they want it fast. Today’s ecommerce websites need to be optimized for users on the go (i.e. for mobile devices) and have a need for speed with a fast page load. This makes it easier for users to navigate the site and prevents accessibility issues.
Google’s Core Web Vitals report helps website owners identify and fix speed, visual stability, mobile responsiveness, and rendering issues. Turn to this report to ensure your ecommerce site is fast and well-optimized for any device.
Further, a site audit may reveal additional issues that are hindering performance. For example, large image files can slow down your site and contribute to poor ecommerce SEO. Whether it's your product pages, a category page, or a blog post, you want your content to be fast in order to support your SEO efforts.
If you take a look at Surfer's Audit tool, there's a metric for site speed which comes in handy while optimizing your page!
7. Earn high-authority backlinks
Backlinks are essentially “votes of confidence” from other websites that your ecommerce site offers great value, products, and information. Earning backlinks to your ecommerce site can improve your site’s authority and drive referral traffic.
Some of the best methods for attracting backlinks use organic strategies. For example, great blog content can encourage other sites to link back to your ecommerce website. Another method, outreach, can be used to land guest post opportunities or encourage blogs to mention your products.
Link building is an important task in any ecommerce SEO strategy. If you want to improve your ecommerce SEO, then aim to drive backlinks to your product pages, category pages, blog posts, and more.
8. Maintain site security
SSL refers to site security protocol that’s the standard for all ecommerce websites today. Have you ever been to a site and were met by a “not secure” warning? Chances are that website was missing its SSL certificate.
Many hosting platforms have the SSL option built-in. Simply work with your current host or ecommerce website developer to ensure SSL is enabled and that your site is secure. You don’t want to deter potential customers!
9. Utilize SEO content marketing
Optimizing your marketing and product pages is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to content SEO. Long-form content - like editorial articles and blog posts - can also be a significant driver of organic traffic to your site.
When conducting keyword research, look for search terms that best apply to a more informative piece of content. For example, “summer fashion trends for women” or “business professional outfit ideas” would make for great article topics.
As this content drives organic traffic (assuming it’s well-optimized), you can drive additional traffic by sharing your content on social media, to your email list, and more. Then, you’ll have a more holistic content marketing strategy and be able to attract customers from multiple channels.
10. Assess and implement technical SEO
Technical SEO relates to the coded and structural elements on your ecommerce website. That is, much of the infrastructure that lies below the surface. For example, your URL structure, sitemap, schema markup, and hosting are all factors that require optimization but are otherwise unseen by users.
Your content may be great and your product photos may be amazing, but if your site is not technically sound and secure, it can prevent Google from indexing your website. Conduct a technical SEO audit of your ecommerce site to identify any technical issues and remedy them so you don’t hurt your rankings.
Ecommerce SEO help from Surfer
Surfer’s content and SEO tools make optimizing your ecommerce site easier than ever. With features that empower keyword ideas, content creation, and more, you’ll have an entire toolkit to get your online store optimized and ready to rank.
While ecommerce businesses can face some unique SEO challenges, they are also incredibly fun to optimize. You have a lot of freedom to create engaging content, play around with your site navigation, optimize your product pages, and provide the best experience possible to customers.
Pick your plan and improve your ecommerce store SEO with Surfer.
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