SEO is vital for your eCommerce website if you intend to survive. Relying on PPC advertising alone can be expensive, and your sales funnel will probably dry up once you switch off the ads.
The goal of SEO is to get your web pages to rank highly on SERPs (search engine results pages).
Ecommerce SEO will organically grow your sales by putting your store in front of people who are actively searching for your products. Whether you’re selling bikinis, board games, or business meeting notes, SEO is an investment that will pay dividends long into the future.
But where do you begin? What are the best practices? How do you compete against the eCommerce giants?
This guide will answer all of those questions and more. Split into three sections, it will cover the most important aspects of a successful eCommerce SEO campaign:
- Product page SEO
- Building backlinks
Choosing the right keywords is perhaps the most important part of eCommerce for SEO. People search for specific products they want using specific keywords. For them to find your online store, you need to use the same keywords your prospective customers are using.
There are a few important things to know before choosing the keywords for your product pages.
1. Use a keyword research tool
When optimizing your eCommerce website for search engines, the first thing you need is a keyword research tool. This shows you the keywords people are using to find the products you have on offer on your website. This saves you from having to guess what keywords people are typing in.
Using a keyword tool, you can search for any product in your inventory. You can also search for related keywords; anything that someone might type into a search engine to find it. This allows you to see exactly how many people per month are searching for those particular keywords.
This will help you discover other popular keywords which you can add to your keyword list and potentially use on your web pages.
2. Use search engine auto-suggest tools
The second tip to research keywords for your ecommerce for SEO strategy is to use the auto-suggest tool on search engines. When you type something into a search engine, it will predict what you’re searching for by suggesting keywords to finish your phrase or sentence.
Search engines don’t choose random words when they do this. The suggested keywords have been used by people in the past who’ve begun their search in the same way as you. This is a function of Robotic Process Automation and machine learning and another way to see what people are actively searching for.
3. Focus on long-tail keywords
An advantage of the above method is that, usually, those auto-suggested keywords are long-tail. This means they’re longer in length and more specific than short-tail keywords.
Short-tail keywords are just one or two words. They’re difficult for you to rank highly for in search engines because you’re competing against so many high-authority websites.
If you use long-tail keywords, it’s much easier to rank highly on SERPs due to the decreased competition. For example, instead of “sales territory mapping”, you could use “the in-depth guide to sales territory mapping software”.
Another key advantage is that a searcher using long-tail keywords has a strong buyer’s intent. They know exactly what they’re looking for. If you use the same long-tail keywords on your web pages, your website will be presented to people who are ready to purchase your product.
You can also center your content marketing around these types of keywords. This is a great way to find content ideas if you don’t know what to blog about.
4. LSI keywords
Latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords are words related to your main keyword. Let’s say you use your keyword research tool and find a nice long-tail keyword that you want a specific product page to rank for. There would be related keywords that you could also use somewhere on your product page.
When a search engine sees your keyword alongside related keywords on your page, they’ll recognize your page as relevant to your main keyword. This greatly increases your chances of ranking highly on SERPs.
One way to find LSI keywords is to type your main keyword into a search engine. Related keywords and search suggestions will appear at the side or the bottom of the SERP. Identify the ones that are relevant to you and use them on your product page.
Product Page SEO
Your web pages, especially your product pages, are where you deploy the keywords you have researched and selected. Several different areas need addressing when optimizing your product pages.
The product title is arguably the most important part of your product page. The title is the part of your web page that appears in big, blue lettering on the search engine results page. It’s important because it is what’s going to hook people to click on your website when it comes up on their SERP. This is where your keyword research comes in.
When choosing titles for your product pages, it’s important to make them as unique as possible. Having duplicate content or multiple pages with the same title will worsen your site’s SEO.
It helps to be specific. Instead of “business numbers”, write “800 numbers for business”. By doing this, you allow search engines to gain a deeper understanding of what your product is. They can then present your page to people who are searching for your specific product.
A common mistake people make is putting their store’s name at the beginning of their titles. It’s not the first thing users want to see unless they have specifically searched for it. They’re likely to gloss over the listing and click on one that appeals to them more. Remember to keep the searcher’s intent at the front of your mind when optimizing your pages.
The second part of your product page that needs optimizing is your URL. Otherwise known as the web address, the URL of a page can be seen in the address bar of your web browser.
It’s best practice to try and get your product page’s URL to match the product title as closely as possible. Again, the URLs for each of your pages should be different from each other and unique to each product.
Having URLs that match your product title will help your SEO because it helps search engines understand exactly what your product is. If your URL and title are completely different, it creates uncertainty and will negatively impact your ranking on SERPs.
3. Meta Description
The meta description is the short snippet that can appear on search engine results underneath your page title.
It can be edited by modifying a small bit of HTML code in the header of your web page. Content management systems and some free website builders allow you to write meta descriptions without having to edit your website’s code.
Meta descriptions used to be a crucial part of SEO, but they have become less important in the past few years. Regardless, it’s worth spending the time to craft a good meta description. A well-written one can entice searchers to click on your page as opposed to the one above or below yours on the SERP.
Words in the meta description will appear in bold if they match the keywords someone has used in their search. This is why it’s a good idea to include keywords related to your product in the meta description. If a searcher sees a lot of bold words in your meta description, not only will it catch their eye, but they will know your page is likely to contain what they’re looking for.
Sometimes search engines won’t pick up on your meta description. They might find the keywords are better presented in your product description on your actual product page. The search engine will pick up a snippet of this description to use instead. This is why it’s important to apply ecommerce SEO best practices to all aspects of your product listings.
4. Product Copy
The fourth element is the main body of content on your product page; your product description. This is where you can put the secondary keywords you haven’t already used in your title, URL, or meta description. It’s where you may start ranking for secondary terms you might not have thought it possible to rank for.
You want to make your product description easily digestible for the reader. Nobody wants to be confronted with a big wall of text. If it’s not easy to read, people will click the back arrow on their web browser and return to the search engine results page.
This will increase your bounce rate. Your bounce rate is the number of people who click on your site and “bounce” straight back off it. A high bounce rate will negatively affect your search engine ranking because you will be seen as a non-authoritative site that people don’t engage with.
To write engaging product descriptions, keep your communication short and snappy. Limit paragraphs to one or two sentences. Also, when listing certain product details such as size, material, and color, use bullet points. People aren’t going to read through a paragraph to pick out this information. Bullet points draw the eye and are easily digestible. This listing below for an antique ring is a good example.
An extra step you can take to compete against bigger eCommerce sites is to list every option or version of a product. For example, say you have a Hawaiian shirt for sale on your website. Some eCommerce stores would list the shirt size as a range, such as XS-XL. However, it can help you to write out all the sizes individually e.g. XS, S, M, L, XL.
This is because if someone types “Hawaiian shirt size M”, or “Hawaiian shirt L” into their search engine, your product is more likely to appear. Search engines are more likely to pick out your page as relevant because you highlighted those separate sizes.
These are also long-tail keywords, so the searcher has a stronger buyer’s intent and it’s more likely you will convert them.
Just make sure to update the product details per your inventory management system. You do not want to say you sell a certain size or color of the product if you are out of stock. This could increase your bounce rate.
Many people struggle with link building when it comes to eCommerce, but it works just like any other type of link building. The more high-quality links you get pointing to your store, the more your ecommerce SEO performance will improve.
This can prove difficult when you don’t have the manpower, budget, or influencer network to compete with the eCommerce giants that dominate the space. However, there’s one simple backlink hack that can help you get a foot in.
The easiest method of backlink building is to steal your competitors’ best backlinks. Competitor backlink analysis is one of the most powerful ways to find out what’s working for your rivals. Why go to all the hard work of finding new link-building opportunities when you can just replicate their successful methods?
Start by gathering the top 10 organic search results for your main keyword. Just search for the keyword and make a list with each organic result you find.
Secondly, use a backlink checker tool to find all of the backlinks that are pointing to each of your competitors. You can find many free backlink checker tools online.
Lastly, sort them by domain rating by using a domain rating/authority checker. These can also be found through a quick search.
Attack the most valuable links first. Just take each link, open it in a web browser, and try to see how your competitor got these links. Replicate their patterns and get backlinks from the same sites. You will eventually begin to see your domain authority rise.
There are many ways to build quality backlinks to your store, in addition to other methods of researching keywords and various on-page SEO tips.
However, this guide gives you the most important information you need to set up a solid SEO for eCommerce strategy. There are also a few tricks included to give you an edge against the biggest players.
If you properly apply these fundamentals to your eCommerce website, step-by-step, you will undoubtedly notice an improvement in your SERP rankings.
This guest post was written by John Allen. John is the “Billion Dollar SEO,” known for effectively scaling enterprise SEO teams. With over 14 years of experience and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs, he currently directs all SEO activity for RingCentral, a global UCaaS, VoIP, an omnichannel contact center solutions provider, globally. He has written for websites such as Hubspot and Toolbox.
Hero photo by Mark König on Unsplash