Doing SEO for ecommerce sites is hugely rewarding. Why? You get to see the results of your hard work in sales and revenue. As well as pushing up organic sales figures, good ecommerce SEO can help you build an online community of happy customers. Here’s how.
Logical information architecture
Your site structure should allow for easy search engine indexing. Usually that means you’ll have a site structure that’s good for users too — a win-win scenario.
The main thing to focus on is cataloguing — and whether your site allows for easy product and item discovery. A more minimalist UX (user experience) is generally preferred by web designers and users, but sites like Amazon buck the trend with a relatively ‘cluttered’ (but easy-to-use) site experience.
Search engines are machines — they live and die by logic. Get to know the basic tenets of logic and indexing to ensure your site structure upholds the same standards.
It’s a good idea to invest in some (relatively inexpensive) remote user testing to see how your site fares when faced with a diverse range of users. From a conversion rate perspective, you’ll want to focus on product discovery and the checkout experience.
Relevant links & quality PR
Links are votes of confidence. They demonstrate trust in your content and your domain. Ensure that you have a comprehensive PR strategy for a site or product launch that includes link building.
- Look at the companies at the top of the search engine pages for your keywords. Benchmark the number of referring domains they have (and their quality) using a SEO tool like ahrefs. This should give you a good idea of what’s needed (link wise) to get to the top.
- Relevancy — make sure that you score links from relevant sources like ecommerce gift and buying guides. Avoid links that are low on relevancy and quality.
- A good link building tip? Take advantage of existing relationships with suppliers and retailers and get involved in some natural co-marketing.
- Review your internal linking structure as well. In the ideal world, you’ll have silo content taking users through to product and category pages.
Diverse content strategy
Think very carefully about the content you produce — this is your chance to add value to your brand.
Two common ecommerce content problems:
- Lifeless, soulless content that’s devoid of personality
- Content that’s targeting all the wrong keywords, and doesn’t connect with the intended audience.
My suggestion is to put a lot of effort into your product categories, category content, and your blog (silo content). There is a lot of value to be had here, and they all complement each other well.
- Don’t be afraid to focus on, and push, key products that perform well for you.
- Maintenance and product buying guides are great — tables, videos, and infographics even more so.
- Be creative with the content you create — originality will encourage shares and links.
- Don’t neglect other sales channels like social media — SEO is best conducted in a multichannel environment.
Strategic page optimization
Analyze your keyword and product research in detail to ensure that you are effectively cascading keyword data across your site. It’s not just about ‘using keywords’ — but about how you deploy them.
In a nutshell:
- Target buyer intent and competitive niche keywords on the homepage and in page titles
- Target short tail keywords on category pages
- Long tail keywords are for product pages
- Auxiliary keywords and ‘relevant searches’ are for the blog and any creative content assets like guides and calculators.
Some examples of content ideas brought about by search:
Customer review strategy
You want plenty of genuine customer and user reviews. They’ll help you rank for searches, but they’ll also add a lot of value to potential customers. There is nothing like hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth — customers trust each other more than they trust your sales team.
- Implement review schema (easy to do) to make the most of reviews in search.
- Let users upvote reviews to gamify the process. The best reviews pull in users’ social media data to highlight ‘the person behind the review’.
- Have a strategy for collecting ecommerce reviews — if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
No duplicate content
Duplicate pages can be a big issue for ecommerce sites due to filtering and search functions generating about a million URLs for one product page!
If this is the case on your site, make sure that you implement the rel=canonical function to point search engines back to the original page, discounting duplicates. If you’re using a dedicated store builder, then this can be easily implemented in your page template. If you’re using something more complex like Drupal for your online store, you may need to code it manually. WordPress users can make the most of Yoast’s canonical tagging features.
Another issue I often see is people taking boilerplate copy from the manufacturer or wholesaler, and reproducing that on their website. This is not good! In order for your site to be seen as relevant and authoritative, it’s a good idea to invest in quality copywriting.
Competitive page speed
Though there are some arguments for and against the importance of page speed, every SEO who cares about UX will want to fix a lagging mobile site. A speedy shopping experience makes sense, both for search engines and users.
- Carousels and hero images can slow a site down, so use them sparingly. Always resize images (top tip: get a plugin to do it for you in bulk).
- Invest in a technical environment that’s speedy. Avoid over complicated coding, and don’t overengineer your website. It’s best to focus on usability, rather than fancy design tricks.
Ecommerce SEO is target and sales-driven. Keep an eye on campaigns and rankings, and update your strategy accordingly. Especially at first, a very focused approach works best — have a big impact on a targeted area, rather than seeing smaller, incremental changes across the board.
Patrick Foster is a writer and ecommerce expert from Ecommerce Tips — an industry-leading ecommerce blog that shares the latest insights from the sector, spanning everything from business growth hacks, to product development. Check out the latest posts on Twitter @myecommercetips.