Over the past decade, e-commerce has been growing at an incredible rate. This is thanks to many things.
Such as improvements in website usability, functionality, and the infrastructure which surrounds it. Needless to say, the occurrence of covid-19 progressed the adoption of ecommerce faster than anyone could imagine.
In fact, the value of the global ecommerce market hit $3.61tn in 2022. It is clear that the opportunities are huge. Yet with big opportunities comes big competition.
Only those that create a competitive and desirable offering, pairing it with smart marketing tactics will be able to create a sustainable, profitable business.
In this article, we cover everything you need to know to get started with a powerful e-commerce marketing tool: SEO.
What is E-commerce SEO?
Defining E-commerce SEO requires clarification on two terms:
Selling products via the internet.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Optimizing a website to gain higher rankings on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This generates more traffic from that source.
So, e-commerce SEO is the act of optimizing an ecommerce website.
With the goal of ranking higher on SERPs. Driving more relevant traffic to an online shop.
SEO is important for almost all websites, but it is especially crucial for online stores.
A large proportion of customer journeys now start on search engines. Either through searches for specific products or by searching for a solution to a specific problem.
For example, a marketer may be looking for ways to drive more customers to their website.
They start their search by typing ‘how to drive more customers to my website’ into Google.
This brings them to some helpful content on the MojoDojo site. Eventually, leading to them becoming a customer.
The statistics back it. One study showed that a massive 43% of all e-commerce traffic comes from organic searches on Google.
It also highlights that over 20% of all ecommerce orders come from organic search.
It doesn’t matter how you look at it. Investing in SEO for your website is likely to generate a positive ROI.
E-Commerce SEO: Tactics
Unless you have made some significant mistake in the set-up of your website.
There is no ‘magic bullet’ to improving your results on SERPs. Good e-commerce SEO is all about understanding best practices and tactics. You then need to simply apply them consistently.
Below, we dive into some of the very best SEO tactics for e-commerce businesses.
It is important that you address these tactics and revisit them over time. Although one tactic may work now, future improvements will need to be made. This approach will keep you competitive.
In fact, ‘competition’ is an important word to remember when it comes to e-commerce SEO.
Search engines such as Google are aiming to serve their users with the best possible results.
This means they consistently review all the content out there. Often picking new, better, or updated content to show higher in their rankings.
You cannot simply develop a strategy and forget it. As other businesses improve their SEO to target the same keywords as you, you will need to up your game.
Improve Page Speed
Page speed is how long it takes for your website to load when someone visits it.
You can test your page speed by using Google’s free page speed tester.
This tool will provide you with key insight into factors such as performance, accessibility, best practices, and SEO.
It will also break down how long each part of your website takes to load.
Page speed matters when it comes to SEO. In fact, studies show that a 1-second delay can lower customer satisfaction by 16%. Needless to say, a dissatisfied customer is much less likely to buy from your online store.
Here are some of the best ways to improve your page speed and reduce customer frustration:
Review Your Hosting
How you host your website can often have an impact on how fast it loads.
Cheap hosting will result in poor performance. This is due to shared resources with other websites.
If this is the case, you may consider moving to a performance-focused hosting company. These typically don’t share hosting between sites. But this will cost you more.
There are many reasons why websites use redirects. Some are legitimate and others are for nefarious reasons.
But whatever the reason, redirects will always make your website slower to load.
What is the solution?
…don’t use them.
Optimize Your Images
Large, high-definition images can take a long time to load. But you still want your images to look great when someone visits your page.
You can reduce the size of your images by compressing them.
Using a quality compressing tool will ensure that there is little impact on the quality of the image. It will also help your page load faster.
Remove Unneeded Plugin
Platforms such as WordPress reply on plugins to give users the website functionality they need.
Although these plugins can be helpful, they can also make your website cumbersome and slow to load.
So, try removing any plugins which aren’t absolutely essential to the running of your website.
Code can get a little messy. Especially when many edits and updates have been made over time.
Take some time to review your code and remove any unnecessary elements.
NOTE: You may need to get a professional developer to do this for you.
Deleting the wrong code could mess up your website.
Mobile is becoming an increasingly important part of search engine optimization.
In fact, it can be argued that the mobile version of your site is now more important than the desktop version.
Google has now announced that they will primarily be using mobile versions of the content for indexing. This is hardly surprising given that a massive 59% of all internet traffic is now from mobile devices.
So, prioritizing the mobile version of your website over the desktop version is a smart way to boost your search engine ranking success.
Utilize SERP Features
SERP features are any search engine results that are not traditional organic results.
These features can be a great way to get your online store at the top of potential customer searches.
It also helps you stand out from other results on the page.
The most commonly leveraged SERP feature for ecommerce stores is paid advertising.
This is a straightforward process of bidding on keywords.
When you win the bid, your website will appear at the top of the SERP for that search term.
Paid ads are typically classed as Pay Per Click (PPC), not SEO.
But it can help you test keywords to see which ones perform best. Then you can apply SEO to better rank for them.
Other types of useful SERP features for SEO include:
- Rich Snippets. These add a visual element to an existing result such as star reviews or a product image.
- Knowledge Graph Data. These appear in panels on SERPs such as weather, movie, and event information.
- Universal Results. These are other search results that appear on the SERP such as related images and featured snippets.
To use SERP features, you will need to include unique code in the <head> section of your website.
This code tells search engines which information should be used in the SERP feature.
Improve Your Product Pages
Which are the most valuable pages on your ecommerce website? Chances are they are your product page. After all they:
- Contain all essential product information
- Include a strong call to action to buy
- Often the only place where customers can add the product to the basket
Optimizing your product page for search engines is a smart move.
It can help reduce the steps the customer needs to take to buy from you.
This is because it helps your product page turn up in search results specific to that product.
So, rather than navigating from your homepage to categories, to the relevant product.
Visitors will go direct to the best product.
To improve your product pages focus on the following elements:
- Use keywords in your product name
- Target keywords through your URL
- Use descriptive headings such as ‘Description’, ‘Features’, ‘Reviews’, and ‘FAQ’
- Write a comprehensive (but not too wordy) product description that drives home the benefits and features
- Use high-quality images that are optimized for SEO (see ‘Improve Page Speed’ section)
- Apply product schema
- Canonicalise similar product pages
Improve Your Category Pages
Just like product pages, category pages play an important role in e-commerce SEO.
Product pages help you rank your specific products. Whereas your category pages will help you rank for more general terms.
This will help you attract traffic from shoppers who have at least a general idea of what they want.
For example, an online electronic store may target the keyword ‘Apple Macbook Air’ on its product page.
Whereas they may target ‘laptop’ or ‘Apple laptop’ with their category page.
This is why it is important to include helpful content on your category page.
It should both help you rank better and help you guide potential customers to the products that are best suited to them.
Here are some best practices to follow when writing your category pages:
- Include 1000+ words of content
- Use your keyword 3-5 times through the content
- Use LSI keywords throughout your content
NOTE: LSI keywords are words that search engines may see as related to a topic.
For example, for a pair of running trainers the LSI keywords may include:
- Cross country
The theory is, by using LSI keywords on your category page you make it clear to search engines that your website is about that specific topic. Rather than simply having used that term in passing.
There is hot debate over whether LSI keywords really have an impact on your rankings. But it is good practice to use them as they should fit your content regardless.
Use Structured Data or Schema Markup
Google uses powerful tools to help them understand what your website is all about. Yet, with millions of websites to crawl, search engines can often make errors. Especially when complex layouts are used.
This is where structured data comes in. This is a standardized format of code that can be added to your website (usually in the <head> section).
It gives search engines an explicit clue about what the content on that page is all about. For example, you may use this on a product page.
Doing so will let you specify key information. This could include product name, product description, product type, and cost.
This may look something like this:
"name": "Electric Toothbrush",
"description": "Keep your teeth clean and your oral health in top condition with our fantastic electric toothbrush",
Using structured data gives you greater control over how search engines read and rank your page.
This is especially helpful when looking to target specific keywords. Or when you want to develop stronger content previews on SERPs.
NOTE: Search engines will take your structured data suggestions into consideration. But they do not guarantee their use.
Their ultimate goal is to serve the best/most relevant content. If they find other data on your page that they consider better suited, they may use that instead.
So, you should consider your structured data a strong signal rather than a specification.
Start a Blog
There are countless reasons why starting a blog is good for your business.
In this section, we explore some of the top reasons why a blog is beneficial. We focus on SEO from an e-commerce perspective.
Target More Keywords
As an ecommerce store, you probably have a handful of high-value keywords that you target.
Using these keywords strategically on your product pages and across your site will help drive high-value traffic.
However, it is also likely that there are countless other keywords that would bring relevant traffic to your site.
But stuffing too many of these into a small number of product pages can be both messy and counter-productive in your SEO strategy.
This is where a blog comes in.
You can use blog posts to target more keywords.
This is especially useful for longtail keywords, which may have smaller search volumes, but higher search intent.
Let’s use an online chocolate shop as an example. Within their main pages (homepage, product pages) they are targeting keywords such as:
- Buy chocolates
- Chocolate gift
So, they may use their blog to target longtail keywords, such as:
- Where is the best place to buy chocolate online?
- How to pick the perfect chocolate gift?
- Chocolate home delivery
Deliver Fresh Content
Whether search engines see newer content as more valuable is a hotly debated topic.
Yet publishing fresh content shows search engines that your website is being maintained. In fact, in 2011 Google announced that it updated its algorithm so that it: ‘better determines when to give you more up-to-date relevant results for these varying degrees of freshness.’
Search engines aim to serve the best, most accurate, and most up-to-date information.
So, it would make sense that fresh content impacts your rankings.
Using your blog, you can publish new content and update old content.
This ensures that the information you provide is always at its most relevant. In turn, making it more likely that Google picks your content for inclusion in SERPs.
Dive Deeper Into Keyword Topics
You don’t want to use your main pages to deliver long chunks of information.
Instead, you should use these pages to deliver the most relevant information. This should be done whilst compelling visitors to buy.
Word count is no indicator of quality and is thus not considered a ranking factor.
Yet, a blog allows you to dive deeper into the key topics surrounding your ecommerce store.
This can help you better answer questions about those topics.
Making your content more relevant and of a higher quality. Both of these factors will impact your search engine rankings.
Good For Backlinking and Internal Linking
A blog will help you with your SEO linking strategy in two ways.
Firstly, it will offer you an opportunity to create ‘link-worthy’ content, this will encourage other websites to link to your website.
Each link your website receives shows search engines that your content is great.
Secondly, you can use your blog to create strong internal linking.
Making it clear to search engines which are your most important pages.
We will explore internal linking and backlinks (inbound links) in more detail below.
Improve Internal Link Structure
Internal linking (links from your site to other pages on your site) is an important part of SEO. Why?
Because it helps search engines better understand how to rank the pages of your website. How? By counting each internal link as a vote for the importance of that page.
You may use your blog (as mentioned above) to build internal links within your website.
For example, here at Weboptimizer, we may write a blog on the basics of SEO, and then include an internal link to our SEO audit page.
This is a small vote for the importance of our SEO audit page. When we combine that with lots of other internal links it adds up to a clear signal that search engines should rank that page highly.
Here are some tips to improve the internal link structure on your ecommerce website:
- Keep anchor text relevant/use words you want to rank for
- Only internally link to the most important pages
- Use the exact URL for your canonical page
- Avoid linking to your homepage
- Only internally link from relevant content
- Use internal links, but keep them to a minimum
- Avoid using the same anchor text across different pages
Backlinks are another type of link that is crucial to improving your ecommerce website rankings. Unlike internal links, backlinks are links which are coming from another website.
These are small votes that can help search engines understand how to rank your website. But unlike internal links, which tell search engines ‘these are the pages we want you to rank highly’, backlinks are a powerful ‘vote of confidence’ from other websites. This tells search engines that the content that has been linked to is of high quality.
Although backlinks can be beneficial across the board, creating them for your most valuable pages (category & product pages) is critical. So, your backlink strategy should focus on creating or earning backlinks to these pages.
Unless you own the external websites that you backlink from, you will need to earn those links. This can be done in several ways including:
- Paying websites to link to your website (although this isn’t best practice and you may be penalized by search engines if they suspect the backlink has been paid for)
- Create awesome content that people naturally want to link to
- Reach out to website owners asking them to link to your website
- Write guest posts for other websites with backlinks to your website
Avoid Duplicate Content
Duplicate content can damage your rankings on SERPs.
This is true both for content that has been published elsewhere on your website or by other websites.
This is due to the fact that search engines won’t know which version of the content to serve to users. So, any duplicated content online runs the risk of not ranking.
The best approach to this is to not duplicate content. But that isn’t always an option.
For example, you may have many product pages that are all very similar.
They may have small differences such as sizes, colors, or functionality. Each of these pages could be almost identical. Meaning they would be seen as duplicate content by search engines.
In these circumstances, it is best to select a canonical URL (your main page).
Then, for each duplicate version use a canonical meta tag. This tells search engines where to find the original content (your canonical URL).
You can also use canonical meta tags to ensure that any content that is duplicated on your site from other sites is directed toward the original content.
Simplify URL Structure
The easier you make it for search engines to know what your website is all about, the better.
We have made this clear throughout this guide. Simplifying your URL structure can be another smart way to do this.
This is for three reasons. Firstly, a simplified URL structure makes it easier to organize your site.
When your site is better organized it is easier for search engines to crawl. This helps them identify your site hierarchy. Making it simplier for them to better rank the most important pages.
A better-organized site is also easier for website visitors to navigate.
This improves their experience. Google has made it clear that a better user experience will impact your rankings.
Thirdly, a simplified URL structure allows you to make it clear what your content is all about. By including keywords in your URL, you make it easy for search engines to spot the key theme of the page.
For example, rather than using a complex URL for this guide such as:
We would use a much simpler URL structure to make it clear what the guide is all about. Such as:
This is especially true for product pages. So, use clear descriptive keywords in your URLs. This will make it easier for Google to identify the relevancy of your products to searches.
Add Content to Category and Product Pages
Your category and product pages are amongst the most valuable on ecommerce websites.
Yet all too often businesses attempt to minimize the amount of content on these pages. With the aim of improving the user experience.
The intention behind this is good. But, it gives search engines little information from which to decide how to rank your page.
A better approach is to use smart design to keep your customer journey seamless.
Whilst delivering content that is helpful to search engines and potential customers.
For example, your may design your product pages to show only the most compelling information. This could include:
- product images
- product titles
- the most important benefits
- the price
- a CTA (usually to buy).
Then, you can include extra content for those who want to find out more. This could include:
- giving a longer detailed description
- further images
- a product video when the visitor scrolls
You may use drop-down boxes or a longer page to deliver this ‘extra’ content.
This content offers you an opportunity to target relevant keywords. It also helps you improve customer experience. Both of which can boost your search engine rankings.
E-Commerce SEO: Summary
It is clear that SEO is important to ecommerce businesses.
There is a growing proportion of profitable online traffic coming from search engines. So, it is crucial for ecommerce business owners to have a clear idea of how they can tap into more of this traffic.
Use the tips we have outlined in this guide to better equip yourself for SEO success.