SEO for E-commerce: Ultimate Guide

 

SEO can feel overwhelming and complicated. There are so many opinions and theories, that it can be difficult to decide what you, as a business, should focus on. This can paralyze some companies into in-action and cause them to focus their website efforts on design and brand image rather than solid SEO principles. There is no reason you can’t do both. In this article, we will highlight the core fundamentals of SEO for e-commerce that you should implement regardless of your product, image, brand voice, moral code, age, or hair color. If you make money through e-commerce sales, implement what we highlight here today.

 

We’ll break out the article into easy-to-understand sections. Deconstructing the principles of SEO makes it easier to understand the parts as they relate to the whole. There are 100s of tips and tricks out there, but our goal isn’t to highlight them all and end up right back in the “overwhelmed” state. Let’s go through things we can all do to be better and improve your e-commerce website.

 

On-Page Technical SEO:

 

We are going to start at the beginning. When we say on-page “technical” SEO, the word “technical” is the key term here. We aren’t talking about the copy users see on the page (for the most part, we’ll cover that later). Here, we will highlight what signals your site is sending to search engines in order to rank for your preferred terms.

 

  • Your site needs to be set up on HTTPS (the secure version of hypertext transfer protocol):
    • Google relies heavily on trust. It needs to know the sites it offers its users can be trusted. Step one toward earning that trust is establishing a secure website. Your user’s data will be more secure, and Google wants to see https for e-commerce sites so this is a must.
  • Be sure to add “alt” tags on all your product images:
    • Believe it or not, Google isn’t great at distinguishing images. That’s why when you a click on a sign in a reCAPTCHA Google knows, “oh yeah, they are human.” No computer could do that. It’s much easier to just tell the bots reading the page what the picture is. Reading alt text, now that’s in Google’s wheelhouse.
  • Leave your bread crumbs:
    • This makes sure you’re passing value among pages through quality interlinking, and properly structuring your site. For example, clothing sites will have links on each page to let the user know where they are:
      • Men’s > Pants > Jeans > Bootcut – for example
    • Make sure to craft compelling meta descriptions for your pages:
      • We know that meta descriptions are not a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. However, click through rate (how often a searcher will click your page when it is shown in search results) is. You want to make sure you are creating descriptions that will entice searchers to click through to your site and not steer them to your competitors’ sites. Try to include value statements and calls to action in your meta descriptions.
    • Build and submit a sitemap and robot.txt file to Google:
      • Determine which pages on your site you want Google to be able to crawl and index. Remember, Google ranks PAGES, not just authoritative domains, so it’s important it can read and understand all of your pages so they have a chance to rank within the search results.

 

 

On-Page Content

 

Unlike the technical side of SEO, the content aspect of SEO might not be directly read by Google or used as a ranking factor, but the quality of your content can have a massive impact on other ranking factors like click through rate, bounce rate, user time spent on your site, and user trust. As an e-commerce brand, you need to develop great content to drive your SEO initiatives and position your brand as a trustworthy expert in your industry. Here are some great ways to begin that journey.

 

  • Create robust blog content to capture long-tail search traffic:
    • Searchers are changing the way they interact with search engines. Capturing all the traffic for a single high-volume keyword is no longer enough. Brands need to ensure they are positioned to rank for many different variations of keywords within an entire search category.
      • Make sure your blog lives off of your main domain directory and isn’t set up within a sub domain (e.g., blog.domain.com). Use domain.com/blog in order to pass value for varying keywords to your main domain. Doing this will also pass authority from your home page to your blog entries, making them stronger as well.
    • Generate content that will capture people at every step in your sales funnel:
      • Your blog and other informational pages can’t be all about converting sales. They need to help and guide anyone looking to learn more about the industry within which you sell products. The more people come to your site as a resource, the more trusting of you they will be when it does come time to purchase what you sell.
    • Look for guest-blogging opportunities:
      • Guest blogging got a bad rap a few years ago when people were using it to build links at a massive scale. However, we shouldn’t ban this practice. E-commerce site owners need to establish relationships with other websites within their industry and provide expert opinions and advice. Doing so will open your brand up to other audiences and further establish your brand as a trusted name within your industry.
    • Provide robust product descriptions:
      • Too often, we see product pages on e-commerce sites that are just a list of images and product names. Remember that Google can’t read the images, and even the best alt tags won’t be enough. Users want to be able to read descriptions and reviews of products on a page. Explain what differentiates the products from other offerings on the page and across your portfolio. This grants an opportunity for more keywords on the page and presents helpful information for users, keeping them on page longer.
    • Create long-form “About Us” pages:
      • Make sure content on your site isn’t just in your blog or on product pages. Create static pages on your site that highlight who you are as a brand and work you do within your community. Highlight philanthropic initiatives and workplace culture in long-form content. Showing potential buyers you care about your local community and workforce can go a long way to establishing brand loyalty and trust.

 

Other Tips

 

We alluded to the fact that there are 100’s of tips and tricks that could be considered universal or specific to a site. The following tips fall outside of on site content optimization or technical SEO. They should not be overlooked however. The following tips could establish entire strategies for SEO and how to approach your site’s goals for the future.

 

  • Do your keyword research:
    • You know your products, but make sure you know how people are searching for them. Site owners can use tools like Moz, AHREFs, and Google Analytics to discover what terms have the highest search volumes.
      • Be careful. Remember that the goal is to create content that captures long-tail variations within a category, so don’t focus all your efforts on a single “head term.”
      • Make sure the keyword categories you choose align closely with your offerings to avoid high bounce rates.
    • Perform competitor analysis:
      • Are you currently being outranked by a competitor? Well, what are they doing? Do some digging. Comb through their websites and take inventory on the kind of content they are creating. What are the title tags on their pages? What do their product descriptions look like?
        • Do your best to mimic the sites who are currently ranking for the terms you want to rank for, but maintain your unique branding style.
      • Where are they getting links from? Perhaps those sites would be willing to list your site as a resource as well.
    • Constantly audit for problems:
      • When your business success is determined by online sales, your website is everything. You should constantly be auditing your site performance from a user perspective and an SEO perspective. Ask yourself questions like:
        • How many keywords am I ranking for? What are they?
        • What pages on my site rank best? Can I replicate that across other pages?
        • Have my pages lost or gained in rankings recently? Why or Why not?
      • Employ canonical tags:
        • Sometimes, pages become obsolete, but you don’t want to delete them all together. In e-commerce, it’s common for sites to update product descriptions or product pages, but they fail to let Google know about the changes. Google will read these pages as duplicate content and de-value both pages or be unable to know which to rank.
          • Be sure to add the rel=”canonical” tag to older pages.
            • Canonical them to the new pages with an “href=” tag to let Google know which page is obsolete and which page should be getting the value from their algorithm.
          • Recognize the importance of page speed:
            • The average searcher has an incredibly short attention span. There is a direct correlation between page-load speed and abandonment/bounce rate on web pages. Here are some strategies for decreasing page-load speed:
              • Compress your images.
              • Consider buying more server space.
              • Don’t be afraid to migrate to a new content management system (CMS).
            • There are many free and paid tools available for you to test your page-load speed. Use them often and make sure you aren’t losing visitors to load-speed issues. You’ll be losing sales and SEO value at the same time if your page is slow to load.

 

 

 

All e-commerce sites are different to a degree. Good SEO should be about your website and what your goals are. Don’t mistake that focus with a lack of universal SEO truths we can all use to improve our businesses.

 

Bio: Brian – contributor to Enlightened Digital, long-distance cyclist, and lifelong advocate for women in business from Philadelphia. Tech and business are my lifeblood, but I’m also a fanatic of brewpubs and just about every sports team in Philadelphia.