While every website, regardless of its function or niche, should always adhere to standard SEO best practices across the board, taking your SEO to the next level is a little different for e-commerce sites. This is because your visitors’ intent is different – they’re (hopefully!) looking to buy a product, rather than just searching for general information on a topic.
They’ve probably already got something in mind, but want to explore their options, compare different products and prices, and ideally receive some tailored suggestions from you. We take a look at the basics of SEO specifically for e-commerce websites and online stores.
Unlike a standard company website with just a few pages dedicated to different services, e-commerce sites can end up with thousands of pages dedicated to different product lines, variations, groupings, colors, styles, and themes.
As with any website, the more pages, and unique URLs you have, the harder it gets to keep everything optimized the way it should be. If you get off to a bad start and are making even minor errors from the beginning, they can become a nightmare to fix (or even find) months down the line.
Unless you’re extremely confident in your web development abilities, building your site on a dedicated e-commerce platform makes a lot more sense. Many offer free trials so you can get a feel for whether you like the interface or not. In addition, several platforms –like Shopify and WooComerce for example– already have a host of built-in SEO features to make your life easier. These usually include things like ‘automagic’ 301 redirects and canonical tags for duplicate content, social sharing buttons and automatic generation of your website’s sitemap.xml and robots.txt files.
If you do decide to go it on your own, however, then make absolutely sure you’re using HTTPS across your entire website, so your customers’ personal details are encrypted. If you’re using a platform like WordPress, make sure to get familiar with the Yoast SEO plugin, which will offer tips along the way, and help you get your content SEO-ready before you publish.
With standard websites, keyword research usually involves looking for topics that get high search volumes but don’t have so much competition that there’s little chance of ranking for them. For e-commerce websites, you’re trying to be a bit more specific – attracting highly targeted traffic that’s ready to convert. That said, you’re still following the same basic formula.
Another great way to get keyword and topic ideas is to get inspiration from your competitors! Giants like Amazon and any top-ranking e-commerce sites in your niche are the perfect place to begin. See what keywords they’re ranking for (a clue you should aim for different, more specific long-tail keywords), what their site architecture is like, and any obvious weak spots, like categories which have thin content you know you could easily flesh out.
Searching your major keywords on Google and checking the ‘People also ask’ and ‘Searches related to’ boxes can also be a quick and simple option to get some general ideas. Once you have your basic keywords and phrases, you can then use whichever keyword research tool you prefer to expand on your ideas, compare search volumes, find LSI keywords, and start building up a list of potential topics to create content, pages and blog posts around.
Keyword research is going to be a critical factor in your success, so if you’re not confident in your ability to do it thoroughly enough, then rather partner with an established SEO company like Ruby Digital who can. Remember also that you’ll need to revisit your keyword strategy from time to time. Changing consumer demand, new competitors arriving on the scene, and new products entering the market can all have an effect on which keywords will perform best. If you can spot a trend before the competition and get your content out there first, you can attract a valuable source of new, ready-to-buy traffic.
If you already have an existing e-commerce site, then identifying site errors with a free tool like Screaming Frog is a must. Tools like this crawl your website, links, and images for SEO errors like duplicate pages, meta titles and descriptions, missing header tags, redirects, and much more. You’ll want to sort these out before you start adding any new content and check back from time to time to ensure you’re not falling back into bad habits.
If you’re using an e-commerce platform with built-in SEO tools already, then remember you should still be including any relevant keywords in the following:
- Image file names
- Image alt text
- The URLs of all product pages, blog posts, and category/topic pages
When someone visits an e-commerce site, they’re probably looking to compare similar products. Whenever you add a new product, consider what someone with a higher or lower budget might be interested in, and make sure you entice them to check out these options using internal links and thumbnail images.
Keeping sentences and paragraphs short, breaking up long stretches of text with images or videos, and organizing product data in a logical, easy-to-follow manner can all help keep visitors on your site for longer.
This not just good for your rankings but gives you more time to convince them to hit that ‘Add to cart’ button!
We live in the kind of world where people start to get antsy if a website takes longer than three seconds to load. Conversely, making sure your site loads that much faster than a big competitor’s can be a pretty effective way to encourage visitors to purchase from you instead.
You can use a free tool like Pingdom or Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see where you stand and then act accordingly to improve it by optimizing images, leveraging browser caching, ‘minifying’ CSS and removing redirects.
While doing it right takes time, an e-commerce site which focuses on the right keywords, loads quickly across different devices, and always adheres to best SEO practices can be massively rewarding!