E-commerce SEO: The Definitive Guide for Small Businesses?

the definitive guide to ecommerce seo

There are over 26 million e-commerce sites across the globe and counting.

Businesses have now embraced the use of e-commerce websites to sell their products or services and if you fall into this category of business owners that sell online, your top priority is to maximize your online visibility and sales, which can be quite challenging.

Well for one, at least a hundred different e-commerce stores are selling the same product or offering the same service as you.

This means you have to put in extra work to drive traffic to your online store and even more effort to make them stay and buy. This is where e-commerce SEO comes in.

Looking for a reliable SEO service for your ecommerce website? Check out our range of custom ecommerce seo services today.

What Is SEO For E-commerce?

You’ve probably heard of SEO for content marketing, blogging and article writing but there’s also SEO for e-commerce and what this means in simple terms is search engine optimization for online stores. E-commerce SEO is a way of generating free organic traffic from sites like Google, Yahoo and Bing to your online store. This includes writing product descriptions with relevant keywords and obtaining backlinks from credible websites to help improve your store’s online ranking.  So when people search for products related to what you sell, your store comes up on the search engine results page (SERP).

The goal of e-commerce SEO is to ensure that your product pages appear on the first page of Google and other search engines. A 2013 study shows that about 90% of searchers stop at the first page, only 4.8% make it to the second page and 1.1% to the third page. If your e-commerce site or product pages are not SEO optimized, you might not show up on the first page of search results related to what you sell, this affects your store’s visibility and overall sales.

Your aim shouldn’t just be to appear on that first page but to rank higher on the page. Ideally, your product pages should be among the first three organic search results for those search terms that your potential customers might be using as this ensures higher click-through rates for your website.

The Four Types Of SEO

To rank higher on search engines, you’ll need to have a proper understanding of the types of SEO and when to use each one. Let’s look at each one.

1 . On-page SEO

On-page SEO, also referred to as on-site SEO, involves SEO activities that are carried out directly on the page or site. This type of SEO focuses on optimizing on-site ranking factors like keywords, meta descriptions, meta titles, headers, images and others. To carry out a successful on-page SEO, you’ll need keyword research, quality content, internal linking, metadata optimization and image optimization.

2 . Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO focuses on SEO activities outside your website. This includes guest blogging, Internet ads, competitor research and analysis, press distribution and HARO (Help A Reporter Out) you provide reporters with expert information they need and in exchange, they’ll link back to your website in their publication.

3 . Technical SEO

Technical SEO involves all those SEO activities that help improve your site’s performance on search engines and makes it easier for visitors to navigate. Technical SEO takes into consideration factors like site load time, mobile friendliness, duplicate content audits, keyword cannibalisation audit and crawl error identification.

4 . Local SEO

As the name implies this type of SEO focuses on ranking sites for specific locations. The main purpose of this type of SEO is to improve the company or business’s online presence within a particular city, state or town. Local SEO is a great source of link-building and organic search and also enables companies to get customers to locate their physical/walk-in stores. For example, when someone searches for “Hair salons near me” the search results displayed will be specific to the searcher’s location. Local SEO is mostly reliant on how well you optimize your  “Google My Business” profile because you will be recommended based on proximity, business hours, reviews, and services rendered.

How Important Is SEO For E-commerce?

How do you expect customers to find your e-commerce store if you have not optimized it to rank on search engines? Studies have shown that 68% of purchases made online start with a search enquiry and about 81% of online shoppers go to Google or other search engines before they make a purchase. Most of these searchers usually don’t have a brand in mind, they just want information on the products, alternative products, tips and comparisons to help them make an informed decision if your products pages do not show up on the first page of these search engines, then you’re losing out big time on potential customers.

Now, you might be wondering, isn’t this what paid ads and marketing strategies are for? Well yes, but ask the experts and they’ll tell you that SEO produces the highest ROI of any marketing strategy by ranking e-commerce stores on the first-page search engines. It helps them to reach their target audience, generate a free and high level of traffic, increase click-through rates and ultimately conversion and sales. Although paid ads can put you on the first page of Google, you’re only targeting those who are ready to buy compared to SEO which lets you cater to all kinds of customers at whatever stage they are in the buying process. Shockingly 70-80% of searchers avoid paid ads and would rather click on organic search results. This doesn’t mean paid ads don’t won’t, they do but SEO works better!

SEO when done correctly offers plenty of benefits for e-commerce businesses such as:

  • Attracting more leads: 39% of e-commerce traffic coming from search engines making it one of the top sources of free traffic. When done rightly, SEO helps e-commerce stores to be visible, thereby attracting potential customers.
  • Increase in the quality of leads: oftentimes e-commerce stores receive clicks on their product pages from people who haven’t made up their minds to buy. With SEO, you can identify and offer the right kind of information that this set of people need to help them decide on what to buy.
  • Increase in sales: According to Backlinko, leads gotten from search engines have a 14.6% closure rate, that’s impressively higher than the average 2-4% conversion rate for e-commerce stores. With SEO, e-commerce stores cab attract quality leads, increase click-through rates and multiply sales and profit.
  • Build website and brand authority: by putting out SEO-optimized content and reliable information, e-commerce brands can build their website authority making them rank higher on search engines while gaining the trust of web searchers.
  • Reduce marketing expenses: as we mentioned earlier, SEO produces the highest return on investment ROI on any marketing strategy and the results last longer also. Studies have shown that technical SEO produces 117% ROI while content-based SEO produces an astonishing ROI of 748%.  What this means is that SEO marketing campaigns will pay for themselves and even bring in a lot more. Plus, the results last longer, and a well-optimized product page will keep generating traffic for as long as it remains relevant. Unlike clicks from paid ads that end when your campaign ends.

How To Do E-commerce SEO?

If you’re new to e-commerce and you want to learn how to increase your site’s visibility using SEO, then you’ll have to follow these six steps.

  1. Keyword Research
  2. Site Architecture/Category Optimization
  3. Product Page SEO Optimization
  4. Technical SEO
  5. On-page SEO
  6. Blogging
  7. Link Building

1 . Keyword Research

Keyword research is the foundation of e-commerce SEO. You want to make sure that you’re optimizing for commercial keywords e.g shaving cream for men instead of informational keywords which are most used by blogs and content-heavy sites e.g why do I have bumps after I shave?

The difference between these two search enquiries is that the first will bring out search results for shaving cream products while the other one will bring out articles related to the question asked.

For your e-commerce site, you should be more concerned about keywords that show buying intent and you can find these keywords using Amazon or Google suggest. I bet you’ve noticed how Google has an autocomplete feature and how it brings up relevant suggestions even before you finish typing. Also at the bottom of the page, you’ll see additional related searches. All you need to do is type in any keyword you have in mind and you’ll receive free alternative keywords related to your search.

The same also works for Amazon, with the autocomplete feature, it makes it easier for users to search for products and even narrow down their search based on different categories and prizes. If you’re starting as an e-commerce brand, you might want to study how Amazon works, being the number one e-commerce brand in the world, you can carry out keyword research on their sites, search for keywords relevant to what you sell, and you’ll get potential keywords and price categories you can add to your website.

Other tools that allow you to carry out keyword research are Ubersuggest, Answer the public, Moz, Semrush and Ahrefs.

Whichever tool you decide to use for keyword research, there are some things you should consider before choosing the keywords to use

  • Search volume: keywords with high search volumes have the potential of bringing more traffic to your website. Google keyword planner, Ubersuggest and Ahrefs usually display the search volume for keywords and you want to keep an eye out for the keywords with high search numbers.
  • Competition: another thing you want to check when choosing your keywords is the level of competition, Ubersuggest and Ahrefs will give you the keyword difficulty/competition. This shows you how hard it easy it is to rank for a particular keyword. The higher the number the harder it is to rank for the keyword.
  • Relevance: it’s not just enough to pick out keywords with the highest search volumes, they also need to be relevant to your category page or the product page. Stick to only those keywords that your products can satisfy.
  • Intent: As we mentioned before, focus on commercial keywords that show buying intent. It’s quite easy to evaluate the intent of a keyword. For example, if you own a footwear store, keywords like “brown leather boots” shows the right buying intent that “male shoes”.

Carrying out keyword research doesn’t have to be expensive when you have free tools like Google keyword planner, but if you want more stuff like backlink data, rank tracking and site audit reports, you should consider going for the paid version of Ubersuggest, Semrush and Ahrefs. But keep in mind, what you want are high-volume, low-competition and high-intent keywords.

Site Architecture/ Category Optimization

With e-commerce stores, the way your site is structured plays a huge role in determining user experience and your site’s ranking in search engines. If your category and product pages are well structured and organized, it will be easy for visitors and search engines to find stuff in your store.

The best way to go with site architecture is using a simple structure that helps users with easy navigation and that’s also easy to scale when your shop expands so don’t have to bother about reorganizing or rearranging your site’s structure every time you add or remove a product category.

Ideally, your site’s structure should start from your homepage, and down to the product category and the products within them. The rule here is to make sure that users can reach anything on your site within three clicks. It should take a maximum of three clicks from your homepage to get to any product on the site.

Product Page SEO Optimization

What’s an e-commerce store without product pages? Nothing. Product pages are essential parts of any online retail store and this is why they need to be SEO optimized. Here’s how you can do that:

  • Optimize the product name: this is important because product names are used in the URL and SEO title of your product pages. What you want to do is add a popular search term or keyword to your product name. For example, if you sell sneakers, make sure they include the word “sneakers” in your product name, this way the keyword ends up in the SEO title, URL and the title of posts about your products shared on Facebook or Pinterest.
  • Image optimization: customers need to see images of what they’re buying and how well you showcase these images will determine if they’ll buy or not. Start by uploading quality and clear images of your products from different angles. Secondly, include the product name and main keyword in the image file name before uploading. For example, you can replace “IMG0009.jpg” with “navy blue-palazzo-trouser.jpg. Lastly, include the product name and keyword in the ALT text for the image. All these ensure that your product images are displayed on Google image search.
  • Videos: one way to bring your products to life is by using videos to display the features and uses of the product, making the buyer feel more confident about their purchase. You can create informational videos about the products, how to use them, testimonials from people who have used them and DIY videos with your products in them.
  • Customer reviews: posting reviews from real people who have bought and used your product is a way to add credibility to your store and increase sales. For example, if you have an expensive product with many positive reviews and a cheap product with little or no reviews, chances are most people would go more the more expensive option, resulting in bigger sales for your business.
  • FAQ Content: find out the most frequently asked questions about your products and dedicate a session right under each product page to answer these questions. Believe me, when I say this alone can double your conversion rate. You can also create a general FAQ page on your site to answer basic questions about your services, shipping, and return policies.

Source: Pixabay

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is done behind the scenes, it cannot be seen by users but is essential for optimizing the website. Things like optimizing for mobile, increasing site load speed, creating logical internal linking, optimizing images to load quickly, submitting your sitemap to Google search and fixing site errors.

When done well, technical SEO makes your sure easier to crawl and access much faster, which ultimately results in more organic traffic and better website engagement. Unless you’re an SEO specialist, you’ll need to hire one to help you with this aspect of optimizing your e-commerce store. Here’s what to expect

  • Implementation of product schema markup, which includes the product name and price, image, description and URL
  • Implementation of review schema markup which involves aggregate rating and individual reviews.
  • Implementation of pagination
  • Well-structured and dynamic URL
  • Proper redirection on 404 error pages
  • Canonicalization of product pages
  • Cross-linking of top pages
  • Creating and segmenting sitemaps
  • Increased page speed
  • Site optimization for mobile devices

On-page SEO

On-site or On-page SEO is where most e-commerce brands place their focus and for good reason. First, you want to make sure your homepage title tag is optimized, this means including your business name and the main key phrase. Also include keywords in the meta tags and meta description.

Some other on-page SEO activities include:

  • Choosing the right URL: the ideal URL should be unique, short (between 50-60 characters) and contain the main keyword. When creating your site’s URL, make sure to use only lowercase letters, delete all special characters including apostrophes and exclamation points, use a hyphen (-) as word separators instead of spaces or underscores and also delete encoding ending that includes structured like %35 %8B.
  • Incorporate action words in your meta title and meta description. Words like choose, free, hurry, shop, download, exclusive, best etc.
  • Replacing thin content pages with long and unique product descriptions and also avoiding duplicate content.
  • Using latent semantic indexing keywords
  • Creating internal links to help drive users to relevant product pages

Content/Blogging

Putting up relevant and useful content on your e-commerce site can increase your site’s search visibility and credibility. Writing long and unique product descriptions and creating FAQ sessions are all part of e-commerce content but if you want to up your game, you can create a blog for your ecommerce site where you publish short posts that align with your product’s keywords and that appeal to your target audience. Blogging in this sense can be seen as a form of content marketing that uses technical and on-page SEO techniques to increase a store’s visibility in organic search.

Blogging takes time and effort. It’s not about publishing a random post once a month. You need to research the keywords you want to rank for and write about them, optimize the blog posts for SEO and creatively present your product to readers as the solution to their problem. This can be done through internal linking. You can carefully insert links to your product pages at different parts of your blog post, which can also increase your chances of ranking for such product pages.

Link Building: Internal and External Linking

Internal linking between product pages, blog pages and the home page is very important for e-commerce stores, as it helps visitors to find important products faster. To link product pages, try using breadcrumbs navigation, and recommending related products and related categories.

External linking, more specifically the use of backlinks is another way e-commerce sites can build their site authority. This can be done by getting quality backlinks from other credible websites through guest posting on other relevant sites in your niche or through press mentions. You can also sign up for the Help A Reporter Out (HARO)  or Help A B2B Writer where you offer reporters useful information about your products or industry in exchange for backlinks to your website.

Lastly, you can incorporate social media share buttons for each of your product pages and blog posts, this makes it easy for visitors on your site to share your products on social media, that free promotion for your store.

Summary

There’s a lot that goes into e-commerce SEO including on-page SEO, technical SEO, marketing analytics and so much more. But with the information in this post, I believe you now have a proper understanding of how to use SEO to improve your store’s online visibility and increase sales. If you use platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce and Wix, you can leverage their inbuilt SEO feature or hire an SEO specialist. Think of it as part of your marketing investment, remember any marketing strategy with SEO yields a high and long-term ROI.

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