The Definitive Guide to E-commerce SEO
The importance of SEO in e-commerce in 2020 was appreciated even by small stores that previously served customers mainly offline. It is not enough to create a website, place products, and wait for sales. Without appropriate optimization, the store will remain invisible to Google – potential customers will not know about its existence.
Attracting visitors to your site is only half the battle. It is essential to keep their attention, provide useful information, and motivate them to make a purchase. Users are not used to lingering on platforms that are not optimized for their needs. Smart optimization will help you achieve regular traffic and high conversion rates.
Are you starting an online business from scratch? Already have an online store, but sales are low? The brand is quite successful, but you want to reach new market segments? Read this article to find out where to start optimizing your online store, which points to focus on, and which e-commerce strategy to choose in 2020-2021.
What Is E-commerce SEO?
It is a set of steps to optimize and raise the position of an online store in Google search results. If everything is done correctly, when a user wants to find a product from your niche, they will be one of the first to see your catalog in the SERP.
In 2020, 227.5 million people (88% of the adult population) in the US alone shopped online. In most cases, the consumer journey begins with Google or Amazon, where users can compare products and prices across stores. It is crucial that your ranking in the search engine is as high as possible, and the site stands out from other resources – proper SEO will help you bypass competitors already at the search stage.
Search engines are one of the top sources of retail traffic, according to SEMrush. Almost half of the visitors come from direct. These are mainly people who have been familiar with the brand for a long time, have already made purchases in your online store, or followed the recommendation of friends. Analysis showed that 38% of the traffic to e-commerce sites comes from organic search. E-commerce optimization will provide a source of organic traffic and high conversions on an for free. A good approach to SEO for e-commerce will help to optimize the pages of the site so that it provides the best solutions to customer requests. The better the optimization, the higher the ranking on Google will be.
Organic traffic is ahead of all other digital marketing channels. For more information on the topic, see What is the SERP in 2020?
Organic traffic has one drawback – even with a properly built SEO strategy, you will not get a result immediately. Using paid advertising allows you to be one step ahead of the competition from the very start. PPC results are displayed in a separate block at the top of the SERP and give a good boost in traffic. But let’s not promise mountains of gold – you will probably have to compete with the same market leaders in Google Adwords as in organic search results.
It is critical to not only be in the top positions in the search engine but also to show how you can be useful to customers. According to a Google study, US buyers tend to position themselves as “deal seekers”. They pay great attention to the favorable price, free shipping, technical characteristics of the goods. Let potential customers know these features directly from the SERP – and they are more likely to go to your site and not to competitors. It is important that users who choose your services have access to optimized pages that answers questions of interest. It is another reason why e-commerce SEO should be one of the first steps in starting an online store.
Ways to Improve SEO for E-commerce Websites
Start your e-commerce SEO audit with competitor analysis. Before you conquer the online marketplace, you need to familiarize yourself with its largest players, as well as popular sites in your niche. Amazon remains the undisputed world leader in online trading in 2020: in just a month, it was visited by over 5.2 billion unique users. At the same time, eBay received 1.52 billion visits.
Find out how competitors achieve high results and use similar techniques when promoting your site. What points to pay attention to, we describe in detail in the article SEO Competitive Analysis.
E-commerce Website Structure
When creating a site, pay close attention to user convenience. By building a user and search engine-friendly platform, you will receive rewards in the form of conversions and high positions in the SERP – it will be easier for robots to navigate site levels and find relevant content.
The closer the page is to the main page, the more weight it has for search engines. If your site has four or more levels of page nesting, Google may consider them unimportant for indexing or even not find them.
Don’t create a complicated site architecture like this:
A clear architecture will help the site appear in SERP right away with links to categories within the store.
The main question is how do you achieve this?
Do not complicate navigation. The site will benefit from both you and the customers if no more than three clicks separate the main page from any other product. This practice helps to reduce the failure rate, caused by inconvenient and overloaded navigation. Analyze customer behavior. Conversion pages deserve special attention: product cards, shopping cart, wishlist, subscription page should always be quickly accessible. The breadcrumb system and internal linking between pages will also help to make navigation on the site more convenient. With good site architecture, you can simplify Google’s page crawl and get grateful customers.
Do something similar to this:
Make sure the site is secure
Use HTTPS instead of HTTP. This protocol ensures buyers’ security of personal data and affects the website’s ranking. Buyers can leave email addresses, phone numbers, passwords for their account, and bank card details on your website without fear of being stolen by intruders. Additionally, HTTPS compliance affects rankings. You can find out exactly how this works in our HTTPS vs. HTTP material.
Optimize your site for smartphones
Mobile phones are used more often than computers when searching for online stores. 167.8 million, or 60.9% of Americans, made at least one purchase in 2020 using apps or mobile browsers. Regardless of country or niche, mobile traffic dominates in e-commerce. About 46% more traffic comes from phones than from computers.
E-commerce SEO experts from BigCommerce do not hide the fact that online purchase conversion rates rarely exceed 1-2%. That is, out of 1000 visitors, only 10-20 people will make a purchase. However, for small businesses, the presence of a mobile version of the site can increase this indicator by 30%.
In order for an online store to be competitive in the search results, it needs to have a mobile version. Take the time and make the mobile site as user-friendly as possible. Google gives detailed instructions on exactly how to do this. This effort will pays off by increasing conversions. If you cannot cater to users with mobile devices, you will lose sales.
Five Mobile Optimization Mistakes to Fix Immediately:
- Error code 4xx: This code affects the ability of users to access the site.
- Slow loading times. Users are ready to wait no more than 2-3 seconds. If the content is not displayed during this time, they will go to competitors without regret.
- Mixed content: The presence of such content on your mobile site reduces its credibility.
- Blank title tags: Without title tags, it’s hard for search bots to index content.
Optimize your checkout
Make the checkout process as simple as possible. It’s better if the user only needs to make a few clicks to complete the purchase. Do not overload the data entry form – ask only for the information that is needed for placing and transporting the order. Buyers will not get confused or leave before the final stage. It will positively affect the user experience and increase conversions.
Here’s an example of a well-optimized cart for VictoriaSecret.
Another argument in favor of the mobile version of the site is that you can add various options to the payment page – PayPal, Apple Pay, or Google Wallet. Fingerprint identification is easier, faster, and safer than entering credit card information. It makes the cart especially convenient on mobile devices. You can find more tips on optimizing your site for mobile devices in the Mobile Search article.
Optimize the pages of products that are not in stock.
If you want a product that is not in stock to remain in the site search, make sections with these products useful for buyers. Add recommendations for similar products, and create a button that will notify the user when the product reappears in stock. Use 301 redirects for a popular product page that’s not in stock to redirect users to other URLs. If you delete the partition or configure the 301 redirection incorrectly, it can lead to indexing errors, reducing traffic. Check out the page redirection guides in article 301 vs 302 redirects.
Keep track of your online reputation
Encourage buyers to leave reviews about the products they bought. 85% of consumers trust online recommendations as well as friends’ advice. Google also trusts these pages more and ranks them better.
How to Research E-commerce Keywords
An effective SEO strategy for an e-commerce site begins with keyword research. With their help, it will be easier for robots to understand which category the product belongs to on the page and how to rank it more relevantly. It works the other way too. Incorrect keys or misuse of queries negatively affects rankings, can lead to penalties for the Google Panda algorithm, and hurt sales.
Most keyword research content focuses on finding information keys. These are keywords that users use to look for useful content for practical use. For example, how to fix a garland.
In e-commerce, most of the keywords are search-driven. For example, someone may have searched for a Philips multicooker bowl. SEO for e-commerce websites is centered around commercial keywords that are directly related to the products or brands in the catalog of your online store.
1. Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner will show the level of competitiveness for each of the keywords. This will help you find the keywords that are right for your particular level of competition.
The tool will also show how commercially viable your keywords are. To do this, pay attention to the top of the page. You will see information regarding the amount that advertisers spend per click for paid ads.
Use Google Suggest to find out which long-tail keywords are most often requested. After putting a word into the search, use autocomplete. Google will show the most popular options that users searched for.
At the end of SERP, you will find additional information about user searches related to your primary keyword.
You will find more related services in the article Top SEO Tools for Businesses in 2020.
SEMRush provides advanced functionality for working with the semantic core. The platform does not generate keywords based on initial searches. Using the service, you will find the keywords that other competitors have already ranked in SERP.
To use SEMrush, enter the competitor’s URL in the search field. Go to Organic Research. On this tab, you will find all the keys that can be borrowed from a competitor.
You can use SEMrush to see which sites look similar to your competitor’s store. To do this, go to the Competitors tab. You now have additional platforms to explore.
SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool
The SEMrush database contains more than 17,000,000,000 keywords. This analytics tab is especially useful for finding long-tail keywords. They provide a higher CTR and less competition than popular, simple keywords. Thanks to them, you can compete in SERPs even with e-commerce giants and get targeted traffic in the long term. For more information on the topic, check out this articles: What Is a CTR and Long Tail Keywords: Secrets of Increasing Your Search Traffic.
SEMrush Keyword Overview
When using this SEMrush tool, you will have access to in-depth analysis of specific keyword meanings. Here you can evaluate the level of competition and the volume of national and global searches for your keywords.
Wikipedia is an endless resource for finding keywords. On the platform you can find thousands of categories that the site has arranged for you.
To use Wikipedia to search for keywords, enter your search in the search bar.
Examine the search page for words that are appropriate for your categories and products.
4. Amazon Suggest
If you want to become a leader, study your competitor. In the process of keyword research, Amazon is not just a competitor but is also your assistant.
It may seem that Amazon is not about SEO tools. However, this is far from the truth. The platform will be a great helper in keyword searches, especially with long-tail keywords. Enter your query in the search bar, and the platform will provide a whole list of offers for your keyword.
5. Dominator Tool
When words end on Amazon, Dominator comes to the rescue. Using this tool, you can narrow your search: select a specific search engine or exclude Amazon searches. Dominator will provide dozens of words that fit your category.
Keyword Tool Dominator
How to Choose the Right Keywords for E-Commerce
After you have done a great job and collected hundreds of keywords, a logical question arises: how can you use the information that you have received?
When launching a store on the network, do not rush to claim high-frequency keywords. You can do without them because such words are used by your main competitors. But to get people interested in specific products to see your brand in the SERP results, consider keywords with medium and low frequency. Optimize product and category pages on your site for them. The paging optimization system takes a lot of time, so it’s better to start right away with the most important sections.
To select the most relevant keywords for e-commerce SEO, evaluate them with three criteria:
1. Keywords that match the product
Did you find a keyword that generates endless traffic? There is no guarantee that the same keyword will do the same for your site. This happens if an excellent keyword doesn’t quite fit the products of your online store. For example, it might seem like a good idea to promote a home appliance store with a high frequency “blander” keyword. But such a request will lead potential buyers anywhere, but not to commercial pages: to the definition in dictionaries, even to the site of a design studio of the same name. The visitor can formulate a more specific request: they need a “powerful hand blender”. In response, Google will offer advice on choosing kitchen equipment or a selection of popular models – using popular keywords is better for informative blog articles, in parallel with low-frequency ones.
Product descriptions in e-commerce SEO are paramount. The store must occupy high positions in the SERP for profile queries. To do this, you need to explain to the robots what category the product belongs to, as well as prescribe the brand, model, characteristics, and functional purpose. Even if the buyer has not decided what model or power they need but prefer a specific brand, this increases the chances of getting to the page of your online store.
2. Commercial competitiveness of keywords
Determine the buyer’s intentions. A user who is looking for a common keyword, such as multicookers, is more likely to evaluate the available options. This user is not yet ready for purchase.
How to Optimize E-commerce Pages with Keywords
We decided on the keywords. But how to distribute them on the page for better e-commerce SEO?
1. What should be the title tag
Page titles have a huge impact on the number of clicks. They primarily tell users and the search engine what the page is about. Take time to optimize your title tags. Do not make them longer than 60 characters. CTR of headers with a length of 15 to 40 characters is 8.6% higher than those that do not fit into this range.
Read a detailed tutorial on optimizing titles in the How to Create Search Engine Friendly Title Tags article.
Question-based headlines receive 14.1% more clicks than pages without question-based headings. You can view popular questions directly in the SERP in the People Also Ask block. You can also use services SEMRush’s Keyword Magic Tool, AnswerThePublic, QuestionDB.
The first place in the title should be first taken by the intended purpose of the search and then by the name of the store. Use commercial modifier words with keywords: “Cheap”, “Best”, “Free Shipping”, “Online”. They will help you find better long-tail keywords.
2. What should be in the description meta tag
Optimize meta descriptions. They play just as critical of a role for robots to identify page content as headers. The meta descriptions that appear under the headings and provide additional, extended information about the page. Meta descriptions can both increase the number of clicks and play against you. Find out more in the How to Build a Nice Meta Description article.
How should the meta descriptions for e-commerce SEO look like?
- Meta descriptions should not exceed 150 characters.
- Personalize each description on the page.
- Show your benefits in meta descriptions. Get the buyer’s attention. Indicate that you have free shipping or other various deals. Meta descriptions can lead to an increase in the percentage of CTR. Pages with meta descriptions get 5.8% more clicks than those that don’t.
3. What should the content of the page be like
Unique content plays a big role in SEO for e-commerce. The search engine needs text to understand and assess what is presented on the page. Given the huge competition in the Internet market, each site needs optimized content. Even if you have hundreds or even thousands of products, you will have to spend time creating quality content. If you want to win the race for places in the TOP SERP, there is no other option.
Ther is no need to write huge articles with hundreds of thousands of characters. For product pages, 500 words per text are sufficient. The most important thing to consider is that the content should be unique. To figure out how to analyze content on a site, use the article Website Content Audit.
What to write on the pages of an online store?
Add characteristics to the usual description of the product. Compare the product on the page with other similar products. If your products have rewards, it’s best to talk about them.
In the descriptions, use the keywords that were collected at the stage of selection and research. Keep in mind that long-tail keywords generate 4.15% more conversion than standard keywords.
Avoid spamming. It is enough to use keywords in texts from 3 to 5 times. That is how you help search robots understand what product is in question. Google places great importance on keywords that are placed at the top of the page. Try to use your keyword in the first 100 words of the product description. For more ideas on filling your site with content, see How to Write a Great Blog Post.
4. What should the images on the page be like
The download speed of the online store plays a big role in ranking. Often times, large image sizes slow down the site, which leads to an increase in the bounce rate. Your task is to compress large images to 1,or 2 megabytes.
It is important to monitor not only the size of the pictures but also the file names. By optimizing the name, you help the search engine understand what the picture is about. Use keywords in the file names. This is another way to increase your rating.
Take time to optimize the alternative text in the image. Add keywords here too. The main thing is not to overdo it and not oversaturate the page with keys. Alt-text, as well as the name, tells the search engine and SEO-crawlers about what is in the picture. To optimize images correctly and to make sure that nothing is missed, read the article SEO Images.
5. What should URL be like
Clear URLs help get a higher SERP ranking. Optimized URLs are more convenient for users and SEO. If possible, add basic keywords to the URL. Keyword CTR by URLs with keywords is 45% higher than URLs without keywords.
Do not overdo it with the number of characters as Google finds long URLs more difficult.
Sections with a short URL rank better than long URL pages. The URL of the first SERP position is an average of 9.2 characters shorter than the URLs in the 10th SERP position. The length of an URL from the top 10 search results contains an average of 66 characters.
Choose a short URL to understand where it leads. Avoid overuse of numbers in page addresses. It’s better not to use them at all. Numbers do not carry any semantic load for the user. They only make reading difficult. Here’s what an optimized URL example looks like:
On e-commerce sites, it’s difficult to use only short URLs. Your page address will always include categories, subcategories, and the name of the product itself. This does not mean that Google will give you a break. They will still rank more optimized URLs that are concise.
Some online stores get rid of categories and subcategories to make URLs shorter. For example, instead of https://www.samsung.com/us/mobile/phones/galaxy-s, you can create a URL like this: https://www.samsung.com/galaxy-s.
The Impact of Rich Snippets on E-commerce SEO and How to Get Them
Most of the SERP results look the same. Most SERP results display URLs, title tags, and meta descriptions. Rich Snippets or Rich Results stand out against them with additional data: prices, delivery times, ratings, reviews, photos, and videos. They look more attractive than regular search snippets and provide more useful information for buyers and search engines. This helps increase organic CTR by up to 30%.
Google takes information for Rich Snippets from structured HTML data. To increase your chances, embed the layout on your website. Look for more information here – What are Rich Snippets?
Features of Technical E-commerce SEO
Technical problems in SEO do not go away by themselves, and sometimes they can be the main factor that affects the ranking in SERP. By simply fixing technical SEO errors, you can bypass a similar competitor in search results.
Technical SEO for e-commerce resources is several times more important than for regular sites. There can be thousands of pages on e-commerce platforms, and each should be SEO compliant.
The best tools for technical audit of e-commerce are as follows:
What Technical Problems with E-commerce SEO Can You Face?
1. Duplicate content
This problem is often faced by large businesses. On such sites, there are thousands of products that are difficult to keep track of and can duplicate each other.
There are several reasons for the emergence of duplicate pages:
- The site creates several URL variations for each product version.
- The same content is repeated on different pages.
It is difficult to write a unique text for several almost identical products. Therefore, it is quite normal if the content intersects. It is not normal if the text that is repeated is longer than 100 words. The search engine will consider such content to be a duplicate.
The best option is to create a completely unique description for each item. If this is not possible, you can still improve your SEO situation in other ways.
Create an up-to-date content map to understand where the duplicated content is located.
Tell the search engine which of the duplicate pages is the main one. Use canonical tags for this. Read more about this in the article Rel=Canonical Tag.
For partitions that do not bring traffic, use noindex.
2. Deep pages
Avoid pages that are more than three clicks away from the main page of the site. These pages are called deep and degrade your browsing statistics. If the page is deep, then visitors and search robots may take a long time before finding it. In addition, Google may find the site too complex to comprehend, which will affect the place in SERP. For convenience, it is better to use a flat site structure.
To find deep pages, use the SEMrush Site Audit tool. In the Scan section of the page, set the scan depth filter by 4+ clicks. Try to transfer the pages 3 clicks away from the main.
3. Page loading speed
Download speed affects the position in the search results, as Google has publicly stated.
Radware research has shown that 51% of U.S. shoppers refuse to buy online because of slow speed
A delay of only 2 seconds can lead to an increase in the failure rate to 87%.
Use SEMrush analytics to identify problems with page loading speed. Check the Site Performance section or go to the Site Audit section on the Problems tab.
Download speed is affected by large images, slow hosting, or heavy codes on e-commerce platforms. Reduce image sizes to two megabytes using TinyPNG or any other compressor.
There are several ways to fix the problem regarding page loading speed:
- Reduce image sizes to 2 megabytes. This can be done through the TinyPNG resource.
- Speed up your site and make it more secure with CDN.
- Upgrade your hosting.
4. The rating of incorrect pages
The ranking of incorrect pages is formed due to the cannibalization of keywords. This happens when you use the same key to optimize multiple posts or products. For example, a category page can be ranked instead of a product. This confuses Google and causes the rating to drop. It can also completely lose the page or the wrong page will be ranked instead. The page drowns in the SERP, a non-landing page is promoted instead.
To fix this, define the strongest pages on the site and continue to use specific keywords only for them. For the rest, use 301 redirects to their URL or delete them at all. If removing pages is not suitable for you, use the rel = noindex tag. Find out more in What is Keyword Cannibalization in SEO.
5. No layout markup
There is a controversial opinion that page layout does not guarantee a ranking increase. The layout of the scheme only simplifies the process of reading a page by search robots. Based on this theory, the better and faster Google recognizes the content on the page, the higher the position in SERP is. The layout of the scheme can lead to an increase in CTR by up to 30%. A good bonus for such a controversial feature.
Adding schema markup to the FAQ page will help generate more traffic. It will be easier for Google to recognize such a page and display it in featured snippets. Read more in the material – How to Optimize Featured Snippets.
6. Thin content
In pursuit of rankings, online retailers often rely on keywords but neglect information content. It is best to opt-out of the automatically generated content right away and not copy it from other sites. Such content can lead to high bounce rates and low clickthrough rates.
If you haven’t encountered subtle content before, it includes the following:
- Automatically generated
- Copied from other sites
Thin content can be a huge problem for e-commerce SEO. eBay was fined by Panda’s low-quality content filter and lost over 33% of its organic traffic. To avoid falling under this and other algorithms, follow the guidelines in the Google Algorithms That Affect SEO article.
It is important that the content of the pages of the site benefit visitors. Content should match your meta tag settings and not disappoint users who have opened your store page looking for something else. Do not write less than 500 words. It is important to show your visitors that you have expertise in this field.
The higher the uniqueness of the content, the better. You may be wondering how to increase trust in your site? Analyze and test the products you sell. Share your personal impressions on product pages. Take a photo of the goods yourself. These steps will help make online store product descriptions more visible to Google.
For more information, see What is the Technical SEO Audit?
E-commerce Link Building Strategies
The key to success for an e-commerce SEO company is getting quality backlinks. It is not only the number of links and the use of the correct anchors that are important but also the authority of the sites on which they are hosted. For how to determine the reputation of a referring domain, see Build High-Quality Backlinks. There are several ways you can take advantage of third-party SEO to improve your e-commerce website’s SEO.
Find resources that are out of date. Look for companies that have left the market, gone bankrupt, or for some other reason stopped serving customers. Why do this? There are hundreds or more links from other companies that you can pick up on your site.
Let’s figure out how to find outdated sites.
Often, outdated domains take sites that conduct domain auctions. They pick up domains with traffic and links. You can search for such on GoDaddy and NameJet.
Find pages of other resources that link to an outdated domain. Analyze the URL of a site that if it is no longer being maintained.
This way, you find out how many domains link to the site and determine the number and quality of pages on each of the referring resources.
Email site owners that they are linking to a dead domain. Show which pages they linked and offer a replacement in the form of your own URL.
This is all that needs to be done for mutually beneficial cooperation. By helping to improve other people’s sites, you help yourself climb the ladder in Google rankings.
Facebook groups are a big part of the next linking strategy.
Find groups that are related to your niche. Join groups that may need your services and keep track of their activity.
Analyze the event tab. Many groups create events on their Facebook pages. You can take advantage of this and offer the services of your store.
Write to community administrators. Find out if they are interested in presenting your products at a particular event. If the answer is yes, ask if your products will be featured in the press or in their group.
Submit your item. This way requires investing your products in advertising. If you want to get free backlinks, you’ll have to provide free items from your store.
To avoid getting a fine from Google for low-quality links, focus on getting high-quality external links. Analyze the communities that you are interested in collaborating with.
Engage guest posts.
You can also get links for an e-commerce site from guest publications. Guest publications are mutually beneficial for both parties. Using them, you increase the visibility of the site and at the same time refer to the resource that provided the article. Make sure guest posting matches the content in your industry.
Get links from suppliers.
If you have a retail store online, contact your reseller. Ask them if you are able to add links for your online store that can inform other customers about the products.
Even at a basic stage, implementing SEO principles on a store site requires a lot of effort. But the result is worth it. In the next article – The Definitive Guide to E-commerce SEO, we will talk about the best e-commerce marketplaces and tools to help you attract more customers and increase your sales.