The ultimate ecommerce SEO guide
It’s no surprise that competition isn’t going anywhere. With plenty of hungry businesses digging their way for brand visibility on Google’s search engine results, where do you stand at the moment?
Unleashing your brand’s maximum potential through SEO means driving for consistent growth and booming sales. Although paid advertisements and social media platforms are a great way to bring traffic to your website, there’s nothing better than to generate powerful digits without having to pay a lot—plus, you can get a wider scope of community than just people on Facebook.
Think of this as a lubricating oil where, if not applied generously, all your short-term and long-term business goals will get stuck as is. SEO can also mean exposure; without it, customers will pass by your non-existent brand because who clicks for page 2? The worst is yet to come as the lack of visibility leads to less revenue, and less revenue means slow growth.
However, it might be overwhelming for some to learn about SEO in one sitting. All the information you need to know can be too much for a beginner and may be time-consuming for someone trying to rework an existing site. Before you lose attention, read further on this digestible guide to help you get started and prevent you from committing SEO mistakes in the future (or again).
Ecommerce SEO 101 - the basics
Technology has been improving and the consumers’ decision-making process is greatly affected by search. For the record, SEMrush found that ecommerce sites receive traffic by 37.5% from search engines. If there’s one obvious thing about all of this, it’s the goal to rank #1 on Google's search engine results pages (SERPs).
It’s safe to say that keyword research is a fundamental building block in your ranking process. For every page on your website that needs optimization, make sure you’re hitting strategic locations, such as the page title, headers, subheaders, image file names, image alt tags, paragraph copy, product descriptions, meta titles and descriptions, and URLs.
Generally, they’re informational like a how-to blog post. In ecommerce, keywords focus on product searches like “silk scrunchies”. With the use of valuable keywords, you’ll likely appear in the search results and sell.
Finding the ones matching your business can be crucial when you’re competing with others. But having your head keyword and long-tail keywords to start your SEO campaign are integral for ranking.
To find the right keywords, analyze the search volume, keyword difficulty, user intent, and competition.
You want to know the level of interest and popularity of your target customers because it indicates the active searches you might get from the keywords around the subject.
The words you’ll find can sound great, but a high keyword difficulty score means they’re not easily discoverable.
Good keywords should be compatible with the products you sell and the customers you want to sell them to. Are they intentional?
In addition, conducting competitor research helps if you’re not sure which keywords to find for your business. This strategy also allows you to fit perfectly in your area of business and identify where they do. From that point, you know when to avoid competing (especially for big brands) and go to where you can score easily.
To help you scour keywords and raise your SEO value, use Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Ubersuggest, or Ahrefs.
What is ecommerce SEO in a nutshell
SEO or Search Engine Optimization, to define briefly, is the practice of getting your website visible in the search engine results pages. And getting people to see your site first from the list of other websites can highly increase your sales and lower the chances of your competitors entertaining your potential customers before you.
Paid search and social media platforms also work well because they’re fast. However, they come with extras that don’t help the customers to decide easily. With SEO, it costs less to increase traffic and generate sales, and the results are most likely organic (non-paid)!
"There are many reasons you should optimize your site for search engines, but the bottom line is to increase sales." Neil Patel - e-commerce expert
What are the key SEO factors
Trying to rank in the SERPs is a make or break move that’s why it’s essential to be mindful of how the simplest functionalities can be some of the biggest factors to reach the #1 spot.
Good things take time, but not at your site speed. A study by Radware found that slow load times can increase shopping cart abandonment by 29.8%, which is a lot of numbers you’ll lose from your almost-customers.
Google considers site speed as a ranking factor and if your website doesn’t load in as quick as 3 seconds, you might be having issues with:
- Poor CMS (Content Management System)
- Large image file sizes
- Slow hosting and servers
Upgrade your hosting, compress your image file sizes, and most importantly, invest in a CDN (Content Delivery Network), the fastest yet cheapest platform to speed up your website. Additionally, this secures your website from attacks and hacks.
You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool or Pingdom to evaluate your site speed.
Responsive design is a must
Having control over your design is a helpful strategy to clear out any obstacle that may block your way from satisfying your customers and ranking in the SERPs better.
Usability. Aside from organized and readable texts, a simple, fun and informational website will appeal to your customers best because navigating to different pages of your site is going to be a seamless AND speedy effort. That leads to having them on your site for longer and repeatedly.
Site Architecture. But how does usability come into action? Like books, ecommerce sites normally contain a great number of pages. And the way you structure your website determines its usability and conversion, and how easily Google can find and index each page.
A “flat architecture” is an ideal design for any website because it simplifies the customers’ browsing experience with as few clicks as possible. The structure goes like this:
Product category (Neckties)
Linking between your categories and product pages is encouraged to pass link juice to pages that are more targeted for ranking. If you happen to have a large inventory, it’s best to categorize your items accurately to avoid confusing Google’s algorithm.
Mobile-Friendly Website. Although online shopping is more like an obsession now, 61% of customers are likely to go to a competitor’s site if they’ve experienced a mobile unfriendly site.
Ranking on Google’s SERPs also becomes a mess for most businesses because developing a mobile version of their website causes duplication of content. Fortunately, ecommerce sites can now code a site (without creating more), which makes their page accessible to any device.
Communicate to your web developer about this, or go to Themeforest.net to buy and personalize a responsive design template.
Take care of your meta settings
Targeting the right words and knowing how to use them will surely add up to your sales and SEO score.
Meta tags will need some attention because using a specific template to finish all the content for a product with multiple variations won’t significantly optimize each page. To ensure that you show up in the SERPs, focus on writing well-optimized tags for your top 10-50 most important category and product pages.
Compelling titles, descriptions, and product and category page contents will power up your CTR (Click-Through Rate), so consider adding the following to help you appear in long-tail searches as well:
- Modifiers (e.g., Online, Cheap, Best)
- “Click Magnet” Words (e.g., Free Shipping, Sale, 20% off)
- Action Words (e.g., Click, Buy, Learn)
To speed up the work, you may want to apply a template to the rest of the content with a ton of product variations. But beware of the necessary details that need to be on particular categories and subcategories. Let’s say you’re selling women’s activewear and workout equipment. You want your title and description tag to look like this:
Quality Knit Activewear Set: FREE Shipping
Shop the best deals on your favorite activewear! Avail today to get FREE shipping with no minimum amount required. Click here to discover our catalog.
The longer the content is, the more it tends to rank in Google. Not only do your customers want to picture what product they’re really getting, but Google’s algorithm can also understand your page deeper through the amount of information you provide—1000+ words ideally only for your top 10-50 most important category and product pages.
Bonus: Besides content-rich pages that Google loves, conversion then becomes highly present! According to Jupiter Research, 77% of customers approach the reviews first before purchasing online. Therefore, you can increase your ecommerce conversion rate by 14-76% by putting product reviews to your online store, as studied by the Internet Retailer.
Don’t forget to apply your keywords because they suffice your settings heavily. Give your content a pinch of the main keywords by 3-5x. Then add some closely related words and phrases through your LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords.
Https + http/2
This isn’t as complicated as you think. HTTPS, the encrypted version of HTTP, is a protocol that prevents the communication between your browser and server from being attacked. Instead of seeing a customer’s credit card details or other personal information, attackers would rather find random characters.
HTTP/2, on the other hand, solves performance issues from your website by making it faster, more robust, and applicable for multiplexing.
Google has announced that these two contribute as (lightweight) ranking signals.
How to audit your website
Ecommerce websites tend to have multiple pages for all their content. In the competition to rank and sell, it only takes one move to make a difference. By covering possible holes through your technical SEO, you can be in the run to top the others.
This happens if slight variations of a product or category page create a URL for each page and get indexed by Google, or if there are identical descriptions in some pages.
To fix this, noindex URLs of pages that are similar to the others and don’t bring traffic. Then apply canonical tags to ensure Google indexes only one of the pages.
You want Google to know you well so you can rank better. However, thin content won’t let that happen. You could use Raven Tools to identify all pages that have little to no content. Then make them at least 500-1000+ words each.
You may try using a template for the rest of the content so you won’t have to spend much time bulking up.
If you seriously want to obtain traffic on your main pages, don’t confuse Google by letting these pages share for the same keyword. Solve this by listing all your keywords and focusing on adding them to each of the pages you want to rank for.
Of course, your important pages are worth discovering, but that would be impossible if these pages are over three clicks away. Assess and adjust your linking structure so they’re fewer clicks away from the home page. You may use Ahrefs to perform this.
With more chances to bring flavor, huge traffic, and conversion to your website, let’s head over to your content.
Generally, category and product pages are the main pages you want to optimize. Unfortunately, there are lots of good keywords that just don’t make it on your site because only one keyword should target each (main) page. But the awesome thing about setting up your content is that you have just as many opportunities to rank for other keywords.
You want to identify your target customers and go to where they’re mostly at. If your customers are, again, workout enthusiasts, for example, you must be at some online forum where they share anything and everything workout. From there, gather important keywords that describe their wants, needs, and problems.
For example, someone posted about a dissatisfied purchase of her low-quality resistance bands. You’ll definitely see some descriptive words around that equipment, such as “quality”, “cheap”, “available”, “price”, “online”. Collect the valuable words and phrases and from there, you finally have a pool of topics where you can mention the products you offer.
How to improve your SEO rank
This is where you have to put effort and creativity to produce content worth reading and ranking.
Quality content. Use appropriate keywords while keeping your language as natural as possible. Customers wouldn’t read a keyword-stuffed blog post, and you certainly don’t want to get penalized by Google for it. If the content is entertaining and helpful people will share it to social media, purchase and recommend the products mentioned, and these will help you rank better.
Internal links. Take advantage of boosting your visibility by strategically linking your content to the page you want to strengthen. For this to be effective, make sure that the links are relevant to each other, and are targeted to your category and product pages.
Say you’re managing a gadget accessories business and you have existing content about caring for smartphone chargers. Instead of power banks (which may be close, but not exact), you may want to link to charger accessories like a cord protector by adding a keyword-rich anchor text from that post to your item’s product page.
If done successfully, the customers will find your strategy useful in leading them to the products they’re looking for, and these pages will boost their ranking position in the SERPs.
Sharing the right details about your products allows customers (and also Google) to be aware before buying. Each page’s content should be unique while still targeting relevant keywords. Since there’s a lot of optimization, you need to know the tiny details that can do well for your rank.
The portion of the URL that’s specific for your every page and describes what it’s about. For example:
timeless-wardrobe-staples is your slug, which tells that the page contains a blog post about must-have classic outfits.
Customers don’t really care about URLs when they’re shopping online, but there are moments that they do. And if your slugs are chaotic, they won’t be able to remember and find it again.
The shorter the URL is, the higher it tends to rank on Google’s first page. However, remember to optimize for each page of your website so this SEO effort pays off. These are the things to do:
- Write slugs according to the hierarchy
- Incorporate the keywords you want to rank for
- Keep it short, sweet, and direct
- Remove function words (e.g., a, the, on, is, etc.)
- Use a hyphen (-) to separate words
- Use lower case characters only
Here’s a well-formatted slug:
Uncomplicated and easy to remember.
Images - filename
Earlier we mentioned how image size can play a role in your site speed. This time, it’s the image filename we’re discussing. When naming your images:
- Be descriptive and accurate
- Incorporate the keywords you want to rank for
- Use a hyphen to separate words
Your product pages and images can appear in Google’s SERPs, so you want to optimize the filenames to increase SEO value.
This protocol allows developers to manage what people see when they search online and are found in three vital places:
Search engine results. What browsers initially see in search results: title tag, site URL, and page description. An eye-catching open graph can weigh your chances of a click-through.
Web browsers. They contain strategic words and phrases to help searchers identify where they are on a website when they have several tabs opened.
Social networks. When a page is shared on external websites like Facebook and Twitter, the title, link, and description appear to give the audience an overview of what the page is about. Open graphs help social media platforms understand your content, which helps increase your brand visibility through search.
Meta descriptions differ little from open graphs, although it focuses on the page description alone. This gives a brief page summary—with an optimal length of 150-300 characters—that should contain keywords, CTAs, and modifiers to improve your CTR and SEO score.
Pictures tell a thousand words, they said. In ecommerce, you need to select images that accurately reflect your product or content. Beyond better user experience, it’s actually a smart SEO effort.
You don’t want to interrupt your site performance. Scale down your images while maintaining the quality. For example, if your image size is 1000x1000 pixels, reduce it by its half to make it 500x500 pixels.
Moz suggests that you use:
- GIF if images require animation
- JPEG if unnecessary to preserve high image resolution (and test out different compression settings)
- PNG if necessary to preserve high image resolution
Technically incorrectly, it’s “alt tags”, but they’re mostly also called “alt attributes” or “alt text”. Besides SEO purposes, the visually impaired benefit from this. Alt descriptions become an alternative text to photos. These show up when images cannot load, and for image SEO, they help describe the images to crawlers for better indexing. By making it short, descriptive, and keyword-rich, it’s SEO-friendly and customers can find accurate results to their search.
For example: <img src=”shoes.png” alt=”Leather oxford shoes”>
This also an HTML attribute related to alt desc and appears as a tooltip when searchers stay in an element. If you have an image button, its title could contain a CTA visible to the customers. Although they’re not necessary, they make sense to mouse users.
As said previously, Google cares about your filenames. Because of well-written ones, customers would know what the image is about without opening it. Just keep an eye on short, descriptive, keyword-rich names separated by hyphens and it’ll do its work!
What else can you focus on for this whole SEO campaign?
Basic Google browsers may haven’t heard of this term, but probably have seen what rich snippets look like—because they stand out. It’s the Schema markup displayed below the title tag: name, image, description, rating, and price (currency).
When customers see search results with properties, they’re more likely to click and convert. That increases your CTR by up to 30%!
To implement your Schema markup, you may use Schema.org.
A crawler can go by the name “spider”, “robot”, or “bot”. It’s a program used by search engines to access your website, have Google to index the data collected, and from then, evaluate your site for SERP visibility. They prioritize high-quality or popular pages because those have the biggest numbers of both internal and external links. If you have a reachable link structure, crawlers (and users too) can read your pages easily and the process goes on.
This serves as the blueprint of all your important pages. A sitemap organizes your website; formatting it with an XML file enables crawlers to find your main pages and those that have changed, even with a weak internal linking.
Google XML Sitemaps can then be an excellent tool to create one for your website. Not only does it monitor your web server traffic, but it also automatically detects updates to your site.
Google Search Console, a free service from Google, allows you to monitor and troubleshoot your appearance in the SERPs through finding and fixing technical errors, submitting sitemaps, seeing backlinks, and more.
How to use
Here are the general steps on how to use GSC for your website appearance according to Ahrefs:
- Verify your domain
- Improve rankings for underperforming keywords
- Optimize pages with high keyword rankings, but low CTR
- Fix sitemap issues
- Determine which content types and topics have the most backlinks
- Seek pages that need more internal links or to be pruned
- Update pages that are losing organic traffic
To learn the complete process, visit Ahrefs’ website.
How to submit a sitemap
Follow these to make your sitemap available to Google:
- Sign in to GSC
- Select your website
- Click on ‘Sitemaps’
- Delete outdated or invalid sitemaps
- Input “sitemap_index.xml” to complete the sitemap URL in the ‘Add a new sitemap’
- Click ‘Submit’
How to request instant indexing
You won’t be visible in the SERPs if Google hasn’t indexed your website. So to take quick action:
- Sign in to GSC
- Go to the URL inspection tool then search bar
- Enter the URL you want Google to index
- Allow Google to check the URL
- Click on ‘Request indexing’
SEO for multilingual sites
Chances are, you want to reach more customers from outside your locale. If you’re planning to do so in a different language, check out these key points, so you and your rankings will keep up.
You’ll optimize not from your local city or state, but to the language you want to reach. Make sure to give your customers a local content feel in terms of the timezone, culture, language, and currency.
Have your business adapt to their lifestyle to bring a positive user experience. Content designed specifically for them will help search engines deliver the right content to the right audience.
Google recommends that your website be translated to a target language, including your metadata. This way, the customers are able to find your category and product pages, as well as your content when they search.
URLs are the most obvious indication if a website is offered to a particular location.
This type of URL strategy focuses on one domain for your keywords, which works better for root domain authority.
Say you’re an American business that wants to connect to Canadian customers. This should be your subdirectory:
Slugs for a multilingual subdirectory should still be in hierarchy and keyword-rich for SEO purposes. Here’s how it would look for the same country above:
Given that SEO is an ever-changing element, a strong search engine campaign can help you understand and connect to your customers better. From their choice of language to product to content.
Good thing we want the best for you! Here at StyleHub, we’re search engine optimized from bottom to top. You can customize and localize the URL of every page, product, collection, and system pages of your website. Define and localize every metadata, title, description, open graph settings, even image file URLs.
We’ve native Google integration, which helps you be found and indexed as soon as possible. Have we mentioned we’re using Google CDN too?
There’s more: Google, Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo have VIP tickets to our servers. We prioritize search engine traffic, so they’re able to crawl your site even under the highest load—they never become blacklisted.
Customers cannot check on your products physically because this is ecommerce. So be visible and convince them to buy through a website designed to make them do so, and more.