Beautifully designed eCommerce websites are the modern retailers’ equivalent to drawing in walk-in traffic with ostentatious and creative window displays. But making sure you attract as much “walk-in traffic” to your website as possible doesn’t start with a sleek homepage; it starts with SEO.
You’ve probably thought about SEO and how you can use it to grow your business, but with constant algorithm updates and new best practices, it’s really hard to stay up to date with what you should and shouldn’t be doing.
This guide will take you through eCommerce SEO and how it will help you attract new customers to your site.
Why eCommerce Business Owners Need to Know About SEO
There’s no doubt SEO is critical for any eCommerce business owner. But first the basics: what is SEO?
SEO is an abbreviation of Search Engine Optimisation, and it’s the process of attracting new visitors to your website by following a few easy processes that enable the content of your site to be found easily by search engines.
85% of customers search online for local businesses, so it’s becoming ever more important for online businesses to think about how they’re performing on major search engines like Google and Bing.
But we get it, creating a business is time-consuming enough without having to navigate complex marketing jargon and technical terms. Read about the five basic pillars of SEO to see if you’re site hits the mark.
Pillar #1: SERP
To get noticed by new, potential customers, it’s important for the content on your site to appear prominently on the first page of search results. Whenever someone searches for something online, a unique page of results is created. This is referred to as search engine results pages (SERP).
SERP is particularly important in eCommerce SEO because most of the first page will be made up of ads, Google shopping results, related images, and even Google maps results. As you can see from the image above, the first real result for 4K TVs is actually the fifth result.
When customers are searching online for solutions to their problems, only 4.8% of searchers make it to the second page of search results. This is why businesses and marketers across the globe are battling to the bitter end to get their products to display as close to the coveted first search result as possible.
It might sound daunting at first to get your head around these terms, but stick with it and you’ll soon be popping up on Google for any keywords you want. Unsure what a keyword is? Keep reading to find out.
Pillar #2: Keyword Research
Think about the last time you searched for something on Google. Say for example you were looking for something to cook for dinner that night, so you typed in “best dinner ideas”.
Take a look at the search results above. Even though we searched for “best dinner ideas”, a range of different results showed up. All-time best dinner recipes, dinner idea recipes, and 100 dinner recipes are all seen as keywords because these are the words users search Google for more information.
If you’re looking to appear as the first result, you need to make sure that your website has the same keywords users are searching for. You’ll rank higher in Google search results if your keywords are:
Context, and content matters. Think about how relevant your pages are to potential Google searches.
How common a keyword is on Google is important to SEO because you need to make sure enough people are searching for your keywords, but you also want to make sure that there won’t be too much competition, which leads us to our next point……
If there is a lot of competition for your preferred keywords, then it’s a lot harder to gain visibility on the first page of results, and unfortunately, when it comes to SERP, the winner really does take it all. Take a look at the close-up of our dinner recipe query on Google.
Notice how the website Genius Kitchen has two placements on the first page of results? If Google thinks a website is highly relevant to the user’s search, it will display a Rich Snippet (the area that displays the recipe), as well the standard search result for Genius Kitchen’s All-Time Best Dinner Recipes.
Google has a great (and free) tool called the Keyword Planner, and this is a fantastic way to start researching the most popular keywords in your industry.
So now that you know what a keyword is, let’s go over how you can rank for them.
Pillar # 3: Keyword Research
Now that you know what a keyword is, it’s important to know which keywords are the most important search terms for your business.
Keyword research is one of the most valuable activities you can do for your eCommerce business. Moz SEO has a great breakdown of how to research your keywords here, but if you want a quick rundown just follow these steps:
- Make a list of all your products
- Make a list of all the possible search terms (remember our dinner ideas vs best dinner ideas example?)
- Go to Google’s Keyword Planner and check out how many times people are searching for those terms
The more you do this, the more you’ll understand what people are searching for the most, and which products/services will most likely be shown in their results.
Here are a few other keyword research tools you could try as well. They aren’t free and generally require a subscription, but some of them have features you can’t get with the Google Keyword Planner:
Pillar #4: On page SEO
Once you’ve established what words you want to rank for, you’ll need to make sure the pages on your website feature them. This often requires a bit of copywriting and reworking, so make sure you factor in these three aspects to your website’s content:
Make Sure it’s Detailed
Google loves websites that are rich and descriptive. This is how it determines if your site is relevant to the user or not. Aim for no less than 350 words on each page, but roughly 1,000 words are ideal. This will allow Google to see that your site is genuine, informative and useful to users.
Make Sure it’s Valuable
Google doesn’t like thin content, so you want to make sure you include enough text on your site to show search engines that you provide value to potential users. An easy way to hit a high word count is by including longer descriptions of your products.
Make Sure it’s Unique
Google recognises duplicate content instantly, so you need to make sure that each page has a different focus and keyword. Also, think about potential areas where content is duplicated, we won’t go into canonical tags today, but it’s something worth looking at for future reference.
For each category, include your primary keyword in the meta description, title tags, image alt text and URLs… and then do the same for every product page.
Pillar #5: Blogging
There are so many different views on whether or not eCommerce businesses need blogs to generate sales, but the fact of the matter is that blogs are actually the easiest way to drive large amounts of traffic to your site.
Google’s algorithm factors in new content that’s added to your site when it serves results to users. So if you have a wide range of content pieces that are valuable and good quality, you’ll begin to notice an improvement in site visitors as well as higher rankings in Google search results.
Blogs are the easiest way to show Google that you’re updating your site regularly and that you have authority in a range of different areas.
If you’ve got a blog, or are thinking about starting a blog, think about the ways you can integrate your website pages and products into your content. This is referred to as internal linking and is one of the factors Google considers when it’s crawling your site.
Pillar #6: Backlinks
What’s happening off your site can be just as important as on it and this is an area that most businesses overlook, making it a great SEO marketing tactic.
We’re referring to backlinks, put simply you need other external websites to link back to yours, in order to build your website’s credibility with Google. You should try to achieve backlinks from other websites that also rank highly with Google
For example, imagine how many sites link and reference back to the SBS news website… this makes it a high authority site in Google’s eyes, meaning if you can get a backlink to your website featured on there, your SEO will surge.
You may be thinking that this seems a fraction unattainable, but if you consider that many well-read publications and high-engagement influencers offer guest blogging opportunities, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. Find the websites that are read by your audience, submit a thought-provoking and engaging article and secure a backlink to your site (and some great PR for your business).
You can check if you currently have any backlinks to your site in Ahrefs’s site explorer.
Pillar #7: SEO Auditing
Once you’ve got your list of keywords to target, your website copy is detailed and rich, and you’re starting to accumulate backlinks from external sites, it’s now time to make sure each page on your site has the information Google needs.
Go through each page of your site and make sure your focus keyword for the page is included in:
- The page title
- The URL
- The beginning section of the body
- In the alt-text for images
- The meta title tag
- The meta description
If you’re unsure about the last two, there is a great free tool called Yoast SEO that allows you to easily create meta title tags and meta descriptions for each page. It will also let you know if there are any other details missing from each page, so you’ll know exactly how many errors are on each page.
Pillar #8: Indexing and Sitemaps
This pillar is a bit more technical, but if you’re can seek the advice of an SEO expert for this, but it’s not impossible to manage yourself.
Once you’ve completed your site audit and fixed all the SEO errors, you want to make sure Google can find the pages on your site.
This is referred to as indexing; letting Google know that your site exists and making it as easy as possible for it to scan your site’s content.
Generating a sitemap to Google Search Console is relatively easy. If you use Yoast for your onpage SEO, there is a feature built-in where it will generation your sitemap for you. All you need to do is submit that site map to the Search Console and you’ll begin to notice an increase in site traffic. You can see how to do that here.
Pillar #9: Measurement
Now that you’ve got a list of keywords that resonate with your target market,
In order to track your ranking, you can set up an SEO dashboard for free in your Google Analytics account. This will tell you increases in traffic and where the traffic is landing. Alternatively, search your keywords in incognito mode intermediately, to see how your SEO ranking is improving.
eCommerce SEO is not a set and forget process; the algorithms are changing all the time and to stay ahead, you need to keep on top of the changes and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly, but the ultimate goal for Google is to provide the best possible experience for its users – just like you.
So in that way you’re not really trying to outsmart the algorithm, but rather to help each other out, so you both win in the end.
3 tips to improve your SEO today
Here are three changes you can make right now to increase your SEO.
- Make sure HTTPS is implemented across your site. This means all data is encrypted and therefore safer in Google’s eyes, resulting in a higher ranking
- Speed up website loading times by resizing images prior to uploading to your site as faster loading times correlate to higher rankings
- Search engines view the homepage as the benchmark to the quality of your site, so ensuring it ticks all the SEO boxes should be your #1 priority
Of course, there are plenty of other search engines out there, but with 75% of the global population using Google we took a guess that you (and your customers) are too.