Best Practices for E-Commerce SEO
Do you remember the last time you looked at the second page of Google search results? They say it is the best place to hide a dead body, but I don’t know. I never go past the first few organic results on the first page. And I know that I’m not alone in this. According to Poll The People’s 2023 findings, rising from #11 to #10 in search results, in other words, leaving the desolate plains of the second page and entering the visible world of the first page, means a 143% jump in the site’s traffic. That’s why you need to put your love and trust into SEO, especially if your business depends on e-commerce. Let’s quickly understand what SEO is and how it works before discussing e-commerce SEO best practices.
What Is E-Commerce SEO and Why Is It Important?
SEO, short for Search Engine Optimization, is optimizing a website’s content and structure so that search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo can access and rank it among their results and offer it to the masses as a reliable and popular page where people find what they look for when they conduct a specific search. Since most searches are text-based, most of the time, SEO deals with words. But it’s not limited to text, and the activities that are meant to improve user experience can help you rank higher.
That’s where the “self-fulfilling prophecy” comes into play. Reliable and easily accessible information on a site attracts more visitors and improves its search engine ranking. In other words, popularity brings even more popularity.
The Importance of E-Commerce SEO for Online Businesses
The importance of e-commerce SEO for online businesses can’t be stressed enough because ranking higher in the search results determines if people see your website or not, let alone placing it among the worthy alternatives for shopping. It doesn’t really matter if you offer a superior product compared to your rivals or if your marketing team has written the greatest product description in history; its value remains limited unless potential customers can discover it online. So don’t forget to submit your sitemap to Google.
Another important aspect to keep in mind is that SEO is cheaper and more predictable than paid advertising. With paid advertising, you can see immediate results. This makes them great for flash sales or time-sensitive campaigns. But in the long run, consumers always search for products on search engines and shop from websites that rank higher in the search results. And the more continuous traffic you get, the more likely you make sales.
This means that your product pages need to be seen and indexed by search engines easily. To understand how SEO for e-commerce works, we’ll start with technical requirements.
Technical SEO for E-Commerce Websites
The mind of a computer works like the mind of a person, only significantly faster. Just like people, computers look for things in familiar places before moving on to uncharted territory. They follow the links on pages they already know about, crawl them for specific information, and, like following the breadcrumbs, they jump from one link to another in order to find pages they haven’t indexed yet so they can offer a list of the most relevant and up-to-date results for the searcher.
Search engines crawl websites using keywords, which is why using the right keywords is crucial. However, before creating keyword-rich content for your e-commerce website, you need to build and index your website first.
These are the technical requirements of a SEO-friendly website:
1. SEO-friendly Website Structure
An SEO-friendly site structure, also known as website architecture, is like a tidy room. When you look for something, you find it at first glance, probably among related objects, placed where it’s supposed to be. For example, if a search engine crawler enters this room to look for a ballpoint pen, it would look for a desk or a cabinet first, then open the drawer that says “stationery”, take a glimpse at the part where pens and pencils are gathered and see the ballpoint pen(s). A neatly planned website architecture is basically like that. Under the homepage, you place categories, then divide them into subcategories and place relevant products under each subcategory. If the crawler can see that on a sitemap, it is even better if it also appears as breadcrumbs on the page; it can reach its destination faster.
This kind of structure is not only SEO-friendly but also creates a smoother customer journey. Providing relevant links to other content on your site helps search engines understand the relationship between your pages and products. As for the customers, they easily obtain detailed information about a subject if they are interested and find similar products on the way.
2. URL Structure for E-Commerce Sites
Using this type of “breadcrumb structure” also works in URL structures because it is visible to search engines. It also benefits the user, as people like to know where they are going in the vast and perilous planes of the internet. Having a URL structure like www.clothingcompany.com/womens-fashion/shirts/cotton-shirts is SEO-friendly, and it creates a better user experience. It incorporates relevant keywords as well as making the category and products easily identifiable for the user. In short, the URL structure should be clear, descriptive, and intuitive for both users and search engines. Hyphens that separate the keywords in the URL is another best practice as it improves readability and SEO.
Another important note about URLs is that you must ensure that users and crawlers access only one version of your website. Having both “www.site.com” and “site.com” available can cause duplicate content and backlink problems that can affect your ranking and e-commerce site traffic negatively. To tackle this problem, choose a main site and redirect the other version to it.
Last of all, beware of broken links because they leave visitors and crawlers disappointed. Conduct a site audit to discover broken links or 404 pages on your website, then redirect them to your current relevant pages.
3. Importance of SSL for E-Commerce Sites
E-commerce sites need to be secure places; it’s just plain as day. SSL is short for Secure Socket Layer, a security protocol that ensures the secure transmission of sensitive data between a user’s browser and the web server. For e-commerce sites that handle confidential customer information such as credit card details, personal data, and login credentials, it is simply a must. It is the small padlock icon or “https” in the URL, which means that the website establishes a secure connection by encrypting the data in transit and preventing unauthorized access. This is good both for the customer and for SEO purposes because Google rewards secure websites by slightly boosting them in rankings.
4. Mobile Responsiveness and Site Speed
Just like customers, search engines also reward the brands that keep their customers happy and content. For example, if you don’t annoy your users with pages that take a lifetime to load and provide the same efficiency both on web and mobile sites, customers may want to spend more time on your website and visit it on other occasions as well. Search engines see the effort you put into offering a better user experience and rank you higher in order to create more happy customers.
Leveraging Advanced Analytics for SEO Insight
Just when you think your SEO game is tight, along comes the power of advanced analytics to show you opportunities you didn’t even know existed. It’s not about swapping your strategy every time a new trend pops up but using tools like Google Analytics 4, SEMrush, or Ahrefs to really get what’s going on behind the scenes. This isn’t about getting lost in a sea of data; it’s about finding the lighthouse that guides you to strategic shores. With these tools, you’re not just tracking clicks and keywords; you’re anticipating movements, understanding your audience on a deeper level, and crafting an SEO strategy that’s as dynamic as the digital marketplace.
On-Page SEO Strategies for E-Commerce
Now that you have the basic structure of your e-commerce website, it’s time to talk about keywords – or maybe “words” in general. As in all areas of life (except poetry), you should say what you mean clearly to get your message across, especially if you are writing for search engines. Imagine them like a 5-year-old who takes everything literally. For example, you can call a diamond ring “an eternal promise”, and many humans would understand your creative wording. According to a search engine, it can be 10n, something quite far from an engagement ring. A ring is a ring, but it can have connotations. The more you use these keywords and their connotations in your text, the more relevant you become for a search engine about a specific subject.
1. Keyword Research for Product and Category Pages
Keywords are the bread and butter of e-commerce sites. They are the words, phrases, and sometimes sentences that people enter into search engines in order to find the products they intend to buy. “Trousers”, “cotton trousers”, and “designer cotton trousers for sale” are all keywords, and depending on the products you sell, there can be hundreds of them.
The easiest way to list the most relevant and frequently used keywords for your product and category pages is by searching your product on Google. Then, use a keyword research tool like Google Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest (also many performance marketing brands offer them for free) to get a list of keywords that your competitors use. These keyword research tools also produce lists of hundreds or thousands of keywords that are related to the terms you enter, along with search volumes for each. To avoid getting lost in the crowd, don’t forget to choose some niches for your brand.
Make sure that your keyword list consists of the following:
- Branded keywords
- Keywords your customers are already using to find your website
- Keywords your customers are also searching when doing online research
- Long-tail keywords like “the most comfortable trekking shoes” better match specific products that meet the customer’s needs.
Keyword search for SEO and keyword search for e-commerce SEO differ in purchase intent. For example, users can search for “Japanese kimono” either to get information on its history, features, and care instructions or to buy one. To get an accurate list, you need to look at the keywords Google ranks product and collection website pages for.
The competition for the first 10 results can be fierce, and not everybody makes it. But you can still target Google’s “People Also Ask” and “People Also Search For” sections. That’s where sentences come into play. Users can search with purchase intent by using phrases like “Japanese kimono deals” or “Where can I buy Japanese kimonos in London?”
2. Product Descriptions and Meta Descriptions
When you search for a product on Google, you get two outcomes at first glance. The clickable part of the result is the product name or a short product description, and two lines of text under it are the meta description, which provides a little more compelling information about the product and maybe a call to action. Just like you, search engines encounter these two pieces of text and get a general idea of what the page is about.
There are no set rules for writing product and meta descriptions, but the main idea is that they must explain the upcoming content in a short, clear, and catchy style. For example, discounts are like click-magnets in e-commerce, so it would be wise to mention them in the product description if available.
If we go back to the ballpoint pen analogy, the meta description is the cabinet with the stationery drawer. Upon clicking (or opening the drawer), the user sees the detailed, keyword-rich content that includes product features, advantages, use cases, campaign and shipping details, maybe a short story of its origin, or any other related information. In order to keep search engine crawlers busy with your content and get them to spend more time on your website, 300 to 800 words for regular products and 1000+ for high-selling products are ideal. Most of this content is written basically for search engines, and many SEO-focused brands just try to use the keywords as often as possible in their texts, which, unfortunately, creates lousy content. But actually, this is the place where brands can show off their creativity and storytelling abilities and really provide their customers with an enjoyable shopping experience. This can also provide you with user-generated content in the form of ratings and reviews, which positively affects SEO and brand trust.
Then again, some brands have a really extensive product base, and writing interesting product descriptions for every single product might not be feasible. Some product descriptions are bound to be similar or duplicate. That creates problems and has negative effects on SEO since search engines might get confused about which of the pages to index and show in search results. Duplications in products and categories can be avoided with canonical tags. Canonical tags tell the search engines which pages are relevant for indexing and ranking and prevent the pages from cannibalizing each other’s traffic.
3. Importance of High-Quality Images and Alt Text
For users, online shopping is a highly visual world. For search engines, it is still based on text, though. High-quality images coupled with keyword-rich, relevant alt texts meet both of these needs at the same time and play a pivotal role in elevating the effectiveness of e-commerce SEO. High-resolution images that showcase products in their best light are essential for grabbing the attention of potential customers and driving engagement. Check out our product photography guide for further information on this subject.
Optimizing alt text for each image, on the other hand, has advantages both for the users and the search engines. A well-crafted alt text provides valuable context about the images for users with visual impairments and assists search engines in comprehending the relevance of the visuals to the overall content. When alt text incorporates relevant keywords, it further enhances the website’s chances of ranking higher in image searches and regular search results.
4. Implementing Structured Data (Schema Markup)
You can have rich snippets on search results, which make them look more interesting for customers and meaningful for search engines by implementing structured data. It’s a piece of code that provides additional information about the product, and it shows under the product title and meta description. Rich snippets improve CTR (click-through rate) since they make your pages stand out from others. For the best-structured data markup that fits your brand objectives, you can visit Google’s structured data features.
5. Signing up for Google Shopping Tab
Structured data and product feeds may not be enough to place your shop into Google Shopping Tab. After searching your products in Shopping to see if you are there or not, provide product data feeds via Merchant Center and opt-in to “surfaces across Google.”
Off-Page SEO Strategies for E-Commerce
Let’s make a quick summary of what we’ve done for improved SEO results because, in this section, we are leaving the website to make some collaborations with other pages.
So far, we talked about the technical requirements like building easy-to-navigate website architecture, creating clear and working URLs, the importance of system security in e-commerce websites, and the mobile-first perspective. We also talked about visually appealing design and well-crafted content working in combination. As long as your e-commerce website is properly indexed, provides a great user experience, and engages users with well-crafted content, it is likely that search engines will reward this effort and rank it higher in SERPs (search engine results pages).
Since you’ve done everything you need to do about your online shop, it’s time to work on some strategies for earning endorsement.
Just like academic articles, your e-commerce website’s popularity and credibility increase as more and more people mention you. A successful e-commerce SEO strategy relies on acquiring backlinks from reputable and relevant sources in order to enhance visibility. Creating shareable content in the form of blogs, infographics, guides, or expert insights about your niche is the most efficient way to do so. You can also leverage partnerships with other respected e-commerce businesses and generate traffic to your website. By prioritizing the quality and relevance of backlinks, your e-commerce site can significantly boost its targeted traffic.
Further Reading – E-Commerce Link Building
E-commerce link building is a great way to attract traffic to your site and increase sales. Here are the best practices for this tactic.
2. Importance of Social Signals
Search engines obtain information about your e-commerce website’s online authority from various resources, including social media. High social engagement is an indicator of quality content for search engines. The activity around your brand on social platforms, such as follower count, shares, reviews, likes, and comments, provides insight into your e-commerce business’ overall reputation.
But more importantly, social media is a traffic source for your website. You can collect leads, answer questions, make offers, and suggest products on social media platforms, which, in turn, benefit SEO. To streamline your customer interactions on all social media platforms effectively, you can make use of a sales and support tool that can help increase your e-commerce site’s traffic.
3. Guest Posting and Influencer Marketing
Guest posting or guest blogging is a collaborative activity that benefits both the contributor and the host, as well as creating shareable content for the users. Basically, it’s creating content for another website in order to promote brands, products, or services. As in building backlinks, rather than pursuing quantity, you can focus on obtaining quality content to boost your reputation.
Content Marketing for E-Commerce SEO
You’ve probably seen written content in which the exact phrases are used over and over in several different sentences that have more or less the same meaning. It’s boring, practically unreadable, and, in severe cases, makes you want to leave the website immediately without even skimming the rest of the copy. Those texts disregard the user’s benefit and the content’s shareability altogether and are written solely for SEO purposes.
Content marketing should be the opposite of this, and search engines are evolving to distinguish well-crafted content from a sloppy one. But they still rely on the above-mentioned strategies, so when you are creating content, make sure that it’s SEO-friendly, as well as informative and engaging.
1. Blogging and E-Commerce SEO
Search engine crawlers are practically reading enthusiasts, and having an abundance of text-based content makes them happy. If well written, it also benefits the users.
Through informative and relevant blog posts, you can establish authority within your niche and build an audience. But, as mentioned before, even the greatest copies lose most of their potential if they can’t be shown in SERPs; thus, you need to incorporate targeted keywords into blog articles often. Keep in mind that;
- Consistent blogging ensures fresh content, which search engines favor when ranking websites.
- Content that addresses the pain points and interests of the target audience gets clicks.
- Product guides, how-to articles, and comparison pieces that showcase your expertise and provide value to potential customers can be compelling for users.
- Sharing your blog posts on social media can improve your social signals.
- Collaborating with industry influencers can help expand your reach and acquire valuable backlinks, further boosting your SEO efforts.
2. Using Content to Win Snippets
As mentioned in structured data, snippets grant prime visibility on SERPs. Winning a snippet means that your content appears at the top of search results in a concise and informative format, and this surely boosts click-through rates, which in turn leads to a better purchase potential.
Winning snippets requires more than placing a piece of code in a strategic area. In order to optimize your content for featured snippets:
- Focus on providing direct and brief answers to frequently asked questions related to your products or industry.
- Use clear headings, bullet points, and structured data to help search engines understand the relevance and organization of your content.
- Optimize for long-tail keywords and phrases, as snippets are often triggered by specific user queries.
3. Video Content and E-Commerce SEO
Earlier, we mentioned that you should improve your site speed and think mobile-first in order to gain the favor of search engines. And now, we suggest utilizing video content, a large chunk of data that takes quite a lot of space. But it’s not a contradiction because videos can provide numerous SEO benefits.
- Videos can increase the time visitors spend on your website, signaling to search engines that your site offers valuable content.
- Product demos, tutorials, and customer reviews engage and benefit users, thus improving trust.
- Embed videos on relevant product pages and optimize their titles, descriptions, and tags with relevant keywords.
- Host videos on platforms like YouTube and embed them on your website, as this can improve your chances of appearing in both video and regular search results.
Local SEO Strategies for E-Commerce Businesses
When competition is so fierce for upper ranks, it is logical to think small businesses stand no chance among industry giants with their multi-national budgets. But that is not so because Google recognized the local brands that were doomed to the depths of SERPs; it created “Places” for local businesses. Places are found by people who include vicinity indicators like “near me” in their search and provide NAP (name, address, and phone number), rating, pricing, and availability information of the physical store. Furthermore, on Maps Tab it also shows customer reviews. Good for SEO, good for business.
Google My Business for E-Commerce
This part is not for 100% online businesses since, to be eligible for Google My Business GMB, a brand needs to have a physical store staffed during regular business hours. For local store owners who also operate online, GMB is an indispensable tool to connect with potential customers in close vicinity. It is a free platform that allows businesses to manage their online presence on Google Search and Maps, making it easier for local shoppers to discover and engage with your brand.
You can list your business on Google with a free Business Profile and customize the amount of information you want to provide, such as adding photos, announcements, and promotions.
Local Citations and Reviews
Local citations and reviews are as valuable as high-quality backlinks for SEO, as well as your overall brand reputation. Mentions in local directories, business listings, and social media platforms help search engines determine the credibility and relevance of your business. Reviews from satisfied customers not only improve your local search rankings but also act as powerful social proof, influencing prospects’ purchasing decisions.
But if you have only a couple of reviews, it might not look as powerful as it should be. You can benefit from encouraging your customers to leave reviews on your GMB listing and other relevant platforms.
Further Reading – Why Every Online Business Needs an AI Chatbot
Leveraging chatbots enhances your e-commerce site’s SEO by boosting user engagement and satisfaction, key factors in climbing the search engine ranks. Discover the seamless integration and benefits of chatbots for your online business with Juphy AI.
As the algorithms are being constantly updated, search engines are becoming more advanced and intuitive, which means that SEO isn’t a one-off thing for e-commerce businesses. Updating yourself, regularly monitoring your SEO health, and optimizing whenever necessary are important in order to keep up with the ever-competitive landscape of e-commerce.