Traffic is an absolute necessity for eCommerce business success. And that's why SEO is so important. To help you increase organic traffic to your online storefront so you can get more sales, we've put together this eCommerce SEO guide. Here, you'll find everything you need to know (and then some) about how to use SEO for your eCommerce business, from a step-by-step eCommerce SEO strategy through how to fix some of the most common eCommerce SEO mistakes. To start things off right, we'll cover what SEO for eCommerce actually is and tell you a bit more about the different types of SEO you can benefit from.
eCommerce SEO Guide: Increase Organic Traffic and Sales With SEO:
eCommerce SEO Guide
According to Search Engine Journal, about 93% of all online experiences start with a search engine. That means the first stop for 93% of people using the internet is a search engine. SEO is a vital piece of your eCommerce marketing strategy that will help those users find your online store. But only if you're using SEO for eCommerce the right way.
The first step toward using eCommerce SEO effectively is to understand it. To that end, let's take a look at some definitions — what eCommerce SEO is, different types of eCommerce SEO — as well as some more reasons you should be using SEO if you're not.
What Is eCommerce SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of optimizing your website to improve visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). For your eCommerce business, this gets a bit more involved than with a publisher's site or service-based business, in large part due to the number of product and category pages that many eCommerce sites hold. There are four main types of SEO that are important to getting your eCommerce store ranked well on SERPs:
On-page SEO is the process of optimizing individual pages on your site to get each page to rank better. This generally includes the use of keywords for the phrases your target audience searches for to find products like yours. On-page SEO also includes adding those keywords to the:
- Page URL
- Title tag
- Meta titles and meta descriptions
- Image alt-text
Off-page SEO is what happens outside of your website that will help it rank well in SERPs. This includes things like link building, guest blogging, social media marketing, influencer marketing, and similar marketing tactics that happen off of your website.
Technical SEO is the "backend" stuff — things that make it easier for search engines to index and crawl your pages. This includes:
- Creating a sitemap
- Optimizing your site for mobile
- Improving page load speed
- Getting rid of duplicate content
- Adding structured data to your site
- Fixing technical problems
- Using web analytics tools
If you're one of the brick-and-mortar businesses that has made the jump into eCommerce thanks to that pesky global pandemic, local SEO is crucial. Using local SEO, you can establish your authority as a leading business in your area and bring in more foot traffic to your physical store while also increasing traffic to your website and online storefront. Local SEO includes tactics like:
- Creating a Google My Business account
- Adding your business name, address, and phone number to the footer of your website and submitting that info to local directories
- Creating content relevant to your local audience (both on your website and on social media)
Does eCommerce SEO Really Matter?
As you can see, there's a lot that goes into eCommerce SEO. You might be tempted to skip it, but we strongly encourage that you don't. SEO is the best way to bring organic (aka "free") traffic to your eCommerce store. Remember that 93% of all online experiences start with a search engine. Are your target customers going to find you when they search for your products and services or will they land on one of your competitors?
Here are a few more eCommerce SEO statistics that show exactly how important SEO is for your eCommerce business:
- Position #1 in Google gets a 34.36% click-through rate (Safari Digital).
- 46% of all Google searches are local (Millimetric).
- Organic Google search results get 70% of clicks. Only 30% of clicks go to ads (Safari Digital).
- 81% of users conduct online research before making a large purchase (Millimetric).
- Only 25% of users visit the second page of a search engine. This means that 75% of searchers don't look past the first SERP result (Intergrowth).
Convinced that eCommerce SEO matters? Good! Let's talk strategy.
eCommerce SEO Guide: Strategy
Good eCommerce SEO strategy includes a number of pieces like understanding where you're starting from, finding the right list of keywords, setting up your site the right way, and more. Here's a step-by-step eCommerce SEO guide to strategy.
Conduct a Site Audit
Before you start playing around with keywords and making changes to your pages, it's important to figure out where you're starting from. That's where a site audit comes in. A site audit helps you understand how your site is performing right now, as it is, so you can take data-driven steps to improve it. Typically, a site audit will identify a combination of small and large improvements you can make to improve your ranking.
There are tons of eCommerce SEO tools that can help you conduct a site audit — SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Screaming Frog are a few popular options. These tools will scan your site and provide detailed information about your site's SEO. Some SEO audit tools will also give you suggestions to help you fix any issues easily. Here are some of the things you'll want to pay attention to after performing your site audit:
- Missing titles or meta descriptions
- Broken links
- Pages that don't have any internal links to it ("orphan pages")
- Large image files
- Anything else your SEO audit tool flags as an issue
Perform eCommerce Keyword Research
After your SEO site audit, you'll want to do some eCommerce keyword research to get some keyword ideas to target. This will help you improve your content strategy as well as the keywords you use for your product category pages. Keyword research starts with taking a look at the keywords that are currently prevalent on your site.
Using keyword research tools like a keyword density analysis tool is beyond helpful at this stage. A quick Google search for "keyword density analysis" will bring up several options for tools you can use. Most of the time, it's as easy as entering the URL you want to check or copying and pasting text from your pages. This will show you the words that appear on your site most often and give you a list of keyword ideas you might want to target.
Next, you'll want to see how these target keywords and keyphrases measure up to what people are actually searching for. With this knowledge, you'll be able to optimize your pages to incorporate these more targeted phrases which will help you rank higher on SERPs and get more traffic to your eCommerce store. And, as we've already said, more traffic equals more sales.
You'll want to use a mix of long-tail keywords and short-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords tend to be more specific and have a higher search intent (meaning these keywords show a stronger buyer intent) than short-tail keywords. So, if you're selling shoes, "shoes" might be an okay short-tail keyword to target (ignoring competition and search volume). However, if you sell brown leather slides, a couple of long-tail keywords like "brown leather slides" and "brown women's slides" would bring in the people looking for that specific shoe.
Finally, make sure that you're using your keywords well. Avoid things like keyword stuffing, which means just adding keywords to your blog content, eCommerce product pages, and elsewhere on your site with no regard to the humans who will be reading your content.
Structure Your Site Correctly
Did you know that the way your site is structured makes a difference for search engine optimization? A poorly organized design and bad navigation not only make it hard for visitors to find what they want on your site but make it difficult for search engines to crawl and index your site, too.
When it comes to setting up your site, simple is better. Keep the flow of your site in mind — how do you want visitors to move through your site? How do you want them to find specific products or categories? Your site's navigation should be logical and guide visitors instead of expecting them to figure things out on their own. Here are some best practices to keep in mind when structuring your site's hierarchy and navigation:
- It should take three clicks or less to get to products from your homepage
- Hierarchy should be scalable so you can easily add new products and categories
- Hierarchy should be as shallow as possible (main navigation and up to two sub-menus, max)
Make Sure Your Pages Are Indexed
If your pages aren't indexed by Google, guess what? They aren't going to show up in SERPs. To find out which of your pages are indexed, head over to Google and enter "site:yourdomain.com" in the search bar. This will bring up all of the pages of your site that are indexed by Google. You can also get this information through Google Search Console, and we recommend getting set up — it's free!
Pages missing from the results? You'll want to find documentation for your specific SEO tool or website builder to find out how to index those specific pages (or de-index pages that are showing up when you don't want them to).
Research Your Competitors
Your competitors are an excellent source of information when it comes to fine-tuning your own eCommerce SEO strategy. SEMrush and Ahrefs are two of the more popular tools on the market when it comes to scoping out how your competitors' eCommerce sites are performing.
Why spy on your competitors?
If your competitors have a great SEO strategy for their eCommerce business, you can replicate and adapt that strategy for your own online store and potential customer. This doesn't mean copying them, of course, but it does mean finding out where they're getting their traffic from, what target keywords they rank for, and what content they're posting. Once you have that information, you can take what they're already doing and make it better.
Start Optimizing the Right Pages
By now, you should have a ton of data that will help you optimize your pages for better rankings. And you probably have dozens upon dozens of pages that need to be optimized. Don't get overwhelmed and think that you have to do all of them at once.
Take a look at your website analytics and find out which pages are bringing in the most revenue. If you use Google Analytics, it's easy to find this information. Just go to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages and sort by revenue (high to low). Here's what that looks like:
This shows you the pages on your site that are generating the most and least revenue along with other important metrics like bounce rate, transactions per page, conversion rates, dwell time, and more. This will help you identify the pages you'll want to prioritize for optimization. Start with the pages that bring in the most revenue and work your way through the pages until they're all optimized.
eCommerce SEO Guide: Fixing Common Mistakes
Now you have a step-by-step eCommerce SEO strategy that you can follow to get your site optimized and ranking high in SERPs. But our eCommerce SEO guide wouldn't be complete without sharing some of the most common SEO mistakes and how you can fix them.
Duplicate Content Issues
Duplicate content is one of the most common SEO problems for larger eCommerce businesses. It makes sense since you can potentially have thousands of products on your site, sometimes with just slight variations. Unfortunately, this can really cause problems with your site's crawlability.
Avoid duplicate content whenever possible. Sometimes, you might find that you're just going to have to deal with duplicate content. In those cases, you can use canonical tags to let Google know which page to use as the main page.
Thin content is content that's under 300 words in length (sometimes SEO experts say 500 words or less) and it can be a major problem for eCommerce sites thanks to short product descriptions. To combat this, make sure that you're creating detailed product descriptions that are at least 300 words.
We already talked about the importance of a shallow site hierarchy, but it bears repeating since it's a common mistake that eCommerce site owners make. The flatter your site's structure, the easier it will be for search engines to crawl and index your site. Tools we've already mentioned (like SEMrush) can help you find pages that have a crawl depth greater than three clicks from the home page.
Missing and broken links are another common problem that can impact your site's crawlability. Search engine crawlers are straightforward. Unfortunately, that makes them easily confused. Make sure that your internal links and external links are all working. If they aren't, redirect them to active links. And make sure that you're paying particular attention to your canonical pages.
Keyword cannibalization happens when two or more pages are optimized for the same keyword. This can lead to the wrong page ranking or even none of the pages ranking because, once again, search engine crawlers are easy to confuse. To minimize the likelihood of this happening, you'll want to make sure your keywords for each page are unique and that you use a different optimization strategy for similar pages. If you decide you only want one of the pages to rank, you can always redirect the other pages to the page you want to keep.
Research conducted by Backlinko found that HTTPS correlated with higher rankings on Google's first page. This shouldn't be surprising given Google's stance on security over the past several years. What this means for you as an eCommerce business owner is that you'll need to make sure all of your pages (and the pages they link to) are using HTTPS.
Page Load Speed
Faster page load times tend to mean a higher ranking in SERPs. Plus, your visitors are more likely to hang around if your site loads in less than three seconds. According to Google, as page load times increase from one second to three seconds, the probability of a visitor bouncing increases by 32%. An increase from one second to five seconds increasing the probability of a visitor bouncing by 90%. We recommend doing whatever you can to increase your page load speed like using a CDN, optimizing and compressing your images, minifying your CSS and HTML, and more.
Getting backlinks is important for SEO. But only if they're quality backlinks. If all of your backlinks are coming from those sleazy sites that exist seemingly just to scrape and display links from any site, no matter what the site or quality of content, you're not doing yourself any favors. In fact, Google isn't a fan and it could even be seen as a violation of their rules.
And a Google penalty is not what you want for your eCommerce SEO.
Fortunately, most SEO tools give you a way to "disavow" low-quality backlinks. This lets Google know that you don't want them to count those backlinks as part of your SEO. Then, you can focus on building quality backlinks from high domain authority sites. Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that describes the site's relevance for a specific subject area or industry.
No Schema Markup
Schema markup is structured data that helps search engines understand the information on your site. Markups give search engines details about the relationships between you and what's mentioned on your site. The resulting "rich snippets" can help improve click-through rates.
For eCommerce sites, rich snippets give you the chance to set yourself apart from your competitors in SERPs and boost your online store's visibility. HubSpot even found that schema markup can increase click-through rates by as much as 30%. And, since it's easy to set up, there's no reason not to do it.
SEO is a complex topic with many different moving pieces. With this eCommerce SEO guide, you now have the information you need to set up your site using on-page SEO, off-page SEO, technical SEO, and local SEO if your store has a physical location. Plus, you should have a much better understanding of the common SEO mistakes that eCommerce business owners make so you can further improve your SEO and make it easier for search engines to crawl and index your site. When all of that is in place, you'll have a much better chance to bring in important organic traffic to your online storefront.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of keyword research?
eCommerce keyword research helps you target the keywords that will be easier for you to rank for but that still have decent search volume and a high conversion rate.
What are the benefits of SEO?
SEO helps your site rank better on search engine results pages. That means you'll be able to bring in more organic traffic and potential customers.
How can I track and measure SEO?
There are several SEO tools on the market (SEMrush, Ahrefs, Moz, and others) that can help you glean all of the information you'd ever want to know about how your SEO is performing. If you're looking for a free tool, Google Analytics will give you a great start.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a method of optimizing your website based on specific keywords so you can rank higher in search results.
What is buyer intent?
Buyer intent is how far along a target customer is in their decision to make a purchase.
What's the easiest way to generate a list of keyword ideas?
Head over to Google and start typing in a target keyword. Google has an auto-suggest feature that will show you other keywords people look for that are related to the keyword you entered. You can also get more keyword ideas in the People Also Ask section of Google's SERPs.