There's no way to be successful in digital marketing without an optimized SEO strategy. So why do so many ecommerce stores skip out on a robust SEO campaign to help their search rankings and draw in better customers? According to NChannel, 44% people shoppers start their online buying experience through a search engine, so no matter how well-known your brand is or popular your products are, nearly half of your site traffic is going to come from searches. The more you can do to create a thorough and detailed SEO strategy for your store, the better your traffic and sales will be.
Unfortunately, SEO isn't as simple as putting together some good keywords and content, especially when your store is competing against massive retailers, aggressive competition, and Google's ever-evolving requirements and metrics. SEO requires frequent attention and management for you to improve your rankings and keep them high, especially when your ecommerce store is adding and removing products as interest and availability change. The good news is that there are several main components to ecommerce SEO success, and once you understand and apply them, you'll be ahead of the curve.
The first component of any successful ecommerce SEO plan is keyword strategy. Ideally, all the keywords you target:
- should have good search volume
- accurately describe your product
- are likely to convert traffic into customers
- are not being targeted by your competitors
- can rise quickly in ranking
Obviously, you have your products and know what they are and how you'd search for them, but think about how a person on Google is going to look for them. A good place to start is by doing some simple searches around basic keywords and seeing what else Google suggests:
Doing similar searches on Amazon, and looking at some of the basic terms used to describe what your product is on Wikipedia, can help give you some ideas about keywords that can describe your product and draw in quality traffic. Long-tail keywords, especially ones that ask a question, are becoming increasingly popular as Google evolves to give better answers to these inquisitive searches, and building keywords and content that help provide value to these searches can also be a terrific draw of good traffic. You can also use tools like Google Keyword Planner to see which keywords get the most traffic and are hardest to rank for, and SEMRush to check out your competition, which keywords they are targeting, and how they rank for them. Once you have a good list of keywords to start with, you can use those to influence all elements of your content and SEO strategy for ecommerce.
Next, it's important to consider the way your ecommerce site pages are set up and organized. Most of the time, your homepage will rank best for many of your keywords, and then category and product pages will rank somewhere lower. If you create a complex site architecture with dozens of layers to dig through to get from homepage to any certain product, it's just making it a more difficult user experience for any potential customer, but it's also hurting your SEO because each page is further from the Google authority of your homepage.
A great example of this is Pugs Inc, a national sunglasses and apparel brand. At most, any product is three clicks away from the homepage, and the items are sorted by type and style in a simple way for both users and Google to sort through. It can be difficult to organize an ecommerce site well because of ever-changing product offerings, but if you start with a clean slate, make sure you build it correctly the first time so you can scale successfully down the road.
Next, your on-site SEO is critical to creating or growing your ecommerce success. Thin or non-existent content on your product pages will either make them meaningless to Google, or actively work against your ranking efforts. Here's a list of on-site SEO areas to take a hard look at:
- Security: is your site in HTTP or HTTPS? Having the entire site wrapped in security, not just the purchase pages, will benefit your with customer trust and Google rank.
- Category pages: Make sure all category pages have real and original content (100+ words) and a straightforward title using your keyword strategy.
- Product pages: It's easy to launch a ton of products because you want them to sell, but each one needs to have it's own unique content, title, meta description, and optimized imagery.
I'll admit, I've been guilty of thinking that having all my products live and selling on my ecommerce sites was good enough, without paying attention to the SEO work that was needed to help it be successful. It can be especially difficult when you have hundreds or thousands of products, especially when you consider the unique content that is important to have on each indexed page. But it's best to take a top-down approach and start with your best selling products first if you have a lot to work on, and slowly find time to improve all the product and category pages on your site over time.
By tackling these main elements, you can either build or improve your SEO strategy for your ecommerce site. But creating SEO success isn't just about doing the stuff you haven't been doing, it's about not doing some of SEO mistakes it's easy to make. Here are three of the main areas your ecommerce SEO efforts can get tripped up.
Ecommerce SEO Mistakes
First mistake you can make with your ecommerce site is not properly managing your product pages as they change or get deleted. If you don't have a proper system in place for redirects, then not only will customers who bookmarked the deleted page get a 404 error, but Google sees the errors as well and can penalize you. Improve both your user experience and SEO by making sure you don't have dead pages that are messing up your site. Use Google Webmaster Tools to look for 404 pages and set up an extension or setting in the store to make sure everything is redirected automatically going forward.
Another mistake is not building your link structure in a helpful way to either site visitors or search engines. Default URL structures with numbers instead of product names, descriptive words, or keywords don't help users shop better or feel confident they are on the right page, and it wastes good opportunity to help Google know more about what is on the page. In some ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify, you can easily set up how you want your links to look based on product titles and keywords, so you don't need to go through each one individually.
Finally, building a robust database of reviews for your products is a great way to get more content on the page and provide more authority that your products are worth purchasing. Having reviews get added periodically means your pages are updated more often in Google's eyes, which is great. For more ecommerce platforms, it's easy to set up automated emails a certain amount of time after a purchase to request a review and start building some 5-star ratings on your best products. It helps provide more info to potential customers, give your existing customers more opportunity to connect with your brand and come back to the site, and give Google more content to scan.
Using all these elements, and avoiding these common mistakes, will help you build or refresh your ecommerce SEO strategy, and boost traffic, authority, page ranking, and sales. SEO and ecommerce can both be long-term plays that take time to really grab hold, but if you've been missing some of these key elements, you can see overnight improvement. Remember, no matter how accurately you follow these ideas, you're never finished with your SEO or ecommerce strategies. Great businesses find time to study changes in best practices and find ways to update their strategy with it, so always come back to square one and see where you can find opportunities to continue growing!