When it comes to ecommerce marketing, SEO can be one of the most effective long-term strategies and has been proven to have the best conversion rate out of all marketing channels.
But for many ecommerce store owners, SEO seems like some kind of dark art or magic that only a few people know but this isn’t true.
As like with any skill, it is all about learning the right information and then applying it to your store, which is why we created this guide to not only inform you but also provide actionable steps in the 4 main areas of ecommerce SEO:
Technical SEO for Ecommerce
The first area we are going to look at is technical SEO, which is very important as these are the foundations on which the rest of your SEO efforts are based because this ensures that your site is running optimally.
1: Make Sure You Are Running on https
This is a relatively simple but important point when it comes to SEO as search engines like Google give preference to websites that are secure and as an ecommerce website, you should have an SSL certificate on your site and be running on the https protocol.
Most hosted ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and Bigcommerce include a free SSL certificate as part of their subscription but for self-hosted platforms such as WooCommerce and Opencart, it is down to you as the owner to make sure that this is set up properly.
If you haven’t got an SSL installed and you aren’t running on https, then you want to get this sorted ASAP and also make sure that all of your http URLs redirect to the new https ones.
2: Design for Mobile First
With over 55% of website traffic now coming from mobile devices, you want to go with a mobile-first design approach as this will not only benefit your sites SEO but can also improve your conversion rate.
When it comes to optimizing your site for mobile devices, you want to:
Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool isn’t the only one they offer when it comes to checking for mobile responsiveness and they also have a Mobile Friendly Tester, which quickly lets you know whether you page is mobile friendly or not.
3: Check Your Stores Load Speed (PageSpeed)
The faster your site loads, the better the experience for your site’s users and this is why Google now uses page speed as one of their many ranking factors.
And to help you improve your pages speed, they introduced their Core Web Vitals in May 2020, which is a set of metrics by which your site is measured and there are three main ones you need to focus on, which are the three in the image below:
Google provides two tools to help you monitor your Core Web Vitals:
- PageSpeed Insights – which offers a snapshot of your site’s performance
- Search Console – monitors your site performance over time and notifies you which pages require improvement or are failing
The PageSpeed Insights report, it will also tell you what is causing any issues and the reason why, although these can be quite vague.
When checking your site’s page speed, it is worth using a third-party performance tool that will not only give you a load time but also shows you what is loading and when (known as a waterfall).
A great tool for this is Uptrends as it allows you to check both the desktop and mobile performance of your site using different devices and also different locations, which is why it is the tool we use for all of our performance testing
How Can You Improve Your Site’s Page Speed?
A lot of the performance optimization you can do does depend on the ecommerce platform you are using as some are more flexible than others but some options can include:
- Upgrading to better hosting
- Using an optimization plugin or app
- Use a CDN
- Use a fast-loading theme
- Optimize your images
- Reduce the number of plugins or apps you are using
- Keeping pop-ups to a minimum
When improving your site’s performance, change one thing at a time and then re-test your site as this allows you to find out what is and isn’t working.
4: Create a Site Structure
Site structure is also an important part of technical SEO as it helps search engines not only understand how your site is mapped out but also which pages on your site are the most important.
There are a few different types of structure that a website can use but in most cases, the most favorable for ecommerce stores is the hierarchal structure, like in the image below (it can look like a pyramid).
This type of site structure is very easy to achieve as your homepage links to your main hub pages, which then link to the products or pages within that category.
An example of this would be for a store selling cameras: Homepage → Canon Cameras (category page) → Canon M50 (product page).
This can also be extended to multiple levels, so expanding on the example above: Homepage → Cameras (main category page) → Canon Cameras (subcategory) → Canon M50 (product page).
Site structure should be applied to all areas of your site including all of your product and blog pages.
5. Make Sure Your Site Can Be Crawled and Indexed
This is something that can be easily overlooked but make sure that search engines can actually crawl and index your site, two main things you can do for this are:
- Make sure your site isn’t in maintenance mode
- Manually submit your sitemap to search engines
The first one can be quite easy to overlook, especially for new sites as while logged in you may be able to preview the frontend of the site but no one else, including search engines can.
There may also be an option in your site’s settings to discourage search engines from indexing your site, if so, make sure that this option is not active.
The second is to create a Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster account as this allows you to manually submit sitemaps, these are usually yoursite.com/sitemap.xml but check with the platform you are using to be sure.
You can then create a property and manually add your store’s sitemap, which lets search engines know that you would like them to crawl your site.
6: Perform a Site Audit
When you are not only setting up your site but also starting to SEO it, it can be very easy to overlook things such as:
- Broken links
- Missing Images
- Missing Meta Descriptions
- Missing Alt Tags
- Broken Pages
And it is for these reasons that you want to perform an SEO audit on your site and for this, you are going to need to sign up to a premium tool as Google doesn’t offer this service but tools like Ahrefs do offer a free webmaster tool that includes audits, which are done on a weekly basis.
These regular audits can be very helpful as they allow you to fix any errors before they have too much of an impact on your site’s SEO.
We have created a more in-depth Technical SEO Guide for Ecommerce Stores, which covers some of these things in a bit more detail, which might be helpful.
Ecommerce Keyword Research
Keyword research is one of the fundamentals of SEO but it is more than just finding out what people are searching for, it is also about understanding the search intent and when you understand this, you can then create content around these search terms.
How To Do Keyword Research On Google
I bet you thought, Great! But how do I find these search terms?
Well, you could use tools such as Ahrefs, Semrush or Unbersuggest, which are all fantastic tools but are also quite expensive but fortunately Google offers some tools that we can use and best of all, they are FREE!
And below I will go through the steps to find keywords for your site and also the intent behind these search terms.
Step 1: Use Google Autosuggest
Step 1 is to go to Google and start typing a keyword, such as the name of the product and Google will autosuggest some search terms based on what you are typing.
And the reason why this is good for keyword research is that all of these are searches that people have made recently and can provide you with a host of potential keywords.
Let’s use the search term in the image below as an example, which is Logitech MX Vertical and you can see that Google has suggested some keywords that I could use.
But let’s delve a little deeper into these suggested search terms as there are two different types of search intent being suggested.
The first is commercial as they are very product-focused terms such as:
- Logitech MX Vertical ergonomic wireless mouse
- Logitech MX Vertical ergonomic optical mouse
- Logitech MX Vertical advanced ergonomic mouse
These are being made by people who are in the buying phase of the customer journey because they know exactly what they want to buy and they just need to find somewhere to buy it.
The second is transactional as they are more query-based but with a product focus, such as:
- Logitech MX Vertical review
- Logitech MX Vertical vs Lift
These are searches being made by people who are in the research phase of the customer journey as they want to find out if this product is going to be right for them.
When you understand what the intent of the search query is, it helps you to know what kind of content those keywords should be used for and using the above examples:
- The keywords with transactional intent should be used on product pages
- The keywords with information intent should be used as ideas for blog posts
A modification of this method is called Alphabet Soup, which involves entering your basic keyword which in this case would be Logitech MX Vertical and then type the letter A to see what they suggest, you then begin working through the alphabet until you have a good list of keywords.
Step 2: Google Related Searches
There is a second resource for potential keywords that can be found at the bottom of the Google search results page (often referred to as SERPs) and that is the related searches.
These are similar searches to the one that you made and as with autosuggest, these have all been made recently.
The related searches in the image above were all from the Logitech MX Vertical search term and would provide me with a list of informative keywords that would be useful for long-form content such as a blog post.
Step 3: Get Search Volume in Google Keyword Planner
Step 3 is to get an idea of how many people are searching for these keywords as this will help you understand which ones are the most important and for this, we will be using Google’s Keyword Planner.
You will need a Google Ads account to be able to access this but don’t worry, you don’t need to run ads in order to be able to use the keyword planner.
When you go into the keyword planner, you will be greeted by two options:
- Discover new keywords
- Get search volume and forecasts
When you are doing your initial keyword research, you only need to use the Discover New Keywords option as this also gives you search volume history over a chosen time period.
Click on the Discover new keywords icon and you will be taken to a form where you can enter your keywords and it is best to use the Start with keywords tab when doing your research.
Simply enter the keyword you are researching and the country/countries you want the data for and then click get results.
You will then be taken to the results page, which can seem a little intimidating to start with but can provide some really useful information, including:
- Options to broaden your search
- A list of potential keyword ideas
- The average monthly search volume
- Three month change
- Year on Year change
- Competition (this is for ads, not organic search)
This information can be very useful as not only does it provide you with some additional keyword ideas that you can use but also the average number of monthly searches over the past 12 months.
The average number of searches is quite broad but it does give you an idea of whether the search volume is good or not and while the competition is for ads not organic search, it does give you an idea as to how important that search term is for other businesses.
If you want more detailed information, then premium SEO tools can be very useful but understand that much of their information is estimates, not facts.
Now that you know how to start doing keyword research, let’s look a little deeper into research for different types of pages on your store.
Keyword Research for Product Pages
For product pages, you want to find keywords that are going to get your pages appearing in product searches as these have very high buyer intent and these are usually very product focused and can often include the following:
- Brand names
- Model names or numbers
- Target Users (Men, Women, Kids, Pets etc)
When doing the keyword research, you want to identify the primary keyword that you want the page to rank for and also secondary keywords that people are searching for so that you can include these in the pages to copy to increase the chances of ranking for more search terms.
Keyword Research for Category Pages
The target keywords for category pages are likely to be broader terms than those of product pages as they are performed by people who are looking for a selection of products, rather than a single product.
We will use the mouse example from above, for your category pages, you would be looking at keywords such as:
- Vertical mouse
- Ergonomic mouse
- Brands of manufacturers that you stock
As you can see, these are broader search terms that people who know what type of product they are looking for but aren’t looking for a particular product.
Keyword Research for Blog Posts
The keyword research for your blog posts is going to be different to the product and category pages as you are going to want them to appear in informational search results.
Going back to the mouse example, we identified some informational search queries with the:
- Logitech MX Vertical review
- Logitech MX Vertical vs Lift
But there are plenty of different types of informative content that you could create, even around the vertical mouse, such as:
- How to Choose a Mouse for PC
- Best Vertical Mouse for Gaming/Mac/Small Hands/Large hands
- Are Vertical Mouses Good for Gaming?
A good way to find what people are asking, other than what we talked about above is to look at the people also asked section of SERPs, this can be a gold mine of keywords for informative content.
Some of the questions asked here could be the base for a blog post and others could provide you with additional content for other posts but when creating a blog post, make sure you answer the search query in full.
Also, when doing keyword research for blog posts, you also want to create a list of secondary and related keywords which you can include in your post.
On-Page Ecommerce SEO
Next up is On-Page SEO and this is the area of SEO where you have the most control as it is all about what you do on your site and where your keyword research can really come into play.
When it comes to doing on-page SEO, there are lots of things that you can do which will have an impact on your site’s SEO.
1. Optimize the Product/Page Title
One of the most important on-page SEO elements is the page title and it should be the page’s H1 header tag, meaning that it is the most important header on the page and search engines use these headers to help understand what the page is about.
So make sure that you include the primary keyword that you want the page to rank for in the title, preferably towards the start of the title.
But remember that it is the people say behind the screen who will actually click on results in search, so work on creating titles that people want to click, whatever page it is that you are trying to rank.
2. Write an Original Product Description
Your description plays a big part in your product’s SEO as it is the largest content area on the page and you want to make the most of it, not only for SEO purposes but also because it can help drive sales as well!
And one of the best ways to make the most of it is to create a completely original, well-written product description and at all costs avoid copying and pasting manufacturer’s descriptions as there could be numerous other sites using that exact same copy.
There are other benefits to creating original content, such as:
- Being able to include additional keywords
- Provide more in-depth information
When creating your description it is also worth paying attention to the formatting of the content so that it is easier for your potential customers to consume by using short paragraphs and highlighting important information in bullet point lists.
As you begin to start writing your own content, you will develop your own writing style, which doesn’t make much difference to SEO but it can help your content stand out from others to your readers.
3. Add a Description to Your Category Pages
We briefly discussed category pages in the keyword section but these pages are commonly overlooked when it comes to ecommerce SEO and this can provide you with an opportunity.
Most ecommerce platforms will allow you to add a description to your category pages and you want to take advantage of this.
But in most cases, this description will sit above the product listings, so you don’t want to write a 1000+ word blog post here, instead, you want it to be short and to the point but include any potential keywords that you think that the page could rank for.
If the ecommerce platform you are using does give the opportunity to move the product description below the product listings, then it can be best to do this as you can go a bit more in-depth with the content.
4. Create SEO-Friendly URLs
Whether it is a product or a blog page, you want to create SEO-friendly URLs. Some ecommerce platforms will do this automatically based of the title of the page but it is always worth checking these out before you hit publish.
This is because you want to include the main keyword in the URL as this aids in page continuity but you also want to pay attention to the structure of the URL as there are a few different options, such as:
These URLs are very similar but the second two let search engines understand your site structure better as they know that the product sits below the category in your site’s hierarchy, whereas the first one doesn’t.
URL structure doesn’t play a huge role in ecommerce SEO but it is something that you still want to consider, especially if you really want to nail your site’s on-page SEO.
5. Add a Custom Meta Description
Now meta descriptions don’t play a big part in SEO anymore as they are no longer a ranking factor but they can still impact on your click-through rate and as the whole point of SEO is to get people to click through to your site from organic search results, it is definitely worth doing.
When it comes to creating a good meta description, your aim is to create a sales pitch that makes people want to click through to your site in 160 characters or less!
To learn more, check Neil Patel’s Guide on Writing Compelling Meta Descriptions.
6. Optimize Your Images
For this, we are not talking about optimizing your images for performance but instead for SEO as they are an important element on your ecommerce stores pages and you want them to be working for you and there are two main ways you can do this:
- Image Title – this starts before you even upload them to your site as you want to give the image a keyword-optimized title and for main product and posts images, something similar to the page title is best practice
- Alt Tag – this is a tag that you can add to your images once you have uploaded them and it is basically a description of what the image is, which is helpful to search engines (it also helps visually impaired visitors to your site)
You want to do this to all of the images on your site from your product and category images to any images that you use in blog posts or on your site in general, such as your logo.
Not only does this help with page continuity but there is also a chance that these images can appear on Google Image Search, which is one of the world’s more popular search engines.
7. Structured Data
Structured data (schema markup) is information about the page that helps search engines understand what the purpose of the page is and there are a few different types of structured data including:
And you want to make sure that your site’s pages have the correct structured data on them but it may depend on the ecommerce platform that you are using as to how much control you have over this as some do it for you automatically.
However, there may be apps or plugins for your platform that give you more control and allow you to input more information, which may be displayed by search engines in SERPs, such as in the image below:
This structured data includes product-related information but also data that can lead to rich snippets in the form of the reviews, which have all come from schema-enabled reviews that customers have left on the product.
If you want to learn more about structured data, then I would recommend reading Semrush’s Beginners Guide to Structured Data.
8) Adding a Blog to your Online Store
One of the best ways to improve your store’s on-page SEO is to add a blog as it offers you to chance to add a lot of high-quality content to your site, which can result in:
- More Traffic – due to covering a wider range of topics
- Increased Sales – due to attracting people at an earlier stage in the buying process
- Backlinks – due to creating high-quality, linkable content
So there are a lot of potential benefits to having a blog on your site but you need to go about it in the right way to maximize the effects of your blog as many ecommerce stores don’t get this right.
This is because they think they can throw a few blog posts on about a couple of topics with no real goal in mind and hope it will lead to all of the above but inevitably it doesn’t.
Instead, you want to have a clear goal in mind for your content and what you want it to achieve and in most cases, it either generates backlinks or sales and this helps to dictate the type of content that you are going to create.
If backlinks are the goal, then you want to create informational content that other sites want to link to and these are things like in-depth guides and original research, which are great resources to other blogs but can also be helpful to anyone interested in them.
If sales are the goal, then you want to create transactional content, where people are likely to make a purchase based on that content and this can be posts like reviews, comparisons and best of lists where you would link to your product listings.
Ideally, you want a blend of both types of content so that you are benefitting in both ways but another thing you want with your blog is content depth as one-and-done posts aren’t going to achieve much.
This is where you want to create content hubs around a topic, such as a main in-depth guide and then smaller supporting articles that cover smaller elements in more detail, which can then be linked together and this helps you create topical authority around that subject, which search engines like.
We’ve only done a brief summary here as we have created a much more detailed guide to Blogging for Ecommerce, which covers the many different elements of creating a blog for your store in more detail and includes some actionable tips.
9) Internal Linking
A great way to boost your on-page SEO is by internally linking pages together as this not only allows search engines to understand how these pages are related but it also passes ‘link juice’ or authority from one page to another, which tells search engines which pages on your site are important.
But it doesn’t just help search engines, as it can help humans navigate your site and if done right can take a visitor from an informative blog page all the way through to the checkout with the exact product they were looking for.
But as with everything, there are right and wrong ways to do this and many ecommerce websites get this wrong as they either don’t link or place random links from one page to another, the right way to do it is:
- Link relevant content together
- Use relevant anchor texts
- Have links appear naturally in the content
But how do you do this in practice? Below is a very basic example of how you could link pages together based on the vertical mouse example above.
- Create a post on How to Choose a Mouse for PC, which includes a section on ergonomic mouses
- Place a link in this section to a Best Ergonomic Mouse for Work post
- List all of the best ergonomic mice, with links to your product pages
This is a very basic example but it should give you an idea of how to link related posts together and also guide the visitor towards becoming a customer by 1) answering their initial query, 2) telling them which are the best options to choose and 3) providing them with the opportunity to buy.
10) Avoid Thin & Duplicate Content
If you have followed the guide so far, you should already be creating good quality, original content for your store but there is still a chance that you can end up with thin and/or duplicate content just due to the number of pages that you may have on your site.
But what is thin content, well it is basically content that serves little to no use to the user and for ecommerce stores, it can be things like:
- Blog posts that don’t answer the search query
- Multiple category pages with very few products
- Duplicate content, such as the same description being on two or more product pages
- Scraped content such as manufacturer descriptions
Fortunately, there are fixes for all of these such as:
- Creating high-quality posts
- Combining categories into 1 and doing 301 redirects or noindexing the category
- Using canonical tags to tell search engines which page to index
- Creating original content
In most cases, you will need to perform a site audit in order the be able to find these issues.
Ecommerce Link Building
Linking is a hugely important part of SEO and some would argue is the most important part of SEO and it generally comes down to 1 thing… Backlinks!
These are links that you get from other websites to yours and these can be homepage links, which is just a link to your domain name or you can get links to specific pages on your site, such as product or blog pages.
There are two different types of backlinks:
- Dofollow – these are the links you want as do follow links pass ‘link juice’ from another website to yours
- Nofollow – these don’t offer much SEO benefit as the nofollow tag tells crawlers not to track that link and as such, you don’t get any ‘link juice’ from these
When you are getting backlinks, you want to get them from high authority sites (preferably with a DA rating of above 50) because this signals to search engines that this established, high authority site thinks that your content is good enough to link to and because of this, your sites EAT starts to increase.
And the more of these links you get, the more your own Domain Authority starts to grow and because your site is seen as being more trustworthy, the more chance there is that search engines will show your content higher in search results.
How To Get Good Quality Backlinks
Not all backlinks are the same, some are good and very beneficial to your site, whereas others can be bad and actually damage your site. So when looking to get backlinks, you only want to go for good, high-quality backlinks but how do you get these?
One way is to wait for links to come in organically but this can take a long time and isn’t always guaranteed to work, that is why it is better to be proactive when it comes to getting backlinks.
1. Building Linkable Content
Blog posts are great for generating backlinks, especially if you create an awesome post that is a great resource but what makes content linkable?
When you create content like this, you don’t just want to publish it and hope that it gets links, instead, you want to share this with influential people and sites in your niche.
This can be done with outreach emails or contacting them via LinkedIn or Twitter and striking up a conversation and seeing if your content is something that would consider linking to either in a previous or future post of theirs.
2. Guest Blogging
A great way to get backlinks is to post a guest blog on another website but you might be thinking, why would I create a blog for another website? Well there are a couple of reasons:
- Grow Your Sites Authority – most sites allow guest bloggers to include a link or two back to their own site, maybe to your homepage or potentially a blog post if you have one that is relevant
- Reach a New Audience – by contributing a blog post, you are putting your name and expertise out there to an audience that is probably bigger than your own, which increases exposure and also builds your authority
So contributing guest posts to another website can be very beneficial to your ecommerce site. You can also forge relationships with other businesses by being a guest blogger and this can provide other opportunities at a later date.
Want to learn more? Then check out the incredibly detailed Guest Blogging Guide by Adam Connell.
3. Become A Source
Do you ever read articles and wonder where all these journalists and writers find these industry experts and specialists?
Sometimes it is because they genuinely know them but more often it is the case that they use sites like HARO to post a question and then get responses from industry experts or specialists.
They then use these responses in their posts and in many cases (not all the time!) will include a link back to the contributor’s website.
But while this is great for getting backlinks, most will usually be to your homepage, rather than specific pages on your site like you can get with guest blogging but for the 5-10 minutes spent writing a pitch, it can still be worthwhile.
Want to learn more? Then check out James Taylors HARO Link Building Guide
4. Get Your Products Featured On Lists
Many backlinking strategies are focused on either getting links to your homepage or blog posts but there is a way you can generate links to your product pages and that is to get featured on product lists, such as best-of lists.
Now, this is going to depend on the type of product that you sell but if you offer unique or custom products that are a bit different to what else is in the marketplace, this can be a great backlink opportunity.
This will once again require outreach on your part, find list posts that you would like to get your product featured on and reach out to the author and see if you can strike up a conversation about getting your products featured.
Ecommerce SEO Checklist
As you can see, there are a lot of different elements that make up SEOing an online store and it can be easy to miss or overlook one, which is why we decided to add a quick checklist to our guide, so that you have something you can reference:
Well, that was a long one wasn’t it?
But I really hope that this has been helpful and has given you more of an understanding of the different elements of Ecommerce SEO and also some ideas of what you can do on your own site to improve its SEO.
Now when it comes to formulating an SEO strategy, you need to think of the bigger picture of how are all these elements going to work together in order to help your site ranking, for example:
- Creating a series of blog posts to help customers educate themselves on the products you sell
- Guest blogging to get links back to these posts to increase their ‘link juice’
- Linking these posts to product pages
- This in turn should help these product pages appear higher in organic search results
So, you have to have a goal in mind when it comes to SEO as to what you want to achieve and then figure out what steps you need to take in order to achieve these.