In a world where PLA's (Product Listing Ads) are becoming more expensive by the day, SEO is one of the best opportunities for combatting the rising prices in your paid acquisition efforts.
Generating organic traffic to your product and category pages is critical because it allows you to rely less on paid channels. Let's dive into 13 ecommerce SEO best practices and tips that will help you grow your traffic and sales heading into 2020.
What is ecommerce SEO?
Ecommerce SEO is the process of increasing your website’s visibility on search engine ranking pages (SERPS) by targeting keywords related to your product as well as improving site structure and speed. The goal of ecommerce SEO is to get your ecommerce store to rank as highly as possible to drive more traffic to your ecommerce website.
13 ecommerce SEO tips
Ecommerce SEO might seem intimidating to get right at first, but it’s not that difficult once you know what to focus on. We’ll cover 13 tips to level up your ecommerce SEO game in this section.
1. Website structure is key
Having a properly structured website can be the difference between not only you ranking on the SERPs (search engine results pages), but also increase the chance of a purchase. There are a lot of opportunities to improve your website structure, but let's start with breadcrumb navigation and clean URLs.
There are two parts to an ecommerce website structure that can impact your ecommerce store immediately. The first being breadcrumb navigation.Breadcrumb navigation is a form of site navigation that shows users where they are within the hierarchy of a site without having to check the URL. Shopify has a quick guide on how to do this on your store. Breadcrumb navigation helps with site mapping and the organization of your site structure, as well as onsite click through rates for shoppers visiting your store. Here's an example of breadcrumb navigation is shown below by Dormify:
Second website structure optimization would be clean URLs. What is a clean URL? Simply put, it's a readable URL slug for visitors. Clean URLs are intended for both your visitors and Google to improve usability and accessibility by being intuitive and meaningful.
Here is what a messy URL looks like:
Here is what a clean URL looks like:
2. Research ecommerce keywords
Now your technical website structuring is complete. Congrats! Let's dive into another less "technical" process that is equally important. In-depth keyword research.
Starting with a strong keyword foundation can make or break your SEO efforts, and could save you a lot of time if done properly from the start. This phase of your ecommerce SEO is critical because it will impact all optimizations moving forward. So with that, lets take a breath and move into it.
A tool like Google Keyword Planner will allow you to find your base keyword information. You can collect average monthly search volume, average CPC's, and the competition of that keyword in the world of SEM. This is a great tool to kickstart your keyword research efforts.
Now let's discuss what to look for. We want keywords that have a high volume of search per month but are also high intent keywords. Keywords that can lead to customers. When checking through keywords, be sure to actually Google them. See if you have an opportunity to rank for them. If you are competing against big name companies, it is worth looking for longer-tail keywords to compete for. A paid tool like Ahrefs or Mangools will let you dig deeper into keyword difficulties and competition to help you prioritize opportunities.
3. Optimize product pages
Simply copying and pasting product descriptions from competitors or manufacturers isn't enough. Product descriptions and product pages are truly a vital part to your success. Take advantage of and optimize every area, including H1's, Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions.
Make your product descriptions stand out in a creative and unique ways by
- Sticking to your branding
- Minimizing use of jargon and keeping your description easy to read/scan
- Utilizing bullet points to distinguish particular features/benefits
- Speaking to the buyer persona throughout your copy
4. Avoid content cannibalization
When running an ecommerce store it can be difficult not to duplicate content. When you have tens, hundreds, or even thousands of products it can become increasingly difficult to differentiate product descriptions and variations. Which can potentially be detrimental to your search rankings.
So what can you do? To minimize this content having a negative effect on ranking, either add a canonical tag or a 301 redirect for pages to ensure search engines understand which pages may have identical or similar content.
Image Source; Shopify
5. Prioritize the mobile experience
Adobe Analysts reported that just over a third of last year's Black Friday sales were made on mobile devices, proving that mobile first isn't just for Google and SEO.
Optimizing your site for mobile first is a must now.
As ecommerce store owners we need to be looking at:
- Responsive mobile design as a must
- Page speed and load time optimization on mobile
- Easy to use mobile navigation and UX
- Simple mobile checkout
Pro tip: When creating your mobile first ecommerce site, ensure you are also utilizing Privy for mobile and desktop. Read up on Google's mobile pop up penalty.
6. Add sitemap.xml to search console
Even though many popular ecommerce platforms automatically generate your sitemap.xml it's still important to add your sitemap.xml to Google Search Console. Why do you need to do this? Your sitemap.xml is a list of all the important pages of your ecommerce site making sure Google can find and crawl them all.
This sounds complicated, how do I do this? (Trust us, it's not.) Shopify has a thorough walk through on how to do this.
7. Optimize category pages
Category pages are equally as important as product pages and follow a lot of the same principles—unique and creative content focused around onsite SEO best practices. Here are a few quick wins that you can take away for your category pages:
- Optimize category titles from your keyword research.
- Optimize your category meta descriptions. Try to summarize your product and offerings while being unique, creative, and encouraging users to click.
- Add your category H1 Tag. Ensure there is only one per page and follow best practices just like any other page or piece of content.
- Include a description of your category page right below your H1 tag. You may break up your content by including a short form piece of content at the top below your H1 tag and a more thorough text content at the bottom of your category page if you desire.
- Include Internal links within the description.
- Includes images. Visuals in ecommerce are vital and a category page is no different. Incorporate visuals of your products throughout the category page. You can even include a custom graphic at the header of your category page to further differentiate.
8. Clean up broken links
This may seem like an easy one, but it's important. We have all experienced the dreaded "Page 404 Not Found."
It's a bad user experience for everyone, including Google. As you grow, checking your site for 404's and fixing broken links should become routine maintenance.
There are a plethora of tools available to find broken links quickly on your site. Some of the better options out there include:
Remember, if an internal page is 404 you can always 301 redirect the original URL to the new page. Bottom line, fix 404's and everyone wins.
9. Improve website speed
This is a massively popular topic that can create an immediate impact on your ecommerce store and visitor experience.
There are a lot of good tools out there that can help you measure your page speed and uncover what could be slowing down your website. My favorite free ones are:
The best part about both of these tools is that they provide insightful action items that can be fixed immediately. Keep in mind, some issues will be more difficult to solve than others (and will require a whole other blog post on how to fix each of them).
10. Keep your store secure with HTTPS
It's shocking to still see stores without HTTPS as we're heading into 2020. However, it isn't too late to get your store secure. Here's why it is extremely important.
As a store owner you are collecting personal details from customers. It's best practice to ensure that all information collected is encrypted. All information.
In case you needed another reason to do this, Google declared HTTPS as a ranking factor for sites. So Google will reward you as well.
Luckily most ecommerce platforms offer SSL standard on their platform or, make it easily available to purchase.
11. Publish content frequently
Every ecommerce store should start creating content. Whether that be written, video, or, audio—content is king. The frequency of your content is up to you. However, Hubspot did release a study showcasing some quantitative research on the matter.
12. Make your content easy to read
No one enjoys text walls.
In fact, only 16% of people actually read webpages word for word. Most visitors scan a page and bounce if they don't immediately see what they're looking for.
While the jury is still out on whether or not bounce rate is used as a Google Ranking factor, the bottom line is that if your page is hard to read, people won't read it.
Try and keep your paragraphs crisp with breaks in between. Use bullet points for additional breaks in your content.
Pro tip: Run website copy through a Flesch-Kincaid readability scoring tool to quickly gauge if your page is easy to scan and understand. Here are some free options:
13. Use internal links to boost traffic to underperforming pages
Once you start to see visitors flowing into your store from online search, consider linking pages with higher organic traffic to pages you're still trying to rank for.
This website structure drives link equity and topical relevance to newer pages, improving their ability to rank.
In one case study, the team at Ninja Outreach was able to increase their organic traffic 40% through the use of strategic internal linking alone.
Overall content can become your best friend in ecommerce, so treat it as such. Even when developing the highest quality content be sure to follow best practices for onsite SEO.
Ecommerce SEO tips conclusion
Organic traffic has never been easy. And it is especially difficult for ecommerce.
Does that mean it's impossible? No.
With these 13 ecommerce SEO tips you can take action now and get on your way to improving your marketing funnel and starting your organic growth.
One thing to keep in mind when thinking about SEO is that it takes time. Unlike PPC campaigns, SEO may take months before you see any results. Be patient. PPC and SEO will be a constant balance for your business as you move forward.