Your Checklist for Ecommerce SEO Done Right

By Alexandra Tachalova
 

The Google Consumer Barometer reports that more than 50% of U.S. consumers research their next product purchase online. Fourteen percent spend at least an hour gathering necessary information, 12% research a couple days before they go shopping, and 14% dedicate an entire week to research.

It’s not a surprise to learn that people turn to Google to find answers to their questions, and it proves that a site’s visibility for industry-relevant search queries is essential. To this end, your company must have effective ecommerce search engine optimization (SEO). To address the 50% of your target audience who make up their minds based on Google search results, a solid ecommerce SEO strategy is your lifeline.

In this article, you’ll learn how to tweak SEO for ecommerce and help your site rank better, maximize organic traffic, and unleash its true potential.

 

 

Start your ecommerce SEO with keyword research.

Appearing at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) gives your site a unique opportunity to capture more users. However, that’s only possible if your web pages are optimized to appear for the right kinds of keywords — search terms that align with your audience’s search behavior.

To find out what keywords are typed in the search bar the most, conduct keyword research. There are several tools, both free and paid, that allow you to enter keywords, then see what other, similar keywords users search for and how often they use them (for example, average monthly searches). Some tools that will help with this task include Google Keyword Planner, Keywords Everywhere, and Google Correlate. Popular and powerful paid options include Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Moz’s Keyword Explorer.

With that in mind, how do you put together such a list of queries? You can avoid spending too much time aggregating these keywords with these two simple steps:

  1. Put together a list of all your products and their categories.  
    While this step is often overlooked by many ecommerce site owners, it’s imperative to optimize your product categories. They can potentially help you find more general search queries that are similar to those that users type in during the initial stage of their product research. Category pages don’t necessarily give you as many conversions as product pages, yet the former is very likely to positively affect your sales, according to Brian Dean at Backlinko.

  2. Analyze which queries are bringing in new users.
    To do this, use Google Analytics, which should also be connected with your Google Search Console account.

As a good rule of thumb, you should always rely on proven SEO tactics. Once you optimize for highly relevant keywords, try these tips. They will help you choose additional keywords that are both more profitable and less competitive:

  1. Use long-tail keywords.
    In general, it’s better to target long-tail keywords, but always make sure to check their monthly search volumes (how often the keyword is used in searches) and relevancy (the user’s intent when searching for this term). It makes little sense to optimize a page for a search term that will only bring a handful of visitors a month (volume), or who aren’t actually interested in your product (relevancy).

  2. Investigate the commercial intent of the searched keywords.
    This metric can be found in Google Keyword Planner and is presented in a designated column — Competition. This column shows you how competitive ad placement is for a specific keyword. The higher the competition, the more ads there are, which means that other companies are likely seeing good ROI for this ad placement. Therefore, this keyword likely gives you good conversion rates, and more bang for your buck.

  3. Check out the current market.
    Always check which sites appear at the top of your keywords’ SERPs to be aware of what’s going on in Google and how tough the competition is. This detailed article written by Brian Dean will familiarize you with all the necessary tools.
 

Place keywords on your site’s pages.

Once you’ve completed your keyword research, you need to properly place the newly discovered search terms on your product pages. To make them perform well, you need to put those keywords in your page title, meta description, URL, and in the first paragraph of your page’s content.

A word of caution. Keyword stuffing, or putting as many keywords on a webpage as possible in order for it to rank better, not only looks odd to people who visit your site, but can also cause Google to penalize your page for bad SEO practices. While it’s important to use keywords, it’s also important to use them naturally, so focus on providing relevant, useful content for visitors that aligns with their search intent. According to Moz, search engines are using tools like AI and machine learning, which means they’re getting “closer and closer to understanding and processing natural language. So good writing (including the natural use of synonyms rather than repeating those keywords over and over and…) will take you a long way toward SEO mastery.”

When placing keywords, start with the meta description. Also known as a snippet, this is what a user sees in Google SERPs and may be one of the first considerations in their decision-making process. Make your meta descriptions unique. It will help your website rank higher. Do not copy and paste the description from other websites, regardless of how harmless it may seem to you. Use call-to-action words, such as “buy,” “try,” and “get,” or modifiers such as “cheap,” “sale,” or “online.”

A lot of ecommerce companies place special offers within their snippets, which allows them to increase the chances of a user clicking the link. For instance, you can offer a special discount to any new users who make a purchase. To get some inspiration, you can check out some of the ads on the SERPs for your keywords, which tend to have pretty interesting content. To do that, search for the keywords you’re optimizing your page for.  

 
 

Master the art of ecommerce SEO with Commerce Cloud.

Improve site traffic and search rankings with Salesforce B2C Commerce's easy-to-use SEO tools.
 

Improve your site’s indexability and user experience with a user-friendly site map.

A well-structured site map is not only an essential part of SEO success, but it also dramatically improves the user experience. According to Technopedia, a site map is a model of a website's content that’s created to help both users and search engines navigate the site. (When a search engine can analyze a page and add it to its index, that’s “indexability.")

Site maps can come in three different forms.

  • A ranked list of pages with links arranged by topic
  • An organization chart
  • An XML file

Here are five actionable tips for making your site (and resulting site map) user- and search engine-friendly:

  1. Make sure all the pages are no more than three clicks away from the homepage. One of the easiest ways to structure it is to make it look like this:
    homepage —> department page —> category (optional) —> product page
  2. Be sure that all of your pages are added to your main site’s structure. Double check that there are no orphaned products or categories that are not linked up within your main navigation.
  3. Broken links always negatively affect the site’s usability. They also block Googlebot from crawling your site correctly. If a product or a category doesn’t exist, you need to send users to your main menu or suggest they check out similar products.
  4. Make sure there are no errors on your website pages. If you have items that are out of stock, for example, suggest related products.
  5. Make your most important pages accessible to Googlebot. This means they’re not blocked in robots.txt (a text file created by webmasters to tell search engine robots how to crawl pages on their website), and are added to your main navigation.
 

Pay attention to your site’s speed and mobile-friendliness.

According to Ofcom’s 2017 International Communications Market Report, U.S. smartphone owners spent an average of 75 hours using the internet on their device in August 2017. In fact, the Salesforce Mobile Shopping Focus Report reveals that 60% of digital traffic is coming from mobile users, and 72% of in-store shoppers are using mobile devices while they shop.

You must optimize your website for mobile devices, not only so you reach more customers, but also because you need to comply with Google’s mobile-first indexing. As it was initially published on Webmaster Central Blog, Google will “use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our — primarily mobile — users find what they're looking for.”

Another factor that is closely related to mobile accessibility is your site's speed. Users expect to browse your site at the same speed they do on their desktop computers. That's one of the major reasons why a mobile version of your site should be properly optimized: to meet your users’ expectations. Google also recommends paying close attention to the images you have on your website, as their sizes and placements can affect your webpage’s speed when loading. To speed things up, you can download PageSpeed Modules directly from Google to compress all your images on the fly.

 

Utilize canonical tags.

A best practice is to remove any duplicate pages by restructuring your site; however, there may be cases when you aren’t able to delete pages that easily. In these situations, you must use canonical tags to show Google that you’re aware of any duplicate pages and that you can distinguish which one is a duplicate and which one isn’t.

For instance, the same set of products may be mirrored in several categories. As a result, they’re creating duplicate content. That’s when a canonical link comes to the rescue. It will ensure that Google only indexes one of the existing pages.

As an alternative, you can add a “noindex, follow” tag — Google will absolutely catch that, too. As it was explained by Joshua Hardwick in the Ahrefs blog, “adding a ‘noindex, follow’ meta robots tag to your dynamic pages will ensure they get dropped out of the index as soon as Google re-crawls them.”

 

Backlinks are an important part of SEO and website optimization. There are two types of backlinks: internal and external. Google estimates how many websites refer to your site, as well as what kind of internal links are associated with each page. The first thing you can do is add internal backlinks to a page. For example, a “You may also like” or “People also buy” message offers your users other items to choose from while providing important internal links.

We also recommend adding internal links to pages that you want to make more visible in Google. For example, if you have a blog and create informational content about camping products, you can recommend specific products in your posts. Each time you mention an item, link to its product page on your site. These hyperlinks help readers easily check out the products featured in your content while also providing you with valuable internal links.

An external link is a hyperlink on one site that goes to another website. “In layman's terms, if another website links to you, this is considered an external link to your site. Similarly, if you link out to another website, this is also considered an external link.” When a website that is well-established and ranks high on SERPs links to your website, this lends credibility to your site and may cause it to rank higher.

Link building is the practice of getting other reputable sites to link to your own. This can be done a number of ways. You can write a guest post for their blog and include a link to your website within the post. If your company sponsors an event, ask for your logo or company name to link back to your website. If you create a piece of content you believe another site would find useful, send it to them and ask them to post it on their site with credit — and a link — to your site. Successful link building campaigns can drastically improve your SEO.

 

Monitor your progress and adjust as necessary.

Ecommerce SEO is not something you set and forget. It requires constant management, especially as new product pages are created and new content is published. Four data points may help you monitor your progress:

  • Traffic: As your pages rank higher, are they generating new clicks and visits?
  • Conversions: When your ecommerce site targets the right shoppers who are actively searching for products, your conversions will increase.
  • ROI: Are you naturally acquiring new customers?
  • Brand presence: The more people who see your website in the SERPs, and the better your pages rank, the greater your site traffic should be.

By keeping an eye on these metrics, as well as your Google Analytics Dashboard, you can find out how well your SEO is working. You’ll also learn what needs to be adjusted.

 

Prioritize your ecommerce SEO to improve your SERP ranking — and, possibly, your sales.

In many situations, users turn to Google. This is especially true when it comes to online shopping. That’s why it’s critical that you pay attention to the little tweaks and best practices that will take your website to the top of the SERPs.

To recap what we’ve covered:

  • Stay on top of your keyword research game by compiling a list of keywords that match your audience’s search intent and analyzing your most popular search queries.
  • Place your new keywords within your website pages, as well as in titles and meta descriptions, with care and attention — and be original with your meta descriptions.
  • Maintain your site’s architecture by keeping it user-friendly.
  • Mobile-friendly sites receive Google indexing preference compared to those sites that only have a desktop version.
  • Address issues related to duplicate content.
  • Take advantage of internal backlinks by offering your users related items.

By combining these best practices with a robust ecommerce solution like Salesforce B2C Commerce, your ecommerce store should rank higher in Google searches, boosting both traffic and conversions.

 

Alexandra Tachalova

Alexandra Tachalova has worked in digital marketing for over six years. She is a digital marketing consultant, helping digital businesses to open new markets and boost sales. Alexandra is a frequent speaker, and Founder of online digital marketing event DigitalOlympus.net.

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