Search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential part of any ecommerce marketing strategy. It’s what raises a brand’s visibility in the eyes of search engines amidst all the noise, that is, the Internet. This, in turn, drives organic traffic and conversions.
Cementing your position atop search engine results pages (SERPs) is crucial for driving organic traffic to your ecommerce site. After all, the large majority of people don’t go beyond the first page.
That said, optimizing your ecommerce site for search engines can be a daunting process. Not only does it require a lot of time and effort, it can also be difficult to know where to start.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the basics, as well as some best practices, so you can get started implementing a strategy for your site.
What is ecommerce SEO?
Ecommerce SEO is the process of optimizing your site for the purpose of increasing visibility on SERPS. When it comes to ecommerce, you’d want to make sure that potential customers can find your brand when they input search terms related to the products you offer.
Improving your search engine ranking goes a long way toward driving organic traffic to your ecommerce site, thereby introducing more people to the first stage of your conversion funnel.
That said, ecommerce SEO is a process that requires a long-term strategy and consistent, sustained effort. There are various strategies you can adopt to optimize your site, though these may vary depending on the nature of your site and your brand’s niche.
Why is SEO important for ecommerce?
The ecommerce landscape is a crowded and noisy one. It is therefore important that your brand is able to cut through the noise and get ahead of the competition. After all, people can’t buy your products if they can’t find your site.
By optimizing your site, you’re signalling to search engines that you products are not only highly relevant, but also valuable to your target audience. Implementing SEO best practices can also help to improve your site’s user experience, which can boost conversion rates too.
Furthermore, compared to other forms of web traffic (like paid search), employing SEO to grow organic traffic will cost you much less—or even nothing at all.
How is SEO for ecommerce different?
Although they share the same goal, there a few differences. For starters, you’d need to focus on optimizing ecommerce-specific pages, in particular, product category pages and product pages. This includes everything from product descriptions to the way these pages are categorized.
Therefore, there are a lot more pages you’d need to optimize. It’d also require more complex canonicalizations and product categorization in order to make it easier for search engines to understand your site’s hierarchy.
Since the search intent is typically transactional and commercial, you’d also need to ensure that your content is closely aligned to this. For example, your blog content can cover common commercial search queries, such as “best food processors” or “most affordable wireless earbuds”.
What are some ecommerce SEO best practices?
Ecommerce SEO can be complex. As you incorporate these best practices into your SEO strategy, it helps to create a workflow to make sure you don’t leave anything out.
Keyword research is the cornerstone of any ecommerce SEO strategy—so much so that we’ve written an entire blog post on it.
The effectiveness of your SEO is very much dependent on your ability to target the right keywords. The goal is to find keywords that your target audience use when looking for your products, while taking into account the competition for those keywords.
You should aim to target keywords that have a high search volume and low competition (also known as long-tail keywords). These keywords that have potential for traffic growth and will be relatively easy to rank for.
When it comes to ecommerce keyword research, it’s also important to consider the search intent behind each keyword. As we’ve mentioned earlier, you’d want to focus on search terms that have a commercial or transactional intent.
There are many tools out there (including free ones) that can help. If you’re just getting started, you can check out our article on some of the popular SEO research tools.
Now that you’ve got your keywords down pat, the next step would be to make sure you incorporate them into your site. In this section, we pay extra attention to how you can optimize your category and product pages.
Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
The title tag and meta description are what search engines and potential customers use to evaluate how relevant and valuable the page is. Thus, they play a vital role in determining your page’s click-through rate (CTR).
Optimized title tags and meta descriptions should contain your primary keyword. You’d also want to ensure that they stay within the 55-60 and 150 characters respectively, so that they won’t be truncated on SERPs. Additionally, your meta description should highlight how the product can benefit potential customers.
People are often deterred from clicking on a page because of messy slugs that are hard to read.
To avoid this, you need to have a proper categorization and hierarchy of all your products. The slug should reflect both the product’s category (or sub-category), as well as your primary keywords.
Images are perhaps one of the easiest to things to optimize. Since search engines like Google take into account page speed as a ranking factor, minimizing the size of your images will help to significantly improve your page load time. You can reduce the file size by compressing your images using a tool like TinyPNG.
You should also consider giving your image files descriptive file names.
What this means is that rather than naming your image something like "image0012.jpg", use a file name that accurately describes what the image is. This makes it easier for Google to crawl your site and index your images correctly. A good practice would be to include both the product title and the relevant keywords.
Considering how they can be tedious to write, product descriptions are often an overlooked opportunity for SEO. After all, they play a crucial role in compelling potential customers to add your product to their cart.
Your description shouldn’t just convey the features of the product, it should also highlight its benefits to your target audience. The more compelling your product descriptions, the longer people will remain on your page—a signal to search engines that the product is indeed valuable to them.
To help search engines better understand your product, your description should be keyword-rich, including both the primary keyword as well as any related terms.
Since search engines typically penalize duplicate content, you’d also want to ensure that each product page features unique content. This means that, no matter how similar, each product should feature a different description.
The body copy of home pages and category pages are also an opportunity for SEO.
Beyond title tags and meta descriptions, search engines also look at the body copy of each page to determine its ranking. Thus, these are good places to insert your keywords as well. Besides making sure that they are used throughout, try to feature your keywords early on in the copy.
Never keyword stuff though. Instead, you should always make sure that your copy is both compelling and fluent. Unnatural-sounding copy can put people off and have a negative impact on the user experience.
Schema markup helps search engines understand how to interpret and display your pages. You can read more about it in this blog post by ahrefs.
The schema properties most relevant to ecommerce sites are:
- Review and rating schema allows Google to include a summary of reviews or ratings your product has received.
- Product schema allows Google to provide detailed information about the product, including its price, availability and condition.
- Breadcrumb schema helps Google signal to users the page’s position in your site’s hierarchy, so that they can navigate it more effectively
- FAQ schema allows Google to display relevant FAQs (along with their answers) regarding your brand or product
Due to their nature, there are a few SEO issues that ecommerce sites commonly face, especially if the site features a large number of products:
- Duplicate content: This has significant impact on the “crawlability” of your ecommerce site. Unless there’s a good reason for having two similar pages, you can avoid this by deleting and redirecting the duplicates with a canonical link.
- Slow page speed: There are a number reasons this might occur, though it can often be attributed to bloated code or large image files.
- Broken links: With new products being introduced and olds ones phased out, missing or broken links, which might confuse crawlers, may surface as it gets hard to keep track of your product pages.
- Deep Pages: The rule of thumb is that no page should be more than 3 clicks away from your homepage, as a flatter site structure makes it easier for both web crawlers and potential customers to navigate.
Creating high-quality content that is valuable to your target audience, such as blog posts, infographics or videos, is another strategy you can adopt to boost traffic to your site. It remains an effective way to incorporate other keywords that might be relevant to your brand.
For example, blog posts are an effective way to address common search queries relating to your primary keyword. While you might include a primary keyword like “organic facial cleanser” in your product title or description, you can easily target related questions like “how to pick the right organic facial cleanser” in an article.
Besides offering people greater insight into your brand and products, adding other types of content to your ecommerce site gives you the opportunity to build brand authority. Engaging, relevant and thoughtful content goes a long way in positioning your brand as an expert in your niche.
Unlike the typical SEO you may have been exposed to, ecommerce SEO is more specialized, and therefore demands a more specific strategy. That said, as daunting as it may seem, optimizing your ecommerce site for search engines is definitely a worthwhile endeavor. With these best practices incorporated into your workflow, you’re sure to have an edge over your competition.
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