In this complete Ecommerce SEO Guide, I will walk you through different SEO strategies you must use in order to get high traffic from search engines like Google and Bing. But before that, you must be firmly established on the great benefits of E-commerce SEO for your online store so that you can go ahead with learning Ecommerce SEO strategies with more enthusiasm and confidence.
Why SEO Is Best Marketing Channel For An Online Store
- SEO drives the most amount of traffic for an online store – As per Yotpo’s research on 65 million ecommerce orders representing $2 billion dollars in transactions over 120,000 ecommerce stores, SEO is an outlier compared to other marketing channels. Most ecommerce websites get up to 34% of traffic through organic search clicks followed by referral traffic at 10% and social at 6%. SEO is not just the leader in driving online store traffic but also adept at driving traffic which converts into sales.
- Lowers cost per user acquisition and improves Life Time Value – Any ecommerce business profitability is all about reducing acquisition cost and increasing the lifetime value of the user. SEO can help a business achieve both. Hiring a good SEO agency, buying tools and getting content curated comes at a cost but the overall cost of acquiring a single user is far less compared to other online/offline marketing channels. SEO drives highly targeted traffic to your online store because it captures the searches intent in context. This gives you high quality and high paying customers who have a higher probability of sticking with you in the long run. As per Custora’s ecommerce study of 72 million customers from 86 U.S. retailers across 14 industries in 2013 SEO traffic accounts for an LTV which is 54% above average LTV.
- Scalable –Once you pick an SEO friendly hosting solution and integrate SEO into product listing process it behaves like an inbound marketing machine which generates sales as an when a new product is added. However, if you are depended on a paid advertising scheme you will have to invest more money, make a new creative and launch a new Ad in your Google Adwords account to drive revenue every time you launch a new category or product on your online store.
- SEO traffic has higher conversion rates – Online retailers have been struggling to increase conversion rates beyond 2% mark for more than a decade. Low conversion rates and ever-increasing Ad bid rates have increased the cost of acquisition per user. This, in turn, has reduced the profit margins of most online retail businesses. SEO is a popular form of permission marketing, which targets people who are already looking for the product without interrupting them thus has high conversion rates.
- Long-term benefits – A page optimized on your site today has a potential to rank in search engines as long as the webpage is alive. A one-time effort has potential to drive revenue for many months and years to come without much regular effort. Once you establish as a trusted brand in the eyes of Google and your target audience you get natural link referrals and mentions. This further strengthens your search engine presence through higher ranking and exposure and works money for you as you sleep.
- High Return On Investment – The fundamental aspect of SEO is free traffic. Even if you invest in buying SEO tools for analysis or hire an SEO consultant to improve traffic the net ROI is much higher than other paid channels. SEO is 2nd highest ROI driving digital marketing channel second to email marketing. Following graph shows how companies rate their online channels as per ROI.
- SEO correlates with higher average order value – As per a report by WolfGangDigital online retailers who have the highest Average Order Value(AOV) enjoy the highest amount of organic traffic/sessions. Average order value increases cash flow into your business. You can increase AOV of your online store by following these 15 strategies.
- Brand Exposure – Great SEO gives you free brand exposure. Every time your ecommerce website ranks for a particular query whether the shopper clicks on it or not you are exposing your brand name to a potential niche shopper. Over time this can make your brand name a part of your audience’s memory and as a result increase your CTRs and rankings further. Free impressions from Google search presence adds immense value to your marketing ROI. For instance, the website below appeared 1.5 million times on Google when a user entered a query. As an online retailer if you want to generate the same amount of brand exposure using display or search ads you will have to spend around $4K – $5k.
Now that you have enough reasons to focus on SEO for your online store we will go about the various strategies you can use to optimize your online store SEO. This is a detailed guide so I split it into multiple chapters to make it more digestible.
Making Your Online Store Search Engine Friendly
In order for you to attract search engine traffic first, you have to be in their good books. In other words, you should make your online store search engine friendly. For this, you have to follow the search engine best practices as suggested by Google.
In order for search engines to rank your page, it should be discoverable. Once the page is discovered it should be crawled and be worthy of indexing.
This Chapter deals with everything needed to make your ecommerce store easy for search engine crawlers to crawl and index.
1.1 Check Your Site For Basic SEO Hygiene
Like it or not basic SEO hygiene of your site is still relevant and important in 2018. Without basic hygiene, it is very difficult to rank even the highest quality content. The foremost importance of SEO is that the site is discoverable and crawlable by search engines.
For this, we run a series of checks on fundamental SEO aspects like page crawl-ability, meta tags, H1s, URLs and URL discovery. To do these checks we will use tools like ScreamingFrog or DeepCrawl.
Following are few checks and the tutorials for the same –
- Do All Your Site Pages Have A Meta Description Tag? – Meta Description is another way users get a glimpse of what your page is about. A well-crafted meta description can improve clickthroughs. While a page which doesn’t have a meta description can suffer irrelevancy on search engine results page.
- Does Your Site Pages Have Unique Meta Description? – Every page on your online store should have a unique purpose. And each of those pages should have a unique meta description. This unique meta description brings more value to the page’s search engine listing.
- Do All Your Site Pages Have An Optimized Title Tag? – Having a title tag is one thing but having an optimized title tag could be a game changer. Titles which generate curiosity and clicks will get you traffic and improves your search engine ranking in the long run. An optimized title tag is keyword rich. It is 60 characters or below in length. It is optimized for social sharing as well as SEO.
- Does Your Site Have Unique Page Titles? – Each page on your site should have a unique purpose. So it should have a unique title. Duplicate titles might lead users to land on a page with an expectation which might not match with the actual page. This might lead to them bouncing off your site. This leads to short clicks and harms your site ranking in the long run. Check your online store for duplicate page titles. In an ecommerce store duplicate titles usually, show up between category and subcategories or 2 highly relevant subcategories.
- Do All Your Site Pages Have An H1 Tag? – The H1 tag is one of the most important on-page element. The heading gives users and search engines understanding of the content of the page. Each page of your online store must have an H1. Also, check if your site pages have a unique H1 tag?
- Does your site have SEO friendly URL structure? – Short, clean and keyword rich URLs are friendly from SEO point of view. They also are more likely to get shared and linked. By running this check you will uncover if any of your page templates or pages have unnecessary parameters or sessions IDs in its URLs.
- Did You Submit Your Sitemaps To Google And Bing? – Submitting sitemaps to Google and Bing is like telling search engines what all pages on your online store they are supposed to pay attention to. Both Google and Bing have their console using which you can submit sitemaps. Submitting sitemaps also help you understand is any of your pages have an error or any section or category of your online store is not getting indexed.
- Is Google able to render all content on a page? – Search engines should be able to read all content on your site. For that, it should be able to render appropriately. Ideally, search engines want to read content off your site just the way users read it. Since your online store has multiple templatized pages like Home, Category, Search and Product page each of them have to to be checked if is being read by Google appropriately. For this, we shall use the Fetch and Render tool in Search console.
- Are All Invalid Pages and Folders Blocked By Robots.Txt? – Robots.txt tool blocks folders and pages from search access. Every CMS comes with a set of pages which are irrelevant to the user hence doesn’t need to be crawled by search engines. Blocking all such folders will let search engines spend time crawling the other important pages on your site instead. At the same time, it is important that you are NOT accidentally blocking access to other important pages on your site as it can cause crawling and ranking issues fo your site pages.
- Have you implemented the Href Lang Tag on your Site? – If you are selling internationally you might have a version of a website for each country and it’s the corresponding language. You must notify Google about this so that Google understands the alternative version of each page and its language. This is done using HrefLang tag.
1.2 Site Architecture For Ecommerce Sites
When it comes to SEO, site architecture is often overlooked and mistakenly thought to be internal linking. All though internal linking is one aspect of site architecture it is crucial that basic principles of information architecture are followed to reap maximum SEO benefit.
Your online store architecture should abide by these 7 site architecture best practices –
Flat architecture is an important type of architecture for SEO and usability. Flat architecture is about having the most important links linked from the home or top level pages. Lesser the number of clicks needed to reach the product page flatter is the site architecture. Sometimes the most important high converting product pages are buried deep and this may result in the page not getting enough link juice to rank. One way to improve the ranking of such pages is by promoting them up higher in the hierarchy so that Google passes more link value.
So make sure all your categories and Subcategories have a link from the HomePage. Link to the highest selling products from your Home or category pages to get maximum SEO benefit out of it.
It is not enough to push internal links onto a page and call it a day. Having a logical structure to a category, sub-category and product pages help search bots understand and crawl your site better. A well-constructed silo consists of a logical grouping of products under appropriate labels.
For instance, if your online store sells electronics then a subcategory “camera accessories” best fits in the category “Camera” rather than electronic accessories. In the same way, if your store sells kitchen and home appliances then a toaster is a better fit under “kitchen appliances” category rather than in home appliances.
Relevant Internal Linking
Links are one way Google bot crawls through the web. Internal linking helps Google bot crawl through various pages of your ecommerce store effectively and frequently. Good internal linking passes PageRank and anchor text value. Relevant internal linking boosts the on-page SEO value of the linking page.
Linking pages which have the same topical relevance helps both the linked and the linking page. Even the anchor text used to link a particular page also helps search bots understand the content and the context of the linked to the page.
You can do this by linking to relevant products from each product page or linking to relevant subcategories from categories or linking to a category or product pages from your blog articles.
Link consolidation is a technique which is used to culminate closely related pages on to a single page. This helps PageRank flow to the most important pages only. Using this technique a site’s terms, policies, about and contact section can be clubbed into a single page so that the PageRank flows to other important pages.
Following image shows how link consolidation works
So in the above case instead of distributing a page’s SEO value over 6 different pages, it has been consolidated on to a single page. Thus we utilize both crawl budget and PageRank effectively.
Not all links on the page pass the same amount of link equity. Google has its own algorithm which decides which link on a particular page should pass how much value.
For example, a separate URL for customer reviews of each product might not make sense if you have very few customer reviews for each product. Each page on your online store should serve a purpose.
A common example for link consolidation occurs in pagination series. Google suggests using a Rel=”Prev” & Rel=”Next” Tag? for a paginated series.
Link To Orphaned Pages
Orphaned pages are which don’t have a link pointing to them from any page of your website. This makes it difficult for users and search engines to discover them. Even though they are discovered via Sitemaps they might not have the necessary internal link equity to rank in search engines. To see if your online store has any orphan pages follow this tutorial.
Replace Broken Links
Broken links are links pointing to 404 pages. It may happen that you discontinued a product and the page started to show a 404 error. When such a page is linked to from other product or category pages it results in broken links. Instead of a broken link if the link points to a page which has a ranking potential the internal PageRank is retained. Broken links are also bad for usability and it affects your ecommerce site’s SEO negatively.
To check if your online store has broken links follow this tutorial.
Breadcrumbs are trails of links which helps the user navigate back and forth through pages. By using rich snippets information around breadcrumbs one can tell search engine bots about the informational structuring of the site.
In the example below the breadcrumbs above the product, image signifies “Tollyjoy Anti Skid Socks – Navy” a product under the subcategory of “Baby Accessories” which is under the category called “Baby”.
1.3 Solving Duplicate, Thin and Expired Content
Duplicate content as per search engine crawlers is when 2 or more pages have the same or nearly similar content. This can occur within your site or even external to your site.
The first step in solving the problem is defining it. Once we find the possible reasons for duplicate content we can solve it by using redirects, canonical tag or by no indexing a page.
One way to find potential duplicate content on your online store quickly is by visiting the Google Search Console HTML Improvements Section. Google reports duplicate titles on your site here. In this report, you will find few pages which are duplicate of each other.
Common Reasons For Duplicate Content on Ecommerce Site & Their Solutions
1. Faceted Navigation – Faceted navigation is an alternative way for users to browse through the search/category pages. Faceted navigation makes use of filters using which a user can narrow products quickly. All though faceted navigation offers great utility to users it causes its own issues when it comes to SEO.
Solution: The fix to this is much complex than the scope of this post. Check out this guide Faceted Navigation For SEO Best Practices
2. Products Sorting – Few online stores have an option to sort products based on based on price, discount, popularity or date. In such cases new URLs produced but the products listed are the same. This leads to a duplicate content issue as more than 2 URLs show up the same set of products.
Solutions: Use a canonical tag for all URLs appearing through product sorting. In this case Redlily uses a canonical tag on http://www.redlily.com/gifts/for-girls?dir=asc&order=popular page pointing to http://www.redlily.com/gifts/for-girls.
3. Manufacturer Descriptions – Every manufacturer gives their own description of the brand and the product. Using the same product descriptions in your online store will mark your product pages as a duplicate by Google.
Solution: Write your own unique product descriptions. It is the uniqueness of the content which matters more than the number of words.
4. User Navigation based URLs
Magento often generates URLs based on user navigation. For instance, for a site like Redlily the user who navigates through boys > Accessories,> bags on O3 Kids Racecar Backpack With Snack Cooler will be shown the URL www.redlily.com/boys/accessories/bags/o3-kids-racecar-backpack-with-snack-cooler. Whereas a user directly landing on the O3 Kids Racecar Backpack With Snack Cooler page will end up on the URL http://www.redlily.com/o3-kids-racecar-backpack- with-snack-cooler. These kinds of issues are quite common with Magento and Open Cart.
Solution: Firstly choose an SEO friendly URL version which you want Google to index and rank. Apply a rel=canonical tag in the <head> section of the duplicate page with the reference pointing to the original page.
In this case, Redlily chose http://www.redlily.com/o3-kids-racecar-backpack-with- snack-cooler as its original page and http://www.redlily.com/boys/accessories/bags/o3- kids-racecar-backpack-with-snack-cooler as its duplicate page. Hence uses a canonical tag which points to the original page.
5. Arrest all Session Ids & Referral Tags– In order to track return customers to your online store, you may have to use user sessions. Cookies are one way of doing this. But most search engines don’t store cookies. The alternative to this method is session ids. Session ids are dynamic variables created to store information about a user session or change settings for a user session.
These session ids get added to the URL as the user navigates through different URLs. So a simple URL like www.yourname.com/men-shirts.html will have multiple versions like www.yourname.com/men-shirts.html?session_id=677676, www.yourname.com/men- shirts.html?session_is=9898989 and so on.
Solution: The best possible solution for this is to stop session ids from appearing in the first place. If this is not possible then you should use the webmaster parameters section as shown below.
Resources To Solve Ecommerce Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is a much deeper level subject with high impact on traffic. I have covered only the main aspects of it above. The following resources will point you to a deeper understanding of the subject and how you solve it for your online store.
- Types of duplicate content e-commerce websites need to fix
- Thin and Duplicate Content: Ecommerce SEO
- Are all mirror pages blocked by Search Engines?
- Have You Implemented Noindex Tag On Content Which Doesn’T Need To Be Indexed?
- Have You Used a Self Referential Canonical Tag?
- Did you use canonical tag wherever necessary?
- Do multiple URL patterns return unique content?
- Are your dealing with your expired content correctly?
Build An Online Store Which Users Love
The importance of building an online store which gives users a memorable browsing and shopping experience should not be sidelined. Google reads user signals and gauges the quality of your website. One signal marketers should pay attention to it Short CLicks.
Short Clicks or Pogo Sticking occurs when a user visits your online store after searching for something on Google and bounces back to Google. This is a clear indication to Google that the user didn’t find the answer to the query he was looking for. This will hurt your SEO rankings.
There are four main reasons users bounce off your online store
- Your online store is slow to load
- Its user experience and SEO traffic are not optimized for mobile.
- It is difficult to browse and shop.
- The user doesn’t find your online store trustworthy.
In this chapter, we look into how to optimize each of these aspects so that we see a rise in our SEO traffic and conversions.
2.1 Make Your Online Store Fast
Speed has been the ranking factor for SEO since 2009. Speed will become a ranking factor for mobile sites soon. As per Radware, a one-second delay in page time equals a 7% loss in conversions. This can mean a huge loss of revenue to your ecommerce business. Be it SEO or conversions how fast the pages on your online store load has a direct impact on your business bottom line. Following are few steps you can take to make your online store fast.
Step 1: Head over to Page Speed Insights and enter your online store into the box. This is a Google testing tool which helps you focus on design and tech aspects of your online store you need to focus to improve your site speed. It assigns a score to the page you have entered both on Desktop and Mobile. Lesser the score higher the potential for improvement. Make a list of all the items under “Show how to fix” under desktop and mobile tabs. These are the items you and our tech team must work on in order to improve your online store speed.
Also, don’t just test your homepage. Test your product, category and subcategory pages for speed.
Step 2: Since mobile site speed going to be a ranking factor soon you must check how your mobile site speed compares against your competition. For this visit TestMySite and enter your mobile site URL. This tool measures your page speed in seconds and compares it against your industry. Ideally, your site should load under 3 seconds. Having a benchmark will help you get buy-ins from your tech implementation team to fix the mobile page speed.
Step 3: Once you have made a list of items approach a developer who can help you optimize your page speed scores to 85 and above. If you are on a popular CMS you need not reinvent the wheel. There are plugins and guides written by experts who lay out all possible steps to be taken to optimize your online store for a particular CMS.
WooCommerce – Guide to speedup WooCommerce by Cloudways
Shopify Plugin – Page Speed Guru
Ecommerce Site Speed Optimization Resources
Improving site speed is a deep topic in itself I am leaving few high-quality online store speed optimization resources for you and your team to benefit from below.
- Improving Ecommerce Site Speed
- How loading time affects your bottom line
- 15 Ways to Improve Ecommerce Site Performance for Faster Page Speed and Better Sales
- Ecommerce Site Speed Optimization
2.2 Pay Attention To Mobile Optimization
A quick test will tell whether your online store is mobile friendly or not. But building an online store which has a remarkable shopping experience is what users and search engines look for. Mobile Commerce accounts for more than 31% of sales. This is something which can’t be ignored by any ecommerce business owner.
Google has started to consider the mobile version of your website as the starting point for what Google includes in their index and how they determine rankings. This signifies it is time to pay much more attention to your mobile site content and experience than your desktop site.
You can make your online store mobile site SEO friendly using one of the following approaches.
- Responsive – Where a single URL is served to both mobile and desktop users. The content and the elements are same irrespective of the user agent.
- Dynamic serving – Dynamic serving mobile sites also have a single URL but certain content and design aspects of its mobile version are served differently for better user experience. In dynamic serving, certain elements of your webs page are served from the server side in order to make it appear user-friendly on mobile. Here the content on mobile is different from the web and you need to inform caching systems the same. For this, you should use the Vary HTTP header.
- Mobile Separate URLs – Mobile Separate URLs is a complete website altogether. Here all content and design elements are created specifically to give the mobile user a great experience. These websites usually have an m.domainname.com subdomain to host their mobile site. There are two things you need to implement in order to make such mobile sites SEO friendly. One is that you implement mobile markup to inform Google about mobile alternative URLs. Secondly, you have implemented the vary HTTP header to inform caching systems the correct version of the URL.
But optimizing using right markups is only half the battle. You need to optimize the mobile experience in order to fight the much-dreaded pogo sticking. Search Console helps you with this by displaying all mobile usability issues per page on your online store. You can find this report under Search Traffic > Mobile Usability.
Following are few resources you can use to improve your mobile site’s shopping experience.
- 13 Top Mobile Online Store UX Secrets To Boost Sales
- Google Mobile SEO Guide
- Distilled Mobile SEO Guide
- Mobile SEO Tool By Varvy
- MCommerce Usability Articles by Baymard
2.3 Make Your Online Store Easy To Browse and Shop
It Should Be Useful: The content should educate and solve a problem. In this case, it should give users the right information and all the necessary information they are looking for. Your product pages should give in-depth information about the product while your category pages should have highly relevant products listed. Users should be served the most important content first. For an online store, it is product image, price, variants, and product description followed by shipping and delivery.
Site Should be usable: Users should be able to move from one page to another without any hassles. This navigation and ease of use help users go back forth between pages. This is a critical aspect of any shopping experience. Search, navigation, categories, and filters should be easy to use and understand. Refrain from full-page interstitials as Google might penalize you.
Create Desire and Awe: You need to create a desire for your products using high-quality graphics, videos, and sleek design. Great product images improve ecommerce conversion rates because it keeps the users hooked to shop on your site further.
2.4 Online Store Should Instill Confidence In The Buyer
Since you are in the ecommerce space you come under the YMYL category as per Google quality ratings. Here is how Google defines YMYL
YMYL stands for “Your Money or Your Life” pages and is comprised of pages that are important enough that, were they low-quality, they could have a potential negative impact on a person’s life, income, or happiness. As a general rule, the pages that Google requires to be written by experts are known as YMYL pages.
So since consumers trust you with their money you must meet a higher standard of quality guidelines as per Google as compared to other businesses.
To instill trust in the eyes of the user and search engine both your site needs to –
- Have a sleek professional design or a theme. See how to pick the right theme for your ecommerce store.
- Have a high level of accuracy of information – Use right grammar, spelling, usage, product information, and naming.
- Have high-end SSL certificates and encryption. Communicate same to the user before and during the checkout.
- Show that you are a real business by having a legit About, Policies and Contact page.
- Have a physical business address and hours mentioned on your site.
Find Profitable Keywords For Your Online Store
In order to optimize a web page for search engine traffic, we need to know the keyword we want to optimize it for. Keyword research although an integral part of SEO for many years the process and the way we target those keywords have changed.
In the method below I am going to display an ecommerce keyword research done at the level of industry/niche and drill down into how each of those keywords found will be used to optimize each page on an ecommerce site. This will be broken down into 4 steps.
Step 1: Get Your Initial Set Of Keywords
In order to initiate your keyword research process, you should have your initial set of keywords. These keywords will help you chart and dig deeper into long tail keywords. Also, keep an excel sheet with the list of all keyword ideas you get as you read this post as it will be helpful in next steps of our keyword research process. You can easily create your first list of keywords by using –
Keyword Brainstorming – Brainstorming for keywords is a useful and quick way of having the first set of keywords in hand. The best method of brainstorming for keywords is to talk to people who have been in the business for a long enough time (usually top management). Develop an understanding of the industry you are working on. With good industry, awareness should be able to churn out few good keywords on top of your mind.
Sniff Your Competitor Keywords – Your competition might have been in business longer than you and might have figured out few high traffic keywords. The good news is that you can easily steal these keywords using many free tools online. For purpose of this research, I am using Ahrefs Site Explorer Tool.
Once you enter the competitor URL you will see a list of all metrics Ahrefs is able to pull about the domain. Click on “Organic Keywords” in the sidebar. This report shows all the keywords the particular domain is ranking for in search engines within top 100. These keywords are most likely driving high volumes of traffic to your competitor’s site.
Adwords Dynamic Campaigns – If you are running dynamic search ads you should be able to see a list of keywords Google has shown your site ad for. These keywords show up in your search terms report in Adwords along with the landing pages for each of those Ads.
Dig Competitor Categories and Sub-Categories – Pick a top online retailer in your niche who has all possible product types, categories, and sub-categories in your niche. If you are an apparel retailer then a good choice could be Kohls or Macy’s. Once you pick an online store list all the product types per category. Example: Casual shoes, sandals, and sports shoes and the like if you are selling shoes. Make sure you list all the product types(categories) and NOT care for niches which are not on your site. This highlights opportunities you have forgotten.
The example below shows how any ecommerce business can do this using Amazon.com. I am picking the niche “toys” for the purpose of this example.
First, visit The Amazon Full Store Directory
Drill down to the most relevant subcategory which in our case is Toys and Games.
Check the top sub navigation and side navigation. Each of these can be broad level subcategories in your online store. These can be great keywords to target on your category pages. Don’t stop here though. Dig deeper by clicking on each of these links to go micro niche and add more keywords to your bucket.
Once you click on any of the above subcategories you will get a page with an option to drill down further. These are the micro niche categories for your online store. Add these keywords to your bucket.
Step 2: Expand your keyword list
If you followed through the process above you would have a healthy list of keywords sitting in your excel sheet already. But this is not everything. You will want to dig deeper into what other keywords relevant to the initial set of keywords are people looking up on Google. For this, we will rely on Google AutoComplete suggestions and Amazon AutoComplete Suggestions. Since Google or Amazon doesn’t give this list we will have use free tools like Keyword Finder or KeywordTool.io. For this example, I will use keywordtool.io.
Google Suggest – Visit Keywordtool.io and enter a keyword you found in the previous step into the search box. You will get a list of all keywords scraped from Google autocomplete.
Pick the keywords which are most relevant to your business and click copy at the bottom right of the page. Copy these keywords into a new excel sheet with its root keyword (Superman Tshirts).
Amazon Suggest – Repeat the same process for Amazon Suggest. You will see an Amazon Suggest option in the search box navigation. Pick relevant keywords and add it to the same keyword list.
Repeat the same process for each keyword found in step 1. This is tedious but the returns are worth it. You can also automate this process using keywordtool API. Make sure you remove duplicate keywords from the list to make the list exact and future calculations easy.
With this our keywords list is ready for the final step wherein we judge which of these keywords should we rank for and for which pages.
Step 3: Map Keywords To Pages
Now that we have a set of keywords with us it is time to find which of these keywords have a high number of search volumes and how easy or difficult it is to rank for the keyword. By end of this step, we will have a list of keywords and their respective metrics so that we can make educated choices.
For this purpose, we will consider 3 factors.
- Search Volumes – Search volumes give us a good idea about how many people actually search for a keyword. Typically you want the keyword to be highly searched. High search volumes indicate demand for the product or niche and a good indicator of how much potential traffic you can attract if you rank for that keyword. To find accurate search volumes use Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, not lame ranges given by Keyword Planner. Know that using search volume alone to pick keywords to target could be disastrous. This is where the other 2 factors keyword difficulty and searcher intent come in to play.
- Keyword Difficulty – Keyword difficulty is the amount of effort needed to rank high in Google. This metric is based on the top results ranking for the particular keyword and how well they have optimized for the keyword and the SEO dominance of those ranking websites. Higher the keyword difficulty more difficult would it be for you to rank. As a rule, always pick keywords with keyword difficulty lesser than 70. Ahrefs Keyword Explorer gives keyword difficulty of keywords. For this, you have to upload the list of keywords you have collected in your previous steps. You will get useful metrics like search volume, keyword difficulty, clicks and Adwords data.
- Searcher Intent – It is not important to optimize a page for the exact keyword in order to rank. What is more important in 2018 and beyond is you write on a topic which is highly relevant to the searcher’s intent. In other words, your page should be focused on solving the problem user is looking to solve as he lands on the page. We can break this down into 2 aspects
Commercial Vs Non-Commercial Intent – Commercial intent queries are when users search for a query in order to buy a product while non-commercial intent represents queries with no intent for a purchase. Since we are in ecommerce to sell products we want our money pages(product and category) to target commercial intent queries while our blog pages attract an audience who are still looking around. Examples fo commercial intent queries – Tshirt clearance, superman t-shirts for 3-year-olds, toddler t-shirt offers, Superman comics bundle. Examples of non-commercial intent queries are t-shirt ideas, cool t-shirts, Superman stories, Is Superman dead?
Research Vs Transactional Intent – The other way of looking at a search intent is by identifying where in the buying cycle they currently are. If the user is still looking for sites which sell t-shirts with no intent of buying then she might search for t-shirts, best t-shirts, t-shirts for men, superhero t-shirts and the like. Transactional queries are when a user searches for specific queries with an intent to transact. These could be queries like t-shirts for men with free shipping, superman t-shirts for teens, Superman comics hard copy
Now that we understand the searcher intent it is time to put the keywords we have found into 4 buckets.
Commercial and Transactional Intent Keywords – Product Pages
Commercial and Research Intent Keywords – Category Pages
Non-Commercial and Transactional Intent Keywords – Newsletter
Non-Commercial and Research Intent Keywords – Blog Articles
Writing And Optimizing High Traffic Content
Great! We have our keywords mapped out to their respective pages. Time is now to write content which brings in traffic and sales. Not just writing content we have to optimize product and category pages in a way that we attract search engine traffic. For that, you have optimized your product and category pages not just for search engines but also to attract social traffic and links.
4.1 Keyword Targeting For Product & Category Pages
The SEO fundamentals for optimizing any page is same. But the difference is how and what kind of keywords we use on each of those pages.
H1 tag is an HTML code which signifies the heading of the web page in concern. The <H1> usually represents the topic name of the web page.
Product Page – The H1 tag on the product page should be wrapped around your entire product name.
Category Page – The H1 of the category page should we wrapped around the name of the category as displayed on the page.
Use your primary keyword in the URL. Your URL should have the most important keyword you want to rank for in the URL. The URL name you pick should be short but descriptive enough to communicate the topic of the page.
Product Page – The product page URL should be of the of the format – www.example.com/product-primary-keyword. Refrain from using stop words like ‘the’, ‘of’, ‘on’, ‘in’ in the URL slug.
Category Page – The category page URL should be of the of the format – www.example.com/category-primary-keyword. The subcategory should be of the format – www.example.com/category-primary-keyword/sub-category-primary-keyword.
The title is one of the important ranking factors in Google algorithm and is also the text which users see when your site is listed on Google search results page. The title of your product or category page should contain the most relevant primary keyword. A proper SEO optimized title should target the primary keyword, attract clicks with great copywriting and should be below 70 characters in width.
Product Page Title – Few page titles you can try are – “Buy” <Product Primary Keyword> | <Brand Name>, X% Off <Product Primary Keyword> | <Brand Name>, <Product Primary Keyword> Free Shipping | <Brand Name>. Example: Buy Claudio Console Shelf | Urban Ladder AND 30% Off Claudio Console Shelf | Urban Ladder
Category Page – Up to X% Off On <Primary Category Keyword> | <Brand Name>, Buy <Primary Category Keyword> Under $XXX | <Brand Name>, <Primary Category Keyword> Free Shipping Over $XXX | <Brand Name> Example: Up to 30% Off Console Shelves | Urban Ladder AND Buy Console Shelves Under $500 | Urban Ladder
Meta descriptions are snippets of text that gets displayed on a search engine results page. The meta description should be highly relevant to the document and have relevant keywords and marketing messages to draw the user’s attention. Your Meta Description should be below 300 characters.
Product Page Meta Description – Use words which differentiate the product and your offering from your competition. It should contain the product primary keyword and its variations. It could be the range of colors, styles or the latest model. Use a combination of product benefits and promotional copy in the meta description. Mention if you are currently running any offers on these products. Mentioning offers on the product like “Save X%, “Free Shipping”, “Free Returns” can improve the SERP click-throughs drastically.
Category Page Meta Description – Your category page meta description should talk about the wide range and variety your online store has to offer. It should contain the category primary keyword and its variations. People like to have a wide range of collection to choose from. This should be coupled with promotional phrases like “best prices online”, “wide range”, <Primary Category Keyword> under $XX and the like.
High-Quality Images With Descriptive File Name And Alt Text
Crisp and clean images go a long way in selling the product to your users. High-quality images are most likely to attract links and social shares than a low-resolution image. Use alt text with the product name. This will raise the chances of your product image appearing in Google search. Use descriptive product names as the file name. For example, use Hello-kitty-toaster.png rather than 123.png.
The product description is a content section where you can explain the product in detail. Higher the detailing of the product higher is its chances of ranking well in search engines for long tail keywords.
Don’t give your content writer a list of keywords and ask them to craft a product description. Instead, allow the writer to use natural language. The idea here is to write for the user, not search engines. And when you give all the necessary information about the product in a manner which entices people to buy your products one of the natural consequence is search engine ranking.
Resources to write great product descriptions
- Guide to writing product descriptions which convert
- 9 simple ways to write product descriptions which convert
- How to write product descriptions to make customers love your brand
4.2 Leverage Rich Snippets To Improve Click-Throughs
Your search listing can show data like product price, availability and price when you implement schema markup. Using these markup you can give Google better idea about the content on your site and display the same on the search engine results page.
For implementing structured data you need to specify product data, offer data and offer aggregate data.
- Product data contains information about the product like name, image, brand, identifier and other important aspects that defines the product. Product Schema
- Offer data is about finer details of the product like price, currency, shipping and other minute aspects that help a user arrive at a decision. Offer Schema
- Offer aggregate, on the other hand, is used in cases where multiple sellers are selling a single product. If your site is a marketplace then use offer aggregate in your microdata format. Aggregate Offer SchemaOf all the schema notations available for ecommerce below are the essential ones.
- Product Name – In order to give a better idea to search engines that the page being crawled is an ecommerce product page using the “name” property is best.
- Product Description – In order for Google to understand more about the product wrapping the product description property around the content will help Google pick more keywords about the product.
- Product Brand – Quite often people search for products based on their favorite brand. If they are searching for a product and your listing displays their favorite brand he or she is more likely to click on your online store listing.
- User Ratings – Ratings give your online store visitors a good overall on the product purchase experience. The user rating stars in the rich snippet can grab a prospect’s attention instantly.
- Price – Price is a property that comes with offer data. Google lists the price of the product in its search listing. Search engine users are more likely to click on your online store if they find your product price to be affordable.
- Shipping – Often few products have a free shipping offer. This message can be proudly displayed on your search listing using right schema.
- Availability – People are more likely to visit your online store if they see your product in stock. Using data structures and rich snippets you can inform the user about product availability even before the user visits your store.
- Reviews – Reviews are a good way to inform users about what other users have to say about the product. Many online shoppers prefer reading online reviews before purchasing a product. Users will be more willing to visit your online store if they see you will customer reviews for each of your product.
There are two ways you can implement rich snippet in your online store.
Method 1: Use Data Highlighter – Using search console data highlighter you can tell Google what a particular element of your online store represents. Once you define the elements for a single product page the same can be replicated across all similar pages. Tutorial
Method 2: Install Plugins – If you are using popular ecommerce platforms then there are many ready-made solutions.
WooCommerce – WooCommerce has rich snippets by default but if you want to display richer information then use this plugin.
Shopify – Plugin
4.3 Attract Long Tail Traffic By Inviting Customer Reviews
People are producing content all the time and sharing it on the web. By giving your customers a platform to talk about your product you are not only building community but also adding much-needed content to your pages. As per Yotpo, the average conversion rate of visitors who saw UGC is 161% higher than those who didn’t. The most common user generated a form of content that we see in an ecommerce site is customer reviews. Having user-generated content has 3 primary SEO benefits –
- Increases CTR via rich snippets – Once you have customer reviews on your site we can display the “ratings and number of reviews of a product” in the snippet section of the search results page. People are more inclined to visit sites that have customer reviews and ratings hence there is high chance that your listing gets more attention and click through on the search results page.
- Helps target long tail SEO – The way user talks or searches online is way different from what we usually assume. By giving power to the user many long tail keywords are added which helps your product page rank for other keywords which your keyword research process couldn’t discover. Keyword searches like “Portable water heaters vs water geysers” cannot be targeted on a normal product page but by giving the power to add content to the user you can have many keywords on the page which people actually search for. Customer reviews keep the page updated and also adds to the freshness of the page leading to higher rankings.
- Increases conversion rates – According to Internet Retailer, you can increase your online store’s conversion rate by 14-76% by adding product reviews to your online store. This could mean thousands of dollars in extra revenue per month. Verified customer reviews act as a social proof and any bad points about the product being openly listed on the site will show your transparency to your customers.
Resources To Increase Product Customer Reviews On Your Online Store
Building High-Quality Links
Ecommerce websites, unlike blog/news/forums, have difficulty acquiring links naturally as product pages have no creative content to attract attention. To attract links to an ecommerce site link building needs a lot more creative approach.
Image and Video Link Building – Having high-quality images and videos can add to your link profile. You can search where all on the web your image has been shared using Google image search. Great product videos will get embeds and exposure on video sites like YouTube and FaceBook. You can reach out to bloggers who share your video and image content and ask them to link to the original source. This way you will acquire backlinks. More on image link Building
Blogger Contests – Blogs are hubs for valuable backlinks. Motivating bloggers with incentives is a good way of getting valuable links. Instead of directly approaching them for links it is best to run a contest wherein they talk about your industry, your products, and your brand. You can giveaway shopping coupons to top bloggers. This helps you acquire a large number of highly relevant links which are well within Google guidelines. But never use blogger contests for link exchanges or getting low-quality links as they are not as per Google Guidelines.
This luxury shopping site asks bloggers to make a wishlist of all their favorite products from their site and write and publish a blog post on their blog. This way they are getting a lot of deep links to their product pages.
Infographics Marketing – Infographics is a great way to drive traffic and high-quality backlinks to your online store. A good infographic should be relevant to your target audience, easily digestible and aesthetically pleasing.
Choose a topic which is relevant to your brand and something which your audience would like reading. If you are selling toasters a good and relevant infographic might be “Toaster Buying Guide”. If you are selling Whey Protein then an infographic on “The whey protein Powder Story” is a good topic.
Following is an infographic made by DealShare to promote Whey Protein. This helped them acquire 3 links as per OpenSiteExplorer.
To make your infographic a success you must distribute it proactively in social media. Reach out to influential bloggers in your niche and share your newly made infographic.
Product Feeds – There are many sites like shopping.com, newegg.com, Google Shopping where you can submit your product feeds. These sites list products from various sites and compare products specifications and price of similar products so that a user can make an educated choice.
Once you submit your products feed the site lists your products in the appropriate category, which will get your site relevant backlinks to product pages. These backlinks might be nofollowed and might carry very low SEO weight. But the traffic generated by these links will have high shopping intent leading to improved sales.
Competitor Link Citations & Brand Mentions – There might be few web pages where 2 or 3 of your competitors have been mentioned. It might be a resource page or a list post. Chances are that the web page talks about your industry or is suggesting few good websites in your niche. Getting a link from such pages is easy as your competitor already has a link from it. You can reach out to the author of the post and explain about your business and how you are a good alternative or even better than the websites he mentioned in the post.
Reach out To The Manufacturer – Often manufacturers list various online stores where their products are sold. In case they didn’t mention your online store a simple email reminding them their partnership could earn you a free link. These links are often relevant to your niche and often such websites have high domain authority too.
On the Melissa and Doug retailers page, it lists all the major retailers who sell their products online. The advantage of these links is that it is both free and very relevant to your product niche.
Have An Informative Blog – If you want to have a long-term asset which builds links then the content is the way. Having a good blog and being consistent with quality and publishing frequency will help you acquire high-quality editorial links. Having a blog also builds relationships with bloggers in your space and will position you to acquire links consistently for the long haul.
SleepMakes sells mattresses and gives sound sleep advice to its audience via its blog.
Measure The Right Ecommerce SEO Metrics
To measure the progress of your SEO campaigns it is necessary to define metrics that have a business impact. Although free tools like Google analytics give a data puke of metrics not the entire have a direct business impact nor do they help us during the time of decision-making.
Total Number Of Organic Users
You want to know how many users your SEO efforts have attracted to your online store. For this, the most straightforward metric is Organic Users. This can be found under Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels report.
Bounce Rate Of Organic Traffic
It is also important to understand the quality of traffic you are attracting. High bounce rate suggests that people are clicking on your listing but are bouncing back since they don’t find your site appealing or the information is irrelevant. If the bounce rate of users through organic is higher than other channels then you must finetune your keyword targetting. This metric is found in the Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels report.
Total Ecommerce Revenue Contributed By Organic Traffic
The primary goal of your ecommerce business is to make money. Any marketing effort should directly tie into this objective in order to prove it’s value. You must measure how much money in sales did SEO as a traffic source generates for your business. To know this you should first have enabled ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics Settings. This will let you track ecommerce revenue and other important ecommerce related metrics.
Once enabled you will be able to see the revenue reported in the Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels report. Select Ecommerce in the column drop down
SEO 2018 And Beyond
Before I close this article I want to stress on few critical SEO aspects you must always pay attention to as an entrepreneur or an Ecommerce Marketer. These are areas which not only improves your site SEO but also your business.
Be Obsessed With Mobile – As per BI Intelligence report by 2020, mobile commerce will make up 45 percent of total e-commerce. Do everything you can to give your users a remarkable mobile shopping experience.
Keep Building Links – Ecommerce space is competitive and Google trusts sites which have backlinks from authority sites. The value of links won’t die anytime soon. Keep building high-quality links. Make it a weekly and monthly campaign, not a one-time activity.
Own Their Email – With SEO traffic so difficult to acquire and CPC numbers going up the only audience you own now are the ones who have trusted you with their email. Once you have the email you can sell better to your audience via email automation and personalization.
SEO Hygiene And Basics Will Still Matter – SEO basics like Meta tags, duplicate content, keyword targeting, sitemaps will still matter. You have to help search engines crawl and understand your site. For this, you have to optimize your site as per search engine best practices.