A Small Business Guide to Ecommerce SEO

SEO tips for ecommerce websites

If you are looking to make sales online, tackling the specialist subject of ecommerce SEO is vital to your long-term success.

With SEO for ecommerce websites requiring such specific expertise, we asked Joe Cox of Superb Digital to share his knowledge on how to grow sales through ecommerce SEO.

Despite an uncertain economic climate and the challenges of competing against established online players, the UK remains a hotbed for ecommerce startups and entrepreneurs finding ever more innovative ways to make money online. In fact, the UK’s e-commerce industry is the third largest in the world, next to China and the US.

However, if you’re failing to rank well in the search engine results pages (SERPs), then you’re missing out on a lot of traffic and potential sales. So here are 3 solid SEO strategies to help your ecommerce website to get better search engine rankings;

1. Keyword Research

Targeting the right keywords is at the heart of SEO. There are two types of keywords you need to research:

Your Keywords

Look for keywords that are relevant to your brand and products. There are a few paid and free tools that you can use, but Google’s AdWords Keyword tool is sufficient for online stores that are just starting out. Plus, it’s free.

It’s worth bearing in mind the fact that 70% of online searches are made up of long-tail keywords, so don’t neglect the variations on your main keyword groups (these will often involve adjectives such as colour, size, etc).

Understanding the power of ranking for longer tail search is key. This is because a lot of broad keywords can be highly competitive, as bigger competitors are already dominating the SERPs for these.

So whilst high search volume is a key metric, so too is competition. Ideally you want to rank for those keywords that fall into that golden zone with relatively high search volume but relatively low competition, as these would translate to potentially more traffic and conversions. How narrow or tenuous this line is, will depend on how competitive your industry sector is.

Start then by writing down an initial list of terms that you think your customers would look for. Then, type these terms on Google, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and look at related keywords. This is an simple and efficient way of identifying longer tail keywords.

ecommerce seo long tail keywords

Of course, the method above won’t show you search volume, competition and other metrics. For that you’ll need an SEO tool. A simple and free one is Google Keyword Planner which is part of the AdWords software.

Go to your AdWords account (if you have one), click on Tools (located on the top menu), then go to Keyword Planner. On the next page, choose Search for new keyword and ad group ideas.

Then, enter the keywords you’ve brainstormed (try to group them into relevant themes or product groups). Under the Targeting section, include information that are relevant to your business.

Under the Customize your search section, you can either limit results to keywords closely related to your terms or widen your search by turning that option off.

Once you’re done, click on Get Ideas button.

ecommerce SEO keyword brainstorming planning

On the next screen, click on Keyword ideas tab. You’ll see the search terms and corresponding search volume and competition for each.

You can use the filter option to remove highly competitive keywords that would be hard to rank for, as well as filter by things like keyword text, organic impression share, organic average position.

Be sure to set your location to your target market, as the keyword data may vary from one country to another.

Bear in mind that this tool is designed for creating AdWords campaigns, so for organic SEO keyword research you won’t need a lot of this functionality. What you’re looking at here is the data, so you can better understand the keywords you want to target.

You can now start building the list of keywords you’ll be aiming for. Place them on a spreadsheet, then repeat the process for all the terms that you’ve brainstormed at the beginning.

It’s worth noting that without an active Google AdWords account that you’re currently spending money with, Google will throttle the results it gives you, which will make the keyword research process a lot harder.

It’s also worth noting that there are a lot of other third party tools out there for keyword research, such as Ahrefs, Moz and SEM Rush.

Your Competitors’ Keywords

The second way of ascertaining your target keywords is to analyse what your competitors are ranking for and what you need to do to rank higher than them. One way to do this is through a free tool called the MozBar. This is a pretty crude method but is free, so will suit some people.

Install the MozBar on your browser. Then, go to Google and search your product URL. You’ll see this at the bottom of your search result:

ecommerce SEO Mozbar

Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA) are two metrics that Moz uses to ascertain relative authority of webpages and domains. Take note of your own site’s, as well as the PA of target pages on your site.

Next, enter your keywords for that particular page on Google and take a note of the DA and PA of the top 5 to 10 competing pages. The closer your PA and DA numbers are to those pages then, in theory, the easier it will be to outrank them.

You might even find pages above yours with lower DA or PA, in which case these are certainly keywords you can start ranking for, potentially with very little effort.

Ideally though, you’ll want to use SEO software like Ahrefs or SEM Rush to do proper competitor keyword research. They may cost you but you’ll be able to pull all sorts of data from any competitor, like top ranking pages, top ranking keywords, site traffic, etc. Ahrefs will even estimate how many backlinks you need to build to rank for a given keyword.

2. Optimising Meta and URL Structure

On-page optimisation refers to both the on-page copy and the HTML code on your site, including the meta data. It also refers to the URL structure, which also plays an important part in SEO. Here are the on-page elements you should take a look at:

Title tag

The title tag describes the topic or theme of the page both for search engines and the end users. Use your keywords but don’t sacrifice readability. You’d still want potential customers to click on your URL. Lastly, keep it within 60 to 70 characters, so the title won’t get truncated.

Heading tags

Heading tags are the H1 to H6 tags that show up on your CMS. H1 is your headline tag, which is the most important, so use it once for your page headline. H2 to H6 tags can be used throughout the entire copy for headers, subheaders, subsections, etc.

Rich snippets

This is the information under each page that shows up on Google (e.g. name, address, rating, etc.). To make sure your page has this, upload relevant data on Schema.org. You can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to generate your own code.

Mobile responsiveness

An increasing volume of e-commerce revenue comes from mobile users (over 50% as of 2017), you need to make sure your site works on all devices. You can use Google’s free mobile-friendly test to see if your site cuts the mustard.

Meta descriptions

Meta descriptions summarise the content of a page. These would give the end user an idea what the page is about (much like the trailer to a movie). You’ll have about 150 to 160 characters to do this, so be succinct and compelling.

URL structure

Make your URLs SEO-friendly by using your main keyword on the first 3 to 5 words. Also, make sure that the information hierarchy is clear (e.g. www.yoursite.com/category/product) and not just a bunch of numbers or letters (e.g. www.yoursite.com/abcdefg/123456).

Site speed

Make sure your page loads within 2 to 3 seconds, as the longer it takes, the more likely you’ll lose site visitors. Slow page load times can also negatively affect your site’s ability to rank.

Images

When it comes to images, look out for the alt text tag—the image description that Google “reads”. Make the description relevant to your image. The same goes for the file name and the image title.

3. Optimising Content

The second part of onsite optimisation is the content itself and this comes off the back of your keyword research.

This topic deserves an article unto itself as so many small businesses, fall into the same trap of doing good keyword research and then producing substandard, thin or keyword stuffed copy that is either unreadable, or just not useful.

Long form copy ranks better

Long form content will outrank short content, regardless of how many links you throw at the latter, so make sure you invest the time is this. If you have hundreds or even thousands of products, then your site structure should allow for category pages, which you should create long form copy for.

Quality is also key. As much as you want to get your sales pitch in, you can’t conceivably do this for 800-1000 words or more, so try including useful information and go into detail about the products or services themselves.

Unique product descriptions

For individual product pages, make sure that each of your products has unique descriptions. Use your keywords, but don’t forget to write copy with your readers in mind. Make them engaging, compelling, and with complete information on product specs.

Blog

Don’t neglect your blog either. Once your product / service page copy is up to date, you should invest time producing informative and relevant blog content that will address the issues and interests of your target market.

Whilst keyword research will play into this, you should think more in terms of themes, as ideally you want these pages ranking for many variations of long tail searches.

Keep Testing

The strategies listed here are quick tips for you to start optimising your site for search engines. This is the tip of the iceberg though and I haven’t covered link building, social media, digital PR and content marketing here.

Much like any digital marketing campaign, however, you need to keep tracking and testing your SEO to make sure you get the best results possible. Google changes its algorithm constantly, so just because you’re at the top of page one, don’t assume you’ll stay there.

About the author

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Joe Cox, Content Director at Bristol based SEO agency Superb Digital. Joe has written extensively on digital marketing for a number of industry publications including; Search Engine People, Marketing Profs, Hootsuite and Jeff Bullas.

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