In a world where everyone knows how to build an online store, why do so few people know how to build a successful one? In this guide we’ll show you how to build a store that makes revenue.
It’s important that you understand that e-commerce is completely dominated by search engine results pages, this will be the make-or-break of your store. The big players like Nike, Victoria’s Secret & Gap will dominate the major keywords, so don’t bother competing for those instead look for long-tail, more obscure search terms (still searched tens of thousand of times per month) but are not searched enough to warrant investment from a conglomerate. You will win in this area if you put the time in. It doesn’t come down to big budget ads like you might think, it comes down to your on-page SEO.
Shopping websites typically give preference to quantity of listings rather than quality of listings. Most e-commerce sites lack content depth, user experience and search engine optimisation. As so few ecommerce sites utilise content & experience properly, build your site with these 6 areas factored in and have an instant edge over millions of average internet stores.
After reading this we hope you take the decision to develop your online store with profit in mind. If it is missing SEO, you’re missing dollars. Here are 6 steps to develop your ecommerce site’s on-page seo so that more people find your products and make purchases:
1. Perform keyword research for your product and category pages.
2. Create and optimise product and category descriptions.
3. Revise and redirect URLs so URLs are clean, easy to read, and descriptive.
4. Improve images and ensure they load fast at all resolutions.
5. Perform technical SEO so that your website is mobile friendly, search engines can crawl your site, and content is easily indexed.
6. Improve on-page search assets & mobile friendliness
Lets get into the details…
1. Perform keyword research for your product and category pages.
Keyword research isn’t just about inventing the right terms. Using an SEO tool can create a list of the terms that your target customers are using to find your products. You can also find other valuable keywords, like long-tail keywords (more than 3 words).
a. Do your keyword research by using Google Keyword Planner. You can start your research by simply creating a free Google ads account. You do not need to have any experience with Google Ads or add credit card information to do keyword research. The tool is very user-friendly and it does not require any special skills in order to use it. Just add some seed keywords to get started.
Don’t use your brand name or company name as your seed keyword on your website. This might happen automatically anyway since you use it so frequently in your description of the company. The keyword tool will inform you of related terms and show rough search volume estimates. You want to pick keywords that appeal to your target audience.
Search intent is simply the reason why consumers search. Are they searching to learn, entertain themselves, or to make a purchase? One good way to determine search intent is to search for the term using an incognito or private browser. Looking at the first few search results will give you a good idea if they are focused on learning, browsing, or purchasing.
Another way to determine search intent is the cost-per-click. A high cost-per-click often indicates a purchase search intent because companies are willing to pay more for the likelihood of ROI. At the end of each result on Google Search engine results pages, related keywords appear.
b. Amazon Predictive Text. Amazon is the world’s most powerful search platform, it can help you find keywords for your own site optimisation. Start by typing in your key search phrase, and Amazon’s predictive search will show you popular phrases related to your entered keyword. You can also use a free Keyword Tool to search and refine suggested keyword lists.
c. Paid SEO tools. Platforms like Semrush give you comprehensive data that can help inform your keyword research, including the keywords your competitors are using. While it’s an expensive tool, it can save you a great deal of time and give you powerful (and reliable) insights. No matter which option you choose for your e-commerce SEO research, once you identify a short list of keywords, don’t stop there.
An incredibly useful tool for doing this is a spreadsheet. On the spreadsheet, create a page for every single page of your site. Then, list keywords you’re targeting on each page. This is most easily accomplished by creating a list of keywords and then discovering which product pages are using them.
You can also use the spreadsheet to gather meta titles, descriptions, and H1 tags for each page.
Meta titles, meta descriptions and H1 tags need to be updated. The next step is to optimise your product and category pages with title tags containing your target keywords. These are the most critical places to incorporate those important search terms that you discovered in your research above. Next, proceed to optimise your product and category pages with title tags that contain your target keywords.
2. Create or optimise your product and category descriptions.
Your product and category descriptions help both potential customers and search engines understand what you are selling and why they should buy it. A sweet spot for a category description is around 250 words, which will provide details about the products on offer while avoiding long-windedness. Be sure to use your target keyword in your category description.
To help them make the right choice, you need to add more content to your product pages that will inform customers about the features and benefits of your product.
Your product page should include: The product description– a unique 150- to 200-word (or more) description of the product & at least 3 optimised images of the product—including one of the product in use, if applicable customer reviews. Make sure to include product-specific details that can be easily scanned by users, such as measurements, weight, requirements, etc. A website that does listings extremely well is Mr Porter. Check out how detailed the listings, images, categories and descriptions are.
3. URL optimisation.
Shorter and simpler URLs are better for ecommerce SEO. They’re a sign that Google can easily glean what the page is about.
- Ideal: https://www.yourwebsite.com/product-keyword
- Acceptable: https://www.yourwebsite.com/category/product-keyword
- Avoid: https://www.yourwebsite.com/category/product/product-keyword
Whether you have a custom or standardised URL structure, make sure you use 301 redirects to ensure that all previous links are not broken. Some ecommerce platforms will handle this automatically, so be sure to check your help site or customer support to find out what you need in order to ensure your redirects go into place.
4. Image optimisation.
Images are a crucial part of an online store. You’ll need to find a balance between small file size and high-quality images for your ecommerce SEO.
Try JPEGs for images that have a lot of colour. PNG works well for simple images. Test several different formats and compressions to find the right mix for the images your site uses. Be sure to include ALT tags for all of your optimised images as well, using ALT tags not only helps screen readers, it also assists search engines. Google can’t read pictures! (yet) So make sure you format image files with detail.
Try JPEGs for images with a lot of colour. PNG is the way to go with simple graphics. Make sure your website host is using a content delivery network to ensure the best possible loading speeds for your visitors. To understand how your cloud hosting provider can effect your image loading, click here.
5. Be technical SEO-smart.
Good ecommerce SEO goes beyond just measuring what content is on your site and in your meta data, there are certain technical elements that can directly contribute to a site’s rankings.
Improve your load times. Site bounce rates increase by 50% if it takes your website two extra seconds to load, and conversion rates decrease by 12% for every extra second that it takes your site to load. If you optimise your images and remove any unnecessary elements from your site, you’ll improve your search engine ranking and conversions. This can also be down to your type of website hosting.
Create and submit a sitemap to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools. By submitting your sitemap to Google Search Central and Bing Webmaster Tools, you’re letting the two largest search engines in the world know exactly what is on your site. In addition, these tools can alert you to any issues the search engines have with your site.
Make sure you have a valid SSL certificate. An SSL (secured socket layer) certificate is not just something you need in your shopping cart. It also protects any emails you collect from your email signup form, as well as any other personal information customers might enter into your site. If you want to learn more about SSL security, read our previous post ‘What is an SSL Certificate?’
If your e-commerce site doesn’t have SSL installed, you are going to lose customers on a regular basis. When consumers view the website of a brand they want to buy something from, they often look for the green padlock next to the URL. This lets them know that the site is secure. If you don’t have the lock, shoppers will quickly look elsewhere.
Make it easy to navigate. Rather than making your customers work for it, give them multiple options to find what they’re looking for. Customers should be able to go from the top navigation, all the way down through the subcategories and a site search feature. All of these will help search engines find every page of your website and make them findable to users!
Make it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for on your website.
Use breadcrumb navigation. Speaking of website navigation, you may not be aware of another element that can impact your SEO and website usability. Breadcrumbs help both users and search engines understand how your site’s pages relate to one another. Breadcrumb navigation is often a feature in the e-commerce themes found on Shopify.
Get rid of broken links. Nobody likes getting a 404 error, and search engines don’t either. To improve your e-commerce SEO, clean up broken links by fixing the ones you can. You can fix them with a plugin, such as Broken Link Checker for WordPress or a third-party tool. If people click a broken link on your site, you can use a custom 404 page to point them toward the right place.
6. Fill your website with assets for improved searchability.
Most ecommerce sites don’t feature a lot of assets, which make it hard for them to get good SEO ranking. The kind of assets that will increasing your ranking are:
- Gift guides
- FAQ’s & Testimonials
If you sell products online, you need to add reviews. Customer reviews help e-commerce SEO in several ways. They allow your pages to rank for related long-tail keywords, such as “Product Name Review” and they also describe your products in your customers’ terms. Valid customer reviews are incredibly important to have on-page as they give your pages more varied search terms.
Don’t forget mobile search.
With all the talk of how to design your site for conversions and search, it’s easy to overlook the importance of making a mobile version of your site. In today’s world, most people are using smartphones to search for products. In fact, 88% of consumers do product research on their phone. With 65% of people doing product searches while in their “I want to buy” moments, 40% of e-commerce holiday sales came from a phone during 2018. 13% of visitors to online stores globally use a mobile device. Check out MOZ’s guide to mobile seo in 2021.
Your mobile site should be just as, if not more, optimised than your main site, because search engines are increasingly mobile-friendly. This involves all of the techniques that we’ve already discussed, layered with a robust testing and optimisation regimen by your in-house or outsourced team.
Ensure your site is perfectly viewable on mobile devices and that it does not include invasive overlays or pop-ups. Have you ever visited a website that was hard to navigate around because of intrusive ads on a mobile device? If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, you’ll miss out on 75 percent of online shoppers.
Make your site faster. Internet users want everything now. The days of waiting 30 minutes for a single song to download are over. Now, if you don’t load within seconds, we’re hitting the back button to go back to our search results. E-commerce sites often have many images that strain mobile loading times. One hidden way to increase site speed is to change your website hosting provider to a cloud hosting company that uses a content delivery network. Like us.
Take advantage of anchors to make your site easier to navigate and more readable on mobile devices. Use anchors to link to important information, like reviews and lists of features, on your website. This will give you an edge by making your site easy to navigate on mobile and tablets.
7. BONUS FEATURE: Avoid these red flags in ecommerce.
The online game is NOT about bulk uploads, its about not skipping corners.
Make sure your ecommerce store avoids the following at ALL costs:
- Duplicate content
- Inaccurate Product Filters
- Putting a product in multiple categories
There are over 63,000 searches per second on any given day. That’s nearly 5.6 billion searches per day. And this is just the beginning of online shopping. Factor in all the different combinations of product attributes, comparison shoppers, and price-conscious users, and you have a complex and dynamic ecommerce SEO environment. Make sure your store is getting it’s fair share of traffic, your customers deserve your effort.