A big congratulations on launching your ecommerce business. Seriously, following your dreams is scary, and starting a business is a grind. Don’t let all that hard work go to waste by not making it possible for people to find your amazing products.
Arguably, SEO is more important for ecommerce businesses than those that have a brick and mortar store in addition to their online store. Without brand recognition, people are unlikely to wander across your site if it’s on page 4 of Google’s search results. Paid Media is always a great way to jump to the top, especially at the beginning, but it stops when you stop paying into it.
Ecommerce SEO is a long-term growth strategy that needs to be a part of your overall marketing strategy to ensure your online store gets found again and again.
1. Website Structure – it shouldn’t be a maze
Set yourself up for success! Don’t create a labyrinth that your users need to solve to find the product they’re looking for. You need to have a thoughtful sitemap with a clear page hierarchy, and an SEO-friendly navigation menu. This means your pages and their organization needs to make sense. Clear categories and subcategories are the way to go.
Once you have your information architecture flushed out, make sure you’re giving your page URL’s user-friendly names. If you don’t set them manually your website will auto-generate a long string of unhelpful numbers to attach to the URL, this doesn’t help humans searching for it, or the robots trying to help people find it.
Check out King Dukes, for example, they’ve clearly organized their store product by animal: dogs, cats, and humans. From there they use subcategories to further breakdown what specific things you might be looking for: toys, grooming, food, bedding etc.
As you get further into the site, the URLs continue to clearly reflect where you are and what you’re looking for https://www.kingdukes.com/collections/dog-toys
If you’re a visual person Neil Patel has a great one, and they even used pet supplies too!
Side note: gendering products is over
That amazing thing you made is for whoever appreciates it. Be creative (but not absurd) and thoughtful about how you’re naming categories of products. For example, instead of splitting your t-shirts into men’s and women’s categories, you can try ‘fitted’ and ‘relaxed’, ‘graphic tees’ or ‘laying tees’. You get what I’m saying here. Expand your mind.
2. Keywords – Everywhere!
Start broad with keywords and then slowly specify or lengthen as needed. For category pages, you’ll want to go broad, like we noted in the example above – what type of animal are you shopping for.
Then as you move into product pages, you’ll want to start using more long-tail keywords. I’m not just looking for anything dog-related, I’m looking for dog toys. Then you get into the specific product names themselves for product pages.
You’ll want to include the keyword that you’re trying to rank for, and that searchers might use in the product URL, as well as in the on-page content, and in the title and meta description for that page. Since more specific is always better, if local keywords are applicable, use them too.
3. Optimize Product Descriptions – these are not throwaway content
Product descriptions can be wide-ranging in their composition. You need to accurately describe the product, providing necessary information to help the user determine if it’s the right product to meet their needs. But a whole block of specs and listed product materials aren’t very engaging content to read. Make sure you’re infusing your brand voice into every product description and considering the on-page user experience, in addition to all those important product details.
Continue to use appropriate keywords in the content on category and subcategory pages. You’ll want to use them on your product pages as well. The further you get down that page funnel, the more long tail keywords you should be using and targeting, which bring us to our next section…
4. Content – How to do it right
You know this, Content is… I’m not gonna say it. Many of the rules that apply to successfully execute an effective content SEO strategy for non-ecommerce websites apply to ecommerce sites.
Avoid getting penalties from Google by not posting duplicate content on product pages. Each product should have unique content written for it with a compelling CTA. You can make it easy on yourself by creating an outline for product page content so that users have a consistent experience and expectation across multiple product pages on your site. Outline what you want to be covered for each product such as its title, materials, specs, features, and benefits etc.
To provide additional value to your website users, as well as rank for long-tail keywords you can post blogs on your site. We know you’re busy so even if you’re posting one a month that is 100% better than zero.
Think of your blogging in a larger context than just the one post you’re going to write that month. How can you create subsequent posts that relate to each other, so you’re building off your previous work? As well as writing content that speaks to user’s needs at different stages of the sales funnel. What questions might someone who just started considering your products have about them, for example, content like product comparisons of yours and your competitors is a great top of funnel topic to write about. Obviously, your product is the best!
5. Technical – let’s nerd out a bit
Speed matters just as much on your ecommerce website, as any other site. Users expect your site and pages to load in no more than three seconds or the likelihood that they’ll leave to shop somewhere else jumps up pretty quickly.
Users also want to be able to shop on their smartphones while binging Netflix so make sure your site is easy to navigate from a mobile device, and just as fast as on desktop.
One of the biggest issues we see with ecommerce sites is broken product links for discontinued products. Don’t tease me with something I can’t buy and then land me on a broken page. I’m unlikely to purchase anything if this happens more than once in a visit. Use 301 redirects to ensure that if someone still lands on that URL they are immediately redirected to a comparable product you can actually ship them right now.
If you’re well-versed in SEO and comfortable with the really technical side then you’ll want to go even deeper into the rabbit hole with:
- structured data (schema) for products to get star rich snippets
- checking your crawl budget so it’s not being wasted on 1000s of pages
- using canonical URLs for products with multiple variants, and collections with tags/filters
These last few items especially are not for novices or marketing managers unfamiliar with site backend technical work. So if you don’t know what I’m really talking about here, do yourself a favor and just hire an expert to do it for you.
6. On-Site – don’t lose them the minute they arrive
Make it easy for users to shop, and don’t expect that everyone will have the same online shopping habits. Some people like to browse by category just to see what you have to offer. Others know exactly what they’re looking for and want to jump straight to it. So introducing a variety of ways for people to navigate around your site and find products is key.
Use internal links for passing link equity as well as recommending complementary or adjacent products to the current one being looked at.
Offer site search so that instead of setting up 10 different filters to find that specific product, they can just type it in a search bar and be on their way to purchasing. Then enable site search in your Google Analytics to see what users are actually looking for and then use that data to inform your blog post topics and keywords you’re targeting. Ohh full circle!
Get product reviews for social proof and star ratings. There’s a reason Amazon and other retailers pay people to review their products on their sites. We’re NOT recommending that, just highlighting how important it is for you to get product reviews. 92% of consumers are unlikely to purchase a product that does not have reviews. If you have new lines you’re rolling out consider sending out a few free samples with the expectation that they’ll review them honestly in exchange for the free swag.
To ensure you’ve actually set up your online shop in a way users like, you can use heat mapping software that tracks user’s behavior on-site and will show you if people are using the main site menu or other page links to navigate the site. This is also a great way to improve low ecommerce conversion rates.
Most often you’ll find users expect for something to be a link that isn’t, and you can add those in for ease of use. In general, you’ll be able to see if how you expected users to move around the site is actually happening, or if you need to incorporate new elements that meet their expectations.
7. Off-Site – last but not least
Once you’ve got your site all spiffed up, you can start focusing on off-site tactics. Link building is a great way to boost your site’s overall authority which in turn helps boost all your potential search ranking positions.
Aggregate marketplace stores like Amazon are obviously huge, it’s super convenient to buy a wide variety of products on one site with one checkout process. So until you’ve built up a dedicated group of return buyers, getting your products on these sites can be really helpful for growth. Especially if you’re a fairly unknown brand, getting your products on other selling channels is a good way to increase the visibility of your products and grow brand awareness.
If you’re up for writing some more content (as an addition to your on-site blogging, not in place of it) you can offer to write guest blog posts on other websites that would then link back to your site. For example, if you sell amazing tile for kitchens and bathrooms you can find a local reputable home remodeling company that you can offer to write a post for. Or if you sell amazing organic dog treats, find a great local vet and offer to write a piece of content for them.
And of course, you can run paid media ads to help your products jump to the top of Google search results. We’ll talk all about this in next week’s blog.
Time to get to work
If you’ve made it this far you should have a long list of to-do items to optimize your ecommerce site.
If that list looks like torture or something you know you’ll just never get to, then send us an email. SEO is a long term strategy, so delaying any further is simply delaying when you’ll see results.
Considering how the pandemic is going in the United States these days, we think Black Friday shopping is going to look very different this year, so get yourself set up for success. Either by working through these items yourself, or working with an expert.