E-commerce SEO is enormously important to our organization as we were built from an e-commerce family of seven stores and started doing SEO for other companies asking us how we did it. Two of our first few big content successes involved sharing the excellence we learned to wield for ourselves with the world. We’ve worked with everything from WooCommerce to Magento, knocking out SEO campaigns where the key to success is selling products.
A big piece to niche domination in SEO for e-commerce sites is finding the right keywords.
Consider relevancy, search volume and rank difficulty for home page and product page keywords
Don’t choose words that are unnecessarily broad or have way too many competitors. You can search keywords in Google Adwords planner or a tool like aHref’s Keyword explorer. Similar to how a business that doesn’t have a tight niche will have a harder time getting traction in a market, if you don’t make your keyword targeting specific enough, you’ll have a hard time getting qualified searchers. You’ll also have a hard time if you target a market that’s already incredibly saturated — unless your product is so noticeably remarkable as to be undeniable. But, be aware, the threshold is much higher for a saturated market.
High exact-match search volume + fewer competitors is a great formula to find good blog topics
Just like you want to find the right combination of low competition keywords and high exact-match search volume on home pages and product pages, your content is no different. The trick is combining this consideration with terms a visitor who may have the intent of working with a company like yours, or may have that need in the future, finds useful or on-point. This way, as you build out content, you are reaching and servicing these people’s needs and questions (and potentially helping a future customer in the making).
Secondly, finding the top competitors for your offering and why they are doing well on search will help you copy and surpass successes.
A simple search for the category of your product will likely bring up search results for people to beat
For instance a simple search for “cocktail dresses” might reveal that Nordstrom, Dillard’s, and T.J. Maxx are the ones to beat.
Why is Nordstrom winning so hard? Highly shared content and crazy backlinks. Look at these super well-respected beauty blogs linking to Nordstrom on its home page. The second number from the left in the right column is the Page authority. Numbers above 80 are insanely respected pages, so links they are directing toward are treated as big-time ones by Google.
Their content is getting people to click “share.” No idea why Site Map is in top content, but 2K shares and 10K Pinterest pins on TOMS ‘Leopard’ fleece slip-ons? These kinds of social signals are also helping the single product pages that are getting attention as they are signaling relevance to Google that the fleece is something people want.
These are kind of high-and-mighty examples, but they betray a core concept that people need to be linking to your site to make it appear relevant— you can do that on your own by using the right combination of relevant keywords. If your competitor only has four links to their E-commerce store, then maybe you don’t need 20 top fashion bloggers to link to you on their home page. But a safe bet is that you will need some high-authority links to really dominate anything worth dominating. Please consider that the relevancy of getting backlinks in 2016 has not waned, it’s just more about quality over quantity (both is best).
Use search engine-friendly tools like Yoast SEO for WordPress and Google Analytics by Fooman for Magento
2016 is the year that tools started to become fully mature for SEO—yes, right as some ill-informed people are telling you that SEO is dead (they always say that). Getting your products found online above your competitors will always be important, and long as that’s important, people will specialize in helping others to do it. Two tools that make that job easier:
Yoast SEO for WordPress: If you’re in the SEO game full-time, you’ll find nothing surprising here. Yoast SEO is a top plugin on WordPress for the simple reason that, out of the box, it seems to fill the gaps of SEO functionality that WordPress by itself doesn’t have. WordPress has grown into a fully functional CMS from its original application as a blogging platform, but the creators draw the line at adding a bunch of marketing tools in the core. This super useful functionality was left out for a reason, but Yoast does the trick by adding meta titles and descriptions, sitemap, search console integration and other opportunities to tune and tweak the way the site shows up in search engine results pages.
Google Analytics by Fooman for Magento: In Magento 2.0, many SEO functions are built directly into the CMS, but some functions for Analytics, like integration with Google Tag Manager and revenue tracking, amp up what’s already a powerful tool for e-commerce heavy lifting.
Looking at what we can learn from the domination of video content and the rise of voice search
Mobilegeddon was one thing; websites that had a usable mobile-responsive site were given better treatment than those with no mobile site in early 2016. Everyone rushed to make their site mobile-friendly if it wasn’t. Video is now dominating much of our time online with websites like Facebook and Instagram improving their platforms to play another video you might be interested in. E-commerce websites are jumping onto this preference with tutorials on products or demonstrations of their top products. E-commerce websites with only a few products give them the full treatment, showcasing people out and about or in context using the product, and making them look sexy and useful.
Dynamic well-told video stories are our kryptonite as 2016 consumers. Why does this matter for your e-commerce SEO? Well, the more you can immerse visitors in your site, the more time they spend on it, and the less likely they are to “bounce.” A bounce, as you may know, is when someone comes to your site, doesn’t interact with your product and leaves fairly quickly. Not only is a lower bounce rate great for your conversion rate and bottom line, it also looks good to Google, which measures this rate and factors it into your overall search ranking.
Voice search means we need succinct descriptions for products and to play well with schema markup. Short, succinct descriptions allow someone who’s doing a voice search to get the main components of your offering just by asking Siri on their iPhone or Alexa on their Amazon Tap. Schema markup and other ways to pass meta-data to search engines means you get credit for that 4.5 stars a breakout product has received in reviews on your site. This does wonders for the look of your search result in the SERPs, but it also allows voice search to access this information and pass it audibly to a voice-searching consumer.
The good old reliable list of e-commerce SEO best practices
Don’t forget about these all-important best practices when it comes to e-commerce. You might not find the newest of the new advice here, but it doesn’t mean that these things aren’t important. Some of the best SEO advice can be hidden in the simplest tips.
- Find any reasons your website might be creating duplicate content and resolve the issues. Sometimes it’s nothing you did on purpose that’s creating duplicate content, but rather it’s overlapping categories or even printer-friendly versions causing the issues.
- Create a rock-solid linking structure with subcategories underneath categories and reflect that structure in your URLs. Ever see a website get fancy with its labels and therefore descend into unnecessarily confusing hierarchy? The same can happen if you organize your site by the wrong types of categories or in a way visitors aren’t expecting. The name of the game is catering to your visitors’ expectations so they can get where they want to go quickly. This kind of no-nonsense structure based on user expectation will also translate into good SEO.
- Create a formula for your title tags so that programmers and people uploading content can either automate the title tag or have a handy guide to the format. If there’s key information about the product that’s available within the fields on the page, this could also be used to create an appropriate meta description as well. This is only recommended if there is a very high volume of products being added on a regular basis and targeting would be extremely difficult to do for every new product.
- Roll out e-commerce tracking if you haven’t already. It’s one thing to make a significant SEO change on a site and hear that sales are up. It’s another thing to look at your Analytics for the site and see a rise in $12,000 from last month. This kind of tracking and understanding helps SEO technicians work out in real time that what they are doing is working. In the end, the monetary value of the SEO work is more important to the business the work is being done for than any vanity metric, like unique visitors or page-views.
- Make sure each product page has a product photo and ample content, and ensure it’s not the manufacturer’s description. Ideally you will have more than 500 words describing each product, but what’s absolutely key is that you have fresh, original content that helps search engines understand what the page and the product are about and what they’re for. Without a solid amount of product description, a search engine can only guess from the little bits of text, like the title, that it’s given. Fewer words makes search engine results less likely to be reliable and less likely to have variants on the primary keywords.
- Add original copy (at least 300 words) to each of your category pages. For many of the aforementioned reasons, it’s important to have an appropriate amount of description for each of the key categories in your e-commerce store.
- Make sure your images have alt tags. Alt tags are nothing new, but they’re easy to forget. Filling them out with a description of what each image shows allows Google and other search engines to show your products for more searches.
- Add breadcrumbs. Not only are breadcrumbs good for the user experience of someone navigating around your e-commerce site, but they always give Google more clues to the structure of your site and help it get spidered more efficiently.
- Create a detailed buying guide for key categories on your site. The more text, the better, right? In the case of a category of products that require a little bit more thought and insight, you can be the one to show consumers how to make the right decision. Be sure to include a ton of fodder for search engines in the process.
- Implement or improve your related-products feature. When related products are actually accurate and similar to the product a user is viewing, they are going to be much more likely to click on those or interact with them. This, in turn, decreases your bounce rate and increases the time on site for an average visitor, all of which are not only good for user experience but can have a positive effect on your SEO as well.
- The E-commerce SEO Guide for Fun & Profit – A very deep guide to help you get caught up on everything related to e-commerce SEO, including step-by-step strategies.
- E-commerce SEO Checklist – Here’s your go-to-market strategy in a handy-dandy checklist segmented into each of the key categories of strategy from keyword research to on-page optimization and content marketing.
- How to Reduce Cart Abandonment on Your E-commerce Site – You can’t keep everyone from leaving items in their cart on the way out, but here are some tips to help decrease the number of those who have stuff left in their cart and leave before checking out.
- E-commerce SEO Basics – Want to start at a simpler level? Here is a basic list to help you get started in some of the finer points of e-commerce SEO.
- A Couple Seconds from ‘Add to Cart’ – 15-Point Product Page Checklist – Keep in mind the visual elements of your e-commerce site as well: Are they converting as well as you’d like? Here’s a checklist to increase the conversion rate of your product page.