If you sell products via your own website, the following tips will help you optimise your site for search engines.
(Note: This article provides tips to help you optimise your own ecommerce site. It doesn’t cover SEO for 3rd party ecommerce sites such as Etsy, Ebay or Amazon.)
Increasing your presence on Google will help to ensure that people who are searching for the products you sell will find YOU, not your competitors. SEO takes time, so don’t worry if you don’t see results straight away. Whereas paying for ads will give short term, temporary results, SEO is a long term strategy that can significantly increase your web traffic and sales.
Doing SEO doesn’t mean you should stop buying ads or focus less on social media, having multiple sources of generating traffic and sales is ideal. Implementing an SEO strategy alongside your current digital marketing strategy is a great way to attract your target customers in multiple different places.
What is Ecommerce SEO?
Ecommerce SEO is the process of optimising an ecommerce website so that it ranks
higher on Google (and other search engines). Regardless of whether you have ten
products or ten thousand products, optimising your website will help you get noticed.
Getting more eyes on your products will help you make more sales. SEO helps you get found by the people who are looking for what you sell.
Keyword research is a crucial part of SEO. The following things are important to consider:
- Choose keywords that people are actually searching for.
- Choose keywords with ‘buyer intent’.
- Choose keywords that you will be able to rank for.
Keywords with too low search volume won’t bring you much traffic.
Buyer intent refers to the intent of the searcher. A user looking to purchase something is more likely to buy from you once they land on your site.
Targeting keywords that are very competitive will be difficult to show up for no matter how much effort you put in, so it’s best to avoid competing with big brands.
You can use any of the following tools for keyword research:
- Ubersuggest (free)
- Keywords Everywhere Chrome Extension (free)
- Answer The Public (free)
- Google Keyword Planner (free – available as part of Google Adwords)
- KW finder (paid)
- Ahrefs (paid)
Having a good site structure is beneficial for a number of reasons. Firstly, it helps your
visitors navigate the site to easily find what they are looking for and secondly, it helps a search engine to crawl the website and discover all your pages.
The structure of your website relates to how you set up your navigation menu, categories and product pages. You want to make it as easy as possible to get your products seen by your visitors. Users should be able to find what they are looking for within a few clicks.
Categories, Sub Categories and Tags
Categories follow hierarchy, meaning that you can have categories and sub categories
that group relevant content together. (Tags will simply group content together with no
hierarchical structure, you may have seen a tag cloud for example that groups blog
content together.) Using categories to group related content is beneficial to both your users and search engines.
Here are a few things to consider:
Keep your navigation simple – Keep your menu simple and make sure the site is as easy to navigate as possible.
Make sure all your pages / products are easy to get to – Ideally none of your pages should take more than 3 clicks to reach.
Optimise your URLs – Keep your urls short, make sure they are accurate and easy to read, avoid keyword stuffing or repetition.
Categories – Using categories is a simple way of grouping things together. Organise products into relevant categories / sub categories and make sure every category is unique. Make sure your categories describe the content, keep them concise without adding any unnecessary info.
Avoid duplicate content – Avoid any duplicate content across your site as this can result in keyword cannibalisation (Multiple pages competing for the same keyword.)
Include related products – Adding related products provides further opportunity for your visitors to make additional purchases whilst browsing your site.
Consider using breadcrumbs – Breadcrumbs help users to navigate a website. They are usually visible as small links near the top of the page that show where you are on the site.
Site speed. No one likes to wait ages for a page to load (in fact people usually won’t wait more than a couple of seconds, they’ll simply move onto another site). You can check your site speed with Google’s Page Speed Insights tool.
Mobile responsive. With more and more people using a smartphone to not only browse the web but to also make purchases, it’s imperative that your site performs well across all devices and screen sizes. You can check if your site is mobile friendly with this Mobile Friendly testing tool.
Avoid broken links. A broken link is where a link on a page is pointing to another page that no longer exists or is inaccessible. If a user clicks on a broken link, they will find themselves on an error page. This interrupts them from browsing the site and makes it less likely that they will make a purchase. Broken links are also bad for SEO as it makes it harder for a search engine to crawl the site.
Do you know who your main competitors are? If you aren’t sure who you are likely to be competing with to grab the tops spots in the search results, you can do a quick Google Search (or use a tool such as Ahrefs or SEMrush to identify your main competitors).
Competitor analysis will help you establish what is necessary for you to do to get ahead of the competition. You can look at what they are ranking for, what content they have on their site, how many reviews they have… The more you can learn about your competitors, the better.
To get a further competitive edge, you can use a tool such as Page Optimiser Pro to compare the optimisation of your pages with your competitors. It’s not free, however there is a free trial.
Optimise Your Category Pages
Make sure the URL’s of your category pages are easy to read and are accurate. Avoid using category names that are too long.
There often isn’t much content on category pages as they mostly display the products within a particular category. You can still optimise the pages by making sure your categories are all named appropriately and by adding a description for each category. Be sure to avoid duplicating any of your category names.
Make sure all your product images have ALT text. Write an engaging and enticing page title and meta description so that when this displays in the search results people are drawn to click through to the site
Optimise Your Product Pages
Write enticing and detailed product descriptions that accurately describe the product. Make sure your page titles and meta descriptions are also compelling and entice people to click.
You can use your keyword in the following elements of the page (only use keywords naturally where it makes sense and avoid overusing keywords or keyword stuffing).
- Body copy
- Image ALT Text
- Page title
- Meta Description
Optimise Your Blog Content / Articles
Your ecommerce site isn’t just about your product category pages and your product pages, don’t forget about optimising your blog articles as they can rank too. You can use your blog to showcase knowledge and expertise, share news with your visitors as well as promote your products.
Optimise Your Images
Your product images are an essential aspect of your ecommerce site. The image of a product is often what entices people to click through to read more about the product or make a purchase.
This is great for your readers, however search engines can’t ‘read’ images so it’s important to optimise your images. Quite often ecommerce sites have lots of images, especially if you have a lot of products, make sure you optimise all of the images on your site.
- Use descriptive file names (describe exactly what the product is.)
- Add accurate and descriptive ALT text to all your images (every image on your site should have ALT text, not just your product images.)
- Make sure image file size isn’t too large (as this may slow the page down.) You can compress your images before you upload them by using a tool such as TinyPNG. If you are using WordPress, a plugin such as WPSmush will automatically compress the images as you upload them.
Internal linking simply means linking from one page of your site to another page of the same site. You can use internal links to direct your readers to other products or info on your site that they may be interested in and guide them towards making a purchase. Internal linking also helps search engines crawl the website as ‘bots’ crawl links to access your pages.
Link between your pages only where it makes sense to do so and use descriptive and accurate anchor text (anchor text is the text you click on to take you to the link).
This article from Neil Patel provides actionable info, tips and strategies for using internal linking as part of your SEO strategy.
Google Analytics provides lots of useful information about your visitors such as how they found your websites, what device they are browsing on, how they navigate your website and which pages are the most popular.
Google Analytics also provides lots of valuable data for ecommerce sites such as how users interact with your products, sales performance, conversions, transactions and revenue.
Useful links for Google Analytics:
Backlinks are links from other sites linking to your site. This is generally seen as positive by Google and can help give your site a boost in the search results.
Links from relevant sites are ideal (avoid obtaining links from low quality sites that are unrelated to your niche).
It’s important to note than not every site will need backlinks, you may be able to rank well without, especially if your keywords aren’t massively competitive. If you are aiming to show up for competitive search terms, you may need to build some links to get ahead of your competitors.
So how do you get other sites to link to you? Here are a few tips:
Ask for a link from your suppliers – This won’t work for everyone, however some suppliers will include a list of links so it might be worth reaching out and asking to be included.
Infographics – Visual content is a great way to increase engagement and attract visitors. If other sites publish your infographic, they will usually include a link back too.
Contribute content on other sites – Sharing your expertise by writing content for other websites is a great way to increase brand awareness, get your business seen by more people and gain inbound links. Usually when you write an article for another site, you will be credited with a link back to your site.
Use Haro – Haro, (Help A Reporter Out) is a great way to find PR and link opportunities. You can sign up for free and get notified via email whenever journalists are looking for content or quotes related to your niche.
There are lots of web building platforms available for your online store. Most will have built in options for SEO such as the ability to add page titles and meta descriptions. They should also have options to add ALT text to your images, include H1 headings on your pages and structure your URL’s. Some platforms are better than others for SEO so you might find certain limitations depending on which platform you are using.
If you are using WordPress, make sure you install an SEO plugin such as Yoast or All in One SEO to add SEO functionality to your website.
Schema markup is simply some additional code that is added to a website. Schema helps a search engine to return useful and additional information in the search results. Schema provides extra info for users in addition to the usual meta description so that they know exactly what the page is about. This can help people to decide whether or not they want to click through to the page. There are many different types of schema, you may have seen schema information when searching for events, or looking for recipes. You may have also seen schema info in the search results for product reviews or pricing information.
This additional information is often referred to as ‘Rich Snippets’. Even if you aren’t aware of the term, you have probably still seen rich snippets in the search results. Adding schema markup to your site helps you to achieve rich snippet results. Below is a an example of rich snippets for the term chocolate cake recipe. The top two listings are displaying schema data whilst the bottom listing does not.
Rich snippets generally result in a higher click through rate due to the additional information returned by Google. Adding schema markup is a must for ecommerce site owners as it provides the opportunity to show more info about your products within the search results. You can display info such as review stars, product information, price and the availability of a product.
If your site is a WordPress site, you can add schema by using a plugin. Some popular plugins include:
- Schema All In One Rich Snippets
- Schema Plugin (free)
- Schema Pro
- WP SEO Structured Data Schema
- All In One Schema Rich Snippets
- WPSSO Schema JSON-LD Markup
- Markup (JSON-LD) structured in schema.org
Using a plugin is the simplest way to add schema to your wordpress site, however, you can also use custom fields to add the schema markup code manually. This requires some advanced knowledge and more work is involved but it does give you more control.
If you have a Shopify site, you can use the Smart SEO app which will generate structured data for your products, or you can input the markup manually (Google recommends using using JSON-LD https://json-ld.org/)
You can also oursource the tasks to a professional whichever platform your website is built on if you prefer.