eCommerce SEO Strategy Guide | East Shores Agency

From 2004 to 2014, eCommerce has grown by 310% in the U.S. alone and there is no site in it slowing down, with more and more industries incorporating some eCommerce strategy (Ahrefs). With this amount of competition, and new businesses joining every day, it is imperative that you make sure your eCommerce SEO is fully optimized. In fact, 44% of online shoppers begin the shopping experience with a search engine (Search Engine Journal). That being said, taking your time to do adequate research, testing and filling out all of your website according to SEO standards will go a long way for your site’s eCommerce platform. Let’s dive in!


Keyword Research:

When creating your site, look for keywords that still highly relevant and receive good traffic, but are not the exact keywords your competitors are competing for. In fact, make sure your keyword list includes a healthy mix of long-tail keywords as these receive, on average, 4.15% higher conversion rates than short-tail (or head terms) (Search Engine Journal).

The recommended approach is the following:

1)     List keywords based on main “seed” word.

2)     Use Google AdWords to find product name with keywords that have 4+ words. You can also take a look at relevant industry bloggers are using to help create ideas for long-tail keywords. Make sure to take a look at what keywords your competitors are using. Ahrefs Site Explorer and Moz Open Site Explorer both offer a solid platform to do this research.

3)     Categorize keywords (informational, opportunity, purchase intent, etc.).

4)     Use a tool like Moz Keyword Explorer or Google Keyword Planner to see traffic and top competitors. Begin ranking competitors to see how likely you can out rank them based on their domain and page authorities.

5)     Organize spreadsheet to formulate a plan on which keywords will bring the most actionable traffic with the least amount of competition. Organize this on based on keyword traffic, keyword-product fit, commercial intent and competition – this should tell you about the keyword difficulty (Backlinko).

To support these individual product listings, adding relevant and high-quality editorial content (usually in a list format) will help drive traffic to individual products or categories and users interact with your site.

On-Page SEO:

With proper editorials and products associated with long tail keywords ready to be used. Accurately laying out your site according to Google standards becomes very important. Strong keywords mixed with proper lengths and enticing content for meta title tags and descriptions will improve the appearance of the web page and domain in the search engines results page (SERP). Optimizing URL’s to include a purchase intent keyword within the URL are likely to attract customer’s ready to purchase via long-tail keywords. Other SEO experts recommend adding modifiers and common shopping phrases to establish long-tail keywords and entice clicks (Backlinko).

Here are some common words, per Backlinko:

-        X% off

-        Guarantee

-        Lowest Price

-        Free Shipping

-        Overnight Shipping

-        Sale

By adding unique and optimized product descriptions with H2 headers and secondary keywords along with product name helps boost attractiveness to both shoppers and search engines. The unique content helps avoid duplicate content triggers that search engines may penalize your site with. In fact, Backlinko analyzed 1 million Google search results and concluded, content with over 1000 words tends to rank better. However, this does not mean stuffing the descriptions full of repetitive text. Search Engine Land recommends, adding user generated content and reviews. Integrating Schema product and review markups and social media (comments, pins and +1’s) can help boost the product’s satisfaction and sales on both the search engine results page and the product page! In addition, they recommend starting by focusing on your most popular products and product categories since these will most visited pages. If your manufacturers give you product descriptions, modify them by adding a psychology layer and explaining the features (advantage and benefits) that the manufacturer gives. Other ideas to expand content on product pages are:

-        Intro (what product does, who needs it)

-        Bullet list of features

-        Deep dive product descriptions (case studies, awards, images, FAQ’s)

-        Conclusion (CTA)

Technical SEO:

Switching to HTTPS from HTTP tells the shoppers (and search engines) that your eCommerce site is encrypted and can be trusted. Google has confirmed that there is, although minimal, improvement in rankings with content being served via HTTPS. That being said, making sure your site is properly using canonical URL references to tell Google not to count variations in URL’s as duplicate content is highly recommended. We suggest setting up your canonical URL’s to reference your web page's HTTPS version and an all lowercase URLs. Canonical references are crucial when it comes to product variations which are why it is very important to pay close attention to this. Continuing off of the HTTPS note, make sure you display that your site uses SSL or Visa security and encryption standards and display the relevant certificates.


Site Architecture:

Having a well laid out website that adequately maps out the user experience as they navigate your site is crucial. Part of Google’s main determination of rankings is the amount of traffic your website receives and the user experience within the site. You want people to return to your site, you want them to interact and explore your website. Google (and other search engines) want that too and will rank you more favorably if your site architecture is well-laid out.

Here are some ideas for improvement:

1)     Build a sitemap and submit it to Google Search Console. Make sure it is broken down into the following sections products only, categories only, boilerplates (contact us, about us, etc.), editorials. Make sure to update it to Google Search Console whenever products and categories are added or removed.

2)     Look at your most popular pages, your exit pages, search queries before and within site to get an idea of what consumers are looking for, what they like, why are the navigating away.

3)     Keep it simple and scalable.

4)     Keep everything within 3 clicks of the homepage to make sure you can pass domain authority to all of your pages. This means that to get to a product page from the home page, a user should not have to pass through more than three clicks! Home page > Category Page (1 click) > Subcategory Page (1 click) > Product Page (1 click).

5)     Incorporate breadcrumbs in your product pages. This allows Google (and other search engines) to display your breadcrumb instead of a URL

6)     In addition, redirect 404’s (page no longer available) and 302’s (temporary redirects) to 301’s (permeant redirects) to highly relevant pages.

Bread crumbs example - instead of a URL, the categories appear

Bread crumbs example - instead of a URL, the categories appear

User Experience:

Going further with site architecture is considering user experience (UX). Frequently eCommerce businesses have inventory that goes out of stock, out of production, seasonal products.

Here are some best practices:

1)     When it comes to out of stock products – offer an alternative, offer a back order (this would be a good time to collect email addresses) and inform when it will be back in stock.

2)     With obsolete/out-of-production products – redirect to a relevant product or back to the parent category. If, in the foreseeable future, you do not see your business reusing the URL/content for a similar product, consider deleting it permanently with a 410-status code. However, if the product is generic enough you can reuse the URL and maintain any authority the webpage received.

3)     Seasonal products – this is where site architecture can play a huge part. Consider laying out your annual seasonal releases with the same category-subcategory/product-name and update the year for each release with a 301-permeant redirect (category-subcategory/product-name-2016 -> category-subcategory/product-name-2017 301). If you have the ability to foresee a high demand for one particular product in a seasonal release. Make the URL and content early! Let Google start indexing the page and your customers begin filling out order forms.

4)     Divide content of pages into smaller sections (rel=”next”, rel=”prev” tags) to help search engines understand relationships between pages. However make sure that you add a no index, follow tag to every page except the first one to avoid duplicate content.

5)     Leverage internal linking to relevant pages to improve engagement and navigation

Rich Content: 

Quality photos and videos can greatly influence the visitor’s propensity to purchase. However, you ought to be aware of several things when incorporating rich content.

1)     Site Speed – consider the weight of your content and where your users typically interact with your site. If they are on the fly most of the time, consider opting out of the latest trends and focusing on site speed. Making sure your product images are as light-weight as possible while maintaining the minimum acceptable standard of quality can help improve the user’s experience or implementing compression for images (make sure your images are saved as a PNG in this case). If you aren’t satisfied with your site’s speed still, consider changing your site’s hosting or serves. With all this in mind, mobile search and eCommerce in the new norm and will continue to grow, which is why it is very important to design your website with mobile in mind.

2)     Image and Video properties – because search engines cannot directly “watch” your product’s video, by optimizing the content (file names, alt text, captions, etc.) you can help provide search engines with an idea of what the content is while they begin to form associations during indexing.

Social Media: Pinterest, acts like a search engine in itself, by allowing users to pin interesting rich content (images). By allowing social media sites to share engaging product videos, links and photos, back to your site it helps improve your brand and drive other traffic through their social networks. Although the relationship between social media and SEO is not directly correlated, there is evidence to suggest that there may be an indirect correlation (as suggested in the aforementioned example). So, activate those social media icons and let your visitors share away!

Off-Page Support (Off-Product Page Support):

eCommerce leaders frequently product highly engaging and relevant content in the form of blogs (and social media) to give readers an idea of shopping ideas and reasons to purchase. By linking to various categories and product pages during highly relevant shopping opportunities, you can quickly drive shoppers to your website and relevant pages. It is highly recommended that your eCommerce strategy incorporates some form of content production. This helps narrow down the overwhelming shopping experience by implanting an idea in a prospective customer’s head. Furthermore, work within your network to explore how you can begin building off-page links that point to your site. This requires a PR mindset, exciting events, news and working with business improvement districts can help. Affiliate marketing and correcting broken links will help as well.

Another strategy is the parked webpage strategy which you can read more about in the link.

eCommerce SEO is never complete.

Always plan and test various aspects with A/B testing. Furthermore, it is recommended that you test your site periodically with SEO tools (Screaming Frog, Moz Open Site Explorer, Google Webmaster Tools). Take a look at your internal site search to see what shoppers are looking for and how they are using your site. This will help tell you if you are missing any keywords or products. Failing to do so and you may be missing out on opportunities to improve your domain/page rank and consequentially sales.  Contact us today to find out how you can improve your website’s eCommerce strategy and start selling more product!