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SEO for E-commerce Websites: The Ultimate Guide for 2020

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Search engine optimization is important for all websites, yet the eCommerce ones won’t achieve much if they aren’t armed with SEO properly. In this guide, you can learn about the SEO specifics in eCommerce and why this marketing strategy is essential for online retail businesses.

We’ll give tips and recommendations on how to find keywords and how to structure your website, as well as provide examples of how SEO is done on the websites of renowned brands coupled with suggestions on the tools that can be very helpful along the way.

An Introduction to SEO in eCommerce

Without a doubt, eCommerce SEO does slightly differ from the organic promotion tactics of regular websites. Whereas the main idea is the same for all sites—elevating the website’s positions in the search engine results (SERPs)—with online stores, there are additional peculiarities.

In most cases, they deal with the advancement of the plethora of product pages. After all, you want people who are searching for products that you have on sale to find you over the stores of your competitors.

By obtaining more traffic to your website, you can increase your sales. Some ways to do that include paid ads (PPC), site visits from social media channels and other external sources, as well as as a result of well-running SEO.

It is very common that before you begin optimizing your online store in terms of search, you’ll have to turn to your developers for Magento support services or other setup help if your store is built on a different platform.

When you have all the technical setups taken care of, you’ll have to give extra attention not only to the standard parts of the website (such as your headlines, meta information, architecture, cross-linking, and structure).

Apart from the homepage, contacts page, about us, and blog posts, you’ll need to invest extra time in each individual product page of your online retail store.

Ultimately, every product that you have on offer should in an ideal case scenario be capable of driving traffic to your store. It should become easier to find you and your products based on the words that users put in the search bars. We’ll cover specific things you should do to achieve this in more detail a bit later on in this article.

Why SEO Is Vital for Your eCommerce Store

It follows from the above that if your website doesn’t make it high in the results of the search, you’ll continuously miss out on additional prospects and hence lose your potential revenues.

Yes, your product may be better in all respects than the analogous ones that are sold by your competitors. Yes, your online store can be very user-friendly, gorgeous, and filled with outstanding modern functionality that makes online shopping a blast. But if people aren’t able to allocate your eCommerce store, what are the chances that they will come to you and not buy the products of your competitors?

This is exactly why SEO for eCommerce is so crucial. Its major aim is to help potential customers to find your store and assist you in winning over new clients. Of course, it requires investing your effort and time, and you’ll most likely not get instant results.

But by way of contrast, paid advertising may run into bucks and at times even drain your marketing budget if the results are quite ineffective when campaigns are set up and targeted improperly.

How to Search for Keywords & Use Them

So how does SEO help vendors and customers meet? The answer in a way lies in keywords. Keywords are the combinations of words and phrases that people type in the search as they begin looking for something on the web.

From the perspective of the person who’s optimizing an eCommerce website for search engines, you should be very clear about which keywords are used by your prospects to allocate items that are on sale.

This data is obtained as a result of thorough keyword research. In the following blocks of this article, we’ll share the top SEO tools for eCommerce sites that you may find handy for keyword research and SEO purposes.

Keyword Research Tips for Your Online Retail Store

The major things that you should be paying attention to and analyzing as you conduct your research are:

  • the search volume of the input keyword (the frequency of this search by users, the higher the volume, the more often people use it and, thus, so should you),
  • the input keyword’s cost-per-click, or CPC (this indicator can give you an idea about the price that’s generally paid for a click if this keyword is used in advertising, in case the keyword that you plan to use has a high CPC, it is considered a best practice to use a different less competitive one instead).
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Optionally, you may also analyze the user intent based on the keyword. In its core, this point gives an explanation of what people expect to get in the results when they use a keyword when looking for something.

Importantly, generic keywords (ones that are broad, vague, and competitive) may be very tricky to rank for, plus, time-consuming, and fairly unlikely to be achievable too. To prove the point, take a look at the results that were given by Google for the “green scarf” search in the screenshot below. The top three positions of the first page are “occupied” by Amazon, with the fourth and fifth positions belonging to Etsy.

Choosing something more specific and aiming for long-tail keywords can be much more beneficial than just using your head keyword. In the “green scarf” example, some unique and relevant searches can be “mint green floral scarf”, “green wrap around scarf”, or “emerald green infinity scarf”. Such combos should certainly make it to your product page if they fit to describe the item that you’re selling.

By the way, the “Searches related to X” that you can see at the bottom of the page in the Google search results (see the screenshot above) is a simple trick that’s handy for collecting similar keywords. This section offers often searched queries that you may also make use of when putting together and grouping your keyword lists for use in your eCommerce store.

Some Dos & Don’ts of Keyword Use on eCommerce Sites

Let’s assume that by now you have a detailed list of keywords that you plan to implant into your online retail shop. There are several things that you should, by all means, know about before you begin. Here are the possible pitfalls that you should avoid right from the start.

1. Keyword stuffing

“More is better than less” is not the case with SEO keywords. When people give in to the temptation of using one too many keywords on a page, wishing to optimize it, they can ultimately do it harm. Keyword overload is not only highly disapproved of by Google, but repetitive word combinations that appear too often in a single paragraph or page are also not “natural” for the human eye, this causes irritation.

Therefore, hiding and sprinkling an appropriate number of keywords evenly throughout the page is a good idea. Proper keyword density and inclusion are vital here, so don’t overdo it. Not to mention that they ideally should be different from each other (without being repeated over and over again).

2. Keyword cannibalization

Similar to unwholesome cases of duplicate content, when the exact same keyword appears across more than one page of your eCommerce website as the main keyword, these pages start competing with each other. This happens way too often if many products that appear in the store are very alike, hence, the hand reaches for copy-paste, and that is a bad idea.

For instance, let’s take the product category page of jeans skirts on the Forever21 website:

 

There are two “pairs” of different items that share an identical name. We can see two items named “Paperbag Denim Mini Skirt” and two items that have a very similar name “Denim Paperbag Mini Skirt”.

Although this is usually not noticeable to humans, search engines can get confused. In the long run, there’s quite a big chance that such pages can be cannibalizing each other’s traffic if the keywords that they’re attempting to rank for match.

Precisely, this is why you should be organized when you optimize your online retail store, why you should be logging which keyword was used where, as well as should be matching the suitable keywords that can best describe the item.

3. Over-optimization

Again, such cases occur when people get carried away as they attempt to optimize their eCommerce website. They mean well, but in due course, such mistakes only lead to the thorny necessity to deoptimize your store. Some pointers to keep in mind here include:

  • using keywords wisely,
  • playing around with various anchor texts so they don’t repeat,
  • not growing too many backlinks from external sources too quickly.

Things to Know About SEO Competitor Research

Optionally, “spying” on what your competitors are doing can also give you a better idea of which direction to consider moving in with your SEO strategy for your eCommerce store. Bear in mind, though, that your immediate business competitors and your competitors for organic traffic may not be the same.

Competitor analysis may provide you with an insight into the keywords that are used by them, as well as the ranking of their site and their link-building tactics. By performing such overviews you can find out which things work for the industry and adopt these methods. Take a look at which of the competitor pages rank best and how many of them are indexed.

Moreover, if you spot some flaws, this can be noted among the mistakes for you not to repeat. Topping that, it can be a wonderful way to understand where you currently stand, i.e., how far you’re lacking behind or are ahead of your competitors.

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It’s Also Important to Build Backlinks for Your eCommerce Store

Another thing that influences the ranking of your eCommerce website and its position among the Google search results is the number of backlinks that point to it and the quality of such links. Link-building is an intrinsic part of any successful SEO strategy since you should aim for your eCommerce website to be authoritative.

There are many link-building tactics that you can try, the most widespread among them are guest blogging, giving answers on forums, and adding information about your company in business catalog websites.

Which Things to Optimize on Your Product Pages?

As mentioned earlier, product pages are the core of your eCommerce website. You won’t get far if you have only a line or two of text on your product page. This is the place where you have the opportunity to not only convince your customers to make the purchase, but also the place where you can “click” with the search engines.

Assuming that you already have the set of keywords mapped out that you want to use on each separate product page, let’s quickly go through what should ideally be optimized on it.

1. Product Naming, Headline, Subheading & URL

It all starts with the page title (aka title tag). Often the product name takes on this role. If the keyword fits well with the name of your product, you can add it to your headline and H1 header tag since it’ll most likely be part of your page’s URL.

Speaking of which, ideally, add your keyword in the URL of the product page like this: www.sampleecommercestore/scarves/mint-green-floral-scarf

Don’t forget about making use of the subheadings and H2 tags too (this regards both the actual on-page information and what you indicate in your meta).

Below is an example taken from the official Fendi website. We can see that the keyword and H1 heading is “Belt Bag”. The H2 subheading reads “Black leather belt bag” which is most likely another keyword. We can also see it in the text that’s shown in the page tab next to the favicon. The keyword also appears together with its related keywords like “Cross-body bag” in the short description.

2. Product Descriptions

This area of the product page is highly important as you can give information about the item in detail. Depending on the volume of the text, the acceptable number of keywords to use can vary as well. As long as you keep your content unique and make sure it’s useful, you’ll be on the right track.

Here’s a product page from the official Estée Lauder website. As you probably notice, there’s quite a lot of keywords used in the product description, yet they aren’t repetitive and describe the qualities of the product clearly: “matte foundation”, “liquid foundation”, “waterproof foundation”, and “full coverage foundation”.

3. Image Optimization

There are two main things that have to be done to optimize your images. The first one among them is the size and weight of your pictures. Obviously, good quality images are vital for showcasing your sold products in the best way. Yet “heavy” images will slow down your pages, and slow page opening times are just inexcusable in eCommerce. There are many tools that can compress your images both as separate tools and eCommerce website plugins.

Secondly, you must name your images properly (not the standard IMG123456.jpg). Mention the name of the product and your brand name, as an option.

Thirdly, you should fill out the image Alt tags. These tags not only appear in case the image is unavailable, but they also help search engines to understand what is displayed on the given image (which can boost your search position and raise your chances of your product to be among the Google Image Search ones). As a rule, it won’t hurt to add keywords here too.

Take a look at the official Victoria’s Secret website as an example, the Alt text contains the brand name “Victoria’s Secret”, the name of the product “Satin Oversized T-shirt & Short Set”, and some details like the color “Dark Seafoam”, “offModelfront”, and the number of the picture “2 of 2”.

4. Meta Data & Descriptions

As already briefly mentioned, properly filled out metas are very important. Make sure to take your time to fill this information out very carefully on every page and to not repeat the main keyword nor copy-paste the descriptions on multiple pages.

5. Other Page Elements That You Can Optimize

What else deserves to be tweaked in terms of SEO on your eCommerce website?

  • CTAs (your calls to action, especially those that appear on your button texts, can and should be optimized, take your time to test which options work better for your audience);
  • Client feedback (sections with reviews and testimonials from your customers are another element not to miss, they are needed to build trust);
  • FAQ blocks on product pages (make sure to display answers to commonly occurring questions on products, this is not only helpful for people who are on your product page and have doubts about the item, FAQs can be pulled out by Google into snippets as best-match answers to questions that people add in the search bar of their browser);
  • Add links to your social media accounts (cross-linking your official socials with your store can definitely do your online presence good).
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Mind the Site Structure of Your Online Retail Store

Another important SEO point not to overlook as you’re boosting your eCommerce website revolves around website structure. The major point to know is that your structure shouldn’t be too complex. The easier it is for users to navigate through the site to find what they need, the better.

If you manage to place all your product pages in as little as 3-4 clicks from your website’s homepage, you’re on the right track. Such navigation is beneficial not only for your site users, it makes it simpler for Google to index you too. The bottom line is if your potential buyer has to make their way through a tangled structure via many clicks in order to reach a product page, your conversion rates can become lower.

For this reason, you must take your online retail shop’s product categorization, how you split your products, and how your breadcrumbs look very seriously. The same applies when you’ll consequently be building your mega menu.

To demonstrate the aforementioned on an example, here’s a screenshot of the official Ford website’s mega menu. As the user browses the top website menu, he or she can allocate a car model by its body type in just three clicks.

Best SEO Tools for eCommerce Websites

There are many tools for SEO that you can make use of for your eCommerce store. Here are the top ones worth noting.

1. Ahrefs

Perhaps one of the best-known SEO tools, Ahrefs is an indispensable assistant in your SEO efforts. It covers everything you need to track from audit capabilities for optimizing your website and a mighty Keywords Explorer to the Site Explorer and Rank Tracker.

What is more, the Ahrefs Batch Analysis tool is also very handy for conducting competitor analysis. At a basic level, it returns SEO metrics, data, and statistics on the requested list of competitors and allows comparing them.

Some stats of most importance are the Ahrefs Rank, Domain Rank, number of backlinks, referring domains, and the organic traffic estimate. You can collect other data manually, for instance, by visiting each of the sites and logging whether they have a blog or some functionality that is of interest to you.

2. Ubersuggest

Similarly to the previous tool, Ubersuggest by Neil Patel also offers great SEO functionality. Apart from keyword suggestions and content ideas, it is also equipped with SEO analytics tools for the site audit and backlink tracking. Below you will find which content Ubersuggest offers to consider regarding the “green scarf” topic:

3. Screaming Frog

One more tool that makes the list is Screaming Frog, a site crawler that’s designed for detecting issues with the website (for instance, allocating links that are broken or finding content that is duplicate) and improving it in terms of SEO. The tool is available both on a free and paid basis. The provided functionality depends on the license.

4. Keyword Magic Tool by Semrush

The Semrush Keyword Magic Tool is one more tool worth bringing up. It is noted for offering to-the-point tips that can be used to advance your eCommerce store. The tool provides suggestions on which words to use based on the “seed” keyword and the location or country that you’re aiming to rank in. It also has functionality for creating a Master List and a Keyword Manager. Noteworthy, it can pitch information on the usage of this keyword by competitors too. The tool offers a free trial and various plans.

Top eCommerce SEO Extensions

Tracking your SEO efforts and constantly improving what can be done even better is the other side of the deal. When it comes to effective search optimization, it’s not possible to cover everything once and never return to it again. SEO requires patience, analytics, noticing the trends, and keeping things organized.

Because your eCommerce store can be based on various platforms, we’ve broken down the top SEO plugin solutions and modules that you may optionally integrate into your website.

1. For Magento

2. For Shopify

3. For WordPress eCommerce

Final Say

To sum up everything that was indicated in this SEO guide for eCommerce stores, it must be stated that optimizing your online retail website for search engines is one of the highly crucial steps that can help business growth.

With a detailed plan, smart strategy, consistency, and a handful of helpful tools to assist you in the process, there’s a great chance to enhance your revenues by investing time into SEO.

About the author

Alex Thomas

I am responsible for pitching and winning new business, creating and implementing SEO campaign strategies, social communications, on and offline media relations. I am passionate about spreading knowledge about SEO and always search for new ways to improve.

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