How important is E-commerce SEO for your business and where should you start?
Almost 50% of online purchases start with a search engine (nChannel), and there are thousands and thousands of search result pages surrounding any given keyword!
Out of all these results, only 10 make it to the first page of the SERP, and those 10 spots make up 95% of all search traffic.
Needless to say, the competitive landscape of search results is fierce.
And with more and more product-specific search engine algorithm updates, the always-important need for user-centric content and a growing focus on page speed and performance, there’s never been a more imperative time to make sure your site is set up with a healthy SEO foundation.
Whether you’re brand new to e-commerce SEO or you’re looking for some new tips to enhance your current strategy — you’ve come to the right place! Here at Siege, we work with e-commerce companies every day to improve their search presence and drive sales for their business.
In this blog, we’ll walk you through a step-by-step e-commerce SEO strategy, SEO best practices, and advanced tips and tricks to help you stand out against the competition and land yourself on top of the SERP.
- What Is E-commerce SEO?
- Why Is SEO Important for E-commerce Sites?
- How To SEO-Optimize Your E-commerce Site
- E-commerce SEO Best Practices
What Is E-commerce SEO?
E-commerce SEO is the method of generating more organic traffic to a product page or e-commerce site.
Unlike paid ads and shopping ads, organic listings are non-paid listings that show up organically on the search engine result page (SERP) — typically following ads.
SEO is a long-game investment into your e-commerce business. Taking the time to set up your site right means reaping the benefits for years to come.
Why Is SEO Important for E-commerce Sites?
For example, a search for “bluetooth speaker” brings up 212,000,000 organic listings — that’s a lot of competition!
Even a much more refined search for “Bose Soundlink Color II Bluetooth speaker” brings up an astonishing 3,790,000 results:
Like we said, if more than 50% of online purchases start with a search engine, it pretty much means SEO for e-commerce is a must.
Companies that invest in e-commerce should expect to see an ROI ratio of 5:1. That’s a $5 return for every $1 you spend.
In other words, implement these SEO strategies and see five times the traffic and five times the revenue!
Remember, SEO for any industry serves as a solid foundation to keep your site pumping for years to come — it’s a long-game, not a short one.
Now let’s get started setting up your site for traffic-boosting, revenue-generating success.
How To Optimize Your E-commerce Site for SEO
From performing preliminary research around your competitors, products, and brands to writing and marking up your site pages with the right information, e-commerce SEO is all about attracting qualified users and providing those users with everything they need to make an informed purchase decision.
Ready to get started?
Here are seven steps to follow to set your e-commerce site up for search engine success:
1. Find the Right Keywords
The first step to an effective e-commerce SEO strategy is to discover keywords you want your site to rank for. In order to do that, you’ll need to perform keyword research.
Before you begin, you’ll need to be aware of two types of keywords: short- and long-tail keywords.
Short-tail keywords are head terms, or a general term, and are typically short in length and have a higher search volume.
Long-tail keywords are more specific or descriptive terms that are typically longer in length and have a lower search volume than short tails.
Using a mix of both short- and long-tail keywords on your site will be important for reaching your target audience.
Think you might need a hand deciding which keywords will have the most benefit?
Perform a KOB (Keyword Opposition to Benefit) Analysis.
A KOB involves pulling a keyword’s #1 ranking URL, monthly search volume, difficulty, traffic value, and number of backlinks come up with a KOB score.
Take your list of topics and sort them by KOB score to determine which keywords (and associated page) you should optimize first.
2. Analyze Your Competitors’ Performance
Here’s what I like to think of when it comes to competitor research: Competitors that perform well are an example of what you should emulate.
Competitors that perform poorly should be used as an example of what to avoid.
There are two main types of competitors: keyword and industry.
- Keyword competitors are sites that come up for an exact keyword that you’re trying to rank for.
- Industry competitors are those that sell the same products or services, but may not be competing with you for the exact keywords.
Note that your competitors can and may be a mix of both.
To analyze your competitors’ performance, make a list of who you think your competitors are and plug their site into an organic listing tool like Ahrefs or Semrush.
Here, you’ll want to look at organic rankings, backlinks or referring domains, top pages, etc.
My personal favorite tool to explore is the “content gap.”
Plug your site and your competitors’ site in to see top keywords they rank for that you don’t. This can help identify areas of opportunity.
The most important step in competitor analysis for e-commerce sites is to take a look at the number of pages and products your competitors have.
If your top competitors have 2,000 to 3,000 products listed on their site while you only have 10, it will likely be tough to compete with them.
3. Create a Visual Sitemap
If you’re starting your e-commerce site from scratch, you’ll want to create an ideal layout that is easy for users and crawlers (like Google) to navigate.
If you already have a site set up, reference this section to make sure your site has a strong hierarchy, then skip to step 4.
I like to think of a visual sitemap as a guide to what your site navigation and URL structure will be.
Here’s an example of how your sitemap might look:
Note: You should also have a technical XML sitemap (typically generated automatically from your CDN).
You should submit that sitemap to Google Search Console so Google can find, crawl, and index your site pages.
Check out our step-by-step instructions on how to execute a content audit here.
4. Choose One Keyword for Each Page
Once you’ve done your research and decided which pages will be on your site, you’ll next want to assign one focus keyword for each of your pages.
I like to do this by dropping my sitemap into a spreadsheet and placing the focus keyword next to the page.
Using your sitemap and your keyword research, decide which keywords go best with each page.
It’s important that each page has a unique keyword. For products that are similar, it’s okay if the keyword is only slightly different:
- Product 1: Bose Soundlink Color I bluetooth speaker
- Product 2: Bose Soundlink Color II bluetooth speaker
What makes a good focus keyword? An ideal focus keyword will be one with a relatively high volume and a low to moderate difficulty score.
For Ahrefs, I like to consider anything less than a difficulty of 40 as low to moderate. A great way to see what you could potentially rank for is to see what your competitors rank for.
Once chosen, you will use these keywords throughout your site copy and in your metadata.
5. Create and Implement Metadata
Metadata is all of the textual information that describes your page.
This helps search engines and users determine what your page is all about, and also plays a huge factor in ranking.
Using your focus keyword, you’ll next want to create the following metadata for each of your pages:
- Focus keyword
- H1 (title of the page)
- Title tag (what users will click on to navigate to your page)
- Meta description
Prop tip: Map out all of your metadata in a spreadsheet to make it easier to copy and paste into your site.
Metadata Best Practices
- Keywords first. Place your focus keyword as close to the front of your tags as possible.
- Make each tag unique. Your title tag, meta description, and H1 should all be different from each other and unique to each specific product or page.
- Use action words in title tags and meta descriptions. Title tags and meta descriptions are the first thing your customer sees before entering your site. For your product pages, make sure they include words like “buy now,” “browse,” and “order today” to further entice users to click through to your site.
- Avoid keyword stuffing. While it’s important to include keywords in your tags, using them too much can actually hurt your rankings. Opt to use your focus keyword once in each tag.
- Keep it short (ish). Remember to keep each tag within the recommended length requirements. Title tags should be within 45-60 characters and meta descriptions within 145-155. H1s should be under 70 characters and URLs less than 2,048.
Here’s what my metadata might look like for Bose Soundlink Color II bluetooth speaker:
Once you’ve created all of this juicy optimized metadata, you can then implement it into your pages.
6. Optimize Your Site Pages
If you take just one thing from this guide, let it be the importance of optimizing your product pages.
Since these pages are where conversions happen, it’s important that your users have everything they need when browsing (and purchasing) your product.
Optimizing Your Product Pages
The top product section should include easy-to-scan information for users that are ready to purchase. This should include:
- A strong product title (h1)
- Model/sku # (if applicable)
- Star reviews
- Color options
- Several images
- Delivery options
- Add to cart buttons (or other CTAs)
Here’s a great top fold product page from Best Buy:
You’ll notice everything listed and more is implemented on this product page: a descriptive product title, model number, color options, star reviews, pricing and coupons, multiple images, delivery options, and a CTA.
The customer has everything they need to make a purchase decision here.
On the lower fold of the page (typically beneath the images), is where the beefy information comes in. This should include…
- A strong description/overview of the product
- Product features
- Callouts or specifications: dimensions, color options, etc. Bonus points if you can describe how to use it and offer info about return policies.
- Detailed reviews
- Related Products
On the bottom fold of that same Best Buy product page, you can see that they have more information about the product to help inform their customers.
Optimizing Your Category Pages
Category pages are the users’ map to the products of your site, so they should be easy to navigate and should include all of the products within the category.
Here’s what a well-optimized product category page should include:
- Filter options (colors, brands, sizes, prices, etc.).
- A grid of products.
- For each product: a title, image, the price, and a CTA (either view, quick look, add to cart or a mixture of both).
- Pagination for a clear view of where the user came from to get to the page they’re on. More on that in the next section.
7. Implement Schema Markup
Schema markup is another way for search engines to better understand your content and, most importantly, your products.
Often overlooked in rudimentary e-commerce sites, the following markup is recommended for a fully-optimized e-commerce site:
BreadcrumbList markup is a trail that shows users which position a page is in in your site’s hierarchy. This is also referred to as “pagination.” Here’s what this looks like on Best Buy’s Portable Speakers Category page:
The Breadcrumbs show a clear path of how I navigated to that page.
Home > Audio > Bluetooth & Wireless Speakers > Portable Speakers
Product schema is back-end data that gives crawlers more information about your product. This includes the SKU, a description, pricing, number of reviews, aggregate rating, and more.
Frequently asked questions help to provide users with more information about a product or topic.
It’s been speculated that FAQs are the quickest way to nab a rich snippet on the SERPs. They often help pages rank in People Also Ask boxes and Featured Snippets.
For each of your FAQ sections, generate schema for free with technicalseo.com’s Schema Markup Generator tool.
8. Get Found On Search Engines
Your awesome on-page and technical e-commerce SEO only matters if the search engines know you exist!
Using these tools, you’ll be able to see which pages are being indexed, track impressions, clicks, click-through rates, average position and monitor schema validation, page experience, and core web vitals.
Don’t Forget E-commerce SEO Best Practices
Create Great Supporting Content
One of the most overlooked ways of driving traffic to an e-commerce site is creating content surrounding your products.
In the era of E-A-T (experience, authority, and trust), the sites that have the most credible, helpful information are the ones that perform the best.
Great content types for e-commerce sites are:
- Questions and answers
- How-to guides (How To Furnish Your Home On A Budget)
- Specific brand/product guides
Where to find content inspiration: Going all the way back to the keyword research phase, plug in one of your head terms back into a keyword research tool. Under keyword ideas, you’ll find related terms in Ahrefs, “questions.”
Earning links from other, reputable websites is a great way to boost your E-A-T and get more users to your site.
Use a tool like Ahrefs backlink checker to see what links you already have and identify opportunities for new links.
Creating awesome e-commerce content is a great passive link building technique that requires no outreach effort. An informative, helpful piece of content will do the work on its own by being a source of information that other sites will naturally want to share with their users.
Learn more about our philosophy on passive link building here.
Optimize Page Performance
Did you know that for every extra second it takes your page to load, conversion rates drop by a little over 4%? (Portent, 2019)
With mobile-first indexing completely rolled out, and a closer look being taken at page experience (looking at core web vitals!), it’s never been more important to deliver a quick, light site that’s easy to use.
To check to see if your site is mobile-friendly, plug your domain into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
Five ways to improve load times:
- Choose a responsive web design.
- Keep image sizes under 250 kb.
- Implement caching.
- Make sure pop-ups are non-obstructive and easy to close.
Add Alt Text to Images
Alt text serves as a caption for your images. Since crawlers can’t actually see your images, this is how they decipher what’s in it. Alt text should describe exactly what’s in your image.
For the image below, my alt text might be: “Black Bose SoundLink Flex Portable Bluetooth Speaker on a workbench”
It completely describes the image and uses the keyword (product name), which can help it to show up in the image search results.
Make Your Site Structure Clear
An easy-to-use site is a well-performing site.
A clear site structure will show users (and crawlers) how it is your site is set up and how to get to and from each page to the next.
To make your site structure nice and obvious, make sure your URL, breadcrumbs, and navigation structure all match. See here:
You can see here that each new folder is accounted for in each element. This folder structure should also be reflected in your navigation. I have my main category (audio), a sub-category (bluetooth speakers) and my product (Bose Soundlink Color II).
Site structure is especially important for e-commerce sites with several product categories and subcategories. The easier it is to navigate your site, the happier your users will be, and the better it will perform.
Add links to similar products on each of your product pages and internally link to helpful pages to allow for better link flow throughout your site.
Allow Reviews On Product Pages
There’s nothing more transparent than honest reviews from your current customers. And this type of information is valuable to shoppers and search engines both.
What’s more, over 90% of customers will look for reviews before they purchase a product, according to Shopify.
Reviews allow users to see even more information on the product and is coveted by search engines. Add review schema to encourage rich results and boost the chances of your product page being found by your audience.
Add Helpful FAQs
Frequently Asked Question sections are a great way to provide more information to users in an intuitive way.
What questions do you usually get for your products? What other information might your audience want to know? Add them right into your product pages.
If you’re stumped on what questions to include, here are two great ways to find some inspiration:
People Also Ask Box
Type your product or product category name into the SERP and see what questions come up in the People Also Ask box. These are the most common questions surrounding the search, or in this case, your product.
Keyword Research Tools
Within Ahref’s keyword explorer, you’ll find a section called “Questions.” This is another great place to find some hidden FAQ gems.
P.S. Don’t forget to add FAQ schema wherever you have FAQs.
Stay Calm. E-commerce SEO Is Worth It
From well-executed keyword research to ensure your site structure is clear, there is a long list of boxes that need to be checked for optimal e-commerce SEO.
However, don’t panic. Once you optimize your website, you can continue to iterate on best practices over time, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself standing out on that 212,000,000 search result.
If you don’t have the resources internally to rank, we’re here to help. Reach out to our SEO team to get your site ranking.