The Ultimate Guide to SEO for E-Commerce Websites
E-Commerce is no longer the way of the future. As society began trending toward the online world, the past two years pushed more consumers to digital storefronts than ever.
But, there’s a problem – making your e-commerce website visible can be a challenge for even the most reputable, established local businesses. This is why optimizing your e-commerce store for modern search engines is mandatory for business success.
Fortunately for you, the strategies for bolstering your website rankings are no longer a secret. Below, you’ll find our tips that make up your ultimate guide to SEO for e-commerce websites.
What is E-Commerce SEO?
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the act of optimizing a website to increase the quality and quantity of its visitors. Because Google possesses nearly 93% of the search market share, the latest and greatest strategies are based upon changes and updates to Google’s search algorithm.
E-Commerce SEO is quite similar to SEO for a standard, informational website, but comes with the added goal of persuading users to interact with product pages to make purchases online. With that in mind, many of the SEO strategies you may already be familiar with are still effective for your digital storefront.
If you can learn these strategies and align them with buyer intent, you can effectively drive traffic to your website and increase your number of monthly conversions.
How to Do SEO For E-Commerce?
While e-commerce SEO can prove complicated depending on your number of website pages, you can see rapid improvements by simply focusing on what works for countless other websites:
1. Make Your E-Commerce Website Mobile-Friendly
Mobile optimization is one of the best things you can do to improve the performance of your e-commerce website. Roughly 55% of all web traffic now comes from mobile devices including cellular phones and tablets.
When it comes to digital purchases, it’s increasingly common for users to search for a product via mobile from any location. It’s also easier than ever to search and compare product information and prices when browsing physical locations, granting you more opportunities than ever to win sales over your competitors.
To keep your e-commerce site mobile-friendly, be sure to choose a minimalistic design that remains attractive while considering the size of the screen and the power of the device. Avoid outdated software like Flash, which greatly increases loading speeds. Also, be sure to use image formats such as PNG that greatly compress file size without overly compromising on image quality.
If you are proficient with HTML and CSS, we also recommend taking advantage of media queries. This code allows search engines to more easily determine which style and page format options you wish to load on your website depending on the type of device being used to access your domain. You can then design your website specifically for desktop and mobile experiences without compromising the experience you wish for users to have on one versus the other.
To check the loading speed of your e-commerce site, use Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
To determine if your site is mobile-friendly, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test here.
Both of these tools will generate a report that grades your website in both areas. This report will also describe existing errors and provide instructions on what you can do to optimize your website for improved performance. Page speed and mobile optimizations rely on one another, as mobile devices feature less processing power and rely on weaker data connections than a hardwired desktop computer.
2. Improve Your URL Structure
A common issue for e-commerce websites is poor URL structure. While this is essential for every type of website, it becomes increasingly difficult as you expand your storefront with hundreds of unique product pages. Poor URLs will not only make navigation more difficult for your users, but Google will have a much more difficult time indexing parts of your e-commerce website.
To make your URLs more SEO-friendly, always utilize this format:
For most common practices, you will primarily be concerned with the slug and permalink of your URL structure. For e-commerce, your site will almost always require additional categories and subcategories to go into your URL. In that cases, your URL may look more like this:
You will want your URL to be clean and contain only the necessary information for navigation and product identification. Avoid messy structures that contain long strings of numbers or characters that do not benefit the user. Your website’s page editor will generally contain an SEO tab that allows you to modify your URL structure in addition to creating your page title and meta description.
3. Add Breadcrumb Trails for Improved Navigation
While on the topic of navigation, adding breadcrumb trails with structured data markups can help Google classify the content on a given website page. Though this is a more advanced SEO technique, it effectively allows website users to quickly move forward and backward by following the categorical flow. An example of this would look like this:
Home Page > Products > Hair Care > Shampoos > Product A
This is tremendously hopeful for both the user and for web crawlers to properly navigate your site. As you begin to add more categories and sub-categories, it becomes easier to get lost. If a user is unable to easily backtrack to a previous category page, they might then have to jump back to the home page or products page, which results in additional time searching instead of learning, engaging, and buying.
While creating breadcrumb trails is typically done through HTML on the backend, many modern website editors now provide convenient ways for you to incorporate visible breadcrumb trails on every page. If you wish to learn more about this topic and view examples of the required HTML, click here.
4. Avoid Duplicated Content by Using Canonical Tags
As a general rule, website pages should always contain unique content. That means avoid reusing or copying content from other pages on your website.
However, e-commerce sites have the unique problem of creating multiple pages for different variations of the same product. The problem can be compounded whenever creating additional versions of the same page to better suit different browsing devices. As a result, you may end with pages featuring the same content as well as nearly identical URLs. While it may not prove to be an issue when starting, duplicate content is an incredibly common SEO issue.
One remedy for this is to write fresh, unique descriptions for every product page on your website. This is the manual way to resolve the problem but results in a lot of tedious labor that you may not have the time or means to complete. Also, resellers will likely be required to use a specific descriptor as a part of your permission to sell a brand’s product in your storefront.
The alternative is to utilize canonical tags. A canonical tag is an HTML descriptor that tells the search engine which version of a web page is the primary (master) version. The tag will look something like this in your HTML source code:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.myecommercesite.com/products/productA/” />
Google will read the canonical tag and understand that this version of the page is the only one that it should index. This helps you to avoid any unwanted duplicate flags without needing to modify or eliminate pages on your site that you otherwise want or need present.
In addition to using canonical tags, consider using different images of the product on each of the different variations of the page. Make sure to update the alt text on these images appropriately.
5. Provide Rich Snippets with Schema Markup
Schema markup is the language search engines use to better understand your website’s content. This is far more reliable than allowing Google’s algorithm to decipher your content from plain text alone. By marking up content on your website, Google can track connections and better understand how
You can use schema markup to tag a variety of values including persons, places, organizations, products, pricing, reviews, locations, and much more. By tagging and classifying information, Google can then produce what’s called a rich snippet that includes more detailed information about your webpage alongside your meta description.
While meta descriptions and rich snippets do not directly impact your website’s SEO value, both highly impact the user clickthrough rate. They effectively act as an advertising space that attracts users to your link versus others on the same search engine results page. With this in mind, an e-commerce site result that features a flashy meta description and detailed product information.
Schema markup you should prioritize for your e-commerce site includes product schema to detail the featured item, pricing, availability, and product reviews. There are a wide variety of schemas you can and should use to boost your SEO, but these are the ones that tend to be unique to e-commerce.
If you wish to learn more about schema markup and how to apply the vocabulary, check out the documentation made available by Schema.org.
6. Use Meta Descriptions to Advertise Your Products & Services
Building up your meta descriptions continues on the same principles mentioned with rich snippets. Every web page features a meta description in Google search results that serves to inform the reader of what to expect when they click on a link. If you do not create one manually, Google will do its best to source your page for relevant content and use an excerpt of on-page content as a meta description.
It is almost always preferred for you to create your own meta descriptions as you have full control over how your link is advertised. Meta descriptions have a maximum length of 155 characters, but we recommend keeping them within the 120 and 150 character range. This ensures that your description fits nicely underneath the link without the risk of abruptly cutting off on search results pages.
Meta descriptions should succinctly describe the content that the user will find on the page. If the page focuses on a product, focus on selling that product. If you are describing your About page, focus on selling what makes your brand unique and give the reader reasons to care. Take advantage of the short length and provide just enough to whet the appetite. Be sure to use your focus keywords as these terms or phrases will be highlighted in bold, causing your result to stand out even more.
Your e-commerce site should also use special offers to encourage clicks whenever applicable. Using call-to-actions is always an effective way to promote engagement, so be sure to use words or phrases such as “buy,” “shop now,” or “explore.” You can also create a sense of urgency by including phrases such as “while this offer lasts” or “while supplies last.”
While meta descriptions won’t suddenly boost SEO for e-commerce, they will drive clicks and engagement. Google will then notice this increase in activity and recognize your site as trusted, giving you the desired result indirectly in the long term.
7. Build Backlinks to Boost Your E-Commerce SEO
A backlink is any link that links back to your website. If another website links to your e-commerce site anywhere on their domain, you have a backlink from them. Whenever another high-value domain backlinks to your site, they refer some of their domain’s SEO value to your domain.
Earning genuinely valuable backlinks is difficult for any website, but it may be even more difficult for e-commerce websites. This is because e-commerce sites arguably rely more on rankings than informational websites due to their innate reliance on clicks and engagement to gain sales. On top of this, a huge percentage of online sales goes to just a few online distributors, with Amazon expected to claim 50% of the market share by the end of 2021.
With that said, it is not impossible to earn valuable backlinks for your e-commerce website. The primary way of accomplishing this is to create compelling content that users won’t find elsewhere. Creating and optimizing content is king when it comes to boosting your SEO value. You can create content for your website, attempt to write feature content for other sites as a form of self-promotion, or both.
However, many website owners make the mistake of believing content does not matter the same for e-commerce sites as it does for informational sites. This is a mistake as creating content is one of the primary ways to implement keyword usage, establish authority in your industry, and build consumer trust. By creating click-worthy and share-worthy content, you provide other website owners with a natural incentive to backlink to your website. This brings us to our next SEO suggestion.
8. Google PageSpeed Insights
If you run a website in 2021, you need to have a blog that features new content regularly. This is your opportunity to show off your expertise in the field and support both your brand and your products.
Posts that take the opportunity to show off new products are a great way to educate and entice consumers that are on the fence about purchasing from your site. You not only can support your product’s value with facts and research but can demonstrate with evidence how your product beats the competitor’s product without the same restrictions that a product page will have.
But, your e-commerce site’s blog is not limited to self-promotion. Consider that many consumers start their buying journey by searching Google for answers to specific problems. You can and should take advantage of these commonly searched questions by writing articles that answer their queries. As someone who works in and sells products related to the matter, you are best suited to provide authoritative answers to these questions. A user can discover your brand through your article and learn to trust your brand thanks to your well-researched information.
Now that the user is already on your site, they don’t have much farther to go to click on your products or services that provide solutions to their problems. This makes your blog an excellent place to “soft sell” consumers on your offerings without the need for aggressive, paid advertisements.
Finally, a blog is also a great place to feature user-generated content. This can include videos or coordinated efforts with influencers who genuinely enjoy using your products or services. Not only will it give users insight into how your brand impacts real lives, but it also goes that much further in helping those potential customers place trust in your brand.
9. Create a FAQ Page
An FAQ page is an excellent way to provide additional SEO-friendly content that can boost your site rankings. You can dedicate this page to directly tackling a variety of commonly searched questions that users utilize to discover new products and services that provide solutions to their issues.
A prime location to identify what types of questions you should answer is the “People Also Ask” section within Google search results. Even if you have yet to rank high for specific keywords, you may be able to rank your e-commerce site high by providing the best answer to specific questions.
A FAQ page, however, is not the place to sell your brand or products explicitly. Remember that Google’s primary goal whenever ranking search results is to help its users gain the most valuable information possible immediately. Therefore, you should avoid using flowery language or self-promotion when answering these questions. Use the question itself or key phrases when answering and provide accurate information in the most succinct, user-friendly way possible.
You can always return to your FAQ page over time as your actual prospects or customers message you with their questions or concerns. Not only does providing answers to these questions on your site help you rank, but it will also empower your visitors to feel that they are making smart purchasing decisions by educating themselves first.
10. Feature Testimonials and Reviews Throughout Your Site
The value of consumer trust cannot be overstated when it comes to driving sales through your e-commerce website. One of the best ways to do this is to allow your satisfied customers to bear some of this responsibility for you. In most cases, a customer that’s on the fence is more inclined to be swayed by fellow happy consumers than a business whose primary focus is to make a profit.
You can feature testimonials throughout the entirety of your site. You do not need to create a dedicated page for this. It is strongly recommended to include testimonials for specific products or services on those pages. This is because that content will be most relevant there and has the greatest chance to impact users that made it to that product page. It may be the last thing they need to click “Add to Cart.”
While you don’t have control over what a testimonial says, these blurbs will likely contain keywords or phrases that can be beneficial to your SEO rankings. They will also benefit you indirectly by encouraging engagement and retention time. The more users interact with your site and purchase from you, the more SEO value you can accumulate over time.
11. Utilize Listings and Local SEO (If You Have a Location)
Directory listings are still used in many SEO strategies for local businesses. These directories such as Google My Business, Yelp, or Facebook provide users with alternative ways to browse businesses that are relevant to their interests. This can help SEO for e-commerce websites if you are looking to branch out or boost sales online in addition to what happens at your physical location.
By ensuring that your listings profiles are complete and updated on each of these directory listings, you can indirectly generate clicks and sales online by promoting brand awareness locally. Your profile will contain a link to your e-commerce website and provide users with an alternative way to buy. It will also let existing customers know that they can take advantage of multiple buying options when engaging with your brand.
Your primary goal with directory listings is to ensure that each directory contains the same, accurate information regarding your business. Inconsistencies or inaccuracies among these listings can negatively impact your SEO value. However, if you keep your profiles optimized and up-to-date, Google will observe how your business information is consistent and trustworthy across a variety of different websites that feature their own authority. That authority can then have potential benefits on your e-commerce site value over time.
12. Remove Outdated Information and Discontinued Items
Make sure that you don’t negatively impact the SEO value of your e-commerce site by continuing to support outdated information. Aspects of your e-commerce business may change over time including product selection, costs, shipping policies, etc. If customers report that information as unreliable, it will also impact the level of trust Google has with your domain.
With that in mind, you should also be sure to eliminate outdated or discontinued items from your e-commerce store. Keeping your website organized and easily navigable is already a challenging task and you won’t want to compound the issue with pages that no longer need to be present.
As a general rule, try to keep your e-commerce site as clutter-free as possible. It’s acceptable to have 100+ pages so long as each page provides content that is of value to the visitor. If any pages are not up to date, are irrelevant, or could be consolidated, consider making the necessary changes to keep your e-commerce site a lean, SEO-friendly machine.
13. Capitalize on Long-tail Keywords
Keywords are the bedrock of any great SEO strategy. However, long-tail keywords are often overlooked due to the low search volume. A long-tail keyword is a long, specific phrase or question that users often search when looking to make a purchase. While it may not produce a sudden boost in sales, ranking for these keywords can be a great way to boost your e-commerce SEO quickly and efficiently.
Examples of long-tail keywords look like this:
“Best keyboard for online gaming”
“Effective tools for cutting hair at home”
Notice that these long-tail keywords contain the primary keyword or product name, but also express an innate intent to purchase. These types of searches happen to educate one’s self to make the smartest purchase possible. A great place to grab long-tail keywords for your e-commerce site is from Google’s “People Also Ask” section, which we discussed above.
This creates an excellent window of opportunity for e-commerce site owners to rank for noncompetitive keywords that accurately describe and sell their products or services. The lower volume also translates to lower costs than those of shorter keywords.
With that in mind, it’s important to research which keywords you pursue the right way by focusing on user intent. It won’t help to rank for an informational keyword if you treat it as an opportunity to sell a product because it doesn’t match the original search intent. When content doesn’t match the search intent, it results in a high bounce rate which will negatively impact your SEO.
When selecting keywords to boost your e-commerce SEO, be sure to not only consider competition and cost, but the intent of the user’s search and how well you can formulate a valuable response to their query.
14. Empower Customers to Share on Social
If you look to other popular e-commerce sites for research, notice how all of them now feature share buttons on every single product page. These webmasters make it as easy as possible to copy direct links or share them on your social platform of choice including Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and more.
The ability for a user to quickly share a link on social media is an opportunity to create a natural discussion centered around your products and brand. Someone researching the best product for a particular use might express interest in your product, but want to share it with others online to discuss before committing to a purchase. That share not only gets people talking about your e-commerce website but can drive additional referral clicks from those that are interested or involved in the conversation.
Social media is another aspect of SEO that may not have a direct impact on search ranking algorithms but still packs tremendous value by providing additional exposure and the ability for users to market your brand for you.
While all of your product and service pages need friendly share links, don’t stop there. Make it a priority to incorporate social media into your marketing strategy, so that you can directly share new content, your latest promotions, and feature your newest products to your audience. The best way to help your brand establish a reputation and climb the rankings is to dominate mindshare and keep users constantly thinking about your e-commerce website.
Conclusion: Use These Tips to Boost SEO for E-Commerce Websites
Improving the SEO value of your e-commerce website can prove a difficult task, but it’s not an insurmountable one with the correct strategies.
Removing clutter, organizing your storefront, and optimizing your user experience to be fast and mobile-friendly should be the number one priority for any e-commerce website owner. You need to ensure that your website provides an experience that is on par or better than your competitors and is worthy of a customer’s attention.
Focus on providing meaningful content updates to your website that answer commonly searched questions and also help you rank for long-tail keywords. This can help you save on budget when keyword bidding and help you rank faster in the short term. Be sure to always examine the search intent before creating new content for the keyword in question. Valuable content will naturally lend itself to backlinks from trusted sources, but you should also look for opportunities to build those connections directly.
Finally, empower your users to solve their problems by educating them about the industry and your products. Utilize schema markup to make key details accessible within SERPs, consistently eliminate outdated information, and provide users with the ability to share their findings with others on social media for additional promotion.
Search engine optimization is a process that requires unwavering commitment and dedication. By utilizing our guide to SEO for e-commerce websites, you can see continued improvements to your SEO value and rankings.