With customers increasingly turning to the Internet to look for information and products, it is imperative for an ecommerce store to have an SEO strategy in place to maximise the opportunity of search and increase brand awareness.
In this guide, we will be talking about the fundamentals of ecommerce SEO, what you need to look out for when it comes to technical SEO, keyword research and content strategy planning.
We will also tell you why the keyword research phase is crucial and why you need to be present for each step of the customer purchasing journey, especially when the products you are offering are considered a higher-value item. Let’s dive in.
Click on the links below if you want to jump straight to one of the items.
- Crawlability and indexability
- Website speed and CWV
- Broken links
- Duplicate content
- Meta data and headings
- Internal linking
- Structured data
- Mobile friendliness
- Separate the keyword with commercial and informational intent
- Review the keywords you are currently getting traffic for
- Review the split between the brand and non-brand traffic
- Consider seasonality
1. Technical SEO for Ecommerce
We will begin by looking at the fundamentals of technical SEO for ecommerce stores. This is one of the most important steps because even the most beautiful websites need to be discovered by search engine bots first in order to be able to rank.
Crawlability and indexability
These are two different processes that people often get mixed up and believe that once a page has been crawled, it is automatically indexed and ranked in the search engine result pages.
- Crawlability - at this stage, search engines such as Google will download the files from your site with programmes called crawlers. Put in simple terms, website crawling depends on whether the bots can access your website. In order to understand whether that’s possible you must review your robots.txt file for any exclusions. Often you will find that internal search result pages on ecommerce websites are excluded via the robots.txt file in order to save crawling budget and avoid pages with duplicate content.
- Indexability - at this stage Google tries to understand what the page is about and this is why the information you have included in your title tags and content matters. During this process, Google determines whether the URL is a duplicate of another existing page on the Internet. Indexing does not mean ranking and if you are experiencing indexing issues, for example you have a very high number of crawled pages but very few are in the index, check the following things - ‘Noindex, Nofollow’ meta directives, canonical tags, mobile friendliness and content quality
Website speed and CWV
Page speed is especially important for ecommerce sites as you want to provide the best user experience possible. Page speed has been a ranking factor since 2018 and in 2021, Google took page experience to the next level with the introduction of Core Web Vitals. The good news is that focusing on optimising for page speed will not only improve your rankings but also improve the conversation rate of your website. According to one study by Google, slow page speed led to 123% increase in bounce rate, whilst Vodafone saw 8% increase in sales by optimising for Core Web Vitals.
Depending on the CMS you are using, there will be quick wins you can make, as well as some restrictions.
It is always best to speak to a technical SEO specialist and a web developer to ensure the correct optimisation approach.
You need to make sure that the most important elements of your site are rendered server side and not client side. This means that the navigation links, internal links and most importantly, your content, need to be found in the page source of your site. This will ensure that these elements are loaded first and search engine bots can access them easily.
Whilst broken links might not be high on your list, we would recommend running a crawl and ensuring that deleted products are not resulting in 404s.
Broken pages in an ecommerce site could often be the result of deleted products, incorrectly added internal links, where, for example, an extra space is added or updated category URLs.
There are two benefits to fixing the broken links on your site - user experience and search engine crawlers.
We would recommend creating a plan of how retired products or products that are out of stock for a period of time are handled on the website to ensure good user experience and avoid confusion with your customers.
This is a common issue for all ecommerce stores. Whether you are working with Magento, Shopify or BigCommerce you most likely have products that fit into multiple categories. When that happens it is important to understand how the URL structure changes and how products added to multiple categories are handled.
Meta data and headings
On page elements are very important for organic ranking. Ensure that the meta title and the H1 tag on your page are aligned with the keyword you are targeting. Whilst meta titles are important for ranking, meta descriptions are not, however they may impact your organic CTR so be sure to include the most important information and a call to action within 155 characters.
Internal linking is a great way to improve the site structure and increase the page authority to URLs with fewer internal links. With ecommerce SEO, you have a great opportunity to create various articles, guides and FAQ based pieces around the products you are selling.
We will discuss the keyword research later in this guide, however what you need to remember is to link back to your product pages and also add links on category page level, linking to different categories. This is also known as vertical internal linking.
Structure data is a specific type of code that provides more information to search engine bots. It helps classify the content found on the page by telling Google exactly what it is and as an added bonus, it can also make your site stand out in the SEPRs. There are different types of schema markup and some can be applied to all pages, whilst others are very specific and should only be added to one page.
For an ecommerce website, it is important to consider the following types:
- Product schema - added to all product URLs but not category pages;
- FAQ schema - added to pages that contain FAQs;
- Article/Blog schema - added to the Blog section of your site;
- Review schema -part of the product schema;
- Organisation schema - added to either the Homepage or Contact us page on your website.
Mobile friendliness has been a ranking signal since 2015 and for the last three years, Google has been indexing website mobile first, meaning that the mobile version of your website is the one that is used for crawling, indexing and ranking purposes.
Web developers are aware of this and most websites are built with mobile friendliness in mind. However, it is still recommended to review the mobile performance as part of a full technical audit on the site to analyse page speed, fonts, scripts and navigation to ensure the mobile version of the site is performing as it should be.
2.Website architecture for Ecommerce
Website architecture is important for both user experience and SEO. As websites grow and new product lines are added, your site’s navigation and structure should be able to scale up easily. In this section we will discuss the elements of ecommerce website structure and their importance.
Taxonomy and navigation
Website taxonomy is the structure used to organise content on your website in a logical order. Often you will hear SEOs referring to the navigation of the online store as the taxonomy.
The taxonomy is important because it helps you organise the products you sell into categories and subcategories.
Keyword research plays a huge part in this process as it provides insights into what people are searching for and you can update your navigation accordingly.
For instance, if you are selling tennis rackets online, you might want to consider creating various main categories or even subcategories to guide the user to the right products - tennis rackets for women, tennis rackets for men, tennis rackets for children, tennis rackets for beginners.
Crawl depth is a term you should also be familiar with. It refers to how far a page is from the homepage. The closer a page is to the homepage, the easier it will be for search engines bots and users to find it. With this mind, remember that products should not be more than three or four clicks away from the homepage.
Mobile friendly menu
Nowadays most website traffic comes from mobile so it is imperative that your navigation is mobile friendly. It is really important to include the same pages that you have added on the desktop version of your site - the content across the two devices should be the same. Often users will browse on mobile but convert on desktop so they should be able to find the products they want on the two devices easily.
Breadcrumbs are the links found on top of the page and are great for so many reasons! They help users navigate back to the category page the product was found on and also add relevant internal links to the site. This helps improve web accessibility and helps users find new pages if they have landed on the site organically.
The most common type of breadcrumbs are hierarchical, also known as location based breadcrumbs. These are great for SEO as they help communicate the site structure to search engine bots.
Canonical tags communicate which page is the master copy and which page is the duplicate. Let’s say that the same tennis racket can be added to two categories - ‘womens rackets’ and ‘beginners rackets'. If that’s the case, and a new URL is created once a product has been added to a category, you will end up with three different URLs containing the same product. This is not ideal as Google will see the same content on different pages and won’t know which page to rank.
Canonicals solve this problem by pointing to one master URL.
3. Keyword research for Ecommerce
Once the technical review has been completed and the issues uncovered in the technical have been resolved, it is time to turn to the keyword research phase. This can seem a little daunting as there is so much ground to cover, but fear not, as we will give you some steps to follow.
Keywords are more than simply search volume, they have meaning and intent and knowing which ones to optimise for is the key to a successful SEO strategy. Alongside search volume, each keyword has a level of difficulty, search intent, and seasonality and all these factors come into play when choosing the right terms for your campaign.
To make this task easier, we have divided the keyword research process into different steps.
Start by separating the keywords with commercial and informational intent
Search intent is a really important element when it comes to keyword research. Understanding which keywords have commercial and transactional intent and separating them from the terms and queries with informational intent is crucial.
- Commercial keywords are the ones that describe the product you are selling, they could be broad, organic cheese or long-tail, vintage oak smoked organic cheddar. As part of the commercial keyword research you also need to realise that people may buy your product in a different way than how you sell your product. Your keyword research needs to include information on whether people search for your products based on different attributes - size, colour, price, brand or functionality.
- Informational keywords, on the other hand, are usually formed as questions, indicating that the customer is looking for additional information on a product. These types of queries might not be directly related to selling the product you offer but they are an important part of the user journey. Through producing informational content you can increase brand awareness, increase the level of expertise and create topic authority.
Let’s look at an example. If you are an online store specialising in tennis equipment, you will want to appeal to different audiences, e.g. people who are just starting out in tennis and people who have played tennis for a long time. Knowing who your target audience is means that you can create content specifically for them. Your blog can include guides on tennis rackets for beginners or tennis tips for beginners. If you appear for these searches you will increase the awareness of your brand so once the user is ready to purchase a product, you, as the expert in their eyes, will be at the forefront of their mind.
Review the keywords you are currently getting traffic from
As part of the initial keyword research process, we recommend that you review the keywords the site is currently ranking for to see whether there are any quick wins and easy opportunities to take advantage of. You can do this by looking into Google Search Console and also using tools such as Semrush or Ahrefs.
Review the split between brand and non-brand keywords
It’s important to understand where the traffic to your site is coming from. There is no right or wrong answer here as every site will be different but knowing where you are starting from can help you monitor progress - is the brand or non brand traffic increasing over time, is your site relying only on a few keywords to drive traffic and if so, can you change this through a content strategy?
E-commerce businesses will usually have some sort of seasonality, especially when selling directly to consumers. Perhaps the Christmas season or the summer months are particularly strong and therefore you should consider this in your content strategy.
If particular annual occasions such as Valentines Day, Mothers or Fathers Day are times when sales volume increases, then creating seasonal pages is a great way of ensuring that you capture the season demand.
Here are a few examples;
- The keyword ‘christmas cheese’ starts to gain search volume in October and knowing that could help you create the right landing page to capture traffic from this keyword.
- The keyword ‘tennis lessons’ spikes after Wimbledon and having this information can help you prepare for a busy period or create a clever pierce of marketing targeting people who are interested in Wimbledon.
Remember that you should revisit your keyword research every couple of years. As your target audience grows, so will the way they search for keywords and you need to keep up to date with the questions they are asking. In the past, Google has reported that every year at least 16% of keywords are brand new terms that were never searched for before.
4. SEO content strategies for ecommerce websites
Now that we have completed the full technical audit and keyword research, it is time to start planning our content strategy.
In this section, we will cover the different types of content optimisation you can apply to your ecommerce website for better organic rankings.
Optimising category pages is one of the most successful content strategies for ecommerce stores. These pages should be optimised for broad or core keywords.
These types of keywords are usually the plural version of the keyword and have a higher search volume compared to long tail terms, e.g. luxury dog toys, organic cheese, tennis rackets for beginners, running shoes for women, etc. In some cases you might need the help of a developer to be able to add more content so be sure to review this with your SEO and web developer team.
Once the category pages are optimised you can research and analyse long tail keywords for your product URLs. Some product lines could be very popular and therefore have enough search volume to justify optimisng the page.
Remember that whilst search volume will be lower, it is likely that conversation rate will be higher as people searching for specific products know exactly what they are looking for.
Blogs and guides
Depending on the products you sell online, there will be various opportunities to create informational content that will increase the topic authority of your website. Review long tail keywords, frequently asked questions, comparison reviews, and ‘best’ type keywords (e.g. best tennis rackets for beginners) and create a content strategy that aligns with your business goals.
If you are selling products from multiple suppliers, chances are customers will be looking for the specific brands online. You have a chance to tap into these keywords by creating brand pages that list the products you offer by the particular brand and optimise for brand related terms.
The brand in question will always have topical authority and you may not be able to outrank it, however there are also cases, especially in B2B ecommerce sites, where the brands might not be able to supply to customers, in which case there is a big opportunity to outrank your competitors.
5. Social signals for ecommerce websites
Whilst this does not fall strictly into search engine optimisation for ecommerce websites, social signals are important as they help you build a strong level of E-A-T. Usually one or two social media channels will work best and will convert stronger than the rest, but nevertheless being present on the main social media channels has its advantages.
Websites such as Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are indexable and when consumers search for your brand, these links will send a strong message about the trustworthiness of your business online.
Also consider adding online reviews to your product pages. This will increase the level of trust people have with your brand and will also allow you to add review schema, which in turn results in review snippets in the SERPs.
6. Measuring success in Ecommerce SEO
After all of the hard work following the full technical audit, keyword research and analysis, keyword and content strategy planning, it is time to measure performance. We have outlined some of the top metrics you should measure SEO performance against, however if you are interested in the most important SEO metrics, head over to our guide for a full list.
Organic rankings & visibility
It is important to monitor the growth in organic rankings after you start optimising your existing content and creating new pages. This is one of the ways to see whether the strategy you have implemented is fruitful and you are seeing increased organic visibility.
Sessions, clicks & impressions
Create a habit of monitoring Google Analytics and Google Search Console to see whether the optimised content is driving more sessions, clicks and impressions to the site.
Remember that content may take time to be indexed and start ranking but once you see rankings improve, review whether the organic traffic to the site reflects the position your website is in.
Perhaps one of the most important KPIs, revenue is certainly a great way to gauge whether organic traffic is performing well. Monitor not only the overall revenue but also dive deeper and look at top selling products, top converting pages, top landing pages, and pages that are getting a lot of traffic but are not converting.
Whilst this is not an extensive list, it will certainly give you the top technical and content aspects of ecommerce SEO. If you want to talk about your project, you can contact us at email@example.com or reach out via LinkedIn or Twitter.