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Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art and science of making your online store more visible on the search engine results pages (SERPs). Do it right, and your website ranks close to the top of the first page of Google and other search engines.

Let’s start with why. Why is SEO important for your eCommerce site? We’ll let some numbers do the talking:

  • 44% of people start their online shopping journey with a Google search.
  • 37.5% of all traffic to eCommerce sites comes from search engines.
  • 23.6% of eCommerce orders are directly tied to organic traffic.

So while paid ads can get you some instant visibility and traffic from SERPs, the goodies stop when you stop paying.

A well-designed and search-optimized website with high-quality content and Link Building for eCommerce Sites user experience (UX), on the other hand, will continue to drive traffic and sales well after the up-front efforts have stopped.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll go through all the actionable basics of eCommerce SEO so you can start optimizing your store right away. Get, set, go!

Keyword Research for eCommerce Sites

Not just eCommerce, but search engine optimization for any website begins with thorough keyword research. Having the right set of keywords is the cornerstone of your entire eCommerce SEO strategy. Get it wrong and you’ll end up:

  • Targeting keywords that are way too competitive to rank for, and won’t make it to the first page of the search engine results page (SERPs).
  • Ranking for keywords that very few people search for or keywords that don’t lead to purchases.

Get it right, though, and you’ll target keywords that are relatively easy to rank for, have a respectable search volume, and have good conversion rates. So let’s dive into the various aspects of effective keyword research for eCommerce websites.

The Initial Steps of Keyword Research

Before you proceed with all the manual labor, there are a couple of important things to understand and keep in mind:

Product-Focused Keywords

For most websites, keyword research is usually aimed at ranking educational and helpful content (such as blog posts, how-to guides, etc.) that has an informational intent as opposed to a direct commercial intent. The goal is to boost brand awareness, credibility, and authority by leading visitors into the sales funnel, nurturing them into leads, and ultimately going for the kill.

For eCommerce SEO, however, it’s typically better to go straight for the kill. This is not to say informational keywords don’t have a place in eCommerce SEO, but when you’re selling a bunch of niche products, it makes sense to do keyword research with product-focused keywords in mind. Doing so helps you target keywords that have less competition and greater buyer intent, speaking of which…

Buyer Intent

In simple words, buyer intent is all about determining where the searcher is in their buyer’s journey.

For instance, a person searching for “best tablets” is likely still in the research phase, comparing products and considering if any of them are worth buying. They’re looking at product reviews and comparing features.

But if someone is searching for “Apple iPad Pro”, they’re likely hunting for the hottest deal on that product — which means they’re ready to purchase.

Buyer intent is often closely linked to the average cost per click (CPC) of a keyword in the Google Keyword Planner (and other tools like Ahrefs), because if more advertisers are willing to spend on the keyword, the higher its buyer intent is going to be.

PS: “Best <product type>” could be a great traffic-driving topic idea for your eCommerce blog.

With all that settled, how do you start with eCommerce keyword research? Let’s dive in.

Get a Complete Inventory of the Pages On Your Site

Go to: yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml.

It can look something like this:

sitemap

If you don’t see your sitemap at that URL, go to: yourdomain.com/robots.txt. You’ll find your sitemap URL here. Remove the .gz file extension, if present.

Use a website scraper, such as the Scraper extension, to scrape this list of URLs.

If you’re yet to launch your eCommerce site, follow the above steps for an existing, established site you’ll be competing against. Steal their site structure, categories, and products. But avoid big brands (like Walmart, Macy’s, etc.) and consider competitors you can realistically target.

Scrape their sitemaps and gather the results into a Google Sheet.

Also, if you inventory competing sites, go through the list and remove any categories or products that are irrelevant to what you plan to sell.

Prioritize Your Pages

Yes, keyword research on a page-by-page basis is tedious. But it can be sped up if you prioritize your most important pages first.

If you have Google Analytics set up, you can get an idea of your priority pages by going to:

Behaviour > Site Content > Landing Pages > Revenue (sort by high to low)

Analytics revenue pages

Be sure to segment this report so that it only shows organic traffic.

And if you don’t have Google Analytics set up (which you should), or are doing this for a competing site, try the Top Pages report in Ahrefs Site Explorer.

Site Explorer > enter domain > Top Pages

ahrefs top pages

Find and Map Keywords to Each Page

With a list of prioritized pages, It’s time to find and map keywords to them. These include:

  • Head keyword: the primary keyword you want to optimize the page for.
  • Long-tail variations: Key phrases that may drive targeted traffic to the page.

Let’s look into each.

Find a Head Keyword

Looking at the keywords you already rank for can be a great way to find the right head keyword.

For example, consider this eCommerce category page for an all-in-one brewing system, called Grainfather.

In Ahrefs, go to Site Explorer > enter a page URL > Organic Keywords

Organic Keywords

It seems “Grainfather” (2.9K searches/month) stands out as a good head term for this page.  Still, it’s a good idea to go through the SERPs dropdown and see the top 10 ranking pages for this query.

You need to check a couple of things:

  • What types of pages are currently ranking — product pages? Catalog pages? Blog posts? It’s vital to chase keywords with the right buyer intent. If you find most of the top search results as blog posts, there’s no point trying to rank a product or category page there, as it’s not what people want.
  • Ahrefs shows a “Top keyword” column for all top-ranking pages in the SERP Overview. In most cases, you’ll find that the top keyword is the same for most of the pages in the top ten. But sometimes, it can reveal an even better head term.

grainfather serps

 

The above image confirms that over 80% of the pages are eCommerce product or category pages and there’s purchase intent behind this query. And the top keyword is “grainfather” which means it’s a good head keyword. 

Find Long-Tail and Related Keyword Variations

The same Organic Keywords report can be a good source of long-tail and related keyword variations.

long-tail-variations

Make sure to review the SERPs to verify if the search intent is similar — that is, the top-ranking pages are eCommerce product or category pages.

Furthermore, you can figure out more long-tail variations and semantically related words and synonyms (such as “all in one brewing system”), by checking the SERP Overview for your head term in the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer.

Paste 5-10 of the top-ranking product or category pages into the Content Gap tool and apply these settings:

  • Leave the “But the following target doesn’t rank for” field blank.
  • Keep the “At least one of the targets should rank in the top 10” box checked.
  • Choose “at least 2 of the below targets” from the “Show keywords that ____ rank for” drop-down.

Here’s what you’ll see:

grainfather-content-gap

Add these long-tail and related keyword variations to your Google Sheet. Do this process for all priority pages on your website.

Use Amazon Keywords

Amazon is likely one of your biggest competitors, but being the eCommerce behemoth that it is, its internal search engine is a product keyword research (with high buyer intent) goldmine.

There are two ways to leverage Amazon for keyword research:

  • Type in your head keywords in the search bar and let Amazon provide autofill suggestions. Enter them into your spreadsheet.

Amazon screenhot

  • Use an Amazon keyword research tool like this one or this one that scrapes all Amazon’s autofill suggestions automatically.

You still need to check the search volume and difficulty before finalizing your keywords, but you’ll now have a nice set of high-intent, long-tail keywords, courtesy of Amazon.

Use Keyword Planner and Google Auto Suggest Keywords

You can find monthly search volume, along with CPC and competition (to determine buyer intent) using Google Keyword Planner. And don’t be deterred by competition — that’s competition for paid ads, not organic rankings. In fact, “Medium” or “High” competition means more commercial intent, so aim for those keywords in your product and category pages.

organic dog food

And like Amazon autofill, Google’s auto-suggestions also serve some great long-tail keyword ideas you can use.

Use Other Keyword Research Tools

Besides Ahrefs, Amazon, and Google, there are plenty of other great keyword research tools. One such tool is SEMrush. It’s different from the others as it doesn’t generate new keyword ideas based on head keywords, rather, it shows you keywords that your competition already ranks for.

Let’s say you’re planning to sell dog food. Start by inputting a competitor into SEMrush’s search field.

Semrush

Then, select “Organic Research” in the sidebar.

Under “Positions”, you can see all of the keywords that your competitor ranks for:

Semrush

Get more keywords by checking out the “Competitors” report.

Semrush

SEMrush will display websites that are similar to the one you’re looking at.

Semrush

Repeat this process with the competitors you just found.

Semrush

Choosing the Right Keywords for Your Store

All right, let’s wrap up eCommerce keyword research by knowing how to choose the right keywords for your store. Here are the four core factors to consider when finalizing your keywords.

Volume

One of the most important metrics to consider is search volume. After all, if no one searches for that keyword, it doesn’t really matter how well it converts.

But only you can determine what’s a good search volume in your industry. Use Google Keyword Planner to find the monthly search volume for your keywords.

Competition

If there’s way too much competition for a keyword, it may be better to target it a few months down the road once you’ve established your eCommerce authority in your niche.

Use SEMrush’s “Keyword Difficulty” to get an idea of how competitive a given keyword is to rank for.

Semrush

Relevancy

If the keyword you pick — even if it has an impressive search volume — is even slightly extraneous compared to what you have for sale on your eCommerce site, people that search for that term most likely won’t convert.

So, always double-check that the keyword you’re considering fits your offerings perfectly.

Intent

Last but not least, we again emphasize buyer intent. Before finalizing a keyword, you must have a fairly good idea if the searchers have the cash ready to convert.

As we touched upon, Google Keyword Planner shows paid ads competition and for eCommerce SEO, “Medium” or “High” competition means more commercial intent, so aim for those keywords in your product and category pages.

Also, take a look at “Top of Page Bid” which suggests how much people tend to spend on a single click in PPC. When it comes to estimating commercial intent, the higher the suggested bid, the better.

Google Keyword Planner

International SEO for Large eCommerce Sites

While this guide is focused on helping eCommerce websites big and small — if you’re running a large, multinational brand, then this section is for you.

International SEO is a fairly huge topic in itself, but let’s look at a few key best practices to point you in the right direction.

Target Location-Based Domains

When going global, one of the first things to consider is your domain. You essentially have five options, outlined below.

Unique Top-level Domain

You can have a separate domain with a clear country code appended to the end of the domain.

It looks like:

  • Global/USA targeting: example.com
  • France targeting: example.fr
  • Spain targeting: example.es
  • India targeting: example.in

Subdomain

Subdomain targeting is set at a separate third-level domain. All content will remain on the generic .com TLD (top-level domain) but the country code is set at the subdomain level. 

It looks like: 

  • Global/USA targeting: example.com
  • France targeting: fr.example.com
  • Spain targeting: es.example.com
  • India targeting: in.example.com

For example, Gymshark, the British fitness apparel brand, has such subdomain variations:

  • https://ca.gymshark.com/
  • https://eu.gymshark.com/
  • https://fr.gymshark.com/

Subdirectory

In this case, the country codes are outlined in subfolders on the generic TLD (top-level domain). 

It looks like:

  • Global/USA targeting: example.com
  • France targeting: example.com/fr/
  • Spain targeting: example.com/es/
  • India targeting: example.com/in/

Same Domain With Parameters

gTLD stands for ‘generic top-level domain’ and is similar to subdirectory targeting, but the only difference is country codes are outlined through parameter targeting. 

It looks like:

  • Global/USA targeting: example.com
  • France targeting: example.com?lang=fr-fr
  • Spain targeting: example.com?lang=es-es
  • India targeting: example.com?lang=in-in

For instance, Bloom & Wild, a UK-based flower delivery company, uses the same domain with country parameters:

  • https://www.bloomandwild.com/
  • English French speakers: https://www.bloomandwild.com/?countryId=5
  • France only: https://www.bloomandwild.fr/?countryId=5
  • Ireland: https://www.bloomandwild.com/?countryId=2

Completely New Domain

The last option is a completely new domain, maintaining a generic top-level domain pattern with the country names.

It looks like:

  • Global/USA targeting: example.com
  • France targeting: example-france.com
  • Spain targeting: example-spain.com
  • India targeting: example-india.com

Each of these options has pros and cons from an SEO perspective. Here’s a summary table that outlines them for your easy reference and better decision-making.

Domain Type Comparison

To see this graphic in higher quality, right-click on it and open it in a new tab on desktop

Use Hreflang to Serve Multiple Language Options

Your store gets visits from multiple countries. So, people around the world are interested in the products you are selling.

But many of them may not be good at English, so it makes sense to provide multiple language options for international visitors, directly in the SERPs.

Hreflang is an HTML attribute used to specify the language and geographical targeting of a page. If you have multiple versions of the same page in different languages, you can use the hreflang tag to tell search engines like Google about these variations. This helps them to serve the correct version to their users.

apple-spain

Here’s how an hreflang tag looks like:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”fr” href=”https://example.com/alternate-page” />

Here’s what each part of that code means in simple English:

  • link rel=“alternate”: The link in this tag is an alternate version of this page.
  • hreflang=“fr”: It’s alternate because it’s in a different language, and that language is French.
  • href=“https://example.com/alternate-page”: The alternate page can be found at this URL.

Hreflang tags improve UX as fewer people would bounce back to the search results, which in turn, helps SEO. It also helps prevent the problem of duplicate content.

So if you have the same page in multiple languages, or you have pages aimed at different geographic regions but in the same language, use hreflang for better SEO. Admittedly, it’s a complicated endeavor, but this easy hreflang guide from Ahrefs has everything you need to know to construct and implement hreflang tags as a beginner.

Have Country-Wise Currency Options and Shipping Requirements

As with language, it’s possible many of your international customers wish to pay in their local currency and payment method.

You don’t want an American visitor to land on a page that only sells in Pounds as it would likely drive them away even if they have a high purchase intent.

When providing country-wise currency options, you’ll also have to deal with changes in the exchange rate, among other considerations

You can set up Shopify Payments to use multiple currencies if you run on Shopify, or use WPML for running a multilingual WooCommerce site with multiple currencies, independent of the site’s languages.

Similarly, make sure to provide clear shipping policies specific to the customer’s region, and an option to get in touch with you in case they need any support.

Create Splash Page for Country Specific Selection

As an alternative to implementing the rather daunting hreflang tag on a sitewide level, you can simply create a splash page country-specific selection as the visitor lands on your website. Below is an example from Nike’s homepage, when language and IP can not be determined.

international SEO splash page

Here’s another example from luxury British fashion brand Hobbs:

splash page hobbs

This one’s better as it reduces information overwhelm and visitors can conveniently choose their location to find products that are available in their market. Hobbs automatically displays what country they think the shopper is in based on their ISP. If it’s incorrect, visitors can click on the country drop-down menu to choose their country.

So, if you have a large international customer base from many countries, this is a great eCommerce splash page example to emulate.

Have an International Backlinks Strategy

While we’ll dive deeper into link building for eCommerce in a separate section below, let’s talk a bit about international backlinks.

International backlinks are one of the simplest yet most neglected aspects of international SEO. In essence, it’s about getting international publishers and websites to link to the right version of language/location pages.

For instance, if you have gained coverage from a Spanish publisher, you should encourage them to link the coverage to an /es/ or .es version of your website, for two reasons:

  • Maximizes link juice: As the link value goes directly to your Spanish page version, and doesn’t require the value to be diluted through the UK/US version of the site first. 
  • Better experience for the visitors: If people are reading the publication in Spanish, it makes sense for them to arrive at the Spanish version of your website.

You can review your backlinks by using a backlink tool like Majestic SEO and exporting to a spreadsheet, matching the backlink URL/location to the correct page version on your website.

On-Page SEO for eCommerce Sites

With keyword research in place, let’s see how you can optimize the various on-page elements on your eCommerce website. Let’s start with a primer on website architecture.

Site Architecture for eCommerce Sites

Everything starts with your website architecture. In essence, it is how you set up your navigation, category pages, and product pages — the overall organizational hierarchy of your store using internal links.

In other words, site architecture is all about getting relevant content in front of your visitors in the least amount of clicks, ideally no more than 3. This also helps search engines establish the relationships between your various pages.

Website architecture is especially important for eCommerce websites (as opposed to a blog or small business website), as a typical online store tends to have hundreds to thousands of product pages, so it’s critical that users and search engines can easily find all of those pages.

Below is an example of a bad eCommerce site architecture.

Poor Site Structure

It’s bad because:

  • It’s too elaborate.
  • It’s not scalable. Each time you want to add a new category, you have to create a new layer and reorganize your existing categories and subcategories.
  • It’s too deep. With a deep architecture, the link authority of all the backlinks built to your homepage is diluted by the time it reaches your category and product pages.

Now let’s say you run an eCommerce store that sells shoes. Here’s what a good website architecture would look like.

Example of Site Structure

In this case, the link authority is neatly passed down to the site’s product and category pages, which helps these pages rank in Google. It also makes it easy for Google to crawl and index every page.

Such a flat architecture is simple and scalable, and makes it easy for shoppers to find the products or content they want.

Optimize Your Meta Titles, Descriptions, and H1s

Title tags and meta descriptions are crucial for eCommerce on-page SEO elements.

Let’s consider title tags first.

Sure, you can auto-populate your title tags with the product name if you have thousands of product pages by building a naming convention in a spreadsheet, but make sure to fine-tune each title tag for keywords.

Put simply, your title tags must be descriptive for search crawlers and enticing enough for customers.

The product name and primary keyword come first, but as you have around 60 characters (anything over that may get truncated in the SERPs), you can:

  • Add benefits (such as free shipping) and/or purpose (such as “home brewing”, “party”, etc.).
  • Use powerful adjectives (“fresh”, “flavorful”, etc.) to improve CTR.
  • Include your brand name at the end, if space permits.

Here’s an example of a good title tag from ASICS:

eCommerce title tag

Coming to meta descriptions, you get around 155 characters, which means more space and flexibility to write for click-throughs.

All of the same guidelines — keywords, adjectives, benefits, features, purpose, brand name — for writing title tags apply to your meta descriptions, too.

Furthermore, you can try to write a couple of lines to try and:

  • Paint a picture of how the customer’s life will improve with the product.
  • Highlight the pain point your product solves.

Here’s a good example of this from ModCloth:

eCommerce meta descriptions

For H1s, you can use the category title (for category pages) and the product title (for product pages), just ensure there’s only one H1 on each page.

Optimize Your URLs

With many categories and subcategories, eCommerce URLs often get messy. Does the URL below make sense?

http://www.example.com/category/clothing-983/product_id=25?86Sg_FES

Of course not. Neither does it help search crawlers. So, you want your URL slugs to be as clear and readable as possible.

Here are some tips to write effective eCommerce URLs:

  • Keep them as short and clean as possible.
  • Include your primary keyword.
  • Use hyphens to separate words.
  • Avoid URL parameters (_, $, &, etc.) as much as possible.
  • Don’t include stop words like “a”, “the”, “and”, etc.
  • Avoid having manufacturer numbers and auto-generated gibberish in the URL.
  • URLs must also reflect your site structure and show the categorical path for the product.

So, something like this — http://www.example.com/shoes/asics-running-shoes-black — is much better for both users and crawlers.

Bad and Good URL

Optimize Your Images

Your eCommerce store is brimming with images on the homepage, product pages, catalog pages, etc. After all, the biggest drawback of online shopping is that prospective customers can’t feel or try the products before committing to purchase, which means high-quality product photos from multiple angles are a must.

But images play a pivotal role not just in convincing customers but also in improving your rankings. Besides, over 36.6% of Google searches return image results, so optimizing your product images for search is vital. Here are a few best practices to follow:

  • Name images correctly: A descriptive image filename helps Google better understand and rank your image. For example, black-running-shoes-asics.jpg is better than IMG000553.JPG.
  • Use descriptive alt text: Describe the product or what’s in the image in a few words based on its name, attributes, and features. Use keywords.

alt text

Source

  • Compress images: Heavy, full-sized images will slow down your page load speed. Google recommends using ImageOptim, a free tool to compress images and make them load faster without compromising on quality.

Write Unique Product & Category Descriptions

All big eCommerce websites craft unique descriptions for their product and category pages. Below is an example from Topshop.

topshop

product description

Here, the emphasis is on writing a unique copy for each page. Yes, it’s a pain in the bum, but each product page can rank for branded and non-branded keywords. So, each should have a unique and compelling product description.

Also, if you pick product descriptions straight from the manufacturer’s website, then your content will be similar to your competitors who source products from the same manufacturer, and as a result, you lose the opportunity to differentiate your brand. Plus, manufacturer descriptions are usually not persuasive or optimized for search.

Here are a few tips to go about this:

  • Include your primary keyword in the H1 tag, along with the product name, key features, and attributes.
  • Sprinkle in long-tail variations, synonyms, and LSI keywords in the description.
  • Keep it short and sweet.
  • Break up the product description with H3s, H4s, and bullets for easy skimming.
  • Highlight the most compelling features of the product so customers know what they’ll get.
  • Highlight unique benefits so customers know why the product is perfect for them.
  • Share technical details and features that help make an informed decision.

Add Schema Markup

Structured data or schema markup is a code (semantic vocabulary) that you put on your website to help search engines better understand your content and enable them to produce richer, more informative results for users, such as the one shown below.

protein-powder-schema

Such rich snippets are not only more eye-catching and improve your CTR, but also let you occupy more space in the SERPs. A higher CTR means more traffic, which means more sales.

While there are many types of structured data you can implement, for eCommerce, product page schema is the most important.

“Add markup to your product pages so Google can provide detailed product information in rich Search results — including Google Images. Users can see price, availability, and review ratings right on Search results,” as per Google’s guidelines.

For this, you could use the schema.org Product markup.

You can a variety of properties to this schema type, but here are some of the most common ones to add:

  • name;
  • image;
  • description;
  • AggregateRating;
  • offers > price;
  • offers > priceCurrency

To get started, use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper which helps you add structured data markup to a sample web page. Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool is another tool to mark up and test your product pages with structured data. Read more about adding structured data markup to your product pages here.

Also, use Google Search Console to double-check that your Schema is implemented right. If you have Schema setup, you’ll see “Rich Results” under enhancements in the sidebar.

Optimize CTAs on Your Pages

Like images, your eCommerce store is brimming with call to action (CTA) buttons everywhere. You want people to sign up for your email list, add products to their cart, save some to their wishlist, get in touch with you, share your content, browse your latest catalog, and so on.

All CTAs — from “Add to Cart” on your product pages to “Subscribe for 10% off!” on your home and blog pages — must be:

  • Prominent and large enough to be visible instantly upon landing on the page.
  • Vibrant and use a contrasting color to make it stick out from other elements.
  • Written with clear, crisp (at most five words) and benefit-driven copy.
  • Surrounded by negative space and not crowded with other elements.

Also, follow the page’s flow and place the CTA where your audience’s eyes will go, such as to the right side of the product page, or at the bottom of a blog post encouraging readers to check out relevant products.

optimize CTAs

As seen above, mention incentives such as free delivery or easy returns right below the CTA.

Technical SEO For eCommerce Sites

Ranking high is ultimately about providing a great UX on your website, which involves some technical things as well. Technical SEO deals with all such technical aspects of your website, such as speed, security, duplicate content, etc.

Technical SEO is especially important for eCommerce websites. That’s because you likely have hundreds to thousands of pages and page variations, which means technical SEO issues are more likely to crop up.

Thus, a frequent technical SEO audit is crucial. Here are a few technical SEO issues to find and fix.

Ensure Your Site is Secure with HTTPs

If you are selling anything online (and accepting payments or customer information), then you should be having HTTPS sitewide. So many eCommerce websites still don’t have that green padlock saying that the “Connection is secure.”

Almost all eCommerce stores feature many forms which collect personal info from prospects and customers, which means you need to ensure that all information is encrypted (not just payment pages).

Google has also confirmed that sites benefit from a rankings boost if they serve content over HTTPs.

So, having HTTPS sitewide should be a priority. Check out this guide to learn how HTTPS helps SEO and how to set it up correctly.

Strategically Add Internal Links

As such, your homepage is the most authoritative page on your website. Internal links from one page on your website to another pass some of that “link juice” or “authority” from one page to another.

So, strategic internal links not only improve the UX by guiding users to relevant pages, but also help SEO.

Now, one of the good things about eCommerce SEO is that a lot of internal linking is done automatically. That’s because your site’s architecture and product categories create a lot of contextual internal links.

eCommerce internal linking

Still, doing some strategic internal linking manually is an eCommerce SEO best practice worth spending time on.

In particular, link from authoritative pages (ones that rank well) to high-priority product and category pages. These are the pages you’re ultimately trying to boost, as they directly convert to revenue for your business.

Internally linking to these pages will help to boost their position in the SERPs.

For instance, let’s say you published an in-depth blog post that’s garnered a lot of backlinks. And you also have a product page on a relevant topic. Be sure to add a keyword-rich anchor text link from that post to your product page.

Fix Duplicate & Thin Content Issues

Duplicate content is one of the most common eCommerce SEO issues plaguing websites big and small. It happens for a lot of reasons, such as:

  • The site creates unique URLs for every version of a product or category page, such as for different sizes or colors. If those URLs get indexed by Google, it leads to duplicate content.
  • You have a snippet of text (over 100 words) that appears on multiple pages. For example, a common benefit or feature that gets pasted on each product page description of a particular category.

To fix duplicate content, your first option is to noindex pages that don’t drive search engine traffic but are causing duplicate content issues. For instance, if your category filters (size, colors, etc.) generate unique URLs, you can simply noindex those URLs.

The next thing you need to do is use the canonical tag (“rel=canonical”).

A canonical tag tells search engines that certain pages are copies or slight variations of the same parent page. The canonical tag helps ensure that Google only indexes the primary version of the page you wish to rank.

Canonical Version

Also, write unique content for all of the pages that you haven’t noindexed or set up with canonical URLs. Create templates for product and category page descriptions and edit each of them to make them unique.

Along similar lines, another common issue is thin content. Backlinko’s data from analyzing 11+ million Google search results suggest that longer content tended to rank above thin content.

Content Total Word Count

Thin content is a common eCommerce SEO issue because it’s challenging to write lots of unique content about similar products.

Still, you must have at least 500 words of unique content for all of your important category and product pages (as we talked about in the on-page SEO section earlier).

Go through each page on your site one by one or use a tool like Screaming Frog to find pages that are a bit on the thin side. Once you’ve identified thin content pages, beef them up with high-quality, unique content. Again, templates like the one below make this process less painful.

Product Page Template

Find Deep (or Orphaned) Pages

As talked about in the site architecture section, it’s best to have your product and category pages as quickly reachable as possible from all other pages. A general rule is to have these pages no more than 3 clicks away from your homepage, as mentioned earlier.

Deep pages are ones that are more than 3 clicks away, and orphaned pages are ones that are not interlinked to any other page of your website at all.

Use Ahrefs’ Site Audit tool: head over to Data Explorer, set Depth as greater than 3, and “Is valid (200) internal HTML page = Yes”.

data explorer

Try to adjust your internal linking structure so that these pages are fewer clicks from the homepage.

For orphaned pages, In the Data Explorer, set “No. of inlinks = 0” and “Is valid (200) internal HTML page = Yes”.

orphaned-pages

You’ll get a list of all orphaned pages that you can then link to from other relevant pages.

Find Keyword Cannibalization Errors

Keyword cannibalization is when you unwittingly target the same keyword across multiple pages on your website.

It can cause two problems:

  • An undesirable page can rank above a desirable page (i.e., the one that brings in conversions).
  • It can effectively drag down your rankings for both pages.

So, you need to find and fix keyword cannibalization on your eCommerce store. And here’s a neat guide from Ahrefs to do it right.

Speed Up Your Website

Speed is one of the most important, official SEO factors that not only directly affects your rankings but also your UX.

Each additional second your page takes to load, your bounce rate increases, and conversion rates drop. In fact, 4.42% is the average conversion rate drop for each additional second of load time.

So how do you speed up your website? Start by using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to find what’s slowing down your site and get recommendations to improve your speed.

Plenty of things can cause your store to load slowly, such as:

  • Too many scripts or bloated CMS code.
  • Heavy, high-resolution images.
  • A slow web host or hosting plan.

While you can’t always achieve a perfect score on Google’s PageSpeed Insights, you can try and speed up your website by:

  • Compressing all images for optimal speed without compromising on quality.
  • Investing in a content delivery network (CDN).
  • Upgrading your hosting provider or package.
  • Avoiding unnecessary redirects and HTTP requests.
  • Enabling browser caching.
  • And more.

Fix Broken Links

Broken “404 Not found” links are a big no for SEO and UX. Fortunately, broken links are an easy fix.

Use the free Broken Link Checker tool to check your site for broken inbound and outbound links in seconds. Sort and filter the list to prioritize fixes.

broken links checker

Check back into the tool regularly to find new broken links and nip them in the bud — reinstate or 301 redirect them to suitable alternatives — before they negatively impact your SEO.

Optimize Pagination

To display sets of products on category pages, or articles on your blog, you’re likely using pagination (over infinite scroll, which isn’t recommended).

Pagination can cause duplicate and thin content issues, and can also cause internal link equity and other ranking signals, such as backlinks and social shares, to be split across pages — all of which is bad for SEO.

Here are a few top tips to optimize pagination for SEO:

  • Don’t include paginated pages in your XML sitemaps.
  • Use crawlable anchor links.
  • Handle pagination parameters in Google Search Console.

Learn more about SEO-friendly pagination here.

Content Marketing for eCommerce Sites

Content marketing is a type of marketing that involves strategically creating, publishing, and distributing content that’s valuable and relevant to your target audience.

To do it right, your content should not explicitly promote your products. Rather, your goal should be to generate natural interest in your brand’s offerings by creating content (blog posts, guides, infographics, videos, etc.) that your audience loves to consume.

Oh, and great content will also attract links, on-site engagement, and thus, better Google rankings.

So how to get your content game good? Here are a few ways worth investing in.

Create Something ‘Linkworthy’

As an eCommerce store, your content marketing strategy should be founded upon what’s known as “linkable assets” — top-notch, niche-relevant content pieces that attract backlinks and social shares on autopilot.

Here are a few types of linkable assets:

  • Interactive tools and calculators
  • Definitive, super in-depth guides
  • Original study or research on a hot topic
  • Animated infographics aka GIFographics

Our in-depth review of Tesla’s marketing strategy — which consistently attracts a ton of backlinks (without outreach) and ranks at the top — is an example of a linkable asset.

tesla marketing growfusely

Here’s another example of a linkable asset in line with our all-in-one brewing system example earlier.

linkable asset calculator

Without such a calculator, brewers would have to calculate this figure manually using a mathematical formula. This formula is talked about on many websites, but this calculator is one of the best resources people would love to share and link to.

Leverage the Power of Social Media

While social shares and engagement don’t directly improve SEO, it certainly boosts brand visibility and gets people more to visit your website. It can also help bring in backlinks, which does improve SEO.

Social media lets you, as a brand, engage with your customers in a more “human” way.

On platforms like Instagram and Twitter, you can ditch formal communication (such as on email or phone) and have a more colloquial approach to customer engagement, replying to comments and queries in a casual yet helpful way. Use emojis and slang to talk like an individual with a personality.

The Malt Miller Twitter

Source

It makes your brand more affable and relatable.

Drive more conversations with your customers by asking fun questions like “What’s your favorite __?” or “How would you spend an extra $100 today?”, or commenting on your followers’ posts, retweeting their user-generated content, and so on.

When potential customers come across your authentic and fun social media conversations, they’re likely to give you a follow and even consider you over competitors.

So, use social media to authentically engage with your audience, promote your link-worthy content, run paid product ads, provide quicker and approachable customer support, and ultimately, establish more brand authority.

Partner Up With Influencers and Brand Ambassadors

Influencers are people in your niche who have an impressive following and/or a high-authority website but aren’t competing with you directly.

You’ve heard of influencer marketing, but working with influencers for SEO is a bit different.

Instead of paying an influencer to promote your product on Instagram, the goal is to get them to link back to your site from their site. It could be from a blog post featuring or reviewing your products, or just getting a link from an existing page on their site.

Here’s how you can build relationships with influencers organically:

  • Share and comment on their content
  • Send them customers
  • Gift them products without asking for anything in return

To find the right opportunities (influencers, their contact info, topic ideas, etc.) for such linkback partnerships, use blogger outreach tools like BuzzStream, BuzzSumo, Hunter, and SEMrush.

Alternatively, you can do Google searches for “[your topic] blogs/influencers”.

Create Video Content

Take a look around — everyone’s hooked to videos, be it short-form Instagram Reels or longer and more informative YouTube videos. In fact, YouTube, not Yahoo or Bing, is the second biggest search engine today after Google.

Plus, 70% of brands say that videos boost brand awareness, and 85% of people say that videos help them connect with brands more effectively.

So, video can be a great way to stand out from your competitors and engage your audience. Help your customers feel more confident about their purchases by adding videos to your product page. It could be a 30-second clip about your product’s features and benefits, a how-to video on ways to use the product, or testimonials from people who have used the product.

Educational DIY videos, for instance, can show prospects how to create something amazing by using your products.

Of course, creating quality video content is more challenging than regular blog content. So here are a few low-cost, high-return ideas to consider:

  • Product how-to tutorials
  • Video testimonials from happy customers
  • Behind the scenes of your brand, such as a tour of your workplace or team in action
  • DIY animated explainers
  • Expert interviews

Here’s a great list of video marketing tools you can use to create all these types of videos.

Create a YouTube channel for your brand and post videos on it regularly. Oh, and don’t forget to republish on other relevant social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn (especially if you’re into B2B) so your videos earn the maximum possible attention and engagement.

Create Product Guides

Along similar lines as linkable assets, in-depth product guides (how-to-use, comparison, buyer’s guide, etc.) are a low-hanging content marketing fruit for eCommerce websites.

Think about it — whenever you’re browsing online for a particular product, you go through a ton of reviews and alternatives before finalizing a purchase. These include review videos (which we covered above), written product reviews and customer testimonials (which we’ll cover below), and detailed product comparison or usage guides.

Yes, these are promotional in nature, as you’ll obviously talk about your own products, compare them with competitors, and link to them. But product guides work well for both top-of-the-funnel (in the awareness stage) and bottom-of-the-funnel audiences (in the consideration and decision stages) as:

  • They’re in-depth and keyword-rich, so they have the potential to rank well and attract visitors.
  • They’re actionable in the sense that they warm up and drive readers to your product pages with strategically placed CTAs.

And so, product guides definitely deserve a place in your content strategy.

Customer Stories

Content marketing is ultimately all about enhancing the customer experience. And to provide a truly compelling eCommerce experience, your visitors must be able to trust your brand.

Your brand needs to appear credible and authentic if you wish to convert visitors into customers and convince crawlers to rank you high. And for that, you must garner and showcase social proof in the form of product reviews, testimonials, case studies, etc.

In fact, 79% of people trust online reviews and testimonials as much as they would a personal recommendation. What’s more, 69% of online shoppers want more reviews from eCommerce sites, and 77% of customers read product reviews before making a purchase.

Thus, social proof (on your own site, social media, and review platforms like Yelp) is pivotal to the shopping experience and indirectly, your rankings.

JCrew

Source: J.Crew

Reach out to your customers via good old-fashioned email and request them to take a minute to write an honest review. Send them warm follow-ups twice or thrice, and consider incentivizing reviews using coupon codes or loyalty discounts. This would help improve retention and brand loyalty.

Furthermore, add credibility by clearly displaying your store’s shipping and returns policy. Your contact information (email and numbers) must be easy to find, and not having live chat on your eCommerce product pages is like having a retail store with no employees!

Social proof is an indirect yet powerful content signal to Google about your brand’s authority. And so, If you’re aiming to rank towards the top and be considered a trustworthy brand, then you need to build an abundance of social proof.

Link building has always been a vital part of SEO. In Google’s eyes, backlinks from high-quality and authoritative websites pointing to your pages hint at your store’s credibility and quality, which leads to better rankings.

But building links to your eCommerce homepage, product, and category pages is no cakewalk. In this section, let’s look at some tried-and-true ways to build juicy eCommerce links.

Find Sites Linking to Your Competitors’ Homepages

One of the first things you can do is go link hunting — find sites that are linking to your rivals, as they’d be likely to link to you, too.

How? Use Ahrefs’ Link Intersect tool. Enter your competitors’ (two or more) homepage URLs.

link-intersect-ahrefs-maltmiller

The tool will then show you which sites are linking to those competitors. Sift through the results looking for easily replicable sources of links, such as links from:

  • Forums
  • Link pages
  • Niche directories

And as these websites are linking to multiple competitors, it will often be easy to get them to link to you as well.

Get Featured on Manufacturers ‘Where to Buy’ Pages

Many product manufacturers have “Partner” or “Store Locator” pages like the one below:

brewtech

They list the stores (online and offline) that distribute their products. Consequently, they often link to them too.

inlink

So if you’re selling products manufactured from a different brand, one way to find such pages is to Google the brands you stock followed by {manufacturer whose product(s) you stock} intitle:“where to buy” OR intitle:“stockists”

stock page

See if there are any relevant results and if they list (and link to) sellers like yourself. If so, reach out and request to be added.

And again, Ahrefs helps simplify the process.

Site Explorer > enter a competitor’s domain > Backlinks

Then search for phrases like “stockists” or “where to buy” in the search field.

backlinks ahrefs page

If you find any relevant ones, reach out and request to be added.

The ‘International Alternative’ Technique

This is a technique recommended on the Ahrefs blog, and it goes like this:

  • Find a competitor in a different market (e.g., one serving the US, if you serve the UK)
  • Find blog posts recommending/mentioning that competitor
  • Request the site owner to link to you too, as it might be useful for their UK-based readers.

Let’s consider the same website “The Malt Miller” as an example. It sells brewing equipment and supplies in the UK. Northern Brewer, its US-based counterpart, sells brewing equipment and supplies in the US.

We’ll head over to Ahrefs Content Explorer to see if there’s scope to get our link added as a UK-based alternative.

northern-brewer-content-explorer

Many of these results won’t be useful, but some will. For instance, here’s a blog post about making hard apple cider that mentions and links to Northern Brewer:

the-manual-cider-norther-brewer

But UK-based readers will end up clicking through to a site that doesn’t ship to them. So the addition of a UK-based alternative to his post would be beneficial for such readers.

So, all you now have to do is reach out personally and emphasize that their UK-based visitors would find your link (alongside Northern Brewer’s link) useful.

Broken Link Building

Fixing other people’s 404 errors is what broken link building is all about. It’s an easy and effective link-building tactic wherein the publisher benefits from a fixed broken link (thus, better UX), and you gain a backlink — so it’s a win-win.

The process is simple: use a Chrome extension like Check My Links to search websites and blogs in your niche for broken links.

broken link

Any broken links are highlighted in red, so they’re easy to spot. Once you find a broken link on a site, email the site owner to fix it with a short pitch like:

“Hey <name>,

I was browsing your website and noticed a broken link on this page:

[page URL]

The broken link is pointing to this:

[broken URL]

Just thought I’d let you know! 🙂

By the way, I have a great resource on <topic> that I think your readers would love! It might make a great replacement for the broken link:

[your URL]

OR

By the way, I sell <product> and I think your readers would love it! Would you like to mention it in place of the broken link?

[your URL]

Either way, keep up the great work! 🙂

Cheers,

<name>”

And that’s about it!

Guest Posting

Another straightforward and time-tested link-building technique is guest posting. Contributing quality content on blogs in and around your niche is a white-hat way to build links.

Guest blogging is a content collaboration tactic wherein you create content for other relevant publications in your niche. It typically involves reaching out to the publisher with an email pitch or website form, pitching them topic ideas that benefit their audience, and finally, drafting the article in accordance with their editorial guidelines.

It’s a win-win situation as the publication gets free, fresh content, while you get greater brand exposure to wider audiences, build thought leadership in your niche, and of course, earn backlinks that boost your store’s search rankings.

Few Best Practices to Increase eCommerce Conversion Rates

What’s the point of good rankings if your traffic doesn’t convert? As such, SEO and conversion rate optimization (CRO) kind of go hand in hand.

Here are three best practices that’ll help your online store not just rank higher but also convert more visitors into customers.

Optimize for Mobile-First

Did you know — mobile accounts for over half of web traffic worldwide? In Q1 2021, mobile devices (not counting tablets) generated 54.8% of global website traffic, consistently hovering around the 50% mark since the beginning of 2017.

Google’s mobile-first indexing caters to this fact. Essentially, it means the mobile (and not the desktop) version of your website is the benchmark for how Google indexes your website and determines your rankings. So your site’s mobile experience is pivotal to how well it ranks.

So, optimizing your store for mobile should be one of your top priorities. Start by plugging in your most important pages in the Mobile-Friendly Test tool.

Next, check whether Google can successfully crawl your site. Log in to your Google Search Console. Go to Crawl → Crawl Errors, and click on Smartphone. You’ll find a graph and table showing if there are any crawl errors on smartphones.

GSC

Here are a few tips to optimize your store for mobile:

  • Remove all pop-ups and intrusive interstitials.
  • Use a responsive theme so the content automatically adjusts to the device size.
  • Make sure there’s no unplayable video content.
  • Consider using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

To dive deeper, check out this post on how to optimize your website for Google’s mobile-first indexing.

Optimize Your Checkout Process

A complicated or long checkout process is one of the top reasons for eCommerce cart abandonment, according to research by Baymard.

Research checkout

So, optimizing your checkout process is an opportunity to recover lost sales and rankings, as a better checkout experience (which ties to your overall UX) is favorable in the eyes of Google, too.

Here are a few tips to optimize your checkout process.

  • Offer multiple payment options.
  • Show a progress bar so people know they’re close to the finish, along with an order summary.
  • Allow guest checkout, don’t mandate visitors to create an account.
  • Use Google’s auto-address fill and inline validation to save people’s time in entering billing information.
  • Display trust badges so people know their information and payment is secure

online-security-badges

Source

Here’s a great post on eCommerce checkout best practices to improve conversions.

Deal with Out of Stock and Discontinued Products

From the SEO standpoint, what should you do when products are out of stock or you choose to discontinue them?

Simply getting rid of your out-of-stock or discontinued product pages that have built up the traffic and authority isn’t the best way to go about it.

Here are a couple of better ways to deal with these pages:

1. Redirect The Page

301 (permanent) redirect the page to another relevant page or one from a higher-level category, thus passing the link juice and authority.

This leads prospects who click on the old link to a relevant and useful page where they can continue shopping instead of seeing an annoying 404 error on an expired page.

2. Update The Content On The Page

If your out-of-stock products will be restocked soon, keep the static page up and updated with a banner like “Sorry, this product is out of stock! But it’ll be restocked soon!”. This helps retain the SEO value the page builds over time and lets customers reference the product details easily.

You can also ask them to sign up for your newsletter so they can be the first to know about the restock and other promotions. Encourage them to check out other relevant product alternatives on your website with clear links and CTAs.

More ways to handle out-of-stock pages include offering an option to pre-order with a discount.

Measure Your SEO Success

To know what’s working and to continually improve your store’s rankings, you need to track the results of all your efforts.

While there are plenty of tools you can use to measure your SEO success, here we’ll talk about the two key ones — Google Analytics and Search Console — available for free straight from the horse’s mouth.

Use Google Analytics to Measure Organic Traffic and Engagement Metrics

During keyword research, when prioritizing pages, we talked about setting up Google Analytics and checking your landing pages (under Behavior) to see which ones bring the most revenue.

Besides that, Google Analytics lets you look at a huge variety of real-time and historic SEO data, such as organic traffic, bounce rates, average time on page, conversions, etc.

Consider installing an SEO dashboard to your Analytics so you can easily see:

  • Organic traffic trends (increase or decrease) over time
  • The landing pages that your organic traffic is reaching
  • A high-level idea of which keywords are driving traffic to your website
  • On-site engagement metrics (bounce rate, time on page, etc.)
  • Page speed report
  • Mobile vs. desktop traffic
  • And more.

seo-analytics-dashboard

Track Goals and Conversions

Use Google Analytics to set goals — a measure of how often visitors complete specific actions you want them to.

Examples of goals include making a purchase, signing up for your newsletter, saving a product to a wishlist, spending more than x minutes on your website, etc. Here’s how to set up Google Analytics goals.

You can access the Goals report under Conversion > Goals > Overview

goal-conversion

Also, here’s a good post on how to improve your goal conversion rate.

Use Google Search Console tool to Measure Searches and Clicks

Use the Search Console to see which search queries bring users to which pages on your store. Analyze your site’s impressions, clicks, and position on Google Search.

Furthermore, you can submit your XML sitemap for crawling and indexing. Here’s a great guide from HubSpot to make the most of the Google Search Console tool.

Track the Rankings of Your Important Pages

Using either SEMrush’s Position Tracking tool or Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker, make sure to monitor your rankings over time and chart your performance against your competitors.

Both of these tools let you check your position at the national or international level, on mobile or desktop devices, and know which of your keywords trigger which SERP feature and if your domain or the domain of your competitor ranks there.

With Rank Tracker, you can choose to receive regular email reports (such as the one below) detailing the most notable changes in your keyword rankings.

ranking email report

Desktop vs. Mobile Organic Traffic by eCommerce Verticals

It’s also important to know where your organic traffic is coming from, desktop or mobile? As we mentioned, mobile constitutes more than half of the global traffic, and Google is now all-in on being mobile-first.

So, let’s look at the variation in the percentage of organic traffic for different eCommerce verticals, as found by SEMrush in its annual eCommerce study.

Desktop performs well in:

  • Health: 60.65% of traffic
  • Furniture: 59.59% of traffic
  • Food: 58.75% of traffic
  • Kids products: 58.34% of traffic

Mobile performs well in:

  • Electronics: 44.78% of traffic
  • Jewelry: 44.7% of traffic
  • Travel: 44.11% of traffic
  • Flowers: 42.85% of traffic

Final Thoughts

And that completes our comprehensive guide on eCommerce SEO! We hope you gained something of value and are now in a better position to DIY your eCommerce SEO.

Oh, and if technical SEO, content marketing, and link-building isn’t your strength or if you don’t have the capability in-house, consider partnering up with an experienced agency to put it all on autopilot. Leverage our established SEO processes to get timely and consistent results, and gain back the time to focus on other high-yielding business activities you’re good at and enjoy!

eCommerce SEO: Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s wrap up with a few FAQs on eCommerce SEO.

  • How can I improve my eCommerce SEO?

Thorough keyword research, technical on-site optimization, content marketing, and link building — everything has a role to play in improving your eCommerce website’s rankings.

  • How do eCommerce sites do SEO?

For most eCommerce websites, focusing on ranking high-converting keywords and product/catalog pages makes more sense, as these pages directly tie to the bottom line.

  • How important is SEO for eCommerce?

Organic traffic from search engines like Google is one of the biggest and most important sources of traffic for eCommerce websites. So, as an eCommerce store, getting your SEO game right is crucial.

  • How much does eCommerce SEO cost?

As opposed to pay-per-click (PPC), SEO is free (per se). Most of the on-page (titles, URLs, content, etc.) and off-page optimizations (outreach, link-building, etc.) are something you can do free of cost.

But doing it at scale requires time and expertise. So when you factor in the time, effort, skills, and tools required, there are costs associated with achieving and retaining top rankings. Whether you build an in-house team or work with an agency, and depending on the size of your business, you can expect to pay anything between $750-$5000 per month.

  • What are eCommerce SEO services?

eCommerce SEO services include everything that helps you rank better, from keyword research and website audit to on-page and technical optimization.

It also includes content strategy, creation, and distribution, along with link-building, guest blogging, thought leadership outreach, and gathering product reviews.

References:

Ahrefs: Ecommerce SEO: A Simple (But Complete) Guide

Backlinko: Ecommerce SEO: The Definitive Guide

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