The rapid growth in e-commerce is showing no signs of slowing. In just two years, global e-commerce sales have risen by just over a trillion dollars, amounting to a total of $6.3 trillion in 2023. By 2026, that number is expected to reach $8.1 trillion dollars. In short, it’s a good year to be an e-commerce retailer, with 20.8% of retail purchases expected to be made online in 2023, at a growth of 10.4%.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to have a high-performing, user-friendly website that’s optimized for ranking high in search engine result pages and delivers value to your target customers. And how do you achieve that? Through a strong SEO and content marketing strategy that will set you apart from the growing noise in the e-commerce space.
In this guide, we explore what SEO is, why it’s important, which e-commerce platform is best for SEO, and provide best practices to help you thrive in the competitive e-commerce landscape.
What is e-commerce SEO?
E-commerce SEO is the optimization of online shops for search engines. An SEO-optimized e-commerce page will generate more organic traffic through a search engine results page (SERP) as a result of ranking higher in results. The closer to the top of the SERP, the more visible the e-commerce page is, therefore the more traffic it will receive.
The ultimate goal is to get your e-commerce site into the top three search engine results because they receive the most clicks. In 2023, the top result typically generates a click-through rate of 39.8%, compared to 18.7% for the second spot, and 10.2% for the third.
Why is SEO important for e-commerce?
Consumers turn to search engines, like Google or Bing, to find products and services to buy. Even if they’re not yet ready to make a purchase, they may still be researching their options or seeking out tips to make an informed buying decision.
Whichever phase of the buying cycle they’re in, you want your products or information to appear to these targeted customers. If they don’t, you risk losing out on potential sales due to a lack of awareness of your brand, product, or service.
As we touched on above, the higher a website ranks in search engine results, the more clicks and web traffic it receives. Higher traffic usually leads to higher conversion rates and product sales.
While the battle for the top three results on the SERP is highly competitive, it’s still crucial for e-commerce pages to land on the first page of results. Clicks decline rapidly by the second page, with research showing that only 0.63% of Google users will click on a link on page two.
Beyond appearing in search results, SEO involves optimizing the structure and content of your website, which ultimately improves the user experience. A well-structured, user-friendly site that provides excellent content leads to higher conversions, increased brand trust, and loyal customers.
Which e-commerce platform is best for SEO?
There are several e-commerce platforms to choose from to host your website. Below, we’ve listed the pros and cons of three of the most popular.
Shopify is one of the biggest and most well-known e-commerce platforms on the market. It’s a great option for beginners who are looking to set up their online store quickly, without needing to have much technical knowledge.
- It’s easy to use, with a user-friendly interface that doesn’t require knowledge of coding.
- It has a lot of plugins to add various features, such as reviews.
- It has a built-in blogging feature to share SEO-optimized content.
- It’s easy to integrate with Google Analytics and track your metrics.
- You can’t edit robots.txts files, meaning you can’t tell Google which pages to crawl and which ones to ignore.
- You can’t change the URLs, which is an important signal to search engine crawlers.
Magento is another popular e-commerce platform, particularly amongst bigger brands and retailers. If you’re a technical person, or you’re a brand with a technical team, then this could be a good option for you.
- It’s a fully customizable, open-source platform, meaning you can make specific changes and adaptations to suit your business or brand needs.
- It’s SEO-friendly and can be customized through the code.
- If you don’t have a knowledge of coding, it’s probably not best for you.
- It’s expensive, with pricing starting at around $20,000 per year.
Woocommerce is a WordPress plugin, enabling you to transform your WordPress website into an e-commerce store fairly easily. If you already have an existing WordPress site, this may be your best and most efficient option.
- It’s customizable, with plenty of plugins and additional features available.
- As a plugin to WordPress, Woocommerce has plenty of technical support.
- It’s SEO friendly, allowing you to customize URLs, edit txts, build mobile-friendly sites, and has a built-in blog.
- You’ll need to familiarize yourself with WordPress, which can be a bit of a learning curve.
- Finding the right plugins that will benefit your store can be time-consuming.
E-commerce SEO strategy: How to do SEO for e-commerce websites
Now that you know what e-commerce SEO is, why it’s important for your website, and which platform may work best for your online store, let’s look into building your site’s SEO strategy.
1. Perform keyword research
Keywords form the foundations of any website or piece of content. They signal to search engines what your website and content are about, as well as which products or services you offer.
To make sure you’re encompassing all of the possible keywords that your potential customers are searching for online, you’ll need to conduct some keyword research.
Your starting off point can be to list the obvious keywords that come to mind when you think of your brand and products. For instance, let’s imagine that your e-commerce shop sells women’s shoes — you’ll want to use ‘women’s shoes’ on your website!
Once you’ve got a bank of initial keywords, it’s time to expand. Using a keyword research tool, like SEMrush or AHrefs, compile a list of different keyword types, including:
- Informational — used in blog posts or FAQs, e.g. What’s the best footwear for the office?
- Commercial — used in product pages, e.g heels for women.
- Navigational — used in category pages, e.g. ‘your brand name’ shoes.
It’s critical to also look into which long-tail keywords your target customers are searching for, such as ‘red patent stiletto formal heels for women’. These keywords are more niche with less competition, which makes it easier for you to rank highly for them. You’re then better positioned to drive a niche traffic of customers who know exactly what they’re looking for and may be looking to buy.
Choosing the right keywords
When picking the keywords that appear during your research, you’ll want to consider the following:
- Search volume — the higher the volume of searches, the more traffic your store will receive if you rank for those searches.
- Competition — it’s not always worth trying to compete with top pages to rank for keywords, that’s why long-tail keywords are so valuable.
- Relevancy — it’s no use trying to rank for keywords that are irrelevant to your product or service. Consumers want to know that they’ll get relevant, valuable information or experiences when they land on your website.
Keyword research tools:
- Google suggest — type some keywords into Google and take note of the other relevant queries that Google suggests.
- Google keyword planner — suggests associated keywords and search volume.
- Amazon — do the same but in Amazon’s search box.
- Ubersuggest — free keyword research tool.
- Answer the public — shows various long-tail queries that consumers are searching around a topic.
- Ahrefs — a wider SEO tool that also offers keyword research.
2. Perform a competitor and gap analysis
When it comes to SEO, it’s important to keep an eye on your competitors. Analyzing their websites can reveal what your larger competitors are doing successfully to rank highly, as well as what may be missing from their SEO strategies.
Identifying their pages’ weaknesses can help you find opportunities to outperform them in search results. Look for gaps in their content, backlink profiles, and technical SEO, then get to work building out your own.
Using SEO tools, like those recommended above, you can take a look at the keywords that your competitors are ranking for and consider implementing them into your own site and content.
3. Build a user-friendly, intuitive site structure
Site architecture sounds like complicated business, but it really just means the way in which your website is organized and structured. Essentially, you want to make it as easy as possible for both search engines and users to navigate and find things in your e-commerce shop.
The key to building an intuitive site structure is to keep it simple but scalable. The easier it is for potential customers to locate your products and services, the more likely they’ll be to purchase them.
Ensure that every page is reachable within minimal clicks from your homepage. The further away a page is from your homepage, the less domain authority it usually has — meaning it will rank lower in search engine results.
4. Optimize all content on site
Optimizing your website for SEO means going through all aspects of your website to ensure that everything is designed for both users and search engines, aiding discoverability as well as providing value.
We’ve stressed the importance of using keywords in your site content, so it’s a good idea to take a tour of your web pages to ensure that they’re included everywhere.
- Homepage — optimize the homepage with relevant keywords and provide clear navigation to important product categories.
- Landing pages — ensure your landing pages are highly focused on your wider product offering, brand values, and promotions, and are optimized for relevant keywords.
- Category pages — optimize category pages with concise descriptions that hit broader keywords, while remaining readable.
- Product pages — write compelling product descriptions, using keywords appropriately. Add elements like FAQs, reviews, glossaries, and high-quality images.
One important thing to note about product descriptions is that they should be unique and descriptive. The more words used, the more accurately Google can index your page. Never copy and paste a description used by other websites, as Google will flag this as duplicate content and penalize you on the SERP.
Your keyword optimization should also extend to the more technical side, including:
- title tags, meta tags, and meta descriptions
- the alt text of all images
- any file names
- Page URLs
5. Produce long-form blog content
Blogging forms an integral part of your content strategy to increase the visibility of your website.
Target long-tail keywords
Blogs provide an excellent opportunity to target long-tail keywords naturally on your website. When potential customers are then searching for these terms, looking for the answers to their questions, they may come across your blog, which is designed to drive them to check out your main website, or specific products and services.
During your keyword research, you can find out specifically what your customers are searching for, then curate blogs to specifically target those queries. It’s a form of highly-targeted yet organic content marketing.
Educate: tips and advice content
By sharing consistent, educational content on your blog, consumers will start to see you as a reliable source of information, returning to your blog to find the answers to their questions.
The more visitors you receive to your blogs, the higher that Google will display your pages in search results, thus driving even more traffic.
If they find your content to be useful and valuable, they’ll be more likely to trust your brand. With increased brand trust, they’ll be more likely to purchase your products over your competitors.
6. Promote products: product guides and tutorials
Product guides and tutorials are other valuable content pieces to include in your content strategy. For instance, if your e-commerce store sells hair styling tools, you can show tutorials on how to create trending hairstyles to draw in new visitors. By displaying your own products in these tutorials, visitors will be more likely to purchase them.
E-commerce SEO best practices
To further enhance your SEO strategy, here are some best practices to implement into your website.
Keep URLs short and simple
Simple URLs are easier for both search engines and users to read. Keeping them short also makes them easier to share on social media, helping to improve your reach.
Don’t forget to include keywords in your URLs, which search engines consider when ranking sites. ‘Stop’ words such as ‘of’, ‘the’, ‘a’, etc., are useless in URLs, making them less readable, so be sure to remove them.
Use schema markup
Schema markups help search engines understand the content of your pages better. They can result in rich snippets, which are displayed in search results as a preview of what your page is about. Helpful and intriguing rich snippets can help to drive more clicks and traffic to your pages.
There are various types of e-commerce schema, including:
- Product schema — displays products directly in search results, including aspects like images and pricing.
- Review schema — enables users to read and search reviews about your brand, product, or service, helping to drive down buyer hesitation.
- Video schema — a type of metadata that describes the content, including video resolution, audio language, or age rating.
- FAQ schema — a type of markup containing common questions your brand receives, as well as some helpful answers.
Avoid duplicate content and pages
A common issue for site structures on e-commerce websites is duplicate content. Features such as filters can create many internal levels to your website, displaying products that are also included on other pages. The best way to overcome this is to tell Google to either ‘noindex’ (telling Google to not index the pages in its database) or canonicalize (telling Google which page is the main one out of similar pages) these kinds of pages.
The good news for Shopify users is that it uses auto-generated canonical tags to avoid the issue of duplicate content.
E-commerce SEO checklist
Here’s a quick checklist for you to go through with your website in mind, to ensure that it will perform better in search engine results:
- Site is easy to use
- Site loads quickly
- Site is visually appealing
- Content is optimized and high-quality
- There is educational content, including FAQs, glossaries, and blogs
- Site includes social proof with customer reviews and links to social pages
Getting your website’s SEO right can be very time-consuming — and that’s before you’ve even started creating content.
Working with SEO content experts can benefit your business exponentially, from driving up the trust and credibility of your brand through reliable content to increasing the visibility of your brand and products in search results. What are you waiting for? To boost the SEO performance of your e-commerce website, get in touch with the team at Scribly today!