Whether you are building a new ecommerce website or you want to increase performance of an existing ecommerce website, SEO is a necessity. Rather than get into the broad strokes of the theory of SEO or get bogged down in endless definitions, we will look into how to improve SEO for your ecommerce site (or set it up).
The entire point of an ecommerce website is to generate sales from an always-open store front. But how exactly do you attract customers to your site? Luckily, ecommerce sites have a lot going for them in terms of SEO value (a lot of images and product specific keywords) as long as things are set up properly. Let’s get started.
Like any approach to SEO, it all starts with keyword research. Because you are trying to attract paying customers you have to interpret buyer intent. Broad keywords indicate someone is earlier in the buying process and doing research, while someone using a more specific search is further along in the buying process. If you are selling men’s shirts, optimizing for broad keywords will pit you against massive brands (think Target, H&M, etc.). What you want to do is optimize for more specific keywords that will target people further along in the buying process, and will help you rank higher.
The easiest way to do this is to utilize a keyword research tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs. These platforms will tell you which keywords you are currently ranking for and which keywords you should be targeting. Using these same tools, you can do competitive research to see which keywords your competitors are ranking for.
On-page SEO for ecommerce is all about putting your keywords in the right spots. The top spots in which to include keywords on your product pages are:
- Title tag
- Body copy
- Meta data
While this strategy applies to any page you are optimizing for SEO, it is especially important for you to tell Google exactly what is on your page and what you are selling.
After you add your keywords into the aforementioned, the next thing to do for on-page SEO is add alt attributions to your product pictures. Alt text essentially tells Google what is shown in the picture because Google cannot see and analyze the picture on your website (yet). Alt attributes are also used by visually impaired people to tell them what is on a webpage.
Keyword research and implementation can only get you so far with SEO. You also need a pretty decent website. If you have a slow and/or poorly designed website, that negatively impacts user experience, which is paramount to Google.
Running a site audit is the easiest way to optimize your website from the technical side. There are plenty of tools out there, both paid and free, that can crawl your website and reveal any issues. This will help you save time and energy, especially if you have a ton of product pages to check. The biggest technical issues that ecommerce websites encounter are:
- Broken links: When products are constantly updated, change, or go out of stock, make sure to update any links with redirects so broken links don’t penalize you.
- Missing meta descriptions and alt text: With a lot of product pages come a lot of photos, so make sure you update alt text on every product photo you have for a big SEO boost.
- Duplicate content: If you have similar products it can be tempting to copy and paste all of the product info, but Google actually sees this as duplicate content (i.e. not valuable to the consumer) and will penalize you for it. When possible, make sure each product page has unique body copy and title tags.
After content, one of Google’s main ranking factors is site speed. One of the simplest ways to increase your site speed is to compress your image files. After compressing images, run your website through Google PageSpeed Insights, a free resource that will analyze your website and make specific recommendations to speed it up.
SEO should be part of the long-term strategy for every ecommerce website. SEO best practices are generally the same across the board, but ecommerce offers special challenges and opportunities when it comes to SEO. If optimized properly, product pages on your ecommerce website can be huge traffic drivers.