At this point, you’re probably aware that SEO is a critical component to running a successful eCommerce business.
There’s just no way around it. Organic traffic will frequently be any online businesses’ biggest and most successful channel for customer acquisition.
The problem is this… search engine optimization is complicated and difficult. If you don’t know the best practices and how to follow them, you’ll likely find your efforts unsuccessful.
SEO is also a very competitive discipline, and for good reason. Studies have shown that the vast majority of clicks go to the top search results. In fact, a Chitika study found that almost 35% of clicks go to the #1 result alone.
Today, let’s cover the bare bones basics you’ll need to both know and act on in order to earn those organic clicks.
Keyword Research for the Win
Research is hardly an attractive word. After all, research usually ends up being a tedious and frustrating chore.
But when it comes to SEO, it’s both essential and the first step you’ll need to take.
The most important research you’ll do for your SEO campaign is around keywords. Why is this so critically important?
When your target audience goes to Google and types in a keyword looking for a product you offer, you need to make sure that keyword is going to show up prominently on your website.
When you start diving in, make sure that you look for “long tail” keywords. These are keywords that usually contain 4 or more words and are more specific in nature. In fact, it was recently discovered that over 50% of queries are considered long-tail, and they’re generally much less competitive to rank for then shorter and more broad keywords.
Want to rank for “electrician?” One of two things will happen. You’ll either succeed at earning ranks but earn untargeted traffic (people that type in electrician could be looking for any number of things (electrician classes, companies that are hiring, a definition, pictures, etc). Or you’ll end up going against some big industry players that can outspend you on both PPC and SEO efforts until the cows come home.
Target “24-hour electrician Dallas” and you’ll stand a fighting chance. Not to mention, the people that type that into Google will most likely be looking for your business specifically.
I could write multiple articles about keyword research alone, but I’ll try to be very brief here.
Use a tool like Google Keyword Planner to search for popular keywords related to your products or niche. If you’re stuck looking for inspiration, use a tool like SpyFu to see what keywords your competitors are trying to rank for.
Here’s an example of some info SpyFu pulled up about a Dallas-based electrician.
Granted you can see that the organic results shown here are all brand terms, but their paid keywords are illuminating and could inform your regional target keywords.
After you’ve got some ideas and plugged them into Google Adwords Keyword Planner, you’ll want to pick a number of keywords that both have decent search volume and (hopefully) lower competitive indexes.
You can see in this example that 24-hour electrician isn’t a half-bad pick. Medium competitive index, solid volume. Dallas electrician, on the other hand, may be too competitive. Try variations like “Best Dallas electrician” or “24-hour electrician Dallas”. The process takes some experimentation but you’ll get the hang of it.
Of course, things don’t always go to plan and you may occasionally need to go for some keywords that have a high competitive index or low traffic.
After you’ve picked a couple obtainable goal keywords, do the same for any other relevant product categories you want to sell.
We’ve written an in-depth guide on the subject that you can check out if you want to take a deep dive.
Now that you’ve picked some target keywords, it’s time to put them to good use! But how do we do that? With on-page optimization of course!
There are a few factors to consider on this topic though, so we’ll touch a few of them briefly below and I’ll include additional readings for those of you that are feeling adventurous or particularly motivated.
Your homepage will be the hub of your SEO campaign. You’ll want it to rank for market terms, your brand name, etc.
For example, if you’re selling handmade iPhone cases, terms like “handmade iPhone case” or “unique iPhone cases” might be on the menu for your home page.
When it comes to specific product types or categories those should be positioned prominently on (yes you guessed it…) your product category pages.
So how do you optimize keywords to appear on a page? Easy!
Tastefully place your keywords in the following places
- Page title
- Paragraph text
- URLs (when possible)
- Image file names
- Image alt tags
- Product info/descriptions
Remember though, don’t just stuff the keyword in. You want to make sure that the content on your page is “written for human beings.” Writing your copy with Google’s crawlers in mind is a mistake, as Google is now more than ever, favoring websites that have compelling and smart content.
Again, for a deeper dive on On-Page SEO optimizations, we’ve got your covered.
Speaking of on-page… is your website mobile-friendly?
It matters a lot actually. Over the years, more and more internet users turn to their mobile devices for their web browsing needs
Late last year, Reuters reported that 75% of internet use in 2017 will be on mobile devices. Another study shows a majority but by a slimmer margin.
It should come as no surprise then, that Google has been increasing the weight of mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor.
In fact, it’s such a big deal now that we can unequivocally say that your rankings will suffer if you haven’t made your site mobile-responsive. Google’s been exceedingly clear about this, and we’ve seen it reflected in our own data monitoring as well.
Getting your site mobile-responsive will probably require dedicated work from a developer, so we won’t cover the how-to here.
UX, Site Speed & Site Structure
Again, each of those deserves its own article, but we’re just trying to cover the basics here.
Your site’s structure should make sense to a visitor, and you want to have the end user experience in mind when you layout your site’s pages and their architecture.
Just use common sense and you should be fine. But if you think you may have a problem here, check out this awesome guide from Distilled.
Similarly, you’ll want your pages to load quickly so users don’t bounce. Google doesn’t like a high bounce-rate, and they like to see users engaged with the search results they click on. So if you forget to consider UX when building your landing pages, this can really come back to haunt you later on.
Site speed is another tricky one that may require the help of a developer. But there are some quick fixes you can employ, particularly if you’re on WordPress. Check out tip #39 on this WordPress SEO Checklist for more information.
You can use GTmetrix to measure your site’s speed performance, and it will help you identify problem areas. It even proposes some solutions so you should be able to make some headway relatively quickly.
For a more detailed look, here’s a full guide on site speed.
Off-Page SEO for eCommerce website
You didn’t think that was it did you?
Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also all manner of off-page SEO activities to consider. We’ll cover the basics below.
I’m sure you’ve heard plenty about link-building. How it’s essential. And how it’s evil.
How scammers do link-building, and how the best SEO companies do it as well.
It’s all true.
Confused? Don’t worry.
Links are a cornerstone of any successful SEO campaign. They’re one of the leading signals that Google uses to determine if a website is worth a damn or not. So you’ll want to start earning links from quality websites ASAP.
But note that I said from “quality websites.” Bad links, spammy links, or “bought” links can do more harm than good. So be careful about how you pursue this particular path.
Don’t go onto Fiverr and buy “1,000 DA20 Links for $5”. Terrible idea.
Instead, look into guest posting. Learn how to crawl sites for broken links and do some outreach. Create an infographic and start trying to get it published across the web.
The above are just a handful of the many successful ways you can go about building links.
Local directory submissions are a pain. So much so that I simply advise you take advantage of Moz’s extremely affordable “Moz Local” service.
They’ll make sure that your business listing is in the most important directories, and that the listings are up to date with all of the correct info.
This is important because Google looks for NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency across business listings. If you have inconsistencies, this can end up hurting your search visibility.
If you decide you’d rather endeavor to do this yourself, you can use Moz Local’s assessment and then pursue the listing corrections and submissions yourself.
I trust you already have a business profile on Facebook, Twitter, and Google + (if you don’t, please go fix this now).
But do you actively use them to link back to your site? Do you reach out to influencers to try to get them to share your content?
There are any number or ways to leverage social media platforms to the benefit of your brand and your SEO campaign.
To get started, try promoting some of your latest and greatest content, and you can sprinkle in some product pushing as well. Mention a new line of products you have and their benefits, and link back to the product page. You get the idea.
Is That All?
Hah! You wish!
As you’ve probably gathered, eCommerce SEO is a huge undertaking. But it can be massively profitable and exciting to boot.
I hope this guide helped set you up for success with your first search optimization campaign. SEO for eCommerce is a challenging and rewarding endeavor, so get after it, and good luck!
About the Author:
Sam is the marketing manager at RankPay, a top-rated SEO service. As a special offer to Beeketing customers: if you outsource your SEO needs to RankPay, use the promocode BEE100 at checkout and you’ll earn an instant $100 account credit!