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Case Study | Feb 26
Elise Dopson on November 7, 2019 (last modified on July 19, 2020) • 20 minute read
You’ve got product and category pages to think about.
…Not to mention the added pressure of making sales to prove that SEO is something your marketing team should focus on.
So, how do you turn a product or service-based website into one that dominates the SERPs and attracts a bunch of high-quality leads or customers?
The answer: Ecommerce SEO.
There are hundreds of marketing tactics that an ecommerce business can use.
However, our experts voted SEO as the channel that drives the best results:
Why? Because although SEO requires an upfront investment (and long-term commitment), it drives a sustainable flow of traffic–if you get it right.
(In other words: You don’t need to constantly plough cash into it to see results, like PPC or paid social media campaigns.)
A bit of upfront SEO work pays in dividends for years to come.
Fancy getting in on the SEO action and driving more organic visitors to your ecommerce store?
We wanted to find out the best tips that actually impact your most important SEO metrics.
Our experts shared the following tips:
Click the links above to jump to a specific section, or continue scrolling to learn how your ecommerce website can use SEO effectively.
We wanted to find out the most important SEO tactics for ecommerce companies. Our experts voted “optimizing for keywords” as the most important:
One of those experts is Directive‘s Liam Barnes, who recommends to “research high volume searches for exact product-based keywords, and ensure that your pages are properly targeting those product keywords.”
Charlie Tatum of Digital Ads Optimism explains: “When doing keyword research for your website, you’ll see that a variety of different keywords lead users to your website. Some users are looking for a particular piece of information about a specific industry, and others are looking to make a purchase right then and there.”
“I recommend optimizing your website first for keywords that indicate a user is looking to purchase the goods or services you offer. Look for keywords that are directly related to products or types of products.”
“After that, pay attention to keywords that will further establish your brand as an authority in your industry,” Tatum adds.
You know that keywords are important. But are there any “quick wins” you can use to skyrocket your ecommerce SEO strategy?
Yes; Kelly Media‘s Forrest Kelly advises to “look and see what they are already ranking for, specifically the keywords that are ranking on the 2nd page. Often times including that keyword in your title tag will be enough to take it from page two to page one.”
*Editor’s note: Check which keywords your pages are already ranking for with our Google Analytics SEO Dashboard. You’ll be able to see the terms driving traffic, along with their bounce rate and goal completions:
My Supplement Store‘s John Frigo thinks “marketers who are looking to improve the rankings of their ecommerce sites should create quality product descriptions.”
“90% plus of product descriptions I see are absolute garbage, they are often just people copying and pasting the manufacturers own listing or description which is not only duplicate content and terrible for SEO, it doesn’t provide a good shopping experience for your buyers either.”
To prevent this, Frigo advises to “write quality product descriptions, put everything a potential customer or buyer would want to know in an organized fashion. Treat it like an FAQ.”
According to Collage‘s Jake Agnew, your product descriptions should include “how it can be used, who it is for, what you can do with it.”
Plus, Rebecca Winslow of Flashion Statement recommends to “think like your ideal customer—how would they search for your product? What questions would they be asking?”
“Being able to answer questions that come up on Google Snippets is a great way to build authority for your brand and help your SEO,” Winslow adds.
Here’s a superb example of an engaging product description from method:
Insightland‘s Irena Zobniów adds that this could be a competitive advantage: “Many online stores have the same descriptions from the manufacturer, which means that they are not unique to search engine robots, therefore they are less like to rank high in search engines.”
“By creating unique product descriptions it will let you stand out from the competition.”
Plus, Matt Secrist of BKA Content adds: “The best part is, this same competitive edge can be utilized immediately on a single description, or thousands, depending on the number of products your selling.
You’re likely using a lot of your SEO time to optimize product pages. They’re the URLs that drive the big bucks, right?
Adam Bastock argues that by optimizing category pages, you can target “broader keywords further up the funnel.” You can also:
In fact, Daniel Heuerof Corkscrew Agency advises to “find ways to add more content to pages that usually wouldn’t have a lot of content (like a “contact us” page) [because] all pages should have at least 250 words to maximize the crawling for search.”
“Brick and mortar stores may have a “bath and bedding” section, but that doesn’t make sense from an ecommerce SEO perspective,” Terakeet‘s Jonas Sickler explains.
“You won’t be able to properly optimize category pages that combine unrelated products, which means they won’t rank well for anything. That’s a huge problem because ecommerce category pages often rank for the highest volume, broadest set of keywords.”
Packhelp‘s Phil Forbes adds: “More often than not, category pages can be optimized for generic keywords and plurals (Nintendo t-shirts) whereas product pages are optimized for product-specific keywords ‘donkey-kong shirt’.”
“If you sell a range of donkey kong t-shirts, then your ‘donkey kong’ category page should be the main place for your keyword, and you’ll have less, but more specific keywords for your product page.”
“My one tip for marketers to improve the search engine rankings would be to optimize their product descriptions, landing pages, and internal link structure,” says David Temperli of NOLIOS International.
“Optimize in the sense that the content should strongly reflect the buyer’s intent (i.e. provide a solution to their problem). This kind of optimization can be achieved through a detailed analysis of the site / page with tools such as Ahrefs and/or pageoptimizer.pro.”
(You might also see this as “search intent,” but it basically means the same thing: The intention someone has when searching for that term.)
Elizabeth Lefelstein of Fortress of Inca adds: “Regardless of how pretty your homepage is, how lovely your blog writing is, and how active you are via social media, people won’t buy your products without that final stop – the product page – having what it needs to build rapport with users!”
Summarizing, Jessica Herbine of Trinity Insight adds: “From title tags to header tags and copy blocks, there should be plenty for readers to digest so that they understand what you’re selling, and what makes your products or services better than the competition’s.”
“If people aren’t sure what they’ll find on your eCommerce pages, you can bet Google won’t position them as high in the search results.”
“The past three algorithms Google has rolled about, has been all about security for the end-user (the customer). They want to sort out scamming websites, fake news, and dangerous content,” writes Simon Elkjær of Nutimo Consult ApS.
“They categorize the websites in question as Y.M.Y.L (Your Money and Your Life). And according to Google General Guidelines, all websites that manage a money-transfer or transaction is in this Y.M.Y.L category.”
“This means that all e-commerce websites, is under scrutiny from Google, and in Google’s eyes, you are “guilty until proven innocent”. In other words, you need to prove to Google and the visitors of your website that you are a real company.”
Elkjær explains that you should follow the E.A.T guidelines:
“Do so, by showcasing your address, phone, email, and all other information about the company, in a very prominent way,” Elkjær adds.
“One tip I would provide is don’t overlook adding structured data to your product pages,” GBPN‘s Geoffrey Rose says.
“By adding the correct structured data you could get stars (rating), price and availability (in-stock, out-of-stock, etc) added to your SERPs. Adding structured data to your products will also help search engines better understand what your product is.”
Here’s what structured data for a product page looks like in practice:
Ridgeway‘s Nick Maynard explains: “Schema mark-up helps spiders and searchers better understand the contents of your page and rich results (including anything from item price to stock availability) increases qualified CTR and future-proofs your site in the expanding ecommerce marketplace.”
Phil Hoey of Quotezone.co.uk adds: “This type of structured data can dramatically improve how your product listings appear in search results because it increases the odds that Google will display them as a product listing with thumbnail images, pricing details, stock quantities, special offer details etc.”
“There is some evidence that structured data can directly improve a product listing’s rankings, but even if the real correlation is less direct that using structured data on ecommerce sites can improve a product listing’s clickthrough rate (which can, in turn, result in higher rankings).”
(Our experts back this up; 89% believe that structured data increases organic click-through rates.)
COFORGE‘s Eric Melillo says: “These days you can use tools like Yoast and other WordPress plugins as well as platforms like Shopify to help add the necessary Schema and give the store an advantage in search results.”
…Maybe that’s why Shopify came out on top as the best ecommerce site builder for SEO:
In fact, Robert Taylor of Advantix Digital “recently finished a project with a client following this tip. Their developers coded the product details, price, review, rating, and other elements to dynamically update based on the count and average of reviews.”
“This was applied to all 800+ product pages, and now those products display in the search results with Rich Snippets – including gold review stars, an aggregate rating score, and count of ratings.”
The best part? Taylor adds: “These more attractive search results doubled the clickthrough rate for product pages, leading to more purchases.”
It’s tough to master the balance of blog and SEO content.
You might want to write about how awesome your products are–but if that isn’t formatted in a way that’s easy for people to read, you won’t see results in the SERPs.
“Most ecommerce sites criminally underrate the potential of content marketing to drive traffic and actual conversions to their stores,” writes Alex Birkett of Omniscient Digital.
“Beyond basic ecommerce SEO best practices (proper site architecture, unique product descriptions, etc.), you can and should write content to rank for valuable product-related terms. You can usually rank them much easier than product pages and hit similar user intent.”
Birkett explains: “For example, “best red wine” gets 7.2K monthly search volume according to Ahrefs, and it does imply that the searcher is interested in trying or finding the best red wine. So why wouldn’t a company like winc.com write a post about that?”
“It’s a great way to capture high intent and high traffic terms using informational content as opposed to commercial product pages,” Birkett adds.
Tokeet‘s Joel Bennett agrees: “When you publish a product, build meaningful content around it – write an article that helps people use the product, or compares it to similar products. Something people can actually share with their audience.”
As does Darren Cottingham of DT Driver Training: “Whatever your product is, write as many detailed articles and create videos about the use and features of your product and point them to the product itself. It’s hard to contain all this information in the product listing itself.”
“You should use these articles and videos on your website, YouTube, Vimeo and other channels (e.g. LinkedIn, Medium, etc). If you can get 5-10 articles on your website, all pointing to your product page, you’ll cover of many of the queries users will have about your product.”
Cottingham continues: “You’ll be found for long-tail keywords and the explanation of the benefits of your product will lead the reader to view the product itself.”
“Multiple links internally back to the product will strengthen the SEO on that page, plus any backlinks from other websites will reinforce that.”
Zivadream‘s Lynell Ross summarizes: “If you can produce helpful videos that are relevant to your product, it’s an easy way to get in front of potential customers and funnel them to your website or ecommerce store.”
*Editor’s note: Fancy an easier way to track whether your blog content is paying off? Grab our Google Analytics Content Analysis dashboard to find out, and share the results with your team:
Octiv Digital‘s Jeff Romero thinks “marketers need to make sure the right pages are being crawled with the right crawl budget.”
Romero has “worked on e-commerce client sites where Google is crawling pages that don’t need to be crawled often. Crawling should be prioritized for pages that change often (like product pages) and those with the most search volume.”
Radomir Basta of Four Dots adds: “Ecommerce sites often waste crawl budget on unimportant or less important product pages/categories while the most important ones are being either neglected or crawled less frequently.”
“This means they are missing on opportunities their competition might be using wisely – i.e. efficient crawling, indexing and potentially higher rankings for the most important (aka top-selling) products and categories.”
Basta continues: “URLs with lots of folders and parameters may pose major crawl issues for the search engines. In some cases, the “spider traps” created by complex eCommerce URLs would even prevent the engines from indexing a site.”
AGY47‘s Sharon Gwati-Mudzuzu adds: “To improve and maintain good crawl efficiency, ensure you disallow parts of your website that do not need to be crawled, have an up-to-date, accurate sitemap and improve site performance.”
Image search was recently declared as being “back from the dead.”
That’s why Kris Olin of Social Media Revolver recommends to “do proper SEO on your images [because] images are highly relevant on Google searches when people are considering purchasing products.”
“Pay attention to the image meta tag as well as the actual name of the image file. Both need to describe the product in a few carefully chosen (and researched) keywords,” Olin says.
Brand Rebel‘s Asif Khan adds that you can do this by “optimizing your images by using the keywords in alt text and image filename.”
Mailbird‘s Andrea Loubier summarizes: “Be sure to keep your image sizes under 100 kb, and always include alt text with a good keyword.”
“One thing that is often overlooked [on ecommerce websites] is meta descriptions for product pages,” says Hosting Canada‘s Gary Stevens.
“If someone is looking for a specific product and stumbles upon your website on a SERP, the only information they have to go off of is the meta description.”
Stevens adds: “Updating meta descriptions doesn’t necessarily improve your rankings but it does increase the click-through rate,” Stevens continues. “If you have a meta description that catches the attention of a Google searcher, it could be all the difference between them clicking on your website or another.”
Mostly Blogging‘s Janice Wald shares a quick hack: “Use the MozBar, a free Chrome extension. When you use the MozBar you can see your competitors’ meta descriptions. This enables you to write a more convincing meta description so consumers click on your link on Google.”
“My primary tip would be to start with the technical SEO to ensure that the website is running smooth and fast – this is essential for both user-friendliness but as well SEO perspective,” says Karel Räppo of Bryton.
“If the website is slow, there is no point in writing high-quality content if the user simply closes tab after the website has been loading for too long.”
It’s true–and likely why pages with a faster loading speed tend to rank higher in organic results:
Sparxoo‘s David Capece explains: “If you have a fast and well-designed site, not only is that a signal Google uses in ranking sites you will also convert more of your organic search traffic. There is no use increasing your organic traffic if it doesn’t convert.”
“Analyze the results to ensure your site doesn’t have any index bloat that could cause thin or duplicate content issues. Common culprits are parameterized URLs generated by product filters that generate indexed pages. Or, internal site search strings that generate indexed URLs.”
Richards continues: “For larger sites selling dozens or hundreds of different products that are filterable by things like size, color, price etc, this can cause major content issues, and potential penalty risks. If this is happening, set exclusions in your robots.txt file.”
Producing value content and sharing them on social media will reach a lot of people who will, in turn, share your content with their friends and family which all help you rank in search engines.
Steven van Vessum of ContentKing advises to “focus on delivering an amazing user experience (UX), and you’ll see that being rewarded with better search engine rankings, more organic traffic and more conversions because Google’s is quantifying UX signals and uses them in their algorithms!”
“Most of the last Google updates we’ve seen actually touch on this, so it’s an important trend in SEO and I strongly believe UX will only become more important to SEO.”
“HARO is a free email list that connects journalists to the general public. The goal of HARO is to allow journalists to receive quotes from people for their upcoming articles. You are able to sign up as a ‘source’ to receive HARO emails 3 times a day which will contain a list of approved journalist queries.”
Milan adds: “The advantage to this is that it is a great resource for new startup ecommerce sites that may be on a shoestring budget.”
“By simply answering a HARO query with some detail and useful information, you can land a backlink from high authority websites, like Reader’s Digest, MSN, or Yahoo.”
“Google loves to see links from authoritative sources like these, because it lends credibility to your expertise in a particular niche. As you build your site’s domain authority through link building, your site will rise in ranking for its targeted keywords,” Milan summarizes.
“Site navigation and internal linking between products and categories are some of the ways to improve search rankings for ecommerce sites,” says Danish Maniyar.
“Site navigation helps shoppers find products quickly and easily. Good navigation improves the online shopping experience and helps merchants increase sales and profits. Internal links help Google. They can help your customers more.”
The best part about this ecommerce SEO tip? It’s easy–and can be combined with selling tactics like upselling.
Simply add an internal link to a more expensive product on a product page, and encourage your customers to click through (with the goal of purchasing.)
“When it comes to boosting search rankings, there’s one area that online retailers routinely overlook: “generic” seasonal traffic,” Growcode‘s Pawel Ogonowski says.
“During holidays like Black Friday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and so on, buyers are entering a myriad of open-ended seasonal keywords into the search engines. Phrases like:
…are some examples.”
It’s a fantastic opportunity–especially as retail sales over the holidays passed $1 trillion for the first time last year.
Ogonowski says that retailers can take advantage by creating “dedicated landing pages to target these keywords. They can then include links to specific product and category pages.”
“We’ve also found that it’s better to create one page for each holiday and update it every year, rather than create a new page every time a particular holiday swings around. This strategy allows retailers to leverage links and other search factors over the long term.”
“It’s essential to update pages before the holiday period begins (at least 45 days) and use a generic URL like www.store.com/black-friday. Add date-specific information to title tags, copy, headlines, and so on.”
Ogonowski summarizes: “Retailers that use this strategy can sometimes double their traffic by picking up on under-targeted but high-volume keywords.”
These ecommerce SEO tips are bound to help you boost organic traffic–and hopefully, sales from your new wave of visitors.
But regardless of which tips you use, Igor Avidon of Avidon Marketing Group thinks you should “make sure that your SEO efforts align with your brand [because] dissonance between pure SEO optimization and brand considerations can create an ugly experience for your customers.”
“Your SEO (on-page copy, internal links, navigation elements, etc) needs to work hand-in-hand with your brand (storytelling, use of product images, content, etc) in order to create synergy for your store.”
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