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Ecommerce SEO guide and best practices

Setting up an e-commerce site online is one of the best ways to consistently make money online. The key to its success is online traffic, and the best long-term way to ensure traffic is through ecommerce SEO.

According to the Search Engine Journal, 93 percent of online activities start through a search. Here is what you can do to leverage SEO for your e-commerce site, and drive more targeted, organic traffic and buyers to your site:

Basic Benefits of SEO on E-commerce

Search engine optimization for e-commerce sites has various benefits:

  • Primarily, ecommerce seo helps the company save a lot of money as SEO has the highest ROI among all marketing channels in the ecommerce space
  • An SEO-optimized store will gain organic, relevant traffic from search in multiple stages by targeting top-of-funnel search queries and thus create awareness about the store’s brand, down to bottom-of-funnel queries (transactional keywords) users use when they are about to convert into buyers.
  • SEO also enhances the e-commerce site experience, due to the fact that good rankings require great usability and site performance, as well as mobile-friendly browsing.

Ecommerce SEO is different – here are a few of the most common issues

SEO for e-commerce sites can be quite different from the SEO best practices one might want to pursue on blogs or corporate websites. Apart from the fact that on store sites, products get shuffled and added all the time, there are a few other issues specific to the e-com space:

The Propensity to Use Duplicate Content

One of the major reasons for an e-commerce site to not gain enough organic traffic is the use of duplicate content. The e-commerce site’s nature and structure make it susceptible to having multiple URLs basically showing the same or very similar content. When multiple versions of essentially the same content get indexed, the result is wasted crawl budget and duplicate content issues.

Here are a few solutions that can be considered, depending on each specific case:

  • Using the robots.txt file to exclude certain parts of the website from crawling
  • Actively noindexing certain URLs to avoid duplicate content issues
  • Consider URLs created from reviews and comments and whether you might want to tell Google to ignore all or part of them
  • Canonical tags can give Google a hint on which version of a URL should be preferred

Using Product Descriptions from Manufacturers

Most ecommerce sites – especially in the early stages – use their product manufacturers’ product descriptions directly in their own store. This practice is frowned upon by search engines as it produces hundreds or even thousands of different websites with the exact same content.

Apart from the obvious ecommerce seo issue with duplication, most descriptions are not written properly with the goal of selling the product, but rather mention its benefits without any further copywriting essentials.

The solution: always produce original, fresh content for every product and stay away from already existing content. Search engines have become better and stricter in kicking out sites due to duplicate content and content scraping. Also, since BERT, they got much smarter in understanding the meaning depending on the respective context, which again stresses the importance of counting on professional copywriters’ skills to come up with optimized descriptions.

In cases where no original description can be written (or may still be in process), an idea could be to no-index those URLs until the description is ready.

Not Considering the Search Volume When Optimizing Product Pages

It is paramount to consider the demand (search volume, check e. g. with semrush) as well as search keywords that online users type on search engines whenever title pages, product descriptions, and headlines are written.

Check your search volume

Too often we come across pages that clients want to see ranking for terms that are hardly being searched for. An extensive keyword research is essential for any e-commerce site!

Apart from they keyword research, here are some of the techniques that can be done to optimize product pages:

  • using model numbers in title tags and H1 headings
  • filling out the image alt tag information
  • not overstuffing the page with the same keywords
  • using brand names in title tags and H1 headings
  • not using iframes to showcase content as they won’t get crawled by Google
  • making sure there is good + enough content on the product page

The Use of Non-Unique Titles

A page’s title tag is probably one of the most important on-page elements of a URL. Not only is it decisive for a search result’s click-through-rate CTR in search results (SERPs) – Google also takes it into account to check what the overall page’s content is about.

Make sure titles are unique and try to avoid identical values, even though this might be difficult when dealing with similar product names from the same brand.

Research has revealed that as opposed to single keywords, most online shoppers use key phrases when they search for items or services online. 

A wise technique for you to nail down the right keywords is to survey the customers and find out more about the language they use when they search for or talk about the items that you sell. 

The Absence of Sharing Functionality

It is a grave error not to include Like, Tweet, Pin, or StumbleUpon buttons on the page. Be aware of the personas you are targeting to decide the social networks that you are going to feature – the persona must be based on your core product offerings, e. g.:

  • for household items and appliances, include a Pin button since most patrons of these products are on Pinterest.
  • if you are selling tech products, you can put a “Tweet” button since most of the tech buyers and Apple users flock Twitterland.

Always tie in the specific audience to feature the particular button that suits them best. It’s better to simplify things using personas. Spamming the web pages with Share buttons can only decrease the impact of the company’s call to action of the “add to cart” button. 

Not Having Crucial Technical Elements on the Site

Some technical elements must be found on the site, such as:

  • 301 redirects in case a new product has been taking over another product’s role
  • appropriate canonicalization to make sure Google indexes the right version of the URL
  • use dashes instead of underscores, make sure that under case letters are used in the URL
  • not use URLs based on a certain date or time
  • make category pages evergreen as they might be your primary landing pages
  • never stack redirects (one is more than enough)
  • avoid duplicate content (and very similar content versions)
  • use Google’s search console to be aware of any technical issues on your site Google might have found to solve them as soon as possible

The ecommerce SEO Audit

To maximize the impact of SEO on any e-commerce site, it is crucial to know the site’s specific situation in terms of SEO best practices. This can only be done through the aid of an SEO audit, which

  • checks the health of the site
  • prevents spams from wreaking havoc on the site
  • gives suggestions on how to structure the content in a better way
  • lists hints on how to improve usability and load times
  • gives you an overview about actionable steps to take in order to improve your site’s overall rankings and performance
  • performs a full keyword research
  • gives you an idea of what’s working for your e-commerce competitors
  • etc.

While it is possible to do an SEO audit on your own, you might be better off saving on all the tools necessary and hire a professional SEO agency that already has both, the tools and the necessary experience on how to use them.

website audit for ecommerce sites
A good website audit for e-commerce sites can drastically increment rankings

To get a first glance, there are also some free tools available, such as Browseo, Majestic, Google Analytics, Google Search Console, SEO Report Card, and the MOZ’s Crawl Test Tool.

Ecommerce Platforms and SEO

To ensure that SEO is easily implemented on your e-commerce site, it is important to choose the most appropriate and beneficial e-commerce platform.

In the following we list 3 of the top e-commerce platforms available for any online entrepreneur. These are Magento, Woocommerce, and Shopify:

Magento

This e-commerce platform is designed using open source technology. It provides online entrepreneurs with a flexible shopping cart system, control on the look and functionality of the online shop, as well as powerful marketing, SEO, and catalog-management tools.

It is designed to be used as an application by any individual who is not a developer. It has other valuable benefits namely effective and cost-saving programs enable discounts and promotions when checking out, easy installation and additional layouts and plug-ins, offers more than 50 payment gateways and offers highly scalable e-commerce solutions. 

Shopify

Shopify is probably the best and easiest e-commerce platform for online stores that only require minimal configuration. There are several benefits to using Shopify:

  • it is unsurpassed in its visual appeal
  • it’s easy to install and use
  • it has powerful loading speed and powerful marketing tools
  • it has never gotten hacked
  • it allows for easy payment
  • it offers excellent customer support
  • and it is SEO friendly up to a certain extent
Shopify is one of the best ecommerce platforms available today

Woocommerce

Woocommerce is an open-source e-commerce WordPress plugin. This is intended for small to large online businesses. There are multiple reasons to use the WordPress plugin for your e-commerce store. It looks professional and highly secure, although WordPress historically has been one of the platforms that gets the most hacking attempts.

Woocommerce makes website analytics easy since it has built-in analytics on the platform. It is also flexible, and it provides customization options. Most important of all, the platform is free. 

Start with 15 minutes

If you would like to see your e-commerce SEO moving in the right direction, check out our affordable 15 minute video audit which will give you a head start compared to your competition and set you up for organic traffic success.

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