Have an e-commerce website, but your traffic sucks? If you want to boost traffic and profits, then you need to use search engine optimization to help people find your site and make them stick around. Here are 17 tips to get you started.
1. Choose your keywords wisely. Keywords may no longer be the most important SEO factor, but they are still relevant to how people will search for and find your website. You need to strike a balance.
Some of your keywords will be the terms people are already searching for (you'll find that via Google Webmaster Tools, now that Google Analytics has ceased to provide usable keyword data, and software like SEMrush). Others will be terms that make sense for your site, which you can identify via the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. This KISSmetrics article suggests choosing keywords with a "high exact match local search volume," while avoiding those that are too broad. Most importantly, the Google Hummingbird update showed the importance of using long-tail keywords and optimizing for semantic search, which will become more and more important.
2. Map each keyword phrase to a page on the site. Creating a good e-commerce website is about information architecture – in other words, having a structure that makes sense.
I'll get back to that in a minute, but in terms of keywords it makes sense to make each keyword phrase correspond to a page on the site. This approach will help you avoid duplication, which could incur a search engine penalty. In addition, if you use related keyword phrases for related pages and interlink them properly (another SEO tip we'll discuss later in this post), you guarantee that anyone who searches for a particular product type will have access to all the relevant pages on your site.
3. Make URLs friendly. Create URLs that make sense when people see them in search engine listings. Which would you rather click a URL that says "product details plus a number" or a URL that actually spells out the product you are looking for? A
s you would imagine, the second option is much better and increases the chance that people will actually visit your site when product listings come up in search results. It's a big relevancy factor, which is important for good SEO. It's also a good idea to keep URLs short – too long and they won't appeal to web users.
4. Optimize site structure. One of the keys to good e-commerce SEO is having excellent information architecture. The structure should be logical, allowing web visitors to easily navigate the site and find anything they are looking for. E
nsure that category pages flow naturally to sub-category pages and then to sub-sub categories. Hey, it works for Amazon – and have you ever noticed how often their products appear in search listings? Use breadcrumb navigation so users can always find their way back to the main categories and see what they have just visited. Mark Macdonald recommends no more than three layers of links for maximum crawlability.
5. Get smart about internal links. Internal linking encourages search engines to go deeper into your site, so you need to get smart about this by linking to related products from your product pages. It is essential to link to the most popular products in the category to further boost sales. And links to related products that other people have bought don't hurt either. If your site has customer reviews, manufacturers' descriptions and the like, include links to these where relevant.
Product Titles and Descriptions
6. Craft unique titles. Using unique titles for your products makes them more useful both for web visitors and the search engines. Don't worry – you don't have to create every title by hand. The key here is to choose the right e-commerce site template that makes it easy to generate unique titles for products, categories and subcategories of the same kind.
7. Create unique product descriptions. Descriptions are the most important pieces of content for e-commerce websites. They tell users what they are going to get, whether they're in a physical store or doing some online research. And they provide an important opportunity to engage web visitors and sell them the product.
To do that, ditch the dry-as-dust standard product descriptions and replace them with writing that appeals to buyers' emotions. Not only is this good for business, but it will help you create more unique search engine content. And you already know how important that is.
8. De-dupe content. Titles and descriptions aside, it's a great idea to avoid duplicate content penalties by removing some of the main causes of duplicate content on e-commerce websites. With some products appearing in multiple categories – and the provision of session IDs and URL parameters – duplication can happen. But as Search Engine Land points out, paying attention when planning your site can help avoid this.
9. Use rich snippets. Schema markup is becoming a bigger part of SEO, providing rich snippets in search listings and feeding into Google's Knowledge Graph. That means it's a good idea to include this when optimizing product, category and subcategory pages. The number of markup categories includes several that are useful for e-commerce sites, including reviews, and there will be more soon.
Tips on Content
10. Create buyer's guides. In a content-hungry world, buyer's guides are SEO gold. Customers get lots of information on the products that interest them and search engines get lots of unique, rich content they can feature on the results pages. Of course, each guide has to be unique and should be listed in your sitemap so that search engine spiders can find the content easily. The better your content, the better your website as a whole will rank. So make sure that you include plenty of useful information on choosing products, product ranges and using products that will guide buyers in their decision-making.
11. Optimize images. Product images help sell your product. In fact, according to Jeff Bullas, they’re a key factor for 67% of consumers. They also make it easy for others to share your products on image-centric sites like Pinterest.
If you want to get maximum SEO juice from product images, you need to optimize. That means filling in alt text and descriptions for all images and using keywords related to the product to name the images. These all have to be unique, of course.
12. Use video. Using video is a sure way to create engagement and click-throughs on your e-commerce site, with the obvious effect on product sales. Video is a great way to create social shares and to get video rich snippets in the search results, helping your products and website to be more visible. And with more people watching and sharing video on mobile devices, you can't afford to ignore this SEO tip.
13. Encourage sharing. As mentioned earlier, every social share adds another signal to the search engines that you are producing quality content on your e-commerce website. Amplify this process by including social sharing buttons on your product and content pages. It's also a good idea to respond to any positive – or negative – feedback you get. Building a social community around your e-commerce site is one of the best ways to improve your customer base and build links at the same time.
14. Leverage social proof. Social proof is a sales strategy that gives you another way to mark up your content for semantic search. Reviews are one of the markup categories, and you can get more search engine listings by encouraging customers to review your products and publishing these on your site. It's another double whammy, allowing you to boost the popularity of product pages while improving optimization.
15. Optimize for mobile. The Google Hummingbird update was a big win for the mobile content economy. And as Mashable notes, more than 17% of Web traffic comes from mobile devices, and it is only increasing. It is more important than ever to make sure that your site works well on mobile devices and that it is easy for people to complete necessary actions. It's back to usability, this time for mobile.
16. Speed up your site. Sites that don't load quickly are likely to incur a penalty from Google, and shopping cart abandonment will rise too. Fix this by identifying and eliminating the usual causes of site slowdown so that it works well for users and ranks well in search results.
17. Build links. Link building isn't what it used to be, but it still has a place. In addition to internal links, it's wise to build inbound links to category and product pages. Encourage customers, industry experts and others to review your products on their sites and offer your expert opinion to others on matters relating to your niche.
Final Thoughts Put these 17 tips into practice and you'll be well on the way to a perfectly optimized e-commerce site. You can't relax, though; you'll need to keep checking these areas whenever you add new products to your range. E-commerce optimization is a continuous process. Never let your guard down, and always be ahead of the curve.
Photo 1 credit: FindYourSearch, Photo 2 credit: Kevin Doole, Photo 3 credit: Matthew Holland, Photo 4 credit: JD Hancock, Photo 5 credit: marfis75, Photo 6 credit: IntelFreePress, and Photo 7 credit: Mike Cogh.
Chris Kilbourn is the VP of Strategy at Fit Marketing. In past lives, he was a professional rockstar (seriously), and he built and sold two successful companies from the ground up. You can request a consultation with Chris and his team at Fit Marketing.