While many of your SEO tasks are going to be the same regardless of the type of company you run, there are several different ways to look at SEO when you’re dealing with e-commerce. The structure of these companies differs because of their goals and more importantly because of the different pages that they have on their websites. How you optimize these different pages is important to understand right away so that you’re sending your audience to the most relevant content based on where they are in the sales funnel.
In other words, for some websites, everyone is at the same stage in his/her search (ex: if you run a blog, everyone is looking for educational content), but you find a diverse group of people when you run an e-commerce site. It helps to break up SEO tasks into categories and then go through and determine what an e-commerce site needs to do if they want to be successful in SEO.
Consider the checklist below to help get you started, and don't forget to download the printable version.
It is well known that keywords are one of the most important aspect of SEO, so it’s important to know which keywords are going to be most valuable and accurate for your ranking. In order to rank highly when people are searching for things relevant to your e-commerce business, you need to be sure that you are optimizing for the right keywords and phrases. Many of the items on this checklist are not specific to e-commerce, but they are absolutely something no company wants to miss, and so they make the list!
- Make sure you or someone on your staff conducts detailed research on the kinds of keywords that your target customers might enter into search engines, especially those which will allow them to arrive at your products. You can learn more about conducting keyword research for an e-commerce business here.
- Check out what the competition looks like for your chosen keywords. This will allow you to assess what you’re up against in your quest for the top spot. Use tools such as SEMrush and Open Site Explorer to understand the backlinks your competition is building, and pay attention to the types of content that seem to be getting the most social likes and engagement.
- Make sure that each page on your site focuses on a primary keyword or phrase. If this is not the case, consider reorganizing your products or searchable services.
- There may also be secondary keywords for each of your pages. If there are, make sure to account for them as you develop the structure of your site.
- Make sure that your homepage is optimized for your brand name. Ultimately, you want to be sure that it is easy to find your site when an online user types in your actual company name. This usually happens automatically, but not always (particularly if your domain doesn’t match your business name or if your name is very vague and generic).
Social Media Integration
When users peruse your online store, it should be very easy for them to share your content with their social media connections. Not only does this improve your marketing strategy, but it also sends information to search engines about your site’s performance, which is obviously a very important aspect of SEO. Although social signals are not technically a ranking signal (although that may be changing), your authority and popularity are (especially for e-commerce). Earning social shares can help you earn backlinks and mentions across the web, which will help position you as an authority and further your SEO success.
- Make sure you have social sharing buttons on all the appropriate pages of your website. This is especially the case for any product or service that you would like visitors to be able to share. Some companies don’t see the need to put a sharing button on a product page, which is fine in many cases, but try testing it to see if that’s the right move. You also may want to include sharing buttons on a “Thank You” page like Amazon does in case people want to share what they just purchased with their friends.
- Also be sure that you are creating content that is something users would want to share, in addition to your products and services (i.e. blog posts, infographics etc.). Ecommerce sites forget that blog posts still matter for their types of company, but the benefits are huge.
- Links to your social media accounts should be clearly displayed on your website homepage or in a footer or header. This will assist not only in your SEO, but getting followers and developing your social audience.
Note: Creating a social strategy for your e-commerce site is a different issue that is also incredibly important, not only for your SEO but for overall visibility. Learn more about a social media strategy for e-commerce sites here.
In case you are not already aware, internal links are links present on any page of your website that link to another page on your website. While these may have increased your SEO in the past, more recently, search engines are dishing out penalties for over-optimized internal links. In light of this, the checklist here is actually to make sure your internal links look natural rather than suspicious to search engines.
- Make sure that all of your internal links do not suspiciously link to your homepage. In other words, they have to be relevant, so the majority of the time you should be linking to specific pages as opposed to the homepage. Of course there are exceptions to everything, but use your best judgment and be weary when linking to a homepage.
- Your anchor text should NOT match the page title it’s linked to and should not be keyword-rich because this can get you penalized. Your links need to seem natural, and that means a natural anchor text.
Page descriptions, also known as ‘meta’ descriptions, appear below your page title on SERPs. This helps to provide a description of the page and thus should also maximize click through rate on your website. This is another aspect that affects every type of company, but e-commerce sites sometimes get lazy with this because they worry so much about the description under their ads that they forget the description under organic results. Keep the following things to in mind so you can keep up with all types of companies that are ranking.
- Your page descriptions should be between 100 and 150 characters.
- Primary and secondary keywords should be included in the copy in a natural way.
- Page descriptions should read well and avoid looking like they’ve been stuffed with keywords. This is a common mistake for companies new to the SEO game.
- All of your page, product and service descriptions should be original. Do not use generic descriptions.
Your page content is the text that is actually visible on your web page, as opposed to your page titles and descriptions that are only visible in SERPs. This does not refer only to blog posts, but absolutely any text that is found on any page of your website.
- Your primary keyword should be included 2-5 times in your page’s content.
- You should also include your secondary keywords, where relevant.
- Keep your content interesting and engaging by getting creative with content types. Include infographics, videos, interviews, surveys, case studies, etc. whenever possible.
Oh the URL. It’s something we say all the time, but did you know it stands for ‘uniform resource locator?" Think of it this way, the URL of your page is yet another way for search engines to index the content of your page. In consideration of SEO, it is important to make sure your URLs are structured in a way that makes them search engine optimal, and Ecommerce always have quite a few more unique URLs than traditional websites or blogs, so this is an important point not to miss.
- Your domain name should include your brand name if possible.
- Each word in your URL should be separated by a dash.
- Your URLs should be structured in a logical and consistent way. In other words, avoid the random scramble of numbers and letters by structuring your website with different categories and filters. Learn more here.
The titles you assign to pages are another important area for search engine optimization. Their value is two fold. First, they have an effect on where search engines rank you. Secondly, they are great for grabbing the attention of online consumers and prompting them to click. A few basics about page titles include:
- Your page titles should be under 70 characters long.
- Primary keywords should be included in the page title of each page.
- Page titles should be as unique as possible, and specifically, unique to your website.
- Like other aspects for SEO, your page titles should be free from keyword stuffing – they should flow and sound natural.
Page Load Times
This is increasingly important in terms of mobile optimization and overall user satisfaction. Poor load times result in a negative user experience, and for e-commerce businesses, this means losing customers just because they aren’t happy with your website. Additionally, Google and other search engines want its search results to be as useful to the user as possible, it tends to penalize websites with poor load times.
- All of your pages should load in less than three seconds.
- Your images should be a size that means they don’t take too long to load. You want to focus on resolution and pixel sizes, and while this will differ based on your website and the bandwidth you have; a good rule of thumb is around 325X550 pixels.
- Use the correct types of images: .gif, .jpg or .png are your best options.
- Check that you don’t have too many plugins installed that are slowing your site down.
- Turn off pingbacks and trackbacks to speed up your load time.
- Use the Google PageSpeed Insights tool to help you identify how to improve.
Google and other search engines look unfavorably upon websites with errors because of the impact they have on user experience. This includes broken links, 404 pages, outdated statistics, and more.
- Sign up for Webmaster tools and check it regularly for any page errors.
- Set up and submit a sitemap.
- Set up necessary redirects for pages that no longer exist.
If you are an e-commerce company looking to optimize and revamp your SEO, this list is a great place to start. As you know, being an e-commerce company involves the sale of products or services using online platforms, which is therefore why it is particularly important to have your SEO on-point. I also recommend checking out this article for a checklist to look over after you complete a redesign so you can make sure all of your hard SEO-work stays intact.
This post explains the top 10 areas that you can improve the SEO for your e-commerce site, and the specific things you can do for each– keywords, social media integration, internal links, page descriptions, page content, page URLs, page titles, rich snippets, page load times and website errors – but let us know what else you would add to the list in the comment section below!