The Ultimate Guide To SEO For E-Commerce Businesses – Part 1 of 3
About The Author
Hi, my name is Mark. I am the owner of Think Traffic and I just love internet marketing and web dev.
I started my career by learning to write HTML and PHP, since then I have fallen in love data and traffic analysis and learning to understand how and why users interact with the web. I enjoy working with small businesses too.
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This post is going to be straight to the point, because we have a lot to cover.
If you looking for an easy way to get more sales, this may not be for you. But if you want to build a long-term, profitable online retail business, there are few better ways than SEO.
I would recommend reading the whole post and then bookmarking it so that you can come back to it later.
Here is what we are going to cover:
- Keyword Research
- Simple Stuff
- Technical Stuff
- Content Marketing
- User Related Stuff
- Links & Social Media
Ok, so let’s get right into it shall we? From here on we will be assuming that you have a shop set-up already and that your e-commerce solution gives you the tools to be able to action these concepts.
About Your E-Commerce Solution:
If your e-commerce solution doesn’t allow you to implement certain items, you either need to move to a different option, get a programmer to add the required functionality, or don’t bother with that item.
Some of these ideas are more important than others…
First of all; SEO for e-commerce isn’t the same as SEO for other types of sites. There are a few small but important differences, and keyword research is one of them.
Assuming you know what you want to sell, the keywords you are targeting will be fairly obvious to an extent. But there are still some good uses keyword research:
Take a few of your most obvious keywords and plug them into Google’s keyword tool. Look at local search volumes using phrase match and/or exact match and look for any related keywords that could point to other product ideas.
Basically, if you want to expand into new, related products, keyword research will point you to what people are already searching for.
There is no harm in adding products with minimal search volume if you are sure your existing customer base will buy them.
Adding new products that have good search volume on the other-hand will potentially bring new customers as well as increasing sales to existing ones.
Another helpful way to use keyword research is to judge how you should word categories and such like, as well as which categories have the most SEO potential.
To Give An Example:
You might be selling all sorts of baby items. One category might be pushchairs…
Should you target “pushchairs” or “strollers”?
Start by plugging a few related terms into the Google keyword tool:
- Buy pushchairs
- Buy pushchairs online
- Online pushchairs
- Cheap pushchairs
Set to phrase or exact match (more on that next) and tot-up how much potential search volume there is for that category. Then repeat that search using “stroller” related terms to see which wording seems more popular in your area.
What About Sub-Categories?
Glad you ask. There is generally more than one way to divide a category up. You could divide into sub-types (three wheelers, twins etc..) or brands for instance.
Ideally, you should offer both options if you think it will be helpful for your customers. But which option do you prioritize? Well let’s look at the traffic for both options shall we?
So you might plug in a few phrases like:
- [category of item] + [brand name]
- [brand name] + [category of item]
- [category of item] + [another brand]
Try that for your main brands and then try:
- [sub-category 1]
- [sub-category 2]
Hopefully that should be enough to give you an idea whether your target audience are searching by product type or by brand. You have to use a bit of judgement of course, but often the numbers will give you a clue as to the best way to go.
Finally, a bit of keyword research can give you valuable information about how your potential customers search and how best to target them.
Let me explain with yet another example:
If you sell all sorts of metal widgets.
You might brainstorm a list of keywords like this:
- metal widgets
- aluminium widgets
- steel widgets
- blue metal widgets
- copper widgets
Let’s say you do a phrase search and find that “aluminium widgets” looks like a good category with 3000 monthly searches; so you zoom in a bit (with an exact match):
- aluminium widgets
- buy aluminium widgets
- aluminium widgets online
- blue aluminium widgets
If you find that as an exact match your main search is getting much less than those 3000 searches, but you can’t find the specific terms that are getting most of the traffic…
…It probably means that those 3000 searches are made up of a lot of long-tail phrases.
Which means that you can’t easily target a single phrase. Instead, you will need to catch a lot of long-tail traffic by using long content and a great user-experience.
On the other-hand:
If you find that most of that category’s search volume is accounted for in a handful of exact phrases, your SEO will be more focused on those phrases. (Hopefully without completely ignoring the long-tail).
Ok, that’s the keywords sorted then.
The reality of larger e-commerce sites is that writing bespoke titles and SEO stuff for every product may not be entirely practical, so we’ll start with some easy wins:
Every page on your website should have its own page title, which should be up to 70 characters long and unique for each product/category page etc…
Many e-commerce packages will just use your product’s title as a page title. If this is the case for your store, make sure that you write product names with that in mind:
- Write long product names (but no more than 70 chars)
- Include all relevant information
- Think about how users might search
Often, this isn’t ideal, since you might want to include the brand and model number in your page title but not the product title (particularly if the brand and model number are listed elsewhere on the product page).
If this is the case, look into whether you can set your page titles to automatically use tokens from your product information. An effective set-up might be:
[brand] [product title] – Model [model number] – [condition] – [price]
It all depends on what you are selling of course, and what you can fit into your 70 character limit.
If you don’t have too many products, or have enough man-power, having the ability to manually enter a product title might be an easier option. Just make sure that you always add a title when you create a new product.
For your category pages, the page titles should also be pretty obvious.
Make them descriptive and use your character limit. Category pages are ideal pages to get ranking, since they often have a good traffic potential. Writing a decent page title for each category is essential.
This description doesn’t show up on your actual web pages but it will show up in search engines when one of your pages comes up in a results page.
Again, every page on your website needs a meta description. Different e-commerce packages handle this differently, so check whether your pages have a description already and where it is coming from for different types of pages:
- Home page
- Content pages
- Category pages
- Product pages
You have up to about 155 characters. Don’t stuff the description with keywords, instead, write a carefully written description that entices a search engine user to click. Don’t just repeat what is in the page title either.
It may be possible to automatically generate a description, but if possible, try to manually write one for each page. You can use a short excerpt from product descriptions for product pages.
Images are a big, but often neglected part of e-commerce websites. Including keywords in your content lets Google know what that page is about, but you can also let Google know what each image is about.
It’s not a case of stuffing in every keyword you can, it’s more a case of giving search engines a more complete idea of what information you are giving your users.
The most important part of an image (in SEO terms) is the alt tag. The idea of this tag is to describe the image to anyone who can’t see it (visually impaired users for instance).
Make sure that every image on your site has an alt tag, but in particular, pay attention to your product images and thumbnails. Write a sentence or two and make them descriptive. For instance:
- Rather than:
view from side
Side view of [product] – [model] by [brand]
File names aren’t as important as alt tags, but it is still helpful to give images a descriptive name rather than just a string of numbers or letters.
For more information about images and optimization for e-commerce, check out this post from the Shopify blog:
10 Must know Image Optimization Tips
That’s All For Now!
Ok, that’s your lot for today. Part 2 is coming next week, so hold tight and it’ll be here before you know it!