Good SEO can be a major financial asset for eCommerce sites.
According to an Optify study, the first result in a Google search averages a 34.6% click through rate. The second result gets 12.5%. The third result gets 9.6%.
If you can move from No. 3 to No. 1 in the rankings, you can more than triple the number of visitors to your website from that keyword.
In eCommerce, that’s huge.The problem I’ve seen, however, is that most SEO advice never gets followed.
I understand why. You’re a store owner, not a web expert right? Some of the steps to great search rankings seem complicated and technical.
Plus there’s the danger that Google will change its algorithms in the future, possibly punishing you for what you’re doing today to boost rankings.
Fear not. SEO has changed a lot over the years, but there are many simple (and safe) things you can do to help your eCommerce site rank higher.
Part 1: On-Site Basics for eCommerce SEO
Let’s start with 8 basic on-site steps you can take to improve your SEO (We’ll cover off-site promotion in a bit).
Have a Site that Works Well on Mobile
A few months ago, Google started factoring the mobile version of your website into its search results.
The SEO community dubbed it “Mobilegeddon.”
Sounds scary, but really it’s just common sense.
If someone searches Google on a mobile device, websites with a good mobile experience gets priority.
Here’s how you can tell:
That matters, because according to Google, more Google searches now take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the US and Japan.
Want more organic traffic? Use a platform or website theme that includes a mobile version of your site.
Make it Easy to Find Stuff on Your Site
The technical word for this is “internal architecture,” which really just means “how your site is organized.”
Simplicity is key. Keep your product pages within one category, and avoid having dozens of categories and subcategories.
That just confuses search engines, which won’t know which page to return in their results.
Write Unique Content (And Don’t Copy Product Descriptions from Your Provider or Manufacturer)
Copying content is one of the biggest mistakes eCommerce sites make.
Think about it from the search engine’s perspective. In its index it almost certainly has an existing record of the exact words and phrases provided to you by your wholesaler or manufacturer.
In fact, Google probably knows of dozens of stores using the exact same words on their product pages.
If you repeat the same words as all those other sites, why would Google rank your site higher than the sites it already knows?
Uniquely written content, however, can vault you ahead of your competition.
Google’s smart. It knows when a website owner is putting in the work to create unique content.
One Keyword (or Keyword Phrase) Per Page
A “keyword” could be a single word or a phrase. In the case of an eCommerce site with potentially thousands of pages, it’s almost certainly a keyword phrase.
For each of your pages, choose one unique keyword phrase that’s assigned to that page, and only that page.
The simplest way to keep track is to make a spreadsheet with a list of pages plus focus keyword for each. When you sort the list by keyword, you shouldn’t see any duplicates.
Make sure the keyword is included in the title of the page along with the meta description.
For this you can use an SEO plugin, or if you’re on a platform like Shopify, the tools are already part of their system.
Use Internal Cross Linking to Help People Find Related Content
Ever notice ping-pong balls hanging from a shelf right next to the beer in the grocery store? That’s called “related content,” since your local grocer knows people going to a party might have a need for a fresh set of ping-pong balls.
On the web Amazon is the king of “related products.” You would do well to follow their lead.
Wherever possible, include links to products that are similar to the ones your website visitor might be visiting.
Make It Easy for People to Ask You Questions
I’m continually amazed at how many eCommerce sites don’t have a good way for customers to ask for help.
Get a contact page. Put a web form and a phone number on it. You’ll make more sales, and you’ll gather valuable data about what’s broken on your website.
A good contact page usually helps lower a sites bounce rate as well, which is one more factor Google is believed to be watching as it considers where to rank your site in its results.
Ask for Reviews
In the eyes of search engines, product reviews are a sign you have a website that delivers high-value content to its users.
If you’re not already doing so, send an automated email to all your buyers a week after their purchase. Give them a link to the product they purchased and ask them to write a review. You can even provide a coupon or some other kind of incentive along with the request.
This gives them a reason to come back to your site, leave a review, and maybe even buy again.
Let People Share Your Product Pages
Ever seen a friend ask about a product on Facebook or Twitter? They’re considering buying something, but they want to ask their friends what they think before placing the order.
If you give people a link directly on each product page that lets them easily share it on their social media, people will be more likely to share your actual page, instead of just writing about it in text in their social media update.
Google looks for links like these, and you’ll get a little SEO boost in the process.
Get Your Site to Load in Under 3 Seconds
If your site is slow, people will bail. Studies have shown it over and over again.
To test how site load time, use Pingdom’s website speed test. If the result is over 3 seconds, bring in a web developer, because you’re losing sales.
If you can’t afford a web developer, there’s a number of things you can do on your own:
- Compress your images. There’s a number of web based tools that do it free (Google search)
- Upgrade web hosting. I personally use LCN for everything – they’re affordable and have insanely good customer service.
- Look into a Content Delivery Network (CDN). If upgraded web hosting doesn’t do the trick, you may need to step it up with a CDN. I use MaxCDN for all of my sites.
Part 2: Content Marketing and Blogging for eCommerce SEO
If you want to increase organic search traffic, you should have a blog and a content marketing plan.
Here’s how to do it, without it taking over your life:
Find a Good Writer
If you’re going to write the content yourself, make sure you at least have someone else who can read your content before you publish it. Hemingway is a great (free) app you can use to improve.
If you’re not a good writer or don’t have the time for it, you can find help at places like UpWork or the ProBlogger job board.
Find Better Long Tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords make up 70% of search traffic. Use the free Google AdWords Planner for ideas.
Write Big Content First (Guides, eBooks, Webinars, etc.)
Start by creating content “assets” such as guides, eBooks, or recorded webinars. These are the kind of content people will gladly give up their email for, giving you the chance to market to them via email later on.
Break Big Content into Smaller Content (Blog Posts, Emails, etc.)
If you plan it right, your big content pieces can easily be broken down into smaller content such as blog posts, emails, autoresponders, or social media posts.
This is a great way to get the most bang for your buck for the time and money you spend creating content.
As a side-note, it is also possible to write small content first, then package it together into bigger content. It’s just usually not as efficient as starting with the big content.
I saw a great example of this on Inbound.org from a startup who live blogged their Instagram ad experience then turned it into a large Instagram marketing guide. They were able to kill 2 birds with 1 piece of content – a timely, shareable blog post turned into an evergreen, linkable asset.
Use One Focused Long-Tail Keyword per Blog Post (and Don’t Repeat Them)
In your product pages, you were trying to find one unique keyword that described that particular product.
In a blog, the idea is to match your articles to the long-tail keywords people are searching for in Google. This is the reason you spent time finding long-tail keywords in step 2.
That research will give you an easy way to provide Google a clear result when someone searches for that specific keyword.
It also prevents “keyword cannibalism,” (e.g.: “coffee reviews” and “coffee beans reviews”) which happens when you have more than one blog post optimized for a certain long-tail keyword. When that happens, you dilute the power of both articles in Google’s results.
Part 3: Off-Site Promotion for eCommerce SEO
You’ve heard about “link-building” or “backlinking” and everything that goes into that kind of SEO. You’ve also heard that Google has cracked down hard on scammy link-building techniques lately.
It’s true: Google has devalued backlinks in its algorithm. But that doesn’t mean it has stopped considering them all together. If you want that No. 1 spot in Google, you need good backlinks.
Here’s how to get them:
Research Your Competition’s Backlinks, then Match Them
Did you know you can easily see what websites are linking to your competitors?
Open Site Explorer will show you the top links currently pointing to your competition’s website.
Armed with this knowledge, you can network with the owner of the sites you see linking to your competition, and try to get a link to your site too.
Find High-Value Websites
Not every backlink is valuable. In fact, a link from a low-value website can actually hurt your rankings now as a result of Google’s crackdown on low-quality content.
To see if a site is a quality site or not, use the free Moz toolbar.
Create Mutually-Beneficial Relationships with Bloggers and Reporters
The best way to get quality backlinks for your site is to provide something of value to other website owners.
That could be a blog post, a review of the company’s product, or even something like a joint research project.
HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is another great way to provide value while getting a quality backlink in the process.
I know SEO can seem overwhelming and complex. But as I hope you’ve seen, nothing here would be terribly difficult to implement.
Most of these techniques could be launched in a day. Many could be simply integrated into your normal process.
Try and few and see where it gets you. Each market will be a little different of course, but if you implement a few of the items from this list, I suspect you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you see in your organic search traffic numbers.