Like any other site that wants to attract visitors, SEO is just as important for an ecommerce site. And depending on the industry or business niche, your search landscape could be a competitive one. Getting to the first page of Google is no simple task. And in fact, the structure of an ecommerce site typically makes it even harder when it comes to SEO. But ranking for the right keywords is critical to making sure that users can find your website - and buy your products. With an effective SEO strategy, you can improve your brand’s visibility in search and attract new customers. We put together this guide with five SEO tips for ecommerce sites to help you grow traffic and sales:
1. Choose the right keywords
Optimizing for the right keywords is the first step, and it’s the foundation for having a successful SEO strategy for ecommerce. If you run a website selling shoes - yes, you want to rank for the keyword “shoes.” But in a competitive industry, it’s important to go after long-tail keywords as well, which are searched less frequently but often have greater buyer intent. For example, it may benefit you more to rank for “men’s wingtip dress shoes” rather than just “shoes,” since the person searching “men’s wingtip dress shoes” is likely much closer to making a purchase. The takeaway: Research your market's keyword demand. See what your competitors are doing. Use keywords in copy and throughout other site elements. Google’s Keyword Planner can help you do keyword research, as can tools like Moz and SEMRush.
2. Write unique copy for product pages
Every product page should have unique content for descriptions, ideally more than just a couple sentences. For large ecommerce sites, this task can be daunting. Focus on the top priority categories first. As a last resort, create a template you can work from for each category (i.e. one for men’s shoes, another for women’s shoes, etc.) and use these as starting points to write descriptions for individual products. Try to avoid using generic manufacturer descriptions, since these are often duplicated on other sites and won’t help improve your rankings. Consider enabling customer reviews on product pages. Doing so will allow site visitors to see what customers think about your product, which could improve sales - and it will provide you with additional product copy with no effort on your part. .
3. Optimize images for search
Images are critical to ecommerce sites - most people won’t make a purchase without seeing what the product looks like. And the images on your site can help boost your SEO strategy, too. With ecommerce sites, images should be three things:
- Unique: Your images should be unique, high quality and appeal to site visitors. Ideally, your images should not be found on any site other than your own. Using images that are found elsewhere (like stock images or photos from a manufacturer) will hold your images back from ranking.
- Appropriately named: Rather than leaving image file named something like 001.jpg, leverage the file name to include more keywords. For an image of men’s wingtip dress shoes, name the file mens-wingtip-dress-shoes.jpg, and include variations in color, style, etc. And don’t forget to leverage an image’s ALT text.. ALT text is a hidden attribute of the image that helps search crawlers and users with visual impairments understand what the image is. Use no more than five words in ALT text, and be concise.
- Reflective of Google’s Image Publishing Guidelines: With proper image optimization, search results can become more useful, leading to higher quality traffic to your ecommerce site. Take Google’s image publishing guidelines to heart, including creating a great user experience, adding structured data, optimizing for speed, and using good quality photos.
4. Handle URLs with care
With ecommerce sites, there are bound to be URLs that are duplicative in nature, contain messy parameters, or simply look weird. Here are three tips for handling SEO for URLs:
- Use a keyword in the URL: For a page about men’s wingtip dress shoes, name the URL something like site.com/shop/mens-wingtip-dress-shoes.html
- Use canonical tags: For pages that are nearly identical, like a product that has separate pages for each color variant, it’s likely that Google will index just one of the versions. Using a canonical tag on each of the page versions will tell search crawlers which version is most important.
- Restrict unnecessary pages from being crawled: In faceted navigation especially, there can be many URLs with parameters. These should not be indexed, since it would eat up crawl budget and result in index bloat. To restrict search crawlers from indexing URLs with parameters, leverage the robots.txt file to disallow URLs that contain a question mark.
5. Design for mobile users
In March 2018, Google announced mobile-first indexing. Historically, Google has used the desktop version of a page for indexing, which caused potential issues for mobile searchers when opening a desktop page on their phone. With mobile-first indexing, Google now uses the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking. What does this mean for ecommerce SEO? Making your content mobile-friendly is key. This can be done with responsive web design or dynamic serving. Page content (including images) should load quickly, text should be easy to read, and buttons and links should be easy to tap with your finger on mobile. Google evaluates all content in their index, whether it’s desktop or mobile, to determine how mobile-friendly it is. Check if your ecommerce site is mobile-friendly with Google’s mobile testing tool. Beating your competition to the top of the search results might not be easy, but it could have a major impact on your bottom line. Start to implement some of these tips, and you’ll see your rankings start to improve.