Having an eCommerce website online is one thing, but ranking well organically in search engines like Google is a major project in itself. While eCommerce SEO strategies have parallels to traditional SEO, to be as effective as possible, you will want to take a more focused approach. Below we'll touch on eleven basic eCommerce strategies that remain relevant and effective in 2019.
Don't forget to check out our eCommerce SEO guide.
1. Unique & Engaging Product Descriptions
One of the most basic but often overlooked eCommerce strategies, writing unique product descriptions that strengthen your brand, engage your audience and educate your shoppers will set your eCommerce site apart from your competitors in a way that is meaningful for both search engines and your customers.
Excellent product page copy is even more valuable if you are selling products that can be found on hundreds of other ecommerce sites, since many of these stores will copy and paste a product description right from the manufacturer, resulting in thin and duplicate content across dozens of sites or more. Whether your products are available elsewhere or you're the only supplier, writing unique and engaging product descriptions, optimized with your target keywords, will increase your organic rankings. If done well, it will do this while simultaneously improving your conversion rate.
2. Structured Data for Enhanced Search Results and Improved CTR
Ever wonder why some results in Google seem to have more information than others? For example, have you searched for a product and noticed some product pages display star ratings for reviews right in the search results? These enhanced results are usually the result of the webmaster implementing structured data on these pages.
Structured Data will not only help enhance your listings, and can also help you get those featured results and callouts in the SERPs.
3. Mobile Optimization
Optimizing your website for mobile devices has become increasingly important every year for over a decade. If you run an eCommerce store, you need to prioritize the mobile experience over the desktop experience. This means creating a responsive website that caters to the size of the device accessing it.
For nearly three years now, Google has told us that they are switching to the mobile-first index. If Google is prioritizing the mobile experience, it behooves your eCommerce store to do so as well.
This means that when Google makes their website rankings, they pay more attention to your mobile site than your desktop site. Since the majority of eCommerce shoppers either start or finish their purchase online, you MUST focus on the mobile experience.
A good place to start is by plugging your site into Google's Mobile Friendly tester tool.
4. Increase Site Speed and Decrease Page Load Times
An increasingly important part of Google's algorithm, having a fast website will improve your rankings and user experience drastically.
Your focus should be on user experience, but you need to consider that how quickly your site loads is part of that experience. Take steps towards becoming the fastest website among your competitors. In this regard, you don't have to be lightning fast if you are serving your content faster than the competitors within your niche or industry.
Make sure your images are properly compressed for use on the web, or big image files could be bogging your site down. Also be on the lookout for CMS that may be forcing larger versions of product images when compressed versions would suffice (Looking at you, Magento!)
Site Speed Tools:
Google's PageSpeed Insights (insight into Google's perspective)
GTMetrix (insight into Google, Bing, and Yahoo)
5. Incentivize Customer Reviews & Engagement
Structured Data to display things like reviews in the SERPs is great and all, but if you have 2 reviews on your page that doesn't look so great!
Create an incentivized program to encourage your users to leave reviews. This strategy should extend beyond reviews, as you should prioritize engaging your past, present, and future customers as much as possible. In the eCommerce game, repeat customers are hugely beneficial, and online customers respond to incentiviation.
6. Target Long-Tail Keyword Variations in Blog Articles and Content
Content still reigns supreme in 2019. For eCommerce stores, your blog should leverage long-tail keyword variations of your target keywords for products and category. These should include product reviews, how-to articles, etc. Example, if you sell running shoes, you should write articles about running, jogging, how to pick running shoes, create a resource to help people know what size shoes they need, etc.
7. Prioritize Navigation
User experience is still a hugely overlooked aspect of today's eCommerce stores. Focus on creating an easy-to-navigate website, especially on mobile. Blaze the path of least resistance from home page to checkout.
This will just only help your conversion rate, but should improve your organic visibility as well. Google pays attention to whether or not a user bounces back to the search engines after visiting your site, and usability and site navigation play a huge role here. If you earn keyword rankings in Google but all of that traffic heads back to Google to find a better website, Google will assume your website isn't an ideal place to send traffic.
We cannot stress the importance of CRO, or Conversion Rate Optimization, enough. Consider hiring a professional company that offers conversion rate services. This is an area that it really can be immensely beneficial to have a professional doing the work.
Utilizing analytical data, AB testing, video recordings of actual browser sessions, you can meticulously work to improve your conversion rate. Simple changes include changing CTA text and button color, but true CRO is so much more than that, and requires a skilled professional with an analytical mind.
9. Internal Linking Relevant Products, Categories, and Resources
Internal linking is thought to be an outdated strategy, but it is still incredibly important. Focus on placing relevant internal links throughout on page copy and articles for humans, not for search engines, and your site will thank you. As long as you're not keyword stuffing or placing irrelevant links, internal linking throughout your site is a natural way to help Google understand your website and content that much better.
10. Properly Manage Out of Stock Products
Never simply delete a product (or category, for that matter) from your website. There are several strategies to consider, but none of them involve simply deleting the old page. Here are some options to consider, which depend on the circumstances at hand.
- Leave the product page up, simply add a message that says the product is discontinued. Add links to relevant products within the old product pages on-page description.
- Take the old page down, and implement a 301 redirect to the most relevant new page, whether a new similar product, a blog article about the old product,etc. Whatever is the most relevant page that can replace the old URL should be used.
11. Leverage Video & YouTube
Remember tip #1 is to write unique & engaging product descriptions, including videos on product page is a great way to be more engaging, especially if they are unique and original videos and not borrowed from the manufacturer.
Remember, site speed and technical optimization tactics! Make sure that your videos don't bog down your product pages. You can try tricks such as ensuring all important elements on the page load before the video loads, so that your users can still view the page without having to wait on the video to load.
You can choose to host your own videos or embed YouTube videos. The advantage of embedding YouTube videos is YouTube can become a marketing tool of its own, if you are willing to invest in resources for high-quality video production.
Bonus Tip! Work with an Established eCommerce Agency
eCommerce SEO strategies can be managed in-house, but if you take your online business seriously, you may want to consider hiring an eCommerce SEO agency. At OuterBox, we eat, breathe, and sleep eCommerce. Having a dedicated team of seasoned experts at your disposal is worth more than a million tips or tricks that you can find on the web.
Watch an Awesome eCommerce SEO Video from Ahrefs.com
Check out our enhanced video transcript:
Amazon.com has nailed their eCommerce SEO generating over $1,000 in revenue per second. And while a lot of their traffic and sales come from searches within their own platform, SimilarWeb estimates that search contributes 30% of their overall traffic and Ahrefs’ Site Explorer estimates 706 million search visitors each month. But Amazon didn’t become an overnight success. In fact, their search traffic has grown immensely year after year. So in this video, I’m going to walk you through a complete eCommerce SEO tutorial, step-by-step for more rank and more bank. Stay tuned.
What’s up SEOs?
Sam Oh here with Ahrefs, the SEO tool that helps you grow your search traffic, research your competitors and dominate your niche. Today, we’re going to be talking about eCommerce SEO and how you can rank your product and category pages.
So here’s what our agenda looks like today.
- First, we’ll tackle a couple must-dos for all online shops.
- Next, we’ll break down keyword research for ecommerce.
- Then we’ll hit on-page SEO, get technical, tackle link building specifically for product and category pages, and finish it off with a bit on content marketing for eCommerce.
Let’s get to it.
So there are two absolute musts that I think all eCommerce sites should do. The first is to make sure that you secure your website with HTTPs. The main reasons for this is to keep your customers information encrypted. And I’m not just talking about credit card details, but names, addresses, and other personal information that you wouldn’t want to have compromised. And it’s important that all of your pages are set up correctly because you don’t want Chrome returning a privacy error screen like this or other warnings like this. And Google has officially stated that HTTPS will be used as a ranking signal, even though it may not be the strongest ranking factor according to our on-page SEO study.
The second must-do is to run a site audit to identify your technical SEO issues. Ecommerce properties are one of the easiest types of websites to unintentionally create a whole mess of indexation and cannibalization issues because of the sheer size. For this tutorial, I’ll be using Kleinfeld Bridal shop as our example site, which sells wedding dresses and other bridal apparel.
Finally, I’ll turn off the scheduled audits and just run this once. Now, while the audit is running, let’s move onto keyword research. In this step, you’ll need to choose a keyword to target for every product and category page. Yes, it is a ton of work, but it’s something that should be done or outsourced. Now, when it comes to selecting keywords, there are two different types of pages I want to focus on. And those are category pages and product pages. So first, you’ll need to get a complete inventory of your product and category pages. Depending on the CMS you use, whether that’s Shopify, Magento, Open Cart, Woocommerce, or whatever, you may be able to export these pages directly from your backend. Or you can go to your Sitemap if you have one created.
So for the bridal site, I’ll just add /sitemap.xml to the end of the URL and you’ll see a full list of all of the pages that they want search engines to crawl. From here, you’ll want to prioritize these by the highest revenue generating pages or the pages that generate the most traffic for your business. Now, for each of your pages, you’ll want to look for a head term as well as long-tail variations. In general, a head term would be a more popular keyword with a higher search volume. Long-tail would likely have lower search volume but are modified variations to the head term.
You can find these by going to Ahrefs Keywords Explorer and type in a seed keyword that’s broadly related to your niche. So I’ll type in “wedding.” Next, you can go to the “having same terms” report, and you’ll see a bunch of irrelevant keywords like “wedding invitations.” So you can make it relevant by using the “include” search box. Here, I’ll type in a few keywords like dress, dresses, shoes, and accessories which should represent some of your parent categories that broadly match the type of wedding related products that we sell. And I’ll set the dropdown to show keyword ideas that have “any” of these keywords in it. And you can see a whole bunch of great keyword ideas here, some of which would be perfect category pages, others that are perfect sub categories to that parent, and the rare one that’s irrelevant. So you can match up the best keywords with the current structure of your site based on the types of products that you sell. Based on these results, you’ll likely want to focus on a broader term like “wedding dresses” as the parent category, then add sub categories like guest dresses, plus size, cheap, beach, and vintage underneath the parent.
Keyword selection for product pages is a bit different. For example, if you sell a branded product like Gucci shoes or an iPhone 8 Plus, then you’d want to include the brand name and/or model numbers, since they will likely hold search volume because of brand recognition and reputation. And if you’re on the other side of the spectrum where you’re selling unbranded products or products from unknown names, then you may want to stick with more descriptive terms that people are searching for. For example, if you look at these shoes from Nordstrom, you’ll see that they’ve named it “Gabe Pump,” which no one seems to be searching for. On the other hand, there are around 350 monthly searches for “vince camuto pumps,” which could act as a head term for the product page with some variations or modifiers like using colors, the type of toe or heel, or simply by prefixing the title with “women’s.”
If you look at Amazon’s product pages for Vince Camuto pumps, you’ll see that they’ve put a little bit more thought into their keyword research and on-page optimization. They’re using the designer’s name, a modifier keyword, the brand line, and the type of shoe which is both descriptive as well as keyword rich. A good way to find product keywords is to search for your brand name as your seed in Keywords Explorer. Then, go to the “Having Same Terms” report and type in the type of product that you sell. In this case, we’re talking about pumps, so I’ll type in ‘pump.’ Another way to find product and category page ideas is to analyze your competitors’ top pages. Looking at the top pages report for David’s Bridal, one of Kleinfeld Bridal’s competitors, you’ll see that some of their top keywords for their most popular pages in search include “mother of the bride dresses,” “prom dresses,” and “bridesmaid dresses.” And all 3 of these happen to be categories that our example site is not yet serving.
From here, you can click on the keywords dropdown and look for the long-tail variations on these head terms. Here, you’ll see that even though their top keyword is “mother of the bride dresses,” that they still rank high for variations like “mother of the groom dresses” and this one that uses “long” as a modifier.
Now, before you actually select a keyword, there is one massively important step that you must take. And that’s to ensure that the search intent for the keyword matches the page you intend to use it on. Looking back at our list of keyword ideas, you can analyze search intent by clicking on the SERP dropdown beside any of the keywords. So looking at the SERP for “wedding guest dresses,” you can see that they’re all category pages, so you’d want to stick with the same format because the search intent shows that people are looking for a list of different dresses that they can browse through. Looking at the SERP for "meghan markle wedding dress," you can see that these are all blog posts, so serving search intent with a product or category page probably wouldn't be in your best interest. Taking 10 seconds to analyze the current SERPs can save you a ton of time to ensure you’re not targeting the wrong keyword. I could go on with more keyword research techniques, but this should be more than enough to give you a solid list of keywords.
So, let’s move on to on-page optimization.
First is to optimize your meta titles, descriptions, and H1 tags. Now, most eCommerce sites use templated versions, especially those with thousands of different products, which makes sense from a time perspective, but it isn’t exactly ideal from a search perspective. It’s a bit ugly and none of these really entice a click from my point of view. In fact, these 3 pages might seem like duplicate content issues, but they are indeed completely different products. With this, you can go with somewhat of a hybrid approach. So rather than using the type of wedding dress for the meta title as they have here, you can use the title of the product, which you should be able to easily formulate if you do your keyword research.
As for the description, it looks like they wrote unique meta descriptions for each product, but they look like they’re the same simply because they prefix the description with a template. In this case, they could simply move that part of the template to the end or remove it, so as people start reading the meta description, they’ll know that they are indeed different products. The h1 tag is pretty simple. Just use the category title or product name. And again, if you’ve done everything correctly up to this point, then these should fall in place quite nicely. The next on-page tip is to optimize your URLs. There are certainly different ways to do this, but my preference is to keep them as clean as possible.
Remember this hierarchy we talked about? You can use these to formulate the structure for your category pages. So, for example, you might have domain.com/wedding-dresses/ as the parent. Then you can add your sub category by adding plus size as a new subfolder. And if you happen to have a plus size product, the URL can look like this with the product name as the final part of your URL. Other sites often follow the same category structure, but you’ll also see sites that have product pages as domain.com/product-name, which is also fine and a good way to avoid duplicate content by having the same product in multiple categories. We’ll get into the more advanced URL features like filter queries and parameters in the technical SEO section. The next part of on-page optimization are writing unique product and category descriptions.
So, product pages, they often lack content. Sometimes they don’t even have any at all aside from the title of the product. I won’t go too in-depth, but here are a few copywriting tips: Include your head keyword target in the description; Sprinkle in long-tail variations and synonyms that hold semantic relationships with the head term. For a wedding dress product page, you may include keywords like bridal, gown, the designer’s name, etc. Make sure they’re well-written and readable for visitors; Tell visitors things that they may actually want to know. Don’t try and meet a word count quota. Just keep it short, sweet, and on point. And last, use user generated content via. product reviews to add further context.
The final on-page tip is to use schema markup. By adding schema markup, you can have your product pages show up in search like this. Beyond looking more visually appealing, structured markup has led to increases in click-through-rate by 30%. I won’t get into a coding tutorial, but you can check out the best practices on schema.org or use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper, which makes an intimidating task, super simple. After you’ve marked up your products, then you can enter in the URL of your page or paste the source code into Google’s structured data testing tool. So for this page, you can see that they’re using both breadcrumbs and product markup. One important thing to note is that if you decide to markup products within your category page, then according to Google, all of them should be marked. Schema markup isn’t a must, but it’s certainly a good way to standout in the SERPs and increase your CTR.
Alright, we’re onto our technical SEO section. Now, technical SEO is super important for ecommerce sites simply because it’s a lot easier to create duplicate content, cannibalization, and other issues that often go unnoticed. We’ve already talked about general navigation in terms of URL structures, but as an ecommerce store, you need to take special care with faceted navigation. And by faceted navigation, I’m talking about parameters that are added to the URL via. filters that don’t exactly have a semantic relationship. For example, if I’m looking on Amazon for an iPhone and then I choose a 5 to 5.4 inch display size, only in gold color, and from this random seller, they don’t really have a semantic relationship when all combined together. While these filters are great for user experience, they often lead to issues with duplicate content which comes with other problems like how your link equity is distributed among your other pages. And for bigger sites, crawl budget becomes something to be aware of. So there are 2 main issues that we need to solve. Number one is duplicate content, which will affect how your link equity is distributed.
And number two, wasted crawl budget. And the most effective way for beginners and intermediates is to set a canonical URL for different facets that you don’t want to be indexed as a separate URL. And if you look at the source code for that Amazon category page, you’ll see that it’s something that they set here. But this doesn’t solve our crawl budget issue. So the way you can do that is to add nofollow internal links on facets that you don’t want to be followed. And you can see that our example bridal site does that here on certain filters. It’s absolutely vital that you take care of faceted navigation since Google has explicitly said that it contributes to having many low-value-add URLs, affecting crawl budget.
You can check if you have issues with faceted navigation simply by taking one of your URLs with some filters that you don’t want to be indexed and then pasting it in as a Google search. Next is to fix other duplicate content issues. Now, if we go back to Site Audit we can head over to the “Content Quality” report inÂ the left sidebar, and you’ll see a nice cluster map of near duplicate pages. The green ones have canonicals matching, and the red duplicates have mismatching canonicals. And in almost all cases, the green ones can be left alone, but the red ones will need some tender love and care. If I click on one of the red ones, then you’ll see the duplicate pages that do not share the same canonical URL. And if I open up a couple of pages, you’ll see that the pages are indeed the same, but have different canonical URLs based on the page number. But they’re using the parameter, pp, which stands for per page causing a potential SEO issue.
So in this case, they can nofollow the internal links to the number of results per page filter, noindex the pages that contain that filter, or add some additional conditions in the backend to fix this issue. But there would likely need to be more fixes throughout the site since these kinds of issues tend to go deep. You can click on the URL that you want to examine, then click on “inlinks” within Site Audit, and you’ll be able to see all of the internal links pointing at this page. There are a lot of options that you need to weigh out and since I have minimal knowledge about this site as a whole, there would need to be further analysis before making a big move like this. There are other kinds of duplicate content issues. A common one you’ll see on ecommerce sites is having the exact same product page within different categories. For example, you might have a URL that looks like this, which is in your new-releases section. But that same product might fall into your dresses category, creating two identical pages. In this case, you could either use the canonical tag or if it’s no longer relevant, you can delete the page and redirect it to the correct URL.
Finally is to find and fix keyword cannibalization issues and we have a great video and blog post on that, which includes a free template that you can download and watch after this video. Because right now, we’re going to hit link building for ecommerce which is a real struggle for many of us ecommerce site owners. Building links to your product and category pages is hard in comparison to getting links to blog posts. So let’s talk about a few tactics that you can use that will help you get more links to your revenue generating pages. The first is to find sites that link to your competitors’ homepages. And the reason why I’m going for homepage links is because this is much more common and easier to get for ecommerce sites over links to product pages. Using the link intersect tool, you can enter in your competitors' domain and see which sites link to them and try and get an understanding of why they’re linking to them. If you’re not sure who your competitors are, then you can go to the Competing Domains report within Site Explorer and look for sites that have a lot of common keywords, or just skim through the visual graphic here and look for lots of green. So you would take these 3 domains here and paste them into the link intersect tool, which I’ve already preset. And then in the bottom, you can enter in your domain Next, I’m going to switch all of these dropdowns to URL mode.
Finally, I’m going to switch this filter to show pages that link to any of these pages and I’ll run the search. And you can see that there are nearly 5,500 sites that are linking to these competitors, but not to Kleinfeld Bridal. Now, some of these links will be irrelevant, but you’ll also be able to see that they have links from Vogue. Then you’ll see a bunch of links from what looks like a wedding magazine who are perpetually giving them editorial links. These are the kinds of people you’d want to network with! Another link building strategy is to get featured on manufacturers’ “where to buy” page. You can do a Google search for something like this: The manufacturer whose product you stock then intitle:(”where to buy” OR “stockists”). Sometimes you’ll find directory listings like this, and other times, you’ll be able to contact the manufacturer who would be more than willing to list your online shop there.
You can also do this in Site Explorer. Just enter in the domain of one of your competitors, so I’ll put in Davidsbridal.com. Then go to the backlinks profile. Next, type something in the “include” search box like “where to buy.” And you can see here that there are some decent opportunities to get some editorial links. The next link building strategy is to search for people who have done reviews on your competitor’s products. Now, the wedding dress industry probably wouldn’t be the best for this search since they have high ticket items. So let’s use Tata Harper as an example, who sells natural beauty products.
You can do a Google search for intitle:”tata harper” intitle:review. And you can see that there are a good number of results including YouTube results. You can also do this in Content Explorer. I’ll just type in “Tata Harper” as a phrase match and set the search parameter to title. And you’ll see a nice list of pages that weeds out a lot of the junk pages that you’d normally have to filter through in Google and in YouTube. A big plus to using Content Explorer is that you can see all of the SEO metrics to know which site owners and authors are worth building relationships with. Now that we have a list of prospects, you just need to reach out to them. You can say something like: Hi [name], Sam here with Sam’s Natural Beauty and Healthcare Products. I saw your review on Tata Harper’s organic cleanser. Thought you might be interested in doing a review on our [similar product].
Cosmopolitan rated it as the top natural cleanser in 2018 and Forbes has called us “a skin care company to be reckoned with.” I liked the thoroughness of your Tata Harper article and thought you might be a good fit to provide an objective review on our “Organicks" line. Let me know if you’re interested and I’d be happy to send you some samples and a few gifts for you and your family. Cheers, Sam Now, if they choose to write a review, this is will naturally lead to a link back to your site and/or product page. The last one is a bit different, but it has massive potential to rank for highly competitive phrases. The caveat is that it’s extremely difficult to execute. Do you remember #thedress? Basically, a woman saw this dress as blue and her friend or family member saw it as gold. They posted it on Tumblr and the story went viral. But what store did they buy this dress from?
And of course people would go out of their way to find out. And it was a small-ish store in the UK called “Romans Originals.” Once people found out, guess what happened? Authority sites like the Huffington Post, Forbes, BBC, and Mashable started linking to their product page and home page. And look at their spike of referring domains! Now, ranking for hashtag, the dress, isn’t going to bring much value for them alone. But look at their “Best by Links” report to see what they did. They started redirecting all of their viral links to their /dresses category page. And if we look at the overview page of their dresses category page, you’ll see that they had a massive spike in Google traffic to their pages when they redirected those pages. Now, creating a viral hit like this is no easy task. But if you or your team are able to come up with something creative, you can use a similar post-viral strategy.
So, get the links from virality, milk every link you can until the buzz fades, then redirectÂ those pages to a relevant page that can bump your rankings. The last and final piece to the eCommerce SEO puzzle is to do content marketing. And by content marketing, I’m referring to blogging, creating infographics, and tools that will be helpful to your prospective customers. As I mentioned earlier, content attracts a lot more links and a lot more easily than product or category pages. Now, rather than rehashing what I’ve already said, I highly recommend watching our SEO tutorial, which you can view by clicking the card and I’ll leave a link to it in the description below. So keep grinding away, get results!