Back to blog

The Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce SEO

E-commerce spending is on the rise: online retail sales increased from 11% in 2011 to almost 20% in 2020. And with the increase in online shopping comes a surge in competition.

Standing out in search engine rankings is crucial for the long-term success of your business, but most e-commerce stores are put together with little thought for best SEO practices.

We've created the following guide explaining E-commerce SEO and how you can integrate its four components into your website.

What is E-Commerce SEO?

If you're unfamiliar with SEO or need a quick refresher, this section will serve as your SEO guide for beginners. 

SEO, or search engine optimization, defines the range of strategies used to increase the quality and quantity of users who go to your website. Its goal is to help you generate more visibility and leads by ranking higher on search engines.

SEO works by analyzing and modifying certain elements of your website. It looks at both the content and visual appeal of your website, as well as the technical aspects that search engines use to find and organize your content.

Sites that appear higher than others on search results pages have better rankings among the ranking signals that search engines use to gauge the authority and relevancy of a website to a particular search query. Just a few of these ranking signals include:

  • Page load speed
  • Quality of content
  • Structure of website pages
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • User experience
  • Internal and external links

Most search engine platforms use similar metrics for ranking signals. However, your main priority as an e-commerce store should be Google, as it controls over 90% of the global search engine market share.

E-Commerce SEO employs many of the components of a typical SEO strategy with the specific goal of driving leads to make purchases on your website.

Even if you’re already attracting a large audience, e-commerce SEO tactics will convert more users into purchasing customers by attracting more relevant and better-qualified leads. You’ll both boost your website traffic and see an increase in visitors who already want to make a purchase.

Why Is E-Commerce SEO Important?

Understanding how people make purchases demonstrates the importance of SEO for any industry and especially e-commerce. The majority of online experiences start with a search query, meaning that users already have intent in mind when they’re accessing information. And many of these users don’t have a particular brand name or solution in mind.

Therefore, if your website ranks high on search results pages, you’ll essentially “answer” their query. The more relevant and unique your page is, the more likely they’ll click on it and become your customer.

SEO is one of the best ways to increase your bottom line as an e-commerce store. Your business model likely relies on both a steady number of new customers as well as a loyal group of returning ones.

Without new buyers to increase your market share and spread the word about your products, it’s difficult to sustain an e-commerce store.

SEO helps to attract these members of your target audience in a way that doesn’t feel forced or contrived. Though buying a spot at the top of the search results is simple and fast, people hate ads. They won’t want to visit your site unless it’s there due to its merit.

Here are a few of the benefits of using SEO for your e-commerce business…

Attract High-Quality Leads

SEO is by far the best way to attract leads to your website. Because SEO focuses on improving your website and your online presence, it’s naturally designed to attract organic leads who take an interest in your product. Other methods like paid marketing will not be viewed as authentic by users and may not appeal to the ad’s audience.

With e-commerce SEO, you can design your content and website presence to attract people who are already ready to make a purchase or who are more willing to travel down your sales funnel.

For instance, say you are an e-commerce store that sells office organization supplies. Your SEO strategy involves the creation of a blog, and one such article is a checklist with all of the tools necessary for a new business owner.

New business owners who look up this query will find your post and discover that your website offers everything they need. At this point, they’re much more likely to view your products and make a purchase than someone who stumbles on your website without specific intent.

Build Authority

When referring to search engines, domain authority refers to how legitimate and trustworthy search engines view your webs to me. The most trustworthy they rank your website, the higher you will appear on search engine pages.

Engaging in an e-commerce SEO strategy will build domain authority in several ways.

First, creating more relevant and helpful content will show search engines that you’re a knowledgeable source of information for users. Second, designing your website to be user-friendly and search-engine friendly will show search engines that your site is tech-savvy and safe to visit.

Reduce Market Spend

SEO will generate the highest return on investment for any digital marketing strategy. While social media or paid ads can be effective in the long run, SEO is designed to be a long-term source of valuable information for your website visitors.

Content that stays relevant over time - known as “evergreen” content - will deliver consistent value that serves as its marketing tool for years after its publication.

Over time, your SEO strategy will pay for itself. A few thousand dollars spent on content creation is likely to yield an increase in traffic that will last far longer than the same amount spent on Facebook advertising (though we will explain later that social media still is a necessary digital marketing strategy).

Components of an E-Commerce SEO Strategy

Each e-commerce strategy will follow more or less of the same structure. You'll need to research your competitors, analyze your strengths, establish your goals, and strategize for a well-rounded approach that includes both qualitative and quantitative elements.

Research Competitors

Ranking is all relative. You can’t devise an effective SEO campaign if you don’t understand what your competitors are doing first.

As we’ll explain later in the article, competition research is key to formulating your keyword strategy, writing stand-out content, and designing your website.

Conducting a SWOT analysis is a great way to discover where you stand among competitors and what qualities you can use to make your e-commerce store excel.

Ask yourself questions like this before you dive into an SEO campaign:

  • Who are my primary competitors?
  • How are we alike, and how are we different?
  • What are my competitors spending on search engine ads?
  • What keywords are my competitors targeting?
  • What content do my competitors publish?
  • How much of the market share do my competitors have?
  • What strengths can I capitalize on right now to make my website and products stand out?
  • What problems exist within the market that will cause difficulties for my business?

Once you have an understanding of the market's landscape, you can establish goals and design an appropriate e-commerce SEO strategy.

Establish Your Goals

Setting a list of specific and actionable goals guides you when creating and modifying your SEO strategy.

Here are a few goals you could consider:

  • Increase organic traffic by X%
  • Diversify the pages that generate traffic
  • Decrease bounce rate
  • Boost time on page stats
  • Convert more users
  • Improve website design

While your SEO campaign will likely contain the same elements regardless of what you want to accomplish, your goals will determine how much time and effort you dedicate to each part.

Say that your e-commerce store receives a lot of unique visitors who visit your blog but leave shortly after. Your SEO strategy likely needs to involve the creation of more engaging content that leads visitors down the sales funnel.

If, however, the majority of your traffic is the same loyal core of customers, your SEO strategy should focus on casting a wider net and increasing your target audience members by updating your keyword research.

In both cases, you would be uploading great content and conducting keyword research, but the emphasis you put on each one would be different.

Implement a Holistic Approach

Regardless of what you want to achieve, any effective SEO campaign requires a holistic approach that integrates different forms of SEO. A complete SEO strategy includes four parts: keyword strategy, on-page SEO, off-page, and technical SEO.

  • Keyword Strategy focuses on the words searched by users and how they're used in the content
  • On-Page SEO refers to SEO best practices that are found within your website pages and typically refer to content
  • Off-Page SEO refers to SEO best practices that are found on pages located off of your website
  • Technical SEO refers to SEO best practices that help your website run smoothly and follow the guidelines for search engines to index and organize the information within your site

Below we'll explain these elements of each strategy type and how they can be specifically applied to your e-commerce store.

Keyword Strategy

Although Google has updated its algorithm numerous times throughout the years, one thing is consistent: you need a keyword strategy if you want to improve your SEO. 

Types of Keywords

Your keyword strategy should involve several types of keywords so that you have a higher chance of ranking higher for particular search queries. Here are a few types of keywords that you should implement into your content:

Long-Tail Keywords are Google searches with two or more words and typically have lower search volume than shorter, popular keywords. It’s more ideal to target these keywords because you have less competition and can target a more specific market.

Search Intent Keywords help you understand why motive behind a search (and we explain more on search intent keywords below). Search intent is especially relevant for your e-commerce store, as it provides insight into where your users are in the buying process and what will encourage them to make a purchase.

Geo-targeted Keywords are local searches, meaning they relate to a specific location. According to Google, local search queries - meaning ones that included the words "near me" increased 150% more than queries that didn't include those words.

And you can still take advantage of local keywords as an e-commerce website by promoting products that were made in specific regions or targeting customers in certain areas by branding your products accordingly.

LSI Keywords, also known as latent semantic indexing keywords, are phrases that have the same meaning as your chosen keyword. For instance, the phrase “Fat-free” and “skim” milk refer to the same product but may lead to different search results. Add richness to your page by integrating LSI keywords and drive traffic from users who may be searching for what you’re offering with alternative terms.

Keyword Research

To begin your keyword research, you'll first make a list of relevant topics based on your industry. Use what you know about your business to create this list. Come up with about 10 general topic ideas, each of which you can store specific ideas under.

For example, if you offer business coaching services, some of your general topic ideas may look something like this.

  • Business coaching
  • Executive coaching
  • Leadership strategy
  • Management
  • Business consult
  • Business growth
  • Executive leadership

Next, get a little more specific for each keyword topic. Take the topic “leadership strategy.” What are some keyword phrases that people would type in?

Think something like:

  • How to be a better leader
  • Managing a team
  • Top management strategies
  • Ideas for business leaders
  • Engaging employees

You want to come up with as many ideas as possible so you can narrow them down into the keywords that have the best chance of improving your rankings.

The next step of the process is understanding buyer intent. Then you’ll use your competitors to narrow down your final list.

Understanding Buyer Intent

Buyer intent is critical to your e-commerce stores because it helps you narrow down your target audience quickly. You can eliminate uninterested buyers by designing content for your ideal audience and capture interested buyers with relevant product descriptions and promotions.

There are four types of buyer intent keywords.

Information keywords typically come in the form of questions or generic phrases and signal that the users want information. They can look something like “best beaches in Miami” or “how to change a tire.”

Navigational keywords have a desired destination that the user wants to reach. “Instagram home” or “Email login” are navigational keywords.

Commercial keywords indicate a user that is looking to make a buying decision but they’re still early in the process Typically they want to learn about a product through descriptions, comparisons, or views. Commercial keywords would look something like “Toyota vs Jeep 2022.”

Transactional keywords signal that a user is in the final steps of a purchase process. At this point, they know what they want to buy and are narrowing down buying options. “Black Converse High-Tops price” is a transactional search.

Content should be varied so that each blog post or article appeals to a certain buyer’s intent. With several keyword intents within your content, you can guide a user down the sales funnel.

Using Keyword Gaps for SEO

Keyword gap analysis is also known as competitor keyword analysis. It involves analyzing the keywords that your competitors target and rank the most highly on.

With competitive keyword analysis, you’re looking to find the high-volume and high-value keywords that will benefit your business without being too competitive. There are thousands of words that may be used by competitors, but you should target just a few that seem to have the most potential.

Google AdWords’s Keyword Planner is a great free tool that tells you about the top-ranking keywords that competitors are targeting and how much competitors are spending on those keywords.

It’s important to remember that you may be competing with websites for keywords that aren’t necessarily your direct competitors. Just because you’re an e-commerce business doesn’t mean that your competitors will also be other e-commerce businesses. In the context of keyword research, a competitor is anyone whose website ranks higher than yours.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO methods, like keyword research, have to do with how users interact with your website's content and look. On-page SEO refers mainly to the quality and structure of your content, but it also describes the visual appeal of your site and your chosen layout.

The "Skyscraping Method"

The content on your website’s blog or about pages are arguably the most important element of your SEO strategy. High-quality content with relevant keywords and proper link integration will generate long-term viewership.

The "skyscraping method" is one of the best SEO tips to know about. It's a way of creating the most in-depth and up-to-date content that users love to see.

Here’s how it works: do a quick Google search for one of your targeted keywords. Then look at the top few unpaid search results that appear.

Read through the text and analyze what makes it attractive to users. What did you learn from reading it? How does the author engage the reader?

Next, review that same text and look for holes in the information. Is there anything missing that could make it even more complete? Since it was written, have there been updates or changes to the information?

Lastly, compare the top resources for those keywords and think of ways you can ameliorate the information from both. How can you combine similar sections and add even more information? Find ways to take the best from each source and combine them into a new, even better resource.

By “building” onto the original content, you’re leveraging the elements that made these resources rank so highly and essentially super-scoring them into one unbeatable source of information.

Website Design

A beautifully designed website does more than just represent the quality of your brand - it helps your SEO by making the user experience more intuitive and pleasant.

According to Google, users judge the visual appeal of a website in just 1/50th to 1/20th of a section. Visually complex websites receive lower ratings, while simpler ones were consistently scored higher.

Simpler is always better when it comes to your website. The most effective sites use dark, legible text on a plain white background. High-quality images and clear product descriptions should be the qualities that set your e-commerce store apart, not a bright color scheme or over-the-top page layout.

Text Formatting

Another element of usability is your text choice and formatting. Opt for one text that is easy to read to use throughout your website. Use no more than two fonts, and find complementary ones.

Font colors should be unified throughout your website, and anchor text should be a different color than body text. For emphasis, bold text, create bullet points or use short sentences to draw attention.

Unlike a book or a printed article, users who are looking at a page on your website will likely be scanning text for what they need instead of reading the page’s content word-for-word.

To make this process easier, format your text so that a user scanning your page can find what they’re looking for within a matter of seconds. Use headers to break up and arrange text so that no section is longer than a few hundred words. Paragraphs should be no longer than 3 sentences, and lines should be no longer than 70 characters.

Internal Links

An internal link is a link from one page on your website that connects to another. Both users and search engines use internal links to find content on your website.

When a user clicks an internal link, it’s due to interest in learning further about a topic or accessing a resource. Search engines use internal links to navigate your website - they won’t be able to see a page if there aren’t any links to it.

A proper internal link strategy will boost your e-commerce store’s SEO rating because it will deliver the most relevant resources to use while making navigation easy on search engines.

Search engines like Google also use internal links to understand the importance of certain parts of your website. In Google’s eyes, the pages with the most internal links have the most valuable. Therefore, you’ll want to have ample links to landing pages, deal announcements, and new product launches so that search engines know to prioritize these pages when showing your website to potential visitors on search results pages.

Google will also give more value to pages that have been linked from the home page. So if you want visitors to see certain products or information first, make sure to link your chosen pages back to the homepage.

External Links

External links, meanwhile, take users to other websites from yours (not to be confused with backlinks, which we will explain in the following section).

Adding external links to your content improves your SEO by giving your site more authority. By providing viewers with references, your site will appear to search engines as knowledgeable about the corresponding topic.

When you link poor-quality or spam links, the opposite happens. Your rankings will go down if you send viewers toward misleading or irrelevant information.

Examples of quality external links that will help build the legitimacy of your e-commerce site include news sources, academically reviewed works, and official government websites.

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO is an element of your SEO strategy that isn't entirely within your control.

However, with the right approach, you can benefit from off-page SEO tactics. The most common off-page SEO strategy is building backlinks, with PR efforts and social media not falling far behind.

Link Building & Backlinks

Link building should be at the core of any off-page SEO strategy, and especially for an e-commerce store. The phrase “backlinks,” or links from another website that take users to yours, are the key elements of link building.

When you sell an online product or service, word-of-mouth is essential to generate leads who trust you and will be open to what you sell. References from other websites are one of the best ways to do this.

The key here is to focus on the quality of the website rather than the quantity. 10 backlinks from infrequently visited websites with poor web design won’t be as effective as just 2 links from reputable news sources that recommend your products.

Link-building strategies that generate backlinks from the type of sources you want usually include a combination of guest posting, PR, and social media strategies.

Guest Posting

Guest posting is not only a great way to generate backlinks, but it also is a way to connect with a new audience.

If you choose your guest audience wisely, you’ll be able to provide value for a group with whom you may otherwise never come into contact. Guest posting will send targeted traffic to a targeted audience, all while marketing yourself as an expert resource.

Here's how it works: first, look for a blog in your field that accepts guest posts. A quick Google search will yield hundreds of options.

Next, reach out to the publication to pitch your blog post idea. If they approve, you’ll write your article and can include a mention of your business or link to your product within the author bio. It’s a win-win for both you and the website: they get a free high-quality post, and you get a free backlink.

Social Media

As of 2021, over 70% of the public uses some form of social media. Social media can even be viewed as another search engine that consumers use to find new products.

But you mustn't treat your social media like you would a search engine. Your social media is your businesses' chance to connect directly with consumers and build your brand. You have to strike the balance of creating backlinks that lead to more traffic without being too heavy-handed on the selling.

It should serve as a way to learn more about your business and communicate. Think of your social media as a customer service tool that's an extension of your website.

You'll generate SEO value with your social media presence by posting unique content that includes calls-to-action. Once you've established your brand as a responsive source of relevant information, your audience will naturally be guided to make a purchase on your website or view more of your online content.

Reviews

Reviews are an underrated SEO tactic that will help to build your online reputation management organically. Reviews not only add social proof to your e-commerce business but also increase your exposure.

As an e-commerce store, you won’t have access to Google My Business, but you will be able to create profiles on numerous other sites including Yelp and Facebook.

There are several ways to ask for reviews, including emails and SMS messages. Ask customers for specific feedback on features like product quality, delivery time, or their location. Then, you’ll be able to use the specific details in these reviews in off-page resources like social media and guest posts to reach certain audiences.

Events

Hosting events can contribute to your off-brand SEO strategy by building a community of people who love your products. Online events like webinars and guest speakers can generate publicity and convert your website audience from anonymous visitors to members of your email sign-up list or followers of your social media pages.

For instance, say you’re an e-commerce website that specializes in CRM software for small businesses. You could host monthly free webinars that offer free business advice and a tutorial of your service. By signing up for emails or following a certain social media account, users could have access to this webinar.

Your SEO will increase as you generate more traffic through word of mouth for your webinar. And once users listen to your content, they’ll be more likely to revisit your website when it comes time to look for more services.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO involves optimizing the more technical aspects of your website so that they’re more readable to search engines. Think site infrastructure, page speed, schema, and mobile responsiveness.

Without a good grasp of technical SEO, even the best e-commerce store would not be successful. Search engines need to be able to read and understand the components of your website to match products to relevant search queries.

Website Architecture

Your website’s site architecture is the layout of the pages and how each page is connected. Your home part is at the center, and all the most critical pages (typically found in the navigation menu at the top of the home page) are one click away. Then those pages have their options that may be another click away.

For instance, say you’re an e-commerce store selling clothing.

Your home page will list your announcements, new arrivals, and lookbook. Your navigation menu could specify between men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing. Then each one of those pages will list links for types of items like tops, bottoms, and shoes.

An SEO-optimized website will use a “flat” site architecture or one that is easy for crawlers to navigate. A flat structure means that no page on your website is more than three clicks away from your home page, and each link is logically placed.

Mobile-Friendliness

As an e-commerce store, your site needs to be mobile-friendly. 60% of searches take place on mobile devices, and many of those searches result in a purchase.

In 2021, Google rolled out its Page Experience Update, stating that mobile-friendliness is one of the most important parts of the user experience. Because Google stressed mobile-friendliness so heavily in its update, a site that isn’t responding on a mobile screen will likely take a larger hit in its rankings.

Fixing Broken Links

There is nothing more frustrating for users than clicking on a link, only to discover that it leads to a broken page. Poor link structure will harm your user experience and lead to higher bounce rates and lower trust.

Broken links also affect search engines because it doesn’t let their crawlers discover all of the pages on their website. Google search bots access and index pages on your website via internal links, so if one link breaks the chain, it could prevent the crawlers from finding other product content.

You can easily fix all broken links by correcting them and sending them to 301 redirect links. Customize your 404 error page with links to other products for users to look at if they do stumble upon a dead end in the future.

Correcting Duplicate Pages

Duplicate content is a frequent error typically caused by page replication from navigation, copied content, or having multiple versions of your live site. When duplicate content exists, Google has a difficult time indexing and organizing the information on your site, which will in turn lower your search engine rankings.

It’s important that only one version of your website is being indexed, even if the user knows that they’re the same. For instance, say your website is listed under the domain “https://yourdomain101.com”

  • It could also appear as the following:
  • Https://www.yourdomain101.com
  • Http://yourdomain101.com
  • Https://www.yourdomain101.com

Google will see all of these domains as different websites and rank them accordingly, which will split up all of the search queries you receive into lower amounts.

Fixing duplicate content done be done in several ways. It’s common to set up 301 redirects to the primary URL version. You can also implement canonical tags on duplicate pages or set up your preferred domain in Google Search Console.

Site Speed

With most of the shopping power shifted over to the consumers, providing what customers want - when they want it - is vital to the success of your e-commerce store. A product page that takes more than just a few seconds to load could cost you countless potential transactions.

In general, aim for each page of your website to load in fewer than 2 seconds. This may be difficult as an e-commerce website, but there are ways to enhance pictures and media content on your page to reduce loading time.

Compress files and optimize video content to speed up loading time. If an image is 3000 pixels, it will have difficulty loading quickly if your site displays images at 600 pixels. It’s also a good rule of thumb to use JPGs rather than PNGs.

If your pages are still loading slowly, you may want to consider upgrading your hosting services. The difference between the least expensive plans and premium plans is crucial when you’re operating a business that runs solely online.

Schema Markup

Schema markup is one of the most advanced SEO strategies you can utilize, but one of the most effective for an e-commerce website.

Type in a query for a popular store you like. Chances are, product reviews, category descriptions, and even images will be listed under the website’s URL. This is an example of schema markup in action in the form of rich snippets.

Schema markup is a structured data vocabulary that gives search engines more context about the information displayed on your website. This in turn helps them index your website and display it for relevant searches, which in turn raises your SEO rankings.

You can add schema to help Google understand your website by defining products, people, and information that’s listed. Google will then showcase this information in the form of rich snippets, which are the user-friendly interpretation of the schema writeup.

If you sell highly competitive products or many that are similar to one another, using schema markup will distinguish your brand from competitors and help searchers find exactly what they’re looking for.

Implementing an E-Commerce SEO Strategy

Whether you're a new business leader or the longtime owner of a company, all entrepreneurs need to integrate an e-commerce SEO strategy into their online stores. Improve your online presence and learn about the best e-commerce tips by teaming up with the Social 5 Media team.

Reach out to us via email or visit our blog to learn more about optimizing your store's digital strategies!