Starting your online store is only the first step towards developing a profitable brand. People have to see your site before they can buy from it.
Enter SEO, the art of looking into the black box of Google’s algorithm and delivering changes that unbury a site from the graveyard of Google’s forgotten pages of results.
For eCommerce, this task can prove ever more difficult than the typical website. Pages and pages of products and categories add complexity to this pursuit of better rankings.
This is why you need to keep a few tips in mind when improving your eCommerce SEO.
Understand How Your Customers Search
First things first, you need to know how your customers are searching for products in your industry.
If the words you use across your site do not match the words people are using the search engine, they will not find you.
So, say you were selling a line of footwear for dogs and you called them “Doggy Shoes”. That keyword only gets around 300 monthly searches. Whereas, if you used the phrases “Dog Shoes” or “Dog Boots”, you’d get about 10,000 more monthly searches.
There are many great resources for doing keyword research and it often comes to personal preference. I like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and the Chrome extension Keywords Everywhere.
So, investing in keen keyword research can develop powerful intelligence for the proper optimization of your store. Which brings us to the next tip.
Optimizing On-Page Elements
Keyword research in hand, you can now go about the work of optimizing your site pages for the right keywords.
The major elements to focus on are the title tag and the H1 tag (of which there should only be one per page). These signal to the search engines what each page is about. They should contain the main keyword for a particular page.
That said, a big rule is to never stuff keywords. Those days are over. Google sees this as spammy and it will backfire. Keywords in these elements should be natural and the total element length should stay within 70 characters.
Each page should also have some descriptive content in it, be it a product description or general info about a category. This content works to bolster the power of the main keyword with semantically related keywords.
Finally, each page has a meta description. This is not seen on your site but rather as a description of the page in the search engine result. Think of this as ad copy for the page, encouraging users to click on your link. Bonus: if your meta description contains the searcher’s query, it will be bolded in the result.
It should be noted that, if you use WordPress, Yoast SEO makes these changes very easy to accomplish, even guiding your keyword targeting efforts.
For an online store, your targeted keywords will have buyer’s intent. Those searching will be already prepared to purchase.
But, there are also keywords with research intent that you do not want to leave behind. Which leads us higher up the sales funnel: interest and awareness
Catch ‘Em at the Top of the Funnel
While it is great to get visitors who are ready to buy, why not also engage them while they are researching a future purchase?
This is where blogs come in handy. Blogs serve informational content and lack the sales language of other parts of the site.
Each post can be built based on keyword research. Understanding what topics people are interested in within your industry can help you create great content that will get ranked.
Often, these come in the form of guides, best of lists, infographics, and how to’s.
Once they’ve interacted with your great new content, they will be aware of your brand. When they are finally ready to purchase, they are likely to think about you.
Furthermore, a blog creates opportunities for expanding sheer keyword reach and thus traffic. Beyond traffic, blog posts are the most likely pages to get backlinks, a major factor in how trustworthy Google sees a site as being.
There are many other factors that Google looks at for how good a site is, from mobile-friendliness to page speed to security.
How Does it Do on Mobile?
Increasingly, eCommerce sales are happening on mobile phones. People are on the go and need to buy that thing right away — on the subway, in the Lyft, during class, at the store.
So, the experience they are served on their phones is extremely important to any online store’s financial outlook. It should be quick, intuitive, and easy.
This is not only important to the user, but to how Google treats your site. With Google’s mobile-first indexing beginning to take effect, the mobile version of a site will be considered the canonical version. The site will be judged based on how good its mobile instance is.
Best not to be penalized for having a bad mobile experience. Check your site here to see how well it performs. If it doesn’t look good, you may be hurting your rankings.
Don’t Make Them Wait
Along these same lines of user experience signals is the speed of your site.
These days, with the sheer quantity of information bombarding us every waking minute, we expect websites to load quickly so we can get on to the next thing. Every second of delay reportedly costs a company 7% in conversions.
There are many reasons for a slow site, from large images to server drag to render-blocking resources. Whatever the reasons, it is important to identify them and have the appropriate party resolve them.
You can use Google PageSpeed Insights to get a better understanding of your site’s potential speed improvements.
Security is Key
Anyone making a purchase online wants to be sure that their transaction will be secure. Sites not on HTTPS should get on it ASAP.
Just with many other factors in SEO, Google uses the user experience as the basis of how well sites should rank. Whether or not a site is secure will decide whether they will be likely to rank for keywords they target.
Transactions over HTTPS connections are protected from man-in-the-middle attacks, effectively securing the bridge between a site and the financial institution.
Since SEO is such a multifaceted marketing practice, there will always be more tips and tricks to share. Nonetheless, the preceding tips are a great place to start optimizing your online store. Focus on the potential customer and you will best serve your brand and your base.
Sean Flannigan is the Digital Marketing Specialist at coolblueweb. coolblueweb is an eCommerce web development company based in Seattle, WA. Sean delivers SEO improvements to online stores large and small.