The Essential SEO Checklist For Your Ecommerce Site
By Forbes | June 24, 2015
This is an amazing resource for ecommerce marketers looking to start or refine their SEO efforts. No matter how beautiful your website, nifty your UX, or thought out your product pages are, it’s all dampened by potential buyers not being able to find you on search! –Sailthru
I recently had a frustrating experience searching for a particular product online. It was a product I couldn’t find in any local stores, so I took to the Internet to track it down. With the sheer number of ecommerce sites – not to mention products – available online, imagine my surprise when I couldn’t turn up a single site offering the exact product I wanted.
Granted, it’s possible I wasn’t using the “right” search terms. But that left me thinking: How many other people search for products and come up empty-handed? Even after adding high-intent words like ‘buy’ before my search query, I still couldn’t find what I wanted.
This reminded me again of the critical importance of SEO for ecommerce sites. This article will provide a checklist of 13 factors that your ecommerce site must have in place if you want to rank in search.
1. Strategic keyword usage
Yes, keyword research is still relevant in 2015 (and beyond). Choose keywords that aren’t relevant, and your conversion rates will suffer. Choose keywords that are too competitive, and you won’t get any search traffic. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great place to start your research. You’ll want to pay special attention to long-tail keywords: 3+ word phrases that are highly specific and are more likely to lead to sales (e.g., “Starbucks House Blend Coffee K-Cup” would be more likely to convert than “Starbucks coffee”). For help with this, see “How to Identify Long-Tail Keywords for Your SEO Campaign.”
2. A company blog on your main domain
Having a blog will be a core strategy for attracting search traffic to your ecommerce site. An ecommerce site without a blog will have a difficult time attracting inbound links; however, a blog with frequently updated, high-quality content will naturally attract links and rank for long-tail, high-intent search queries. Make sure you host your blog on your main domain (i.e., www.yoursite.com/blog). This way all the links and traffic you get to your blog will also benefit your domain as a whole. For more on this, see my article, The Top 10 Benefits Of Blogging On Your Website.
3. On-page optimization
Using your keywords on your site will ensure each page of valuable content has a chance of ranking. Elements you should focus on include:
– Product name: Include descriptive wording where possible
– Descriptive, clean product URL (www.yoursite.com/big-green-widget)
– A useful breadcrumb trail to help users find what they’re looking for
– Optimized images (more on this in a minute)
– Heading tags: H1, H2, etc.
– Consistent NAP (name, address, place) on all pages
– Deep internal links to product pages
– Links to important product or category pages from the homepage
Relevant rich snippets to showcase your products in the SERP’s: You can use product names and prices, product availability and reviews and ratings, to name just a few. Here’s a great overview of how to use rich snippets on your ecommerce site.
4. Earning links
This can be a challenge for ecommerce sites, especially those that don’t have an on-site blog. Some strategies to try include getting listed on local directories and online review sites, or guest posting on popular blogs in your industry. You might also want to try the The Moving Man Method: Find domains in your niche that have shut down, and see which sites are currently still linking to them. Send an email to these sites to let them know about the broken links, and suggest a link to your site as an alternative. This is a form of broken link building, which can be executed at a page-level, too. Here’s a great guide on how to conduct broken-link building.
5. Supplementary content
One of the factors Google’s human raters use to deem a site “high quality” is useful supplementary content. Supplementary content (SC) is basically any content on a page that’s not the main content or ads. On e-commerce sites, the most useful type of SC you can include are product reviews and ratings. If you have a WordPress site, you can easily set up reviews using a free plugin like WP Product Review.
6. Responsive design
Google recently announced that mobile search has overtaken desktop search in 10 countries, including the US and Japan. You ecommerce site absolutely must be mobile-friendly, and using a responsive design is the best way to achieve this. Here’s a detailed guide on optimizing your website for mobile.
7. Consistent NAP for local businesses
Local ecommerce sites should pay close attention to maintaining consistent name, address and phone number (NAP) formats. This means using the exact same wording across your own site as well as on local directory listings, Google My Business and online review sites.
8. Unique product descriptions
Google doesn’t like duplicate content, and ecommerce sites are notorious for having duplicate – or almost duplicate – content, especially on product pages. Ecommerce sites can have thousands of pages of product descriptions, and using manufacturers’ descriptions can save a ton of time. However, make sure to add unique commentary on each page, even when using standard descriptions as a base.
9. Good site navigation
Having great navigation is important for SEO and for overall user experience. Using product categories is imperative, and grouping products into clickable subcategories is also important. Offering related or supplementary products is great for internal linking as well as for increasing time spent on site.
10. Optimized page load speed
Page speed is a rising ranking factor, so it’s important your site loads quickly on all devices. Use a tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to ensure your site is loading quickly.
11. Integrated social sharing
While most product pages will never receive a like or share on social media, those products that do have a high number of social shares (displayed on a counter) may be more enticing to prospective buyers. Fashion, retail, and cooking sites should also be sure to include prominent ‘pin in’ buttons for sharing on Pinterest.
12. Unique and captivating meta descriptions for each page
While meta descriptions may not factor into search rankings, they certainly influence your click-through rates from the SERPs. Think of your meta descriptions as your ad copy: this is the text that will convince searchers whether or not to click through to your site from the SERP’s.
13. Optimized product images
Using high-quality, high-resolution photos on your product pages is important for SEO, user experience and conversions. Some best practices for optimizing your product images include:
– Use descriptive keywords in your alt image tag, file name and caption
– Show all angles and dimensions of a product
– Use thumbnail images to showcase complimentary products
– Make sure your images are high-quality, but not so large that they impede load time
Optimizing your e-commerce site for the search engines isn’t difficult, but does differ somewhat from other types of SEO. Optimizing your blog, product pages and images is paramount, as is providing a user-friendly site design, navigation and site structure. Basically, what makes for a great experience for your customers usually makes for a well-optimized ecommerce site.
What would you add to this list? Are there other important elements for optimizing ecommerce sites? Share below!
This article was written by Jayson DeMers from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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