Over the last five years, the ecommerce world has skyrocketed in popularity. At the same time, acquisition costs rose, making it increasingly harder for online retailers to generate new customers at a reasonable rate.
In such a competitive landscape, ecommerce marketers have an obligation to rely on low-cost high-scale channels, SEO being the prominent example of one that has proven to work for decades.
In this article, you will look at nine ecommerce SEO tips you can use to boost your traffic.
1. Create a detailed keyword plan
Google has a tough job; every second, it has to serve over 80,000 users with relevant search results. If they provide bad results, they will hurt their business, which depends on their quality search results.
For each search result, Google has to pick the best pages that meet the user’s intent, which they can determine based on the user’s search query. In the SEO world, we call the user’s search queries “keywords.”
For decades, SEO practitioners have categorized keywords into three broad groups, depending on the user’s intent:
Commercial keywords: keywords that indicate a desire to purchase a product — e.g., “buy protein powder,” “protein powder coupon,” “protein powder prices.”
Informational keywords: keywords that indicate a need to learn about a specific issue — e.g., “how to use protein powder,” “protein powder tips,” “protein powder tutorial.”
Navigational keywords: keywords that relate to a specific product, brand, or location — e.g., “optimum nutrition,” “GNC store.”
One study showed that over 80% of the total searches are informational, while 10% are navigational and 10% are transactional.
Helping Google show the best results to their users’ search queries is a guaranteed way to get promoted in their search results. For that reason, you want to show the most relevant pages for each keyword your customers make.
And that brings us to the ecommerce SEO tip #1: develop a detailed keyword plan.
Start by adding your ecommerce store to a keyword research tool like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz. Export the keywords and repeat the process for at least three of your top competitors.
With all this data, you want to:
Categorize each keyword. Create a column in your spreadsheet and write whether the keyword is commercial, informational, or navigational.
Highlight your competitors’ keywords. You will find that your competitors rank for keywords your store doesn’t; create a separate tab with those keywords so you can eventually target them.
Organize them by volume and CPC. You want to target keywords with a mix of high volume and high CPC — the former will guarantee higher traffic (once you rank for them), and the latter will help you increase sales.
Lastly, you want to prioritize your opportunities. There will be keywords that will look appetizing but won’t be easy — or realistic — to rank for. You can use several keyword prioritization models; some focus on volume, others on conversions, and so on. Pick one that best fits your interests and start optimizing your pages based on the results you get.
2. Optimize for intent
When you start optimizing your pages, you want to pay close attention to your keyword’s intent because Google considers a page’s relevance critical to properly serving its users. But what is “intent”?
Search intent is the reason behind a user’s search. It explains the purpose and motives they have when they type a search query.
The better your website serves Google’s users, the higher your reward (i.e., the more traffic you will get).
To uncover a search intent, you have two options:
Analyze their nature. As explained before, keywords often indicate their purpose in their name — e.g., keywords that feature words like “buy” or “coupon” are commercial, while those with words like “how to” or “tutorial” are informational.
Look at CPC. Google determines a keyword’s cost-per-click (CPC) by their demand; the higher the demand (i.e., the higher the number of advertisers bidding for it), the more it costs. A keyword’s profitability generally determines demand. Thus, keywords with high CPC tend to convert better, which are often commercial keywords.
Enter your ecommerce store in an SEO tool like Nightwatch and check the keywords you are ranking for already. Take notes of the CPC and words they show.
Then, when you optimize your pages, you want to add your selected keywords in their:
Page title. It’s one of the most powerful on-site factors.
Copy. Add the keyword several times on your page. Use a tool like TextOptimizer to find the right keyword density (i.e., the number of times you mention a keyword on a page).
URL. URL is another critical factor in on-site optimization. If you have already published a page, consider creating a 301 redirect.
Alt-Tag. Add your keyword in your image’s alt-tag as it allows Google to understand what an image is about.
Internal Links. Link to your pages within your site using your keywords as anchor text.
3. Fix usability issues
Ecommerce giants like Amazon and Zappos have made it incredibly easy to buy online. This has led to an increase in consumer’s expectations to receive a flawless shopping experience. Sadly, many ecommerce stores continue to offer a bad user experience (UX), with confusing elements, complex shopping processes, and more.
A study done by the Norman Nielsen Group found that a mere 56% of consumers succeeded at making a purchase online. But what about organic traffic?
Google has made user experience a ranking factor, so you will increase your traffic and conversions by fixing any usability issues.
Talk about a win-win situation, right?
To fix your UX, you can track your visitor’s behavior with the help of:
Session recording tools. These will record a random number of visitors and show everything they do in your store.
Quantitative analytics tools. Check your highest exit pages—the pages where your visitors leave most often.
Qualitative analytics tools. You can ask your visitors about their experience using online feedback forms.
For instance, you can display a fullscreen popup like this one right before your visitors leave the store:
Use this ecommerce SEO tip to diagnose any potential usability issues and implement the correct solutions.
4. Use HTTPS
Usability is one of several factors that play a part in your visitor’s website experience. Security is another one that you can’t overlook; just as you saw before, this is for traffic and conversion purposes.
HTTPS, which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, is the secure version of HTTP, the main protocol used to exchange data between a user’s browser and a store’s server. HTTPS fosters a safe environment for financial transactions, communication, and data submissions.
In 2014, Google announced adding an SSL 2048-bit key certificate on a website would count as a minor ranking factor. A year later, a Google engineer stated that HTTPS works as a tie-breaker when two different search results compete for a position.
Indeed, using HTTPS is a cheap and easy ecommerce SEO tip to increase your store’s performance.
All ecommerce platforms have made it easy to add an HTTPS protocol to a domain after redirecting it to their platform. Here are the guides for three of the largest ecommerce platforms:
5. Write magnetic meta descriptions
A meta description is an HTML meta tag used to describe a page’s content. Every search engine result has one, which shows underneath a page’s title and URL.
A meta description works like a mini-ad, promoting a page’s value proposition and inciting a user to click on it.
While meta descriptions don’t improve your SEO directly, they can increase your organic CTR—a ratio that specifies how often people click on a search engine result page after seeing it. The higher the click-through rate, the higher the number of clicks it has generated for a given number of impressions.
Marketers use CTR as a metric that pinpoints an ad’s relevance, search result, or page element. To be clear, the higher the CTR, the more traffic you can expect to get — even if you don’t rank first for a keyword!
In the example above, you can see two search results for the same keyword: “Buy car battery”. But while the first one shows a relevant meta description and the second one shows a generic one.
The first one sells you the idea of buying a car battery by highlighting fast delivery times and more. While informational in nature, the second one doesn’t fit the search query or entices the click.
To find your organic CTR:
Go to your domain’s Google Search Console (sign up and install it if you haven’t done it already) and download your keywords into a CSV file.
Open the spreadsheet and delete all branded keywords — i.e., keywords showing your brand’s name.
Organize the keywords by their position.
Sum the number of clicks for each position and divided them by the number of impressions they generated.
Optimize the pages with low CTR and high volume of clicks and impressions. Here are some extra ecommerce SEO tips for writing meta descriptions:
Add your keyword to your meta description. It doesn’t help with SEO, but when a user searches for that keyword, Google will highlight it.
Focus on the benefits. Remember to think of your meta description as a mini-ad.
Use natural language. Your meta description should look natural and not like a sales pitch.
Be specific. What specific benefits can your page (or product) provide the visitor? Show it.
Use a CTA. It will catch people’s attention, especially if it leads to a product page. Here’s a list of the most commonly used CTAs.
6. Create content that answers your user’s queries
Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Help Google fulfill its mission by creating content that answers your user’s search queries! When you brainstorm content ideas, think about the user’s goal—this refers to their intent and specific desires and needs.
For example, if a user searches for one of your product’s names and you serve them with the page of the corresponding product, you will fulfill their desire, which we can assume is to learn more about your product or buy it.
As Shealyn Rater explains, a content marketing strategy should be built around three main ideas:
Creating content with clear conclusions. Teach your readers solutions that they didn’t know about. Whether your product is a part of that solution is irrelevant; focus on helping the reader before making a sale.
Focusing on quality over quantity. You may see your competitors and feel pressured to create high volumes of content, but that’s a mistake. Create the best content possible for each targeted keyword, analyzing your competitors, and provide content that’s 10x better than theirs.
Writing for people instead of algorithms. Google wants content built for people, not to satisfy or manipulate their algorithm.
7. Embed your products within your content strategy
Your ecommerce marketing strategy and your content strategy are one and the same. Your content should promote your store without pushing your products indiscriminately.
Since 80% of user’s searches are informational, your content most likely will target informational keywords that focus on the solution to the user’s problem and not your product.
Take a look at Peak Design’s blog. Their blog posts aren’t about their backpacks — the product they sell — but traveling, the activity that drives their customers to buy their products.
You want to write with SEO in mind, but not exclusively for it. Google wants their users to be happy, and to do that, your content needs to be about them.
Bulletproof became a nine-figure business by focusing its content around their unique coffee recipe. If they only focused on their coffee beans, they would have grown to the size of every other coffee roaster, which is far from the current revenue numbers Bulletproof generates.
Making money from your ecommerce content is within your reach only if you prioritize your customers’ needs first over yours.
8. Run a “branded” link building strategy
So far, our ecommerce SEO tips have been focused on the on-site part of SEO: keywords, on-site optimization, and content. The second part of a successful SEO strategy is link building, which allows Google to understand the value and authority of a given domain and page. The higher the authority, the higher Google will likely rank a page.
For an ecommerce store in a competitive industry to succeed, it must stand out. As Siimon Reynolds put it, you want to “zig when others zag.” That means, your marketing strategy should focus on building a household name that can stand new competition, trends, or market downturns.
You can do so by running a link building strategy aimed at building brand awareness. Start by using an SEO tool like the ones mentioned above, and analyze your top competitors, the links they have earned, and the type of links they are.
Your competition provides a target to reach for while showing you potential link building opportunities to take right away. The truth is, all successful brands build links naturally as a consequence of their popularity and industry presence.
Your link building strategy should start by creating links that are natural to brands like yours. Three ways you can implement such a strategy include targeting:
Brand Mentions. Look for opportunities where sites mentioned your brand without linking to your store. Likewise, check your competitors’ mentions and reach out to the same sites asking for a mention.
Directory Sites. Search for directories around your industry or location that mention brands like yours.
Resource Pages. Find pages that link to brands like yours and reach out, asking for a link.
9. Find your linkerati
Every link building strategy is built around getting others to link to your site.
People who link to your site are called “linkerati,” including journalists, bloggers, industry experts, and more.
When you create content, you want to think about them, so by the time you reach out to them asking for a link, they will be inclined to do so. This is a must-do ecommerce SEO tip.
Volha Belakurskaya recommends using social media monitoring tools like Awario to search for brand mentions. You can also add keywords to see the people mentioning them.
Research the words they use, their expressions, interests, and problems. Look at their following and the context they use to talk about these keywords.
Give each linkerati a name and some demographic data, which you can extrapolate from their social profiles. Also, check the content they share to see what they like.
The information you recollect will help you create content with a higher chance of getting approved, thus allowing you to acquire links faster than if you pitched your content blindly.
Implement your new ecommerce SEO strategy
The SEO world is constantly changing. Your ecommerce store will have to adapt to these swings so you can continue to grow over time. However, all these tactics are well-known best practices that have shown to be resilient to Google's algorithm changes.
These ecommerce SEO tips will take time to take effect, make sure to develop an ecommerce SEO strategy that can sustain these algorithmic changes and ensure your business’ growth.
After you have developed your SEO strategy, start to implement it right away. SEO takes time, so the sooner you start, the better it will be for your store. Are you ready to boost your traffic?
Ivan Kreimer is a freelance content writer for hire who creates educational content for SaaS businesses like Leadfeeder and Campaign Monitor. In his pastime, he likes to help people become freelance writers. Besides writing for smart people who read sites like Getsitecontrol, Ivan has also written in sites like Entrepreneur, MarketingProfs, TheNextWeb, and many other influential websites.
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You're reading Getsitecontrol blog where marketing experts share proven tactics to grow your online business. This article is a part of Ecommerce marketing section.