The Beginner’s Guide to On-Site Ecommerce SEO

by 19 09/12/2013

If you want to get more traffic and sales to your ecommerce website, then on-page SEO is a critical first step.

There are multitudes of how-to articles and tutorials on the web offering general SEO advice but far less that specifically address the needs of ecmommerce entrepreneurs.

Today, we’d like to give you a basic understanding of on-site search engine optimization for ecommerce. It will be enough to get you started, make sure you’re sending all the right signals to Google and set you up for SEO success.

Let’s dive in.

Competitor Research

If you have no clue where to start with on-site optimization for your ecommerce site, then your competitors are your best bet. Larger competitors especially have probably already put in the legwork for optimizing their website, and you can learn many of their secrets on their website itself.

Keywords are the thing you need to focus on. Particularly, you’ll want to analyze the keywords on their homepage as well as their top product pages.

How can you tell if a website is optimizing for a particular keyword? You can start by using the Moz browser extension to see the SEO title and description your competitors use in their title tags.

moz-toolbar

 

You can also use tools like SEMrush to see what keywords your competitors are ranking for on both organic and paid search.

sem-rush

Don’t stop your research with keywords. Check out your competitors’ landing pages too, so you can see how they use the specified keywords to optimize those pages.

Additional reading: eCommerce Insights from Steve Chou

Homepage SEO

The homepage is typically where most businesses focus their SEO budget and energy. While it is definitely one of the top pages of your website to optimize, it is by no means the only one you should focus on.

That said, you do want to optimize your homepage well. The key things you want to include and optimize are as follows.

  • Homepage Title Tag – The SEO title tag is one of the most important element of on-site search optimization. It should include your business name along with the main keyword phrase you are targeting. You should write this title tag in under 70 characters and in a way that is appealing to search visitors, as they will see it in search results.
  • Homepage Meta Description – While this is not important as far as keyword rankings, the meta description for your homepage is a 160-character description of your business that will also show up in search beneath the title tag. Write it in a way that encourages people to want to visit your website.
  • Homepage Content – The content on your homepage should help visitors learn more about your business and the products you have to offer in a clear and concise way.

Additional reading: SEO Planning Template for your Next Web Project

Site Architecture

As you are adding products and categories to your store, remember that site architecture plays an important role in search optimization. Particularly, you want to have a distinct hierarchy of navigation, from your homepage to product categories to the products listed within them.

site-architecture-breadcrumbs

Search engine bots will discover your pages and products on your website based on a clear internal linking structure that is easy to follow — and not too deep.

The rule of thumb for search engines and visitors is to have everything within three clicks. So think about how people come to your homepage. They should only have to make a maximum of three clicks to get to any product on your website.

Product Page Optimization

Product pages are the lifeblood of your business, so you will want to focus a lot of your energy optimizing them. Here are the specific things you want to work on.

Product Name

The name of your product is important. In most cases, it’s also used in the SEO title and URL of your product page. This is why you may want to consider adding a common search term or keyword phrase to your products.

For example, if you are t-shirts, be sure to include t-shirt or tee in the product name. That way, the keyword also ends up in the SEO title and URL.

keyword-in-title

As an added bonus, when people share your product on Facebook or Pinterest, that keyword will be in the title of the shared post.

Product Description

An important element in on-site optimization is the meta description, and Google will usually take your product description and make it the meta description for the page. While the meta description doesn’t help you rank for keywords, it does (in most cases) show up in search results.

search-results

It also shows up when people share your product on Facebook and Pinterest, which makes it essential.

If you have a long product description, consider making the first sentence the main summary and selling point so that search engines and social networks will display the most important (and converting) information about the product.

Additional reading: Irresistible Product Descriptions

Image Optimization

Images are an important part of your product page. Stand in your customer’s shoes for a moment. Are you more likely to buy a product from a site that clearly depicts the product from as many angles as possible, from a site that has no image at all, or from one that is small and illegible?

Not only are images important for your customers, they are important for search optimization.

To properly optimize your images for search, start with the filename. Don’t add images named IMG0010.jpg to your product pages. Instead, use the product name and main keyword such as eastcoast-skinny-jeans.jpg.

If you have alternative views of your product, include keywords that people would use if they were searching for those images in search.

image-optimization

Also, when you add your images to your product page, include the product name and keyword in the ALT text for the image.

The result? Your images now have a chance of appearing in Google Image search as shown in the image above, or in the main search results page as a part of the additional media showing.

Video

Help your customer feel more confident about their purchase by also adding video to your product page. The video can be basic information about your product (like a commercial), a how-to video on ways to use the product to get results, or testimonials from people who have used the product.

product-video-seo

Why is video so important? For starters, it stands out in search results.

video-search-results

Publishing videos offsite on networks like YouTube can be a great way to attract and educate potential customers about your products.

Educational DIY videos, for example, can show people how to create something amazing incorporating your products. Once they get into the idea of working on that project, they’ll be more likely to buy your related products.

Reviews

Reviews are another way to boost customer confidence in your product, so if you have a good product, be sure to allow them.

Bad reviews aren’t always a bad thing either. Think about it – if you have a higher priced item that has great reviews, and a lower priced item with so-so reviews, then people will be more likely to choose the higher priced item, resulting in bigger sales for your business.

Additional reading: Boost Local Reviews up to 900%

FAQ Content

Do people ask questions about your products? Of course they do. Having product-specific FAQ content on your product pages is a key to conversions.

Why? If customers have questions that you don’t answer, they’ll go somewhere else to find those answers — and likely buy from the source that answers the questions.

product-description-faq-seo

Having a general FAQ page on your website is also a good idea. Answering basic questions about your website’s security, shipping, and return policies can increase buyer confidence, leading to more sales.

What other ways do you optimize your ecommerce site for search? Please share in the comments!

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About 

Mark Macdonald is the Content Manager at Shopify - a fully hosted ecommerce shopping cart platform preferred by over 60,000 stores worldwide. For more SEO tips check out Shopify’s free Ecommerce SEO 101 video series.

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19 COMMENTS

Tom

We’ve had good success using Google’s keyword research tool to discover the keywords our customers are using to search for our products and then making sure those keywords are present in our title tags and on our product descriptions. Great post!

September 12, 2013 Reply

Julie

I love the FAQ suggestion as a way to create content that not only ranks in search but also removes objections from people looking to buy from you!

September 12, 2013 Reply

    Mark Macdonald

    Thanks Julie. Agreed. Taking every question your customers ask you and publicly answering them on your website is a great way to create content that contains the keywords and language your customers use (and search with).

    September 12, 2013 Reply

Varadesigns

Actually i am web designer. accoring to seo is there any changes are required in designing ecommerce seo..

September 13, 2013 Reply

P ONeill

Hi Mark,

I enjoyed this article, some of the basics are usually the best tips. However, stating that
“The SEO title tag is the most important element of on-site search optimization” is erroneous, surely?. There are so many factors which are far more important that page titles. Anything within site architecture which affects crawlability for one thing.

There are plenty of examples of sites which rank for search terms that aren’t in (or even relevant to) their titles.

It’s all good advice here, I just think that was an overly sweeping statement!

Thanks,

Paddy

September 13, 2013 Reply

    Mark Macdonald

    Hey Paddy. Thanks for your comment. I agree I should have worded that more carefully. When talking about on page elements you need to optimize, titles tags are definitely one of the most critical – but yes they need to be backed by the right content and proper site architecture. I’ve updated the post. Cheers.

    September 13, 2013 Reply

Cheryl Quick

Hey Mark, A question about meta tags now? A lot of people are saying that meta tags are dead now and Google no longer takes meta tags into account while ranking websites.

September 15, 2013 Reply

    Mark Macdonald

    Hi Cheryl,

    Correct. Google no longer considers meta tags. Hope that helps.

    September 16, 2013 Reply

      Matt

      You need to be more specific. There are several types of meta tags that are search engines absolutely obey.

      Meta Description
      Meta Robots
      etc.

      What the commenter was most likely talking about was the meta keywords tag.

      It is true that search engines do not use a pages defined meta keywords.

      September 18, 2013 Reply

Prince Sinha

Great Tips. Websites can allow People to post their Questions on Social networks rather than FAQ Page. Place an option for users to tag every product with their own keywords. It increases website searches for broad inquiries.

September 27, 2013 Reply

QTriangle

You provided a great information.

September 27, 2013 Reply

robin

SEO turning into content marketing and Guest blogging only , one can gain Quality Back links only investing valuable time and spreading positiveness in websites not spams. Using Call to action Images and well designed landing pages will be returning huge effect in seo for ecommerce.

October 9, 2013 Reply

Gaurav Shah

Really great post here. thank you for sharing.

October 15, 2013 Reply

Snehal Joshi

Very useful article about ecommerce website SEO – On page SEO is an important factor for every website. Thanks for sharing and update more….

October 16, 2013 Reply

Sophie

Great post Mark, thanks.
I agree with your comments about FAQ pages and have recently read that these are even more important now with the latest algorithm updates; Google is now more able to match long tail and voice search queries, therefore if the specific question and answer is on your site, this will do wonders for your SEO.

November 5, 2013 Reply

Akshay Pillay

Really great post Mark. Your suggestions were helpful.

November 8, 2013 Reply

Ariel

Thank you for the fabulous article! I really appreciated the in-depth information on optimizing images, a lot of articles glance over this useful bit.

November 26, 2013 Reply

Greg Smith@Search Simplicity

Content management is the process through which you can add new optimized content to your site. These methods can assist them to rank high in search outcomes and as a result offer greater probabilities to appeal to buyers and make larger product sales of their merchandise. SEM, search engine marketing is mainly about content that you have uploaded on your website.

December 1, 2013 Reply

Raj

Ecommerce websites have evolved, like how man evolved from apes! From oscommerce to magento’s latest edition of 1.8 it has been a very long journey for the ecommerce experts enlighteneditdevelopment.com/.

We have seen the good and the bad both, the lack of search engine friendliness, browser compatibility issues, issues with payment and shipping methods! The current edition of magento has overcome all and is a best possible solution for medium and large enterprises, having said that not all can handle magento, only experts like Enlightened It Development can do that.

March 7, 2014 Reply


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