E-commerce SEO & How to Increase Organic Traffic
Whether you’re setting up a new e-commerce site, or looking to generate more traffic to your existing one, SEO (search engine optimization) should be one of the main focal points in your strategy.
Building a strong SEO foundation will give search engines the information they need to determine how relevant your content is compared to what a user is searching for. Giving search engines this information will increase the changes your web pages rank at the top of the search results for the key terms related to your business, services and products. The higher you are able to rank for these key terms, the more likely your target audience will see your pages in search results, which will result in more people clicking through to your content.
Below I listed the key elements on your e-commerce web pages to concentrate on and how to optimize them so you can start generating more organic traffic to your website. But first, you will need to know what keywords or phrases you want to target, and what pages will be optimized for those keywords. Let’s take a look at how to do initial keyword researching and how to map those keywords to the pages that are most relevant.
KEYWORD RESEARCH & MAPPING
Before you start to optimize your website, you need to know what pages have the potential to rank well and what keywords each of those pages will target. Having the potential to rank means that a page has unique content relevant to terms or phrases people are actually searching for. Examples commonly include:
- The homepage
- About Us or Company page
- Category pages
- Sub-category pages
- Product pages
- How-to or tutorial pages
- Educational or resource pages
- Informational pages
- Blog posts
Keep in mind that this tactic is used to help prioritize the pages that you should optimize first. Depending on the size of your website, it might take quite a bit of time to optimize everything, so start with the pages that have the biggest impact on your organic traffic numbers. In the end, the goal is to have unique titles, meta descriptions and content for every page.
There are ways to configure your CMS to set up page titles and descriptions for you automatically. While you’ll want to curate these by hand throughout the site over time, this is a great way to get things setup for you.
Next, we need to gather the urls for the pages on your site with the best rank potential for search engines.
How to Get Your Page URLs
If your site is small, you could do this manually by copy/pasting your urls into a spreadsheet. There are easier ways to get this done, though. I use a tool called Screaming Frog to crawl any sites I am working on. Just download the tool to your computer and paste in your url. Screaming Frog will crawl your website and give you all the information you need, including each page url, the current page title, meta description, headers and even image alt text. When it’s done working, you can filter out just the html pages and export the data into an Excel document. Note that you can use Screaming Frog for free, but it will only crawl up to 500 urls. This is usually enough to get the information you need, but if not, a license can be purchased for unlimited crawling. Some other tools similar to Screaming Frog include: Visual SEO Studio, Scrapy and Wild Shark SEO.
After I export data into excel, I copy the main columns (url, title, meta description, h1 headers) into a Google Sheet to make things easier, both when looking at the data and for sharing purposes. Now it’s time to start doing some keyword research.
Keyword Research Tools
There are a variety of tools you can use to do keyword research. Some are free to use while others may require a subscription, but most of them are simple to use. I tend to start my research with Google Ads Keyword Planner.
Since every tool operates differently, it’s a good idea to use a few different options and combine the results you get. I also use SEMRush (this requires a subscription), keywordtool.io (free and paid) and UberSuggest (free and paid).
Finding the Right Keywords & Mapping Them to Your Pages
In the beginning of the keyword research process, you might feel overwhelmed about where to begin and what to start searching for. This is where your spreadsheet of urls comes in handy. Start with your homepage and work down from there. Here are a few tips about researching different keyword types depending on the page you’re optimizing:
- Generally speaking, optimize for broader terms on your homepage. For example, if you sell bicycle parts and accessories, you could consider optimizing for keywords like bike parts, bicycle parts, bike accessories, etc.
- As you move further into your website, get more specific with your keywords. Regarding the previous example, if you have a category for bicycle handlebars, look at keyword phrases like bike handlebars, bicycle handlebar parts, off road bike handlebars, etc.
- Use the content on each page as a guide. Don’t try and optimize for terms that aren’t relevant to your content.
- Blog posts are great content for question based keyword phrases.
- Pages with a call to action or product pages can be optimized for action based keywords. These keyword phrases contain action words like “buy” and “purchase”.
- Longtail keywords (keyword phrases with 4 or more words) may not have much search volume, but can provide a lot of value. The thought process here is, they bring qualified traffic to your site since the user has used a more specific search. They also tend to be easier to rank for because there is less competition. Longtail keywords are good choices for blog posts and product pages as well as deeper informational pages on your site.
- There are a few different ways you can track or check up on your keyword rankings. The easiest way to do this is to subscribe to a service like SEMRush, Ahrefs or Moz. These tools allow you to enter in the keywords you want to track, and the tool will automatically show you which pages are ranking for those keywords as well as the position of those rankings. If you don’t feel like paying for a subscription service, you can perform your own “spot checks”. Just open a new Incognito window in your browser (keep in mind your own search data, IP address and more to make your normal search results skewed because you visit your own web properties often) and search for the keyword in Google. Scroll to see if your pages are showing up. I would only recommend doing this for keywords which you know are ranking in the top 20 or so results. You can also use Search Console to see which queries your website is showing up for.
- It’s important to continue to improve your SEO as new opportunities present themselves. This can be done by adding new keyword variations to your pages and even creating new pages around specific topics important to your business.
KEY SEO ELEMENTS TO OPTIMIZE
When search engines crawl your web pages, they look at a few key elements in order to understand what your pages are about. They will later use that information and compare how relevant it is compared to search queries people make. Optimizing pages is how we ensure the search engines are able to get the data they need so that those pages have the best opportunity to come up in related search results.
Here are the main elements that should be optimized for each of your pages.
The page title lives in the of each page, and it’s what people will see first when they are looking through search results and what crawlers will see first when they crawl your page. The page title should contain the main keyword or keyword variations you want to rank for. It’s also common to include your company’s name at the end, usually separated by a dash or pipe bar. Each page should have its own unique title. Also, remember that only 55 characters of the page title are displayed in search results, so try to be concise!
<title>Web Design & Development for User Experience (UX) - The Refinery</title>
The meta description also lives in the section of each page and is shown in search results underneath the title. Meta descriptions don’t affect SEO like titles do, but they are still important because they can entice users to want to click through to your website. Each page should have a unique meta description and be written for the target audience in a way that will make them want to check out your content.
<meta name="description" content="We start with defining your customers & their expectations, creating optimal paths for them to convert. Learn more about how our design process continues & how it increases sales, leads & conversions. " />
Meta keywords used to be important, but that was long ago. Nowadays, meta keywords are irrelevant. Back when they did affect SEO, marketers and website owners would stuff them full of keywords they wanted to rank for to manipulate the search engines. This is why search engines no longer include them in their ranking algorithms.
Headers come in multiple variations which change the size and weight of the font. H1’s are usually displayed at the top of the page and hold the most value when it comes to SEO. Use the main keyword phrase in the H1 header on your page, if possible. The rest of the headers (H2, H3, etc.) can be used to segment your content so it’s easier for visitors to read and understand. These types of headers are great places to use variations of your main keyword phrase. Each page should only have one H1 tag, but they can have multiple instances of the other header types.
<h1>Analyze. Strategize. Design. Develop.</h1>
Images are important elements to optimize for a few reasons: 1. They help with the overall SEO for the page. 2. They provide important information to screen readers used by people who are visually impaired. And 3. They have the ability to bring in a whole new channel of organic traffic from people doing visual searches. For more info on this, check out my post on increasing traffic through Google Image Search.
The first thing to optimize in regards to an image is its filename. Most images are given a dynamically generated filename containing codes, dates or numbers. Rename your images and use keywords you are targeting in them while briefly describing the image itself. For example, if your keyword is “modern wood dresser”, you can rename the image to “modern-wood-dresser.jpg”.
Once the image has been uploaded to your website, you should optimize the img alt txt. This is the information search engines and screen readers get when looking at your content. Use keyword variations and describe the image here.
<img class="image" src="https://the-refinery.io/uploads/page-assets/homepage/undraw_growth_analytics_8btt.svg" alt="Two people discussing a chart presentation.">
Depending how many products you are selling, unique product descriptions for each one can be quite a large task to complete. The goal, however, is to avoid duplicate content across multiple product pages. Duplicate content can hurt your overall SEO and potentially decrease the authority or value of your website in regards to the search engines. Product descriptions don’t need to be lengthy. Just concentrate on the important points that will resonate with your target audience.
Schema markup is code that can be placed around certain elements on a page. This code gives Google the necessary information so that text or image can be pulled directly into search results. Some commonly used schema markups include organization, products, events and even recipes. There are a lot of other markups you can use, too. For more information, just go to Schema.org.
Tutorials / Guides
Tutorials and guides are great ways to add content to your product pages as well as improve the user experience for your website. This type of informational content improves core metrics like average time on site and can be presented whatever way you choose - video, text, visuals, or a combination of the three.
Internal links should be added whenever you reference other pages on your site, such as informational pages, products and blog posts. Doing so gives users a natural way to get more information about what you are referencing, and it gives search engine crawlers a way to realize the relevance between the pages.
Videos are a great way to bring traffic to your website and product pages as well as educate and inform your visitors about your products. Videos keep visitors on your pages longer and offer excellent content to share across all social media channels. Be sure to check out my post on Optimizing Videos for YouTube (coming soon) if you’re interested in generating more organic traffic from your videos.
Our goal is to help educate you on all the factors that influence your rank in search results for consumers looking for your goods and services. Search engines have changed the landscape of ecommerce. They have, for the most part, vastly improved the experience of searching for something on the internet. Yet for the companies and brands with services, products and goods to sell, they have added an additional, somewhat complex layer of work to their marketing efforts. Having a basic, working knowledge of how SEO works and then being able to ensure your site is well-represented as a result of the knowledge is key.
Take your time to work through all the points I’ve made above and if you have questions, I’d love to chat about it! Feel free to reach out via our contact us form or, hit me up on our social media comments. My goal is to help you learn more about SEO and give you a leg up in the digital marketing world. Let me know if I’m hitting my mark! If you like to read our full ecommerce strategy guide, be sure to check out How to Increase Your Ecommerce Conversions.
This post was last updated on: Feb 15, 2021.