Ecommerce SEO Uncovered Step-by-Step: All You Need to Know

seo ecommerce

For many, ecommerce SEO is a huge pain in the arse because aside from the usual SEO to-do list of company websites like improving URL structure and creating a mobile version, you have to deal with dozens, if not hundreds (or thousands?) of product pages and descriptions.

But worry not – we’ve got you covered. This is your one-stop-shop for all things ecommerce SEO!

After reading this article, you will face ecommerce sites with your chin up and chest out, ready to take on anything that the multi-paged beast may throw at you.

What you will learn today:

  • How To Do Market Research
  • How To Do A Basic Site Audit
  • What are On Page SEO Must-Do’s
  • Tips On How To Write Content
  • Off-Page SEO

How To Do Market Research

Many often overlook this part, but market research’s importance simply cannot be downplayed.

Performing a thorough market research puts your business in an advantageous position simply because it helps you identify what works, what doesn’t work, and what industry gaps you can fill.

For ecommerce sites, there are two parts to Market Research:

Keyword Research

Your ecommerce site needs visitors in order to generate revenue – that is a fact. But let me ask you something: which would you prefer, a website with 300 visits per day or one with 3,000 visits per day?

If you answer, 3,000 visits per day, you could be wrong but if you say 300 visits per day, you could be wrong too. So what is the right answer?

It depends on the buyer intent of the visitors.

Majority of those 3,000 visitors may just be casual browsers and will therefore bring you low conversions. On the other hand, those measly 300 visits may actually be people with high buying intent and will therefore bring you the motherlode!

So how do you find the traffic that brings you money? That is where keyword research comes in.

Essentially, keyword research is finding profitable keywords that will rake in the money for your business. It is one of, if not the most important activity of any SEO campaign and you simply have to take your time doing this.

Finding the right keywords are both easy and free. Of course, you can use premium tools like Long Tail Pro to get a sense of their keyword competitiveness, but you can also use Google Keyword Tool to analyze keywords.

Use Google Keyword Tool To Find The Right Keywords

First, go to GKT. You have to be logged in to your Google account to access GKT.

Click the “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category” tab.

Enter whatever product you are selling. For this example, let’s say you are selling (or planning to sell) survival knives.

Near the bottom, there are options for Targeting. If you are planning to sell to a certain country only, specify it on the options below. Let’s say I only want to sell my knives in the UK

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You can also customize your search by filtering keywords by volume and relevance. You can also choose which keywords to include and exclude. If you are choosing main keywords, I recommend setting the Average Monthly Searches to a number that is greater than or equal to 880. If you want to target long tail keywords, you can set the number to a lower value. Don’t forget to click Save when you’re done!

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Click Get Ideas and you will see something like this:

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You don’t need this part so click Keyword Ideas to show you the list of keywords.

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You can see on the image above a list of keywords and their corresponding average monthly searches. As we can see, survival knives have 2,900 AMS. You can download the list to a CSV file or to your Google drive and you can sort the keywords to your preferences.

Here are few tips you can use while sorting:

      • Keywords with “best”, “reviews”, and product names and models have high buyer intent. Make sure you use them.
      • Higher AMS does not always mean higher revenues.
      • This is not a general rule, but keywords with high AMS are usually more competitive.

Common KW Research Pitfalls:

These are common KW research mistakes that people do, me included. Watch out for these and come out on top!

Hogging every keyword – chances are your GKT will throw more than a hundred KWs in your face, no matter how you filter them. Don’t just agree and say“I’m gonna use every keyword here, hooray!” and be done with it. Some keywords are just near-duplicates (i.e, best dog food, best dog foods) and you may want to manually remove those from the list. And believe me, you will only be overwhelmed if you try and use every keyword in the list. Been there, done that.

Ignoring low-volume keywords – Most long tail keywords have low average monthly searches that it sometimes feel like using them is not worth it, but mind you – these long tails are so many that if you use many of them the traffic just adds up. Use longtails sparingly and in a way that will make sense in the article.

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Tunnel vision – Just as what number two is saying, don’t tunnel vision on keywords with high average monthly searches. Remember, many long tail keywords with low AMS are high converting too.

Competitor Research

To dominate your industry you just have to do two things: know what your competitors are doing, then do better. That is basically the gist of competitor research, but it is easier said than done.

No need to worry though – we’ll show you how to do it!

Spying on your competitors is easy if you know where to look. Open Site Explorer and Ahrefs are some of the tools you can use to check your competitors backlinks. The premium version for these are quite expensive but you can always opt for an SEO group buy.

Here’s an example for Moz’s Open Site Explorer:

      1. Got to opensitexplorer.com and enter the name of your competitor. Let’s use Viral Nova as an example.Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 8.47.08 AM
      2. Results will show something like this:Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 8.47.02 AM

Have a look at theDomain Authority (DA)and Page Authority (PA). Simply put, DA and PA gives you a glimpse of the relative “strength” of a website. The higher the values are, the more powerful (in terms of ranking another website) the website is. Most websites have a DA and PA of 20 so the values you can see above are way beyond the average. Don’t go gaga over the values though because DA and PA can still be manipulated with bad link building practices like spamming.

You can also see the Established Links Viral Nova has. Currently the viral website has 99 root domains linking to it.

      1. At the bottom panel, you can also see the links pointing to (inbound links) the website.
      2. Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 8.46.55 AM

As you can see, several authority sites link to Viral Nova like Backlinko, The Guardian, and Fortune.

By looking at the site’s links, you can see the relative strength of a website. With strong backlinks like those above, Viral Nova can be a very tough competitor. Can you make authority sites link back to you as well? Sure you can!

One common pitfall however, is completely imitating the backlink profile of your competitor. Remember, your goal is to be the best so you have to squeeze those brain juices and think about a tactic that will generate better quality (or quantity) links.

Site Audit

Now that Market Research is out of the way, let’s now move on to Site Audit. Performing a Site Audit is basically just check up to see if your site needs improvement in various areas.

Identify Possible Areas of Improvement

Websites are always open to improvement. Things like website speed are areas you can always improve.

    • Fixing Site Errors

Because ecommerce sites have the potential to have hundreds of pages of products and descriptions, errors are particularly common.

You may have decided to stop selling a certain product or model and just casually delete the entire product page. This will return a 404 Not Found error. While technically harmless, 404 errors are bad for website usability and in a way, turn away customers.

It is recommended to NOT delete a product page even if you won’t sell it anymore. You can instead do the following:

      • Re-use the page to promote a similar product
      • Just keep the current page and add options to buy other similar products

If you have already deleted pages in your site, can do any of the following:

      • Redirect the page to a similar product or model.
      • Add navigational menus to your 404 page so the visitor has options.

Other errors you can fix include:

      • Changing 302 to 301
      • Updating duplicate content or meta descriptions

To quickly identify site errors, you can use a tool called Screaming Frog.

      • Website Speed

Did you know that 47% of shoppers expect a website to load within 2 seconds? Worse, 79% of shoppers who are dissatisfied on a site’s loading speed are less likely to shop on the same site ever again. And the nail on the coffin? 44% of consumers will tell their friends about a bad online experience.

These, ladies and gentlemen, are the reasons why website speed is very important. It is therefore imperative that you optimize your site’s loading speed.

There’s a nifty tool you can use to check your site’s speed and the requirements needed to improve it. It’s called GTMetrix.

Try-Shopify

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GTMetrix shows two performance scores, but I refer to the PageSpeed Score more. The Page Load Timecan be seen as well. The best part, however, is the Recommendation list at the bottom, where each type of recommendation is given a grade from A to F. I really like this feature because it helps SEOs like me set clear goals.

On Page SEO

I am sure you have heard of this many, many times. While off page SEO is very important, you cannot ignore the fact that proper on-page optimization is important as well. I really like on page SEO because it is free and you have full control over it.

I usually do proper on-page optimizations first before moving on to link building, just to see how high I can rank without building links.

For ecommerce SEO, there are about six on-page SEO key points you have to consider:

      • Keyword Optimization
      • Internal Linking
      • Site Structure
      • Mobile Version
      • Content and Customer Reviews

Keyword Optimization

Keyword Optimization is quite obviously, optimizing your pages for a single keyword. That means using a keyword/s (as long as it makes sense) on the following parts of a page:

      • Titles
      • Headings and Sub-headings
      • Content (includes product descriptions)
      • Meta Description
      • Image File Names and Alt Tags
      • URL

Some common keyword optimization pitfalls will include Keyword Cannibalisation and Over-Optimisation.

As gruesome as it may sound, keyword cannibalization occurs when you use multiple pages to target a single keyword. This is a big no-no and you are better off using those pages to target different keywords.

Back when I was in high school, my scary General Science teacher will always say,“one is enough, two is too much, three is a poison that kills a person”.I never thought that will be applicable to SEO too.

If you use your keywords too much, your pages might suffer from over-optimization and this can actually do more harm than good to your rankings. I strongly recommend a keyword density of about 2% for your entire page. You can use a free tool from SEO Book to check your keyword densities.

URLs should be reader friendly as well and should include your keywords, not a lot of random letters and numbers. For example, a http://yoursite.com/dog/food is better than http://yoursite.com/sfjh225=product1.

Internal Linking

Internal linking is linking to other pages within your website. This can help visitors to navigate through your site as well as improve the flow of “link juice”, and consequently the ranking of your top keywords.

You should do this sparingly though and only in places where internal links will make sense. If you do this too much, search engines will think you are doing something suspicious. You should also vary your anchor texts.

Site Structure

Site structure is the hierarchy or architecture of your site. Great architecture can have positive impacts on your site’s usability, conversions, and even rankings.

For example, if you are running a pest repellent business, Rat Repellent and Insect Repellent could be two general categories while Liquid Rat Repellent and or Dry Insect Repellent could be sub categories.

Mobile Version

Did you know that adults spend 51% of their time online using a mobile device? This is compared to 42% of online time spent in desktops. Indeed, more and more people are accessing the Internet through tablets and smartphones and this is the main reason why every website needs to be mobile-responsive.

Google also released a mobile-friendly update where they boost the rankings of mobile-responsive websites.

To check if your website is mobile responsive, you can simply adjust the size of your browser. For a more “official” check-up, you can use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test

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What a surprise! Google is mobile-friendly!

Content and Customer Reviews

Content is probably your one-way ticket to sales so investing in creating unique and high-quality content is necessary.

      • Remember Keyword Optimization? Use keywords on headings and subheadings as well as on the first paragraph of your content. Don’t forget to include your main keyword in the meta description!
      • People love complete content. Do not haphazardly write “unique” content and be done with it. Make sure you provide enough information for the readers. Remember, your customers are looking for reasons why they should buy your product. Give it to them.
      • Avoid dupes. It may be tempting to just copy and paste product descriptions from one page to another, especially if the products are very similar. However, it is imperative that you avoid duplicate content at all costs. If you want to save yourself from the hassle of writing descriptions all day, you can hire writers from freelancing sites like Upwork or Elance.
      • Invest in quality. You have to realise that your products are only as good as how they are presented. If you hired a cheap writer for $1/ 500 words who does not even know the difference between they, their, and they’re, then you are setting yourself up for failure. Your products are high quality so give them the high-quality descriptions they deserve.

Getting customer reviews is one way of obtaining unique content as well – it’s free, legitimate, and opinionated so it will always help visitors decide. Always put “leave a review”option on your product pages and emphasize that their feedback helps improve your business.

It is also a great idea to have a “Most Helpful Reviews” section just like Amazon’s.

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Off Page SEO

Off-page SEO is the “link building” part of the entire ecommerce SEO process. However, gone are the days of directory links and blog commenting – today it’s all about outreach, outreach, and more outreach!

But how do you reach out to prospect websites?

There are many ways in fact, but the most popular one is to email said prospect with a guest post offer. Of course, only offer high quality content – shallow, whipped up articles will only paint you in a negative light.

Some guest post content could be:

      • In-depth articles and guides
      • Case Studies
      • Infographics (my personal favorite)
      • Round-up posts

When you do successfully get a link, it is a good idea to vary anchor texts – don’t just use your main keyword – you’re only setting yourself up for a penalty if you do that. I recommend using your brand name e.g. EmailOctopus  / Matcha Tea, or naked URL: emailoctopus.com / matcha-tea.com as your anchor texts.

Here’s an example of a great anchor text on an article I wrote on SelfMadeBusinessman:

As a final note, you should also pick out which websites you want to have a guest post. Blogs and websites related to your niche or industry are preferable.

Want even more tips and resources for your ecommerce SEO? Then check out this awesome in-depth guide as well!

Just Do It!

When you perform an ecommerce SEO campaign, you try to please and gain the favour of search engines (especially Google), but the bottomline is you want to increase your sales.

If you do it correctly, SEO will improve targetedtraffic to your website, which leads to more conversions.

So go out there and start optimising your ecommerce site!

This is a guest post from SEO Director, Gareth Bull over at Bulldog SEO.

Catalin Zorzini

I'm a web design blogger and started this project after spending a few weeks struggling to find out which is the best ecommerce platform for myself. Check out my current top 10 ecommerce site builders.