Whether you’ve just launched a new eCommerce website ready to take on 2019 or you’ve been running your site for a year or two but never thought about ranking in Google, this eCommerce SEO checklist is for you.
Ranking high in Google means getting traffic to your website and traffic means sales! Those sweet sweet sales that you need more of and the reason why you took your business online. But if your eCommerce website isn’t optimised for people searching for your products and brand you’ll be missing out on clicks and vital sales.
Do you want to know how to rank your eCommerce website and appear when a customer is searching for your products? Read this checklist and you’ll be on your way to getting more online sales.
1. Keyword Research
Knowing what your customers are searching for is key if you want to sell online. If you run a large online store I recommend starting your keyword research based on your categories. This way you can group your keywords making it easier to apply to your products and it also reduces your workload.
If your website is currently struggling with having a presence on Google it’s best not to start chasing highly competitive short tail keywords unless you’ve got a huge budget to work with. So what can you do? Start researching longtail keywords.
Although short tail keywords have a large search volume they are generally unspecific and don’t always attract the right type of customer. On the other hand, longtail keywords have less search volume but are less competitive, very specific and attract a higher quality visitor leading to a higher probability of conversion (average conversion rate from longtail keyword searches is 36%).
For example, you’re a home furniture business and want to sell more lights. Without doing keyword research you choose the most obvious search term – “lights” and “lighting”. These keywords have a search volume of up to 30.3k and 70.8k per month respectively. Wouldn’t it be great to rank for those keywords and gain that amount of traffic to your site?
But here lies the problem.
What type of lighting is your customer looking for? They could be looking for kitchen lighting, modern lighting, vintage lighting etc. If they clicked on your website would they be taken to a relevant category or land on a general category page and quickly bounce back?
Secondly, what are the competitors like? When searching for “lights” and “lighting” the first page is mainly big brands such as John Lewis, Next, Habitat and Wayfair. Big brands with deep pockets, making it difficult for business owners with modest budgets to get a look in.
Let’s try again but researching a longtail keyword.
You look at your lighting products and see that they are all modern led ceiling lights. Researching the term “modern led ceiling lights” returns a search volume of up to 500 per month. This is a lot less than 30.3k and 70.8k but it’s a very specific search. The competition for this keyword is a lot different too. Most of the results on page 1 are independents and not big brands, making ranking less difficult compared to the competition for “lights” and “lighting”.
A customer searching for “modern led ceiling lights” knows exactly what they want and if your website is optimised correctly they will be taken straight to your category page showing all your modern led ceiling lights.
How to find longtail keywords
For keyword research, I like to use Moz Keyword Explorer. What I like about the Moz Keyword Explorer is the data you gain about each search term. The monthly search volume data is 95% or more accurate, it gives you an idea of how difficult it is to rank for that particular keyword and it estimates how often people click on the organic search results instead of adverts.
Another excellent feature is keyword suggestions. Starting with your most obvious keyword you can click on keyword suggestions and it will list all the relevant keywords that people are searching for in Google. This is a goldmine for longtail keywords and will give you a great insight into what people are actually searching for.
Find out how we increased an eCommerce start-up’s online revenue by 491% – Read Case Study
2. Unique Meta Titles, Descriptions & Headings
The next step is to take your new found longtail keywords and apply them to your meta titles and headings. Meta titles are important because this is what a customer see’s on Google. You should optimise all your meta titles, concentrating on product categories and individual products.
Each eCommerce site is different but it’s a good idea to create a template meta title for each category. This makes the task a little easier to create unique meta titles if you’ve got a lot of products.
For category pages what I like to do is include the longtail keyword and then add any additional supporting keywords and then the business name. This isn’t set in stone as you need to make sure that it’s within the 70 character limit allowing Google to display it in the search results correctly.
For product pages, it’s best to include the full name of the product including variations such as colour and size. If there is enough space then as above you can add any supporting keywords, the category keyword or business name.
Headings on eCommerce sites are usually the product titles. Best practice for product titles is to use the full product name and include size and colour variations.
Creating compelling meta descriptions can help increase your click-through rate. Meta descriptions are not necessarily a ranking factor but having good one can help a customer decide if they should click on it or not.
Here are a few tips to create a good meta description:
- Include keywords and variations.
- Include action keywords such as; buy, order now, sale etc.
- Mention your USP such as; next day delivery, free shipping, free gift etc.
- Make it the correct length so it displays correctly in the search results. (Approx 160 characters).
Ranking all the products on an eCommerce site is a difficult task, therefore, it’s best to try to rank category pages and the Home page. It’s still worth your while to optimise individual products because they can be ranked and found in Google Search when someone is looking for that specific product.
3. Unique Product Descriptions
Product descriptions are important for the following reasons:
- It’s your opportunity to tell your story and sell to the customer.
- They give your customers more information about the product they are viewing.
- It allows Google to understand what the page is about.
Your product descriptions need to be unique and not copied from another website or the manufacturers. There might be certain elements of the content that is the same for each product such as the materials, ingredients, delivery and FAQs, but the specific content for the product should be unique.
Here are a few tips to creating unique content for products:
- Include your longtail keywords.
- Include supporting keywords and keyword variations where possible. Don’t keyword stuff.
- Make sure the content is well formatted and easily readable.
- Don’t make the content too long and use bullet points to break up the content.
- Don’t focus on the features of the product. Tell your customers the benefits and how it will help them or make them feel.
Other things you can include in your product descriptions are videos of the product working, videos of customers using the product or supporting images that aren’t included in the main product image gallery.
4. Simple Site Structure & SEO Friendly URLs
How you structure your site will affect the overall user experience and search engine ranking. Starting from the home page your products should be organised into main categories and then subcategories. Most of your link authority will be on your home page so it makes sense to keep your products close to the home page and only a few clicks away.
There are many different ways of organising your products but keyword research could lend a helping hand if you’re unsure. For example, if you’re selling handbags you could categorise by brand, style or material. If you’re selling sofas you could categorise by style, the number of seats or material. You want to make it easy for your customers but if there is supporting keyword data then it would be wise to create a category for it.
Once you’ve decided on your categories you can start to build your structure. Ideally, you want to keep your URLs clean and readable. To achieve this you need to do the following:
- Include your target keyword.
- Include the full product name.
- Use hyphens to separate words instead of underscores, spaces or other characters.
- Where possible keep them short.
Here are a few examples of an SEO friendly URL:
What you want to avoid are URLs like this… domain.co.uk/c123?/sub&%cat567/drFgfTT4095_wf45.
Unfortunately some popular eCommerce platforms such as WooCommerce and Shopify structure it slightly differently.
WooCommerce will add “/product-category/” before your chosen category name e.g. domain.co.uk/product-category/leather-sofa/name-of-sofa.
Shopify, on the other hand, adds “/collections/” and “/products/” e.g. domain.co.uk/collections/leather-sofa/products/name-of-sofa.
Although these are structured differently there’s no need to worry as both will be able to rank in Google as long as your descriptive categories and products are present.
Unsure which eCommerce platform to use? Take a look at our Shopify vs WooCommerce vs Magento – eCommerce Showdown article.
5. Site Security
If you’re running an eCommerce site and want to be trusted it’s essential you have a secure site. All eCommerce sites have forms which collect personal data from customers, so it’s good practice that all information is encrypted and not just the payment details. A secure site with an HTTPS connection will display the padlock icon in the browser letting customers know they can enter their details confidently without any issues.
Find out how we increased an established sofa company’s organic traffic by 400% – Read Case Study
6. Acquire Valuable Links
To build your authority and climb the ranks in Google you need links, high-quality links. The number and the quality of links is still a major ranking factor for websites and it’s no different for eCommerce sites.
Here some ways for acquiring new links to your site:
- Create content (see below).
- Create buyer guides and reviews.
- Outreach to bloggers in the industry for a guest post.
- Get your site listed on manufacturers and suppliers “where to buy from” page.
- Find where your competitors are getting links from by using Moz Link Explorer.
If you have a physical shop you will also want to build local links for all the locations listed on your website. When listing your physical shop you need to ensure that your name, address and phone number (NAP) are consistent.
To improve your local presence you should be listed on the following sites:
- Google My Business
- Bing Places
- Four Square
- Local chambers
- Local blogs
- Other local directories
7. Creating Content
After your in-depth keyword research, you should have a long list of keywords that you’d like to rank for. You won’t be able to rank for all of your keywords because you might not have the products to match or enough content to be worthy of ranking. You will discover that some of your longtail keywords will be questions and this presents an ideal opportunity to create content.
As mentioned above building links to your site is a good way to earn Google’s trust and start to rank you well. Gaining links to eCommerce sites can be difficult because few people want to link to products. But if you create link worthy content based on the topics and questions that people are actually searching for you’re more likely to get other sites to link to you.
Once you’ve created a blog article you can include links within your content linking to relevant category and product pages on your site, helping them boost their position in Google.
Not only will creating content help you rank higher in search but your customers will spend more time engaging with your brand, helping them feel much closer than they otherwise would. 70% of consumers prefer to learn about a brand through a blog article and content marketing will improve conversions rates.
Average conversion rates for websites that use content marketing is nearly six times higher than websites without it, so start by consistently providing relevant articles, guides and reviews and watch your sales increase.
8. Broken Pages
After running an eCommerce site for a while you can quickly start to generate broken links. When a customer finds your product in Google and clicks on it, if the link is broken they will see a 404 error. This is not the best first impression of your business and your customer is more likely to go elsewhere.
Broken links most commonly occur on eCommerce sites for the following reasons:
- A product is out of stock, so it is unpublished.
- Discontinued products.
- Change of product URL to make it more search engine friendly.
These issues can be easily avoided. If your product is out of stock leave the product published. What you need to do is make sure the product is clearly labelled as “out of stock” and provide more information letting customers know when it will be in stock or have an email capture allowing you to email customers when it’s back in stock.
For discontinued products and if the URL is changed you need to ensure that you create a 301 redirect. A 301 redirect will tell Google the URL has permanently moved and your customers will be directed to a relevant category or product of your choice.
9. Page Load Speed
Page load speed is not only important for the user experience but it’s also a ranking factor. Customers visiting your website will not hang around and wait for a slow website to load.
So what can lower your page speed?
There are several eCommerce platforms available all with their pros and cons. For example, WooCommerce sites can suffer from slow page load speeds depending on the chosen template. To make the template look good and work correctly plugins are needed. Too many plugins increase the number of DNS requests causing the page to load slower.
Themes & templates
There are hundreds of different themes and templates available for eCommerce sites but the one you choose can be bloated with unwanted features relying on plugins, reducing the page load speed.
Review widgets from websites such as Trust Pilot and Feefo allow you to display customer reviews on your website. To do this you need to install a plugin to your site. Although this is a good feature as it shows social proof it can reduce the page load speed.
eCommerce sites rely on good imagery to either sell a lifestyle or show the products in detail. However, using large images that haven’t been reduced in size or compressed can reduce page load speed.
Page load speed doesn’t just happen on the user side but there is the time on the server side to consider. The server performance, server location, quality of network and quality of code all play a part in request times which can reduce page load speed.
No Page Caching
Without page caching every time a visitor requests a page, the server has to query the database and build the page dynamically, reducing the page load speed. With page caching, you can reduce this query time by having the page pre-loaded and ready for the visitor to view.
10. Google Analytics & Search Console
Tracking your website visitors is important if you want an insight into your audience and which products they are looking at on your site.
Google Analytics will tell you the following about your visitors:
- How they are reaching your site. Organic search, social media, direct, referral link or paid search.
- Demographics (age and gender).
- Which pages and products are viewed most.
- Mobile or desktop.
- User journey.
The data gained can be invaluable for identifying your ideal audience and whom you should be targetting with paid ads, social media and content.
Google Search Console
The Google Search Console (former Google Webmaster Tools) allows you to gain some extra insights over Google Analytics.
- Which keywords are being used to find your site.
- The click-through rate of your pages.
- The position your website appears for a specific keyword.
- Which sites are linking to your site.
- The number of pages indexed in Google.
- Crawl errors such as broken pages, server errors and redirect errors.
One of the major features of the Seach Console is the ability to upload a sitemap.xml. A sitemap contains all the pages and images on your website and uploading a sitemap file will help Google index your pages. Once your sitemap has been uploaded you can check if all your pages are being indexed or if there is an issue.
Make a Start
There are many reasons why you should optimise your eCommerce site but the main reason is to increase online sales. If done correctly you can position your site in front of ready to buy customers, increase website traffic and make those sweet sweet sales.
SEO isn’t a one-off activity, it’s the long game. It is going to take quite a lot of work to build up your authority in Google but the results will pay off when you start to appear higher than your competition.