This guide is the best ecommerce search engine optimization on the internet.
No matter what your status is:
- A larger ecommerce companys SEO manager looking to show the ROI of SEO.
- Smaller online business owner looking for creative ways to grow their business.
- A growth marketer who is looking for innovative ways to increase traffic.
This post is for YOU.
This guide was created for one reason:
SEO is an important aspect of ecommerce websites.
SEO is the most profitable ecommerce marketing campaign with the help of our latest Ecommerce SEO Guide. However, many online shops do not take SEO into consideration.
Instead, we rely upon social media and paid ads. These are wonderful, but they require constant effort and a steady stream of income.
eCommerce SEO Guide
SEO is a simple task that requires little effort upfront. Once you rank, sales are practically automatic and there is no ongoing expense.
This is a simplified explanation. Isnt it a simplification?
High-converting, free, recurring traffic. This is what you are about to discover.
Grab a cup of coffee, lock the doors and settle in… Its time for ecommerce SEO.
If you are a BigCommerce merchant you can arrange a time with our team for SEO coaching from BigCommerce University.
Here are some key tactics to include in your Ecommerce SEO Strategy
This book is nearly 9,000 words long so you might want to go through each section separately. These are the topics that we will be covering to help you navigate.
The best ecommerce strategy is:
- Keyword Research To find out the keywords customers are looking for.
- Site architecture Based on keyword research.
- On Page SEO by strategic keyword optimization in meta tags, content.
- Technical SEO To ensure that search engines can crawl your website efficiently
- Local SEO To drive local organic traffic to your brick and mortar business
- Content Marketing for more organic traffic.
- Link Building to improve your websites authority.
- Measure SEO Success using tools such as Ahrefs and Google Analytics.
Lets get going!
SEO: What is it and why should you care?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO), is the science of optimizing your website for specific keywords to make it rank higher in search results such as Google.
Because SEO is technical, much is known, but theres also a creative user-experience, and design side.
Optimizing your website means only one thing: achieving the best result possible for your target keyword.
Googles goal in ranking search results is to answer searchers questions well enough that they dont have to return to Google to find another answer.
How do you accomplish that?
- Answer the broadest range of questions about the topic with the most comprehensive answers.
- To explain your points, use better examples, videos, and images.
- You can provide a better user experience by creating a faster website, a better mobile experience and a more intuitive interface.
- Encourage people to link to you and talk about your company.
Outbrain has done a study that shows search is the number one driver of traffic to content websites. This surpasses social media by more 300%.
SEMrush also found that five of the 13 ecommerce verticals (music, books and furniture, home and garden, electronics) were dominated in organic search. All 13 organic and direct traffic accounted for 80%.
Sources of Ecommerce Website Traffic via SEMRush
Ecommerce means writing detailed product descriptions, with attractive, eye-catching photography, and lots of reviews. This will help customers make purchasing decisions.
This means that visitors can easily buy your products by making buttons large enough and keeping your site free from glitches.
It also means that you can show your visitors how your product compares to other products so that they dont leave the site to continue their research.
More on that later. Let me just say this:
SEO encompasses all aspects of a business including marketing, SEO, copywriting, and web design.
You will be the most popular business for customers to shop if you do your SEO research. Its amazing how easy it is to do this.
But thats not the most important question. Why should you care?
Lets say that your store sells gifts to wiener dog owners like my client, The Smoothe Store. You would rank for key terms like Dachshund gifts.
Google shows a few ads in search results. Then they display the organic listings. However, most clicks go to organic results. This is true for most keywords and ads.
95% of people never go beyond the first page. This means that real results can only be achieved if you get to the top. This is a variation, but it generally holds.
Lets now do some math.
According to Ahrefs, the keyword Dachshund gift receives an average of 11,000 searches each month.
(A tool well discuss in a later section). If 35% of clicks are for the first result, which is the average across keywords, ranking #1 would yield 3,850 clicks.
Lets say you have a conversion ratio of 10%. This is a low conversion rate for a high-buyer-intent keyword. More information on buyer intent can be found in the research section.
You could rank #1 for this keyword and earn an additional 385 sales each month!
Thats only one keyword. Many pages rank for multiple keywords and many sites rank multiple pages.
With just a little SEO effort, you could make thousands more sales every month - and its all free.
You can even combine SEO and SEM (search engines marketing like Google AdWords), to get two search results listings and convert more sales. This is a topic for another article. (Though, if paid ads are something you are interested in, KlientBoosts PPC service is for you.
I hope you now understand why Google is the best advertising channel.
Lets not get bogged down in theory. Lets discuss how it actually works!
Keyword Research for Ecommerce
The first step to an ecommerce SEO campaign is keyword research.
This step should not be skipped.
This part is crucial.
- Keywords that are difficult to rank for will be your target keyword. You wont get to page one.
- Ranking for keywords that do not get a lot or cause customers to buy will be a problem.
None of these scenarios are ideal. This is why ecommerce keyword search is so important. It will help you find keywords that are easy to rank for, have high search volume, and have high conversion rates.
There is more to keyword selection than just looking at how difficult it can rank or how many people are searching for it.
You must also consider buyer intent, or commercial intent, when choosing keywords.
This is so important, we’re putting it in a box so you don’t miss it (Seriously).
Buyer intent is simply the stage at which someone is ready to purchase.
Someone searching for the best laptop may still be in research mode and not ready to purchase. They will likely be looking at product reviews and comparing benefits and features.
Theyre more likely to purchase if they search Asus VivoBook E200HA instead.
It doesnt take much to predict buyer intent.
Buyer intent is often correlated with the average cost of a keywords click (CPC). This can be found using Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs or another SEO tool. This is because more people will spend money advertising a keyword to increase its conversion rate.
Pro tip: Best X Product is a great topic for your blog. Learn more about blogging in the section.
You might be wondering how to conduct ecommerce keyword research, determine keyword difficulty (KD), and discover buyer intent.
There are three options:
- Research on competitors
- SEO tools
Lets begin with the ecommerce giant.
1. Amazon is a great place to do keyword research.
Amazon is a goldmine of keywords with high buyer intent - people search Amazon to buy something.
Start typing your seed keyword to find keywords on Amazon. This is the word that you believe you would like to rank for.
We could, for example, type Dachshund…
Amazon will then give you autofill suggestions such as dachshund gifts and shirts. These are keyword suggestions. You can save them to a Google spreadsheet for later.
This can be very time-consuming if you have thousands or hundreds of products. The Amazon Keyword Tool is here to help.
This handy tool automatically searches Amazons autofill suggestions for any keyword that you enter. You get three searches for free per day so you dont have to pay anything.
By simply typing Dachshund into your browser, you will find 247 keywords that could be of interest to high-buyers. Woohoo!
This can be repeated for all your seed keywords (e.g. wiener dog in place of dachshund)
Every time you search, mark all keywords, and then add them to your list. Finally, click the Download Selected Keywords button to save the list as a CSV.
These keywords are not easy to choose. Before we choose the keywords we will use in our store, we need to understand search volume and difficulty as well as buyer intent.
Lets now talk about other methods to find keyword ideas.
2. Use competitor research to find keywords.
You can steal keyword ideas from competitors if they rank higher in search results than you.
This section explains how to do it in under 5 minutes with Ahrefs. For those who dont want to use Ahrefs, read on!
Start by typing your keyword into Google.
Choose a competitor…
…and scan the product pages and category pages for possible keywords.
But, dont blindly copy your competitors keywords! They may be ranking higher than you but that doesnt necessarily mean they have chosen the best keywords.
GOOD TO KNOW
Moz is an SEO company that ranks websites based on their link profile and other factors. The number of backlinks linking to a site on another website.
Pro Tip: Google scans and indexes your site using breadcrumbs.
Google can help you determine if your breadcrumbs are properly set up by simply entering your site into Google. If you see yoursite.com -> category->subcategory, you have breadcrumbs. More information here.
Record the keywords now and then move on.
3. Ahrefs can help you locate keyword opportunities.
Ahrefs is an amazing SEO tool. It can be used for keyword research and competitive research. You can also build backlinks with it.
Well get to that later, but lets focus on how it can be used to quickly and easily perform ecommerce keyword searches.
After you have signed up for an account, you will get a free two-week trial. Once you are done, enter your URL in the Site Explorer search box. As an example, I will use my site, Wandering RV.
Click on the Organic Search tab
Scroll down and click on View full report in the Top 5 organic keyword section.
…and you will see all keywords your website ranks for.
I used 3,578 keywords. There are more keywords than I can handle one-by-one.
You can filter the results to find exactly what you want. Im specifically looking for low-hanging fruits, the keywords that rank between #5-10.
These are the low-hanging fruits because youre already at the top of the page. This means that it should be easy to rank higher using proper on-page optimization and possibly some link building. (More on this in the link building and on-page optimization sections).
Filter by Position to find them - Minimum 3 and maximum 10.
Clicking the Traffic column will allow you to sort it by traffic in ascending order. You can also set a minimum traffic filter, such as 200 searches per month. I dont have as many searches per month, so I wont do that.
Export your low-hanging fruits keywords to a CSV using the Export button at the top right. Then, copy and paste them into a new tab within your spreadsheet. This tab is called Low-Hanging Fruit
Lets now steal the keywords of our competitor.
Enter a competitor in the site explorer tool and then go to the same Organic Keywords Page. These filters will help you find the best gold nuggets.
- Maximum 20
- KD maximum 15
- Volume Min 200
This will give you a list of relevant keywords that your competitor ranks for. This is amazing!
If you arent getting enough results, feel free to lower the volume minimum. Some niches dont have a high search volume. To keep it as low as possible keywords and keep the total number of results manageable, I do this.
Okay, so you are probably drowning now in keyword ideas, but I have another one for you: The content gap tool.
This handy tool will show you which keywords your competitors rank for, but not you. Enter three or more competitors in the top fields, and your site at the bottom.
To be flooded with opportunities, click Show keywords. To find the best keywords, use filters as we did above. Then export them and copy-paste them to your spreadsheet.
Now that you have a lot of key phrase ideas in your head, how can you choose which ones to use?
4. Find out if your keywords are the right ones.
You wont have the keyword data for the phrases that you selected unless you used Ahrefs. To determine which keywords to use, you need to establish keyword difficulty, search volume, and buyer intent.
Google Keyword Planner can help you determine buyer intent by determining search volume and CPC. It doesnt show keyword difficulty.
Lets search for Dachshund gifts…
CPC is the Suggested Bid. As we have discussed, a high CPC is indicative of high buyer intent.
Youre looking to find a high CPC relative other CPC. In some niches, $0.80 may be a bargain. In other cases, such as Dachshund gifts, $0.80 can be a large amount. Relativity and cooperation are key.
Note the buyer intent and volume in your sheet for your most important keywords.
It is easy to just eyeball it at low, medium, or high depending on its CPC relative to the CPC for most keywords in your niche.
As an example, I will rank keywords using the Google Keyword Planner image.
Ahrefs does all this automatically for you (minus buyer intent), so thats why I prefer it. However, it is not free after your trial. This is the true bootstrap approach.
You can also spy on the AdWords bids of your competitors to find great keywords. You can do a competitive PPC analysis , and then add them to your spreadsheet!
After you are done, sort the results according to the best combination of traffic, KD, and buyer intent. These are the keywords that you should prioritize.
If you really want to improve your SEO and increase your keyword spread, then you should create a keyword matrix.
The keyword matrix allows you to quickly search through all keywords and organize your spreadsheet so that you can find the most relevant keywords for each page. It is based on search volume, KD and search intent (what people search for when they search).
You can find out more or hire me to help you if that interests you.
Lets not get bogged down in finding keywords for your ecommerce site. Lets discuss how to use them!
Ecommerce site architecture
Once you have identified the keywords that you want to target, it is time to take action.
This begins with the architecture of your site.
The structure of an ecommerce website is the way you organize your navigation, product pages, and category pages. Its all about putting the most relevant and useful content in front users, and making it easier for them to find it.
Two golden rules apply to great website structure:
- It should be easy and scalable.
- It shouldnt take more than three clicks for a page to be accessed from another page.
- Keyword research is a great way to generate page URLs that are highly relevant and subdirectories.
Well get to that in a moment, but for now lets focus on what NOT do.
A bad site architecture example for an ecommerce site
This is how poor site architecture looks:
This violates both of the golden rules. You need to click four times to reach a category page. If you want to add product pages or category pages, you must hide them deep within your site.
This is not only difficult for navigation but it can also affect your search ranking. Here are the reasons:
Your home page is typically the most authoritative page of your site. Some of the link juice and authority that is passed from one page to another on your website to another through internal links passes from one page to another. Google has stopped using the term PageRank.
It works visually like this:
Your home page should be able to pass the most authority on your category pages. These pages then can pass authority on to your product pages.
It works this way:
For an analogy, consider your website structure like an irrigation system for a farm, with the authority of the site or the link juice being the water. Your pages are the seeds.
You want to give water to the highest-producing plants, so your main category and product pages should be the best.
You must send them all the internal links to your most authoritative pages. This is not what this example does.
Its also a great time to talk about content marketing. Your biggest plant can be great content. This will help you get lots of backlinks from other websites.
This will allow you to funnel the link authority generated by your content to your category and product pages. Get water for free! (More information on this can be found in the Ecommerce Content Marketing section.
Lets now see how its done.
You should consult with an SEO expert before you move around pages on a site that has a less than ideal structure. Our team can help consolidate pages, improve internal links and redirect pages to new pages without affecting your SEO.
A good example of Ecommerce Site Architecture
Your site structure is key to gaining authority for your most important pages. Remember the golden rules: Keep it simple and scalable. It takes only 3 clicks!
(Pssst! BigCommerce stores do this automatically.
This is how a good website would look:
Your homepage should link to all major categories pages and possibly some of your most important product pages.
Navigation and internal linking are important to ensure that pages have the greatest authority from your homepage, which gives them a greater chance of being ranked highly in search.
This home page was created by me for my client, The Smoothe Store, to give you an idea of what I mean.
As you can see we have links to all of our top pages. It is also visually appealing, which makes it easier to navigate.
A second thing I want to mention is all the text content. Having content on your homepage will increase your rankings. More information can be found in the section on-page SEO below.
Make sure you include a section for related products on every product page. This will provide more internal links and increase the average order value.
A On-Page SEO Strategy to Ecommerce Sites
SEO on-page for ecommerce focuses on making sure your keywords are placed in the right places. It is a way to make sure Google knows what your page is all about.
Three strategies are being discussed.
- For eCommerce category pages, on-page SEO.
- For eCommerce product pages, on-page SEO.
- For your blog content, you can use on-page SEO.
Because it helps you rank in Search Engine Results Page features (SERP), on-page SEO is crucial.
SEMrush discovered that ecommerce websites should be focused on images and reviews.
Reviews were the number one feature in global searches for all 15 features (the last being no SERP features), and they also appeared in 62.03% US searches.
Images are also very important, and they surpassed video results in 51.09% global searches and 41.68% in US searches.
Top US SERP Features From SEMrush Study
Lets take a look at the SERP ranking factors.
- Instant Answer. A box with a short text answer and a source URL is usually displayed at the top of the results pages.
- Carousel. These results show local results, including an image, business name and ratings, as well as reviews.
- Local Pack. Shows 3 to 5 local businesses.
- News. News.
- Images. These displays a horizontal row with images at the top search.
- Site Links Site Links.
- Review. This rich result, also known as a richsnippet, displays ratings and stars for products and other items that can be reviewed.
- Tweet. You can find relevant tweets in organic search results.
- Video. Video from YouTube, Vimeo and other platforms can have their thumbnail displayed in organic results.
- Featured video. This thumbnail is larger and provides more information. It also appears at the top search results.
- Featured Snippet. This box answers a specific question and is displayed above all organic results.
- Knowledge panel. This panel uses semantic data from multiple sources to display a block of information about people and movies, as well as events. It is usually located to the right side of search results.
- Top Ads. AdWords ads which take up the top four spots on the search engine page.
- Bottom ads AdWords ads that appear in the last three spots of the search page.
Lets begin by defining what each of these elements are and how they can be integrated into your holy grail.
2. For ecommerce product pages, implement on-page SEO.
Your category pages are the most important pages you can rank. You can instantly give access to your products if someone searches for them on Google.
These are the best places to place your target keyword.
1. Please refer to the URL.
It is easy to improve search rankings by including your primary keyword in your URL.
Its also worth noting that can see the /collections// URL. This is a limitation for Shopify and a real problem with SEO. Google prefers shorter URLs that are easier to understand, so adding this word can have a negative effect on SEO.
BigCommerce makes it easy to quickly and easily remove subfolders from your URL.
This is particularly relevant for websites that compete in highly competitive niches. Optimized URLs can help you get more traffic. There are many factors that influence organic rankings.
These can be customized to any keyword that you feel is most effective for your category page rankings. :
Its the difference between:
- www.thesmoothestore.com/collections/dachshund gifts
- www.thesmoothestore.com/dachshund gifts
Google prefers #2.
2. In the title tag (H1).
Title tags, or H1 tags, should contain the keyword as close as possible to the beginning, such as this:
3. Copy in body
Here is where things get more complicated. Google doesnt like the fact that most category pages just jump to the products without any introduction.
A minimum of 300 words should be used for your intro, with at least 2 to 3 times your keyword. Its important to keep it flowing and natural.
Heres an example.
4. Image alt text
Google cannot read images so they use alt text to find out what it is.
This gives you an additional place to put your keyword on the page and gives you a chance of appearing in Google image search results.
You can either hire someone on Fiverr, or submit a proposal at 99 Designs if you are terrible at designing banners. To create my designs, I use Canva.
5. The meta data.
Although your keyword isnt shown to have any direct impact on rankings, including it in your metadata (the grey text that appears in your search results) can increase click-through rates .
Google bolds your main keyword when it is included in the meta tag (also known as the description tag).
Bada-bing, badaboom. Its done! Its so easy!
Rinse and Repeat for all of your category pages. Next, move on to the product pages.
This article will show you how to optimize the pages of your product categories.
Ecommerce Product Pages: On-Page SEO
I wont repeat the steps you took above. Do the same thing as you did for your category pages with two major differences.
- A banner image is not necessary, as you already have product images.
- Instead of writing 300 words I suggest you write 1,000 words (at minimum on your top 10 sellers).
This is the simple reason:
Googles top pages are long-form content with at least 2,000 words.
Google is a primary research tool.
Google believes that pages with a lot more information have a greater chance of providing the searchers answer.
This also allows you to include LSI keywords. Ill discuss this in a moment.
If the pages at the top have 2,000 words, then why recommend I recommend 1,000 words?
There are two reasons.
- It is difficult to write a description of a product in 2,000 words.
- Product reviews make up the 1,000-word gap
Reviews increase ecommerce SEO and conversion rates. Start collecting reviews if you dont already.
Heres a great guide to product reviews.
This Solo Stove page is an example of a great product pages, both for SEO purposes and conversions.
They are excellent at implementing reviews, long-form content, and usability. All wrapped up in a beautiful design.
FYI: If you dont have a store review app, Yotpo works great with structured data (which well discuss later).
It is not easy to make large changes to hundreds upon hundreds of product listings.
This format can be used to speed up the process.
You can include user-generated content during that deep dive, such as customer photos or videos, and killer reviews.
Spellbinders, for example, has increased traffic to their website by 130,000 unique visitors through the addition of a gallery page that pulls in user posts from Instagram.
Brian Dean has created an infographic about optimizing product pages to bring everything together.
Back to Latent Semantic Indexing keywords.
Dont panic if you feel like you have been thrown off the deep end by this new advanced math course. This is just a fancy way to say synonymous keywords, as well as related keywords and topics.
For example, dachshund, wiener dog, and doxie, are all LSI keywords.
They are either very similar or they mean the exact same thing. The terms RV accessories, and solar panel are not synonymous. Theyre related because they relate to the same topic.
Google was not so adept at identifying semantic keywords relationships back in the wild west days of SEO.
This was a clever move by SEO professionals.
Websites were created to target every single synonym.
Google now understands that dachshund is the same intent as weiner dogs, and has made the search easier.
Instead of creating five pages for 5 related terms you could create one page that is relevant to them all.
You can search for LSI keywords by simply typing your main keyword in Google. The auto-fill suggestions will then appear.
…and take a look at the similar searches at the bottom.
Amazon listings are also available for your product.
I see a lot of LSI keywords when I look at the Blendtec blender on Amazon.
Ahrefs can be used to search for LSI keywords. Im sure you know its an amazing tool.
To see all relevant results from Google, simply enter your primary keyword in Ahrefs.
These lists will help you to find everything that is relevant for your needs. To win, you can change your keyword usage and blend in LSI keywords.
Find similar keywords and add them to product pages. You will start ranking higher for everything! You can find more information here
You can use the same process if you have a competitor who is higher than you. You should look for the LSI keywords that they use to describe products.
Do this for all your products. You might start with the best-selling products and work your way up (or hire someone).
Also, ensure you have stunning product images. This will not directly affect SEO but it will increase your conversions.
Lets get to the technical side.
How To Perform Technical SEO Audits For Ecommerce Websites
SEO isnt just about keywords. Theres a technical side as well, which includes things like site speed, user experience, mobile-friendliness and working links.
In the end, its really just about providing the best possible experience for your users.
Again, thats what Google ultimately cares about.
So how do you perform an ecommerce SEO audit and improve your technical SEO?
Im going to be following a very similar process to Ahrefs 16-step audit, but simplified for speed and understanding.
If you want more details, check out their full article.
Recommended Ecommerce SEO Tools
Before we get into the how-to of things, I wanted to mention the SEO tools that are highly recommended to do things right:
- Google Analytics.
- Google Search Console.
- Beam Us Up (or Screaming Frog).
- Barracuda Panguin Tool.
- Title Tag Pixel Width Checker.
Theyre not all necessary, but they make life easier. Cool? Cool. Lets get started!
An ecommerce site audit accomplishes three things:
- It paints an overall picture of the quality and current standing of your site.
- It makes it easy for you to create a task list of things that need to be done before you focus on off-page SEO.
- It ensures youre getting the best possible results with the least effort.
Obviously, its something you should need to do. So here we go.
Step 1: Crawl your site.
Using a tool like Beam Us Up (free) or Screaming Frog ($150 per year) to crawl your site is the single most important part of any site audit. It will reveal things like:
- Broken links on your site
- Missing alt text or metadata
- Thin or duplicate content
These things are all bad for SEO. So start this crawl and let it run in the background while we take care of a few other things (the crawl could take a while if you have a large site).
Step 2: Make sure only 1 version of your site Is browsable.
There are multiple ways a person can link to or browse your site:
Only one of these should be browsable.
The others should be 301 redirected to the canonical version (the one you prefer).
If possible, choose the HTTPS version (which is the secured/encrypted version) since theres a slight search-rankings boost. Whether you want www or not is up to you.
PSSST: BigCommerce automatically does this for you.
Using HTTPS across your website is important for both your user experience and Googles ranking algorithm.
You provide users confidence and security with your brand using HTTPS, and Google favors your site since it is secure.
An SEMrush study found that approximately 60-65% of websites with HTTPS rank on page one of Google.
Here is a handy infographic from SEMrush showing the 10 HTTPS implementation mistakes that you should fix on your site now.
Step 3: Check your home page’s SEO.
To do this, just ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the page contain a well-crafted, clickable title? Does it conform to the on-page SEO best practices you learned above?
- Is there a custom meta description? Is it optimised for maximising click-throughs?
- Is there one instance of the H1 tag?
- Are subheaders (H2, H3, etc.) properly used and conforming to SEO best practices?
- Is your target keyword included in everything above?
If you answered no to any of these questions, go fix that.
The meta title, or title tag, of a page should be no more than 512px (roughly 55 characters). Otherwise, it gets truncated, or cut off, in search results. Check your page title using the Title Tag Pixel Width Checker mentioned above!
Step 4: Analyze your crawl report.
Once your crawl report is finished, its time to take a look. I used Screaming Frog, but Beam Us Up looks similar:
Basically, youre looking for Client Errors (4xx) (aka broken links), duplicate URLs, missing or duplicate content, missing or duplicate meta descriptions and missing alt text.
If you need more help with Screaming Frog, this guide is fan-freaking-tastic.
Step 5: Ensure unique content.
Google hates duplicate content and it can get you whacked with a penalty ever since Googles Panda algorithm update.
You can easily find potential duplicate content issues across the web with a premium Copyscape account. For $10 you can check up to 200 URLs using their batch tool.
Just grab the URLs from your report and paste them into the batch analyzer.
When its done, youll get a list of all the URLs with the number of duplicate content and a color-coded risk score.
Just click the individual URLs to find the culprits. If its other content on your own site, change it to make it unique.
If its on another site, consider contacting the site owner about it or asking them to link to your original canonical URL.
Step 6: Search for yourself on Google.
First, search Google for your brand name.
Unless youre a brand-new business, you should be the first search result. If not, thats a sign of bigger problems.
If youre not first, some steps you can take to resolve the problem include:
- Building a few strong, branded links (see the link-building section)
- Building some citations on business directories (see the local SEO section)
- Making sure your site has a Google Business listing (see the local SEO section)
- Ensuring your site has a presence on all major social networks
Speaking of social networks, you can use a tool like Narrow.io to help you grow your Twitter account on auto-pilot. Pretty cool, right?
Next, perform a search using the site: operator. For example, site:bigcommerce.com:
This will show you how many pages on your site have been indexed (in this case, 15,000).
This should be fewer than the number of URLs in your crawl report. If there are more, that could signal junk pages being categorized, such as product or site searches, blog category pages, or tag pages.
These pages typically have no content on them and should be noindexed (this tells Google not to index them in search results).
This will free up your sites crawl budget - the number of pages and speed with which Google crawls your site.
Step 7: Analyze search traffic.
Take a look at your Google Analytics reports from the beginning of your sites creation until now.
This will show you if your site was potentially hit with a penalty.
In this case a red flag would be the sudden drop and rise between August and September; however, I happen to know that was due to a redirect looping issue where the page broke.
You can actually use the Panguin SEO Tool to compare your analytics against algorithm updates to see if you may have been penalized. Each of those lines correlates with a Google update. Neat-o!
Step 8: Review Google Search Console.
Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) has lots of great info for our SEO audit.
First, go to Crawl -> Crawl Errors to find any errors Googles indexing robots are having crawling your site.
Looks like I have 22 404 Not Found errors - in other words, links pointing to a page that isnt there.
I actually deleted a lot of these pages, thus why they cant be found. You may also get this from old products no longer on your store.
The best thing to do here is redirect those old pages to related product pages, or category pages (or blog posts, if you have broken blog posts).
Next, go to Search Appearance -> HTML Improvements to find any on-page issues Google found.
This will show things like duplicate content, which you should have picked up already in the crawl. But it doesnt hurt to double-check!
Step 9: Analyze your backlink profile.
Your backlink profile is just a way of analyzing the links pointing to your site. You want to do this to ensure youre not getting spammy links that could get your site penalized.
To perform a backlink profile analysis, log in to Ahrefs, search for your site in their Site Explorer, then click Backlinks in the menu on the left-hand side.
There are three things you should pay attention to here:
- Anchor text (the text that is linked to your site)
- Broken backlinks
- Sleazy links
Let’s start with anchor text.
You can see your anchor text distribution in the overview section of your sites report, not in the backlink section.
You should see a good variety, as opposed to a lot of one word or one phrase (unless its your brand name, which is fine).
Looks like my two biggest are The Wandering RV (my brand name) and Bill Widmer (hey, thats me!).
This is fine.
However, notice how 11% of all my links have the anchor text space-saving techniques. This is because I wrote an article for Lifehack with that backlink, then over a dozen other sites copied the text and stole their blog content.
This could actually hit my site with a penalty. If those sites that copied are low-quality, I should disavow those links (essentially telling Google not to follow them) to avoid a penalty.
Next up, we have broken links (aka easy wins!).
To see your sites broken backlinks, go to Backlinks -> Broken.
Looks like BigCommerce has over 2 million broken backlinks! Lots of potential for scoring some SEO juice there. 🙂
The best thing to do here is to either create a 301 redirect from that page to another relevant page OR contact the site owner and ask them to change the link directly to a more relevant, existing page.
While the latter is a little more powerful (since redirects lose a little link juice), its waaaaay more time-consuming.
Finally, let’s talk about sleazy links.
By sleazy links, I mean links from low-quality sites that are spammy, like the ones I mentioned pointing to my site above.
Again, these can cause Google to penalize you because they may see those links as a PBN (Private Blog Network) or other nefarious black hat tactics.
To find them, just go back to your Backlinks overview and sort the results by DR (Domain Rating) lowest to highest.
All these links with a DR of N/A and a UR of 0 are usually crap. Look for spammy sounding URLs and crappy websites whenever you click to view them.
Step 10: Find opportunities to improve site speed.
Site speed AND crawl speed are both important to your sites ability to rank and user experience. According to a study from Radware, 51 percent of online shoppers in the U.S claimed if a site is too slow they will not complete a purchase.
To get an idea of what you can do to improve your sites speed go to Googles PageSpeed Insights Tool and plug in your URL.
Google will score you on Mobile and Desktop from 1 to 100, and give you steps to speed things up. Check out this guide to improving your sites speed.
However, if you only do one thing, compress your images. Image file sizes can get massive and slow things down, so this one step can make a huge difference.
Fortunately, BigCommerce takes care of this for you by using the built-in Akamai Image Manager.
And thats it! Youre done with your ecommerce SEO audit. Give yourself a pat on the back - this was a lot to take on!
(Keep in mind there are a few other things you can do, like testing your sites structured data and performing a content gap analysis, but those are for another guide.)
Now lets move on to local SEO!
Local SEO for Ecommerce Retailers
While not applicable to everyone, if you have a physical store or just want more local site traffic, local SEO can give you a nice boost.
In this section, Ill cover two things:
- Claiming your Google My Business profile.
- Building local citations.
- Get local links.
1. Claim your Google My Business Profile.
Google has a cool feature called Google My Business, which allows you to put your businesss details into Googles database.
This does a few things, but it mainly allows your business to show up in local search results.
You can show your website information, address, hours of operation, pictures, reviews and more. Its worth checking out!
But if you really want to show up in local results, youll need some local citations.
2. Build local citations.
Local citations are essentially backlinks from other local websites, like news outlets, magazines, press releases and other local media.
For example, claiming your free listing on Yellow Pages would be a local citation.
Citations are important for local SEO because it shows Google that youre popular in your area.
Just as backlinks help SEO in general, backlinks from local sites help local SEO.
This also works with international SEO. If you want your site to rank higher in Australia search results, but your site is hosted in the U.S., youll need more links from Australian sites.
If you really want to rank, you should even consider creating separate sites for each country you are in like Neon Poogle did:
- Neon Poodle AU. http://www.neonpoodle.com.au/
- Neon Poodle US. http://neonpoodle.co/
- Neon Poodle UK. http://neonpoodle.co.uk/
3. Get links on local websites.
Any local links are a great way to build overall domain authority and help local rankings.
Quick wins include local news outlets, charities you support, locally-based blogs and any local associations such as a Chamber of Commerce.
If youre ready to get serious about local SEO, check out Mozs guide to building citations.
Content marketing is my personal favorite kind of marketing. Theres the stats…
- 45% of marketers say blogging is their #1 strategy
- 70% of people would rather learn about a company through an article than an advert
- 68% of consumers feel more positive about a brand after consuming content from it
…but theres also the fact that content is one of the easiest ways for your store to rank for more keywords and build more backlinks.
Think about it - your product and category pages can only rank for so many keywords. Once youve maxed those out, youre not able to cover any more search real estate, so to speak.
Content fills in those gaps. Now you can rank for keywords like best [insert your product here], how to use [your product], and other long-tail keywords that relate to your industry.
For example, I wrote a blog post about the best RV accessories for my blog, The Wandering RV, which now ranks #2 for its keyword.
Once I start selling RV accessories, I can link that page to my product pages and convert more traffic!
Not only does content marketing increase your traffic - and ultimately your sales - it also makes it easier for you to build links to your site and increase your domain authority.
Trust me when I say its a lot easier to build links to high-quality blog content over a product or category page.
So how do you do it?
I suggest you check out this guide - it will walk you through everything from finding the right keywords and topics to writing the content, promoting it and building links!
Alternatively, if you prefer listening to content, check out my podcast episode with Kurt Elster.
I walk you through everything step-by-step so you know exactly how to grow your ecommerce store with content marketing!
Now, were finally on to the most important part of SEO…
Link Building For Online Retailers
There are two ranking factors Google cares about more than anything else…
Backlinks from other websites with high domain authority to your website improves your rankings more than nearly any other ranking factor.
Because they are considered off-page SEO, its a little more complicated and time-consuming than simply making a tweak to your website.
Instead, youll need to collaborate with other bloggers and website owners to acquire those links.
Well talk about four unique link-building opportunities:
- Resource page link building.
- Partnering with influencers.
- Broken link building.
- Stealing competitors links.
While these arent the only link-building methods, theyve been the most effective for me and the easiest to learn.
Lets dive in!
1. Resource page link building.
Resource pages are, for lack of a better definition, pages full of resources around your industry.
They might take the form of a blog post, like this:
Or a static page, like this:
While the latter may not give you a ton of page authority due to the sheer number of links on the page, they are much easier to get and give you some boost in your rankings.
In order to find resource pages, just Google inurl:resources + X (X being your product, topic, or industry).
For example, when doing this for my RV blog, I searched inurl:resources + RV.
Once you find a promising page, add the URL and the sites contact info to a spreadsheet. You can find contact info quickly using a tool like Voila Norbert.
Once you have a good list of leads, its time to send them an email. You can use a template (like the one below), but make sure you customize each email and dont sound robotic.
Hey, [name]!I was looking for some information on [topic] and found your resource page:[URL of resource page]What an awesome list of resources!!
Actually, Id love to add one of my own that I think your readers would love. Its about [topic].Mind if I send you the link to check out?Either way, keep up the awesome work! :)Cheers,[Name]
Honestly, sending lots of these outreach emails sucks. But its the most important step in SEO, and it works.
If you want a hack to save time, I use MailShake to send mass custom emails really quickly. (My record is 100 emails in 45 minutes!)
But dont forget; there are other ways to build links!
2. Partnering with influencers.
Influencers are people in your industry or niche who have a large following and/or a website with a high domain authority but arent competing with you directly.
Youve probably heard of influencer marketing. Partnering with influencers for SEO is a little different, however.
Rather than paying an influencer to share your product on social media, the goal is to get them to link back to your site from their site. This could be a blog post featuring your products, or just getting a link from an existing page on their site.
For example, I used this method to get a link at the bottom of an existing article from Heath and Alyssa, two of the most popular full-time RV bloggers:
I actually met up with them in real life and linked to their blog several times. But you dont need to go through that much effort to get a link most of the time. Instead, just focus on building friendships with influencers.
How can you do that?
- Share and comment on their content
- Send them customers
- Reach out to them and ask questions about their expertise
- Give them free products or other gifts
- There are tons of other ways - just think of it as befriending someone. How can you be that persons friend? Do more of those things.
There are tons of other ways - just think of it as befriending someone. How can you be that persons friend?
Do more of those things.
If youre looking to find more influencers, check out this list of people who are open to partnerships.
Alternatively, you can just start performing Google searches for [your topic] blogs/influencers. Theyre easy to find - thats what makes them influential!
3. Broken link building.
Also called building links by fixing the internet, broken link building is one of the most effective and easy link building tactics.
It works like this:
You use a browser extension like this one to search websites in your niche for broken links. You can check resource pages for a double-whammy, or just check blog posts around your topic.
Any broken links appear highlighted in red, so theyre easy to spot. Once you find one on a site, email the owner something like this:
I was browsing your site today and noticed a broken link on this page:
The broken link is pointing to this:
Just thought youd like to know! 🙂
By the way, I have a great resource on [topic] that I think your readers would love! It might make a great addition to your page:
By the way, I sell [product] and I think your readers would love it! Would you mind mentioning it?
Either way, keep up the great work! 🙂
And thats all there is to it!
Just keep in mind that youll probably need to send a few hundred emails just to get a handful of links, unless youre a link building genius of some kind.
(Aint nobody got time for that. Hire me to do it for you!)
4. Stealing competitors links.
How would you like to improve your rankings while simultaneously pushing out the competition?
Well, you can! All it takes is our handy dandy SEO tool: Ahrefs.
Just as you can use Ahrefs to spy on your competitors keywords, you can also use it to find out where theyre getting all their links from - and try to steal them for your own!
- Plug in their URL into the site explorer.
- Click on the backlinks tab on the left-hand side.
- Filter by One link per domain and link type Dofollow (Dofollow links tell Google to follow them, nofollow links tell Google not to follow them).
Now you can see exactly where your competitors are getting their links, and to what pages. Neat-o!
So how do you steal them?
Well, it depends on the link. If theyre in a blog post - like the 7 Great Gifts for Dachshund Lovers in the example above - you can just reach out to the owner and try to be included.
Send them a free gift to boost your chances!
If the link is coming from a resource page, reach out just like you normally would. If its from the navigation in a site, reach out and see if you can be added as well or replace the other person - they might have a deal worked out where the linkee is giving the linker free gifts or a commission or something.
See if you can partner with them yourself!
Speaking of commissions, you should definitely consider starting an affiliate program to boost your sales and SEO. Its practically free money!
And that wraps up our section on link building. But how do you know if this stuff is even working?
Measuring SEO Success for An Ecommerce Website
If youve ever wondered, How do I know if my SEO efforts are working? youre not alone.
SEO isnt as cut and dry as PPC - you cant immediately calculate ROI after a day of ad spend.
Instead, the signs are more subtle and take a longer time. But what are the signs?
Small increases in rankings.
In order to track your rankings, there are two things you can do:
- Use an SEO tool like Ahrefs to track them.
- Create an SEO dashboard in your analytics account.
I recommend doing both, if possible, but only the second method is free. Lets discuss them!
1. Use Ahrefs to track search rankings.
Ahrefs has a built-in rank tracking feature you can use to be notified whenever your rankings increase or decrease.
In fact, they just enhanced this feature to give even more useful information, like comparing your progress to your competition and seeing your overall search visibility!
While Ive found its not 100% accurate, it does give you a general sense of whether your rankings are overall going up or down.
What youre looking for is a general increase, even a small one, in your rankings for your targeted keywords over time.
Personally, I like to check rankings at least once a week to look for this change, but it can take a few months to really see the fruits of your labor.
2. Use Google Analytics to measure organic traffic and engagement metrics.
If you want a free method to see search ranking improvements, or just want more data (which cant hurt), install this free SEO dashboard to your analytics.
Here, rather than looking for direct ranking improvements, youre looking for more subtle clues…
- Increases in search traffic
- The landing page that search traffic is reaching
These two pieces of information can be used to determine which keywords youre ranking for
Then, you can perform an incognito Google search to see where youre at (incognito mode keeps Google from using your personal search history to change results).
Once youve found yourself, you know where you stand - if youre not using Ahrefs, make a note of your current position so you can track it over time.
Again, youre looking for slight increases. If you go from page 5 to page 2, thats a big hint youre doing something right and your efforts will soon pay off.
Its also important to measure where your organic traffic is coming from: desktop or mobile?
SEMrush discovered that for certain ecommerce verticals the percentage of organic traffic can vary.
Desktop vs Mobile Organic Traffic by Ecommerce Verticals
Desktop performs well in:
- Health is 60.65% of traffic
- Furniture is 59.59% of traffic
- Food/Nearfood is 58.75% of traffic
- Children is 58.34% of traffic
Mobile performs well in:
- Electronics is 44.78% of traffic
- Jewelry is 44.7% of traffic
- Travel is 44.11% of traffic
- Flowers is 42.85% of traffic
For ecommerce, people tend to perform research on desktops. Preliminary research may be done on mobile but this also leads to more desktop searches.
This is important because you want your pages to be optimized for the best visitor experience.
Google is moving toward a mobile-first index so all ecommerce sites should makes sure their sites are optimized of this major change moving forward.
And thats about all there is to it!
Give yourself a big pat on the back; this was a pretty dense read.
Be sure to come back to this guide to ecommerce SEO often, as you cant do it all in one go!
Before I leave you, though, Id like to inspire you with a few ecommerce SEO case studies.
Ecommerce SEO Case Studies
Just to help you see whats possible and get you excited, I wanted to share some success stories.
Rather than running through each individual ecommerce SEO case study, Ill just give you an overview on how they did it.
How to perform an update and optimize your SEO:
- Find your best keywords (both commercial keywords for your product and category pages, and long-tail keywords for your blog content).
- Match the right keywords to the right pages on your site.
- Optimize your site by performing an SEO audit, fixing your sites architecture (if its not ideal), reducing thin content and doing everything you can to optimize your crawl budget.
- Enhancing your sites on-page SEO and creating or updating content to be the best result for its target keywords, being sure to link back to your most important product pages.
- If necessary, building white-hat links to your most important pages.
- Sit back and watch as the money starts pouring in!
That sounds oversimplified - and in some ways it is - but SEO is often unnecessarily complicated.
Just remember that Googles goal is to provide the best possible search results, so if you make that your goal, youll win in the long run.
There are only so many ways to get traffic - social media, paid ads, email or search.
Search traffic is the only one of these ways thats reliable, free and fairly easy to get.
If you want your site to get hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors, you need to learn ecommerce SEO today.
A simple SEO campaign can result in hundreds of extra sales. And it doesnt have to take you years to achieve, either.
Follow the steps in this guide and youll be leagues above your competition. Youll start to rank on the first page - and even in the top 3 results - for all your shops main keywords. It really is a no-brainer.
If you found this guide helpful, please take a moment to share it so we can help as many store owners as possible grow their business!
And if youre feeling overwhelmed or dont have time for all this SEO stuff, reach out to me. Im more than happy to help! 🙂
Do you have any questions or know other ecommerce SEO best practices? Leave a comment below! Lets keep the conversation going.