Attracting consistent, high-quality traffic to your online store is a priority for every ecommerce business owner. The best way to do this is to have your products appear in the top spots on search engine results pages (SERPs). This is where ecommerce SEO comes into play.
To get your products seen by as many buyers as possible, it’s essential that you optimize your website for those search engines. But constantly changing algorithms and seemingly complicated processes can be intimidating for novice and experienced business owners alike.
In this comprehensive guide to ecommerce SEO, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about optimizing your online store. We’ll give you insights into how this practice can help your business and the various tactics you can use to improve your website’s SEO, and provide some extra recommendations for optimizing your domain.
What Is Ecommerce SEO?
Simply put, ecommerce SEO – or search engine optimization – is the optimization of online stores for search engines. This practice helps to ensure that your online store is highly visible on SERPs when users search for specific products.
Ecommerce SEO is one of the best ecommerce marketing strategies to grow your online business. It involves optimizing certain elements of your website to make it more easily crawlable for search engines and improve the user experience. These elements include website structure and navigation, metadata, product descriptions, images, and other features.
Why Does SEO Matter for Ecommerce Websites?
The better your ecommerce SEO, the higher up your website and products can appear in search results. The better your positions on SERPs, the more customers are likely to click through to your online store and potentially make a purchase.
Of course, you can also attract the attention of buyers using paid advertising. However, it can be tough – and expensive – to compete with bigger brands for the limited ad spaces available for particular search terms. Ecommerce SEO can help you to save money you may otherwise have had to spend on advertising.
Another big advantage is that your pages will be served up to users early on in the buying lifecycle when they first realize that they need or want a specific product. Having your products consistently appear in search as a buyer moves from awareness to consideration will instill a sense of confidence in your brand. This will put you in the running to be their supplier of choice.
When a potential buyer clicks on a link to one of your products and is taken to your website, SEO drivers like faster load times and easier navigation will enhance the shopping experience on your website.
How to Develop an Ecommerce SEO Strategy
Optimizing an ecommerce website is a massive task. Whether you’re just setting up your online store or you already have a site populated with products, getting started with ecommerce SEO can feel overwhelming at first.
Before you get down to the nitty gritty, there are a couple of steps you can take to ensure that you’re focusing your efforts in a way that will reap the most rewards:
- Identify priority pages: Dive into your website’s analytics and identify which pages get the most traffic. If you’re still setting your site up or don’t have enough data to make an informed decision, focus on the pages that feature your flagship products.
- Plan your process: There are many steps to follow when you’re carrying out ecommerce SEO. Fortunately, the workflow you use can be replicated from page to page. Having a clear plan will help you to reduce the time you spend optimizing and help to ensure that you don’t miss any steps.
- Perform competitor research: Just like other aspects of business, it’s wise to get an idea of what your competitors are doing in terms of ecommerce SEO. Understanding how similar outlets are optimizing their sites and where they’re ranking in search can help to guide your efforts.
Once you’ve prioritized your pages, created a workflow, and carried out competitor research, you can follow the strategy set out below.
1. Find Ecommerce SEO Keywords
Keyword research is the foundation of ecommerce SEO. It will affect every other aspect of your online store’s SEO strategy, from how you structure URLs to how you name images and describe your products.
Figuring out which keywords are most relevant to your website will help you to understand demand and elevate your SEO. Plus, it will ensure that you’re able to create a list of keywords that you can prioritize to help you reach your marketing and sales goals.
There are a few ways you can find keywords that will help your ecommerce SEO efforts. The best place to start is to think of a few root keywords that are relevant to the products you want to sell.
Once you have a rough idea of the keywords that will work, you can find further suggestions using search engines, existing ecommerce websites, and keyword research tools.
Let’s consider a practical example. Claudia starts Claudia’s Closet, an online fashion retailer for women. She plans to sell a variety of items, including t-shirts, blouses, jeans and other pants, skirts, and shoes like sneakers and high heels.
Knowing what she wants to stock in her store, Claudia can use these broad terms as a starting point to figure out more targeted keywords. She decides to do a bit of research around high heels, using Google and Amazon search suggestions to get started.
Claudia also decides to use some keyword research tools. Keyword research tools are useful for identifying keywords that will be most beneficial for your business by providing an overview of:
- Search volume: How many users are searching a particular keyword. The higher the volume, the more potential traffic these keywords could bring to your online store.
- Competition: How difficult it is to rank for a keyword based on the number of other websites targeting that phrase and how authoritative those sites are.
A good rule of thumb is to look for relevant keywords that have a high volume but low competition.
There are a variety of free-to-use and paid keyword research tools that you can use to find appropriate terms and phrases to target. Your business’s budget will be a major factor in determining which is best for you.
AnswerThePublic, Moz Keyword Explorer, and Google Keyword Planner are all great free options for keyword research. Paid options like Ahrefs, Semrush and Longtail Pro will provide deeper insights for a fee.
It’s important to keep search intent in mind when you’re performing keyword research for your online store.
Non-commercial websites (i.e. those that aren’t selling products) focus on informational keywords as they attract visitors by providing useful information based on search queries. For ecommerce sites, on the other hand, commercial keywords are most important.
Commercial keywords indicate buying intent and route searchers to appropriate products. Let’s continue with the example of Claudia’s Closet to gain a deeper understanding of these types of SEO keywords.
One of the products Claudia intends to sell are high-heeled shoes. She finds that the keyword phrase ‘high heels vs stilettos’ has a good balance between search volume and competition.
However, when she types the term into her favorite search engine, she finds that the results it serves up are pages that detail the different types of high-heeled shoes, including stilettos, rather than online stores that are selling high heels or stilettos.
Claudia reframes her search to focus more on the features of the high heels she wants to sell. She finds that using the color and style of the high heels in her search terms (e.g. red high heels or red stilettos) yields better results for her ecommerce store. This is because the term indicates the searcher’s intent to find – and possibly buy – a pair of high heels.
2. Structure Your Site for Ecommerce SEO
Your website’s architecture – the way that the pages are organized and arranged – has a big effect on how your site will rank on SERPs and your user experience. You want to make it as easy as possible for search engines to crawl your website. This also makes it easier for shoppers to navigate your online store and find the items that they want to buy.
The number of pages on ecommerce sites as well as the overlap between some products and categories can present a challenge here. Following the golden rules of ecommerce site structure can help to ensure that your store is easy to crawl and navigate:
- Keep your architecture simple and scalable
- Ensure that shoppers can navigate to your home page with a maximum of three clicks
A great first step is to create a hierarchical structure for your pages with your home page at the top. Then create broad categories that will act as the second tier of the structure and narrow those down in lower tiers.
Once again, we can refer to Claudia’s Closet for some practical guidance. When Claudia is setting up her website, she looks at the products she wants to sell and identifies four broad categories that these items fall into: tops, bottoms, outerwear, and shoes.
Next, she thinks about the different types of tops, bottoms, and shoes she’ll be offering to her customers. She decides to make the following product groups:
- Tops: T-shirts, blouses, and jerseys
- Bottoms: Shorts, pants, and skirts
- Outerwear: Jackets and coats
- Shoes: Sandals, sneakers, and high heels
From this, Claudia is able to map out the structure of her website. She can easily create a sleek main menu and add navigation breadcrumbs (a string of links showing the user where they are on the site, e.g. Home > Bottoms > Skirts) to enhance the user experience and crawlability. Plus, her site will be easily scalable if she adds more subcategories and products.
3. Get Your Online Store’s Technical SEO Straight
Although it’s mostly invisible to shoppers, technical ecommerce SEO makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site and enhances the user experience. Both of which will help to drive more organic traffic to your store and increase the likelihood that customers will buy your products.
There are three areas that you can focus on to improve your technical SEO: crawlability, responsive design, and page speed. Some of these factors are interdependent, so we’ll take a closer look below.
Crawlability refers to the ease with which a search engine can access your website and scour its pages for information. Getting this area of technical ecommerce SEO right is relatively straightforward – especially if your website has a simple, hierarchical structure.
Steps you can take to improve your online store’s crawlability:
- Submit your sitemap to Google Search Console
- Use menus to create a logical internal linking structure
- Improve your website’s load times
Responsive websites are designed to be used on mobile devices. Mcommerce – online transactions made via mobile devices – accounts for 44% of ecommerce purchases. Plus, search engines like Google make responsiveness a key factor for determining search ranking.
These factors make responsive design an imperative if you want your ecommerce SEO to succeed.
Numerous studies have shown that you’ll lose more than half of your website visitors if your page takes more than three seconds to load. You can use tools like Google Search Console and Google Page Speed Insights to check how quickly your pages load, the factors that might be affecting this metric, and suggested solutions.
Images are usually a big factor in slowing down ecommerce site speeds. We’ll take a closer look at how you can optimize these on-page elements in the next section.
4. Implement On-Page SEO for Your Ecommerce Website
Once you’ve identified target keywords and taken care of the technical SEO for your online store, it’s time to start optimizing your product pages.
A URL is one of the primary tools for helping both humans and search engines figure out where they are on your website.
Once again, simplicity is key. Your web address should be short and straightforward. When you look at the URL, it should tell you the product category and the product type in 60 characters or fewer. If you can fit a keyword into that count, that’s a bonus!
Avoid using stop words (and, of, the, a) in the string and separate words with a hyphen rather than a space. Spaces will show up as %20 in a URL, which can be confusing for shoppers.
The meta title (also known as the title tag) and the meta description are two vital pieces of metadata. These elements help both search engines and users better understand whether your webpage is relevant.
As the name suggests, meta titles are used to name website pages. They appear on SERPs and are used by search engines to categorize your site’s pages. Meta descriptions provide short explanations about what a user might find on a particular page.
Use a keyword in the meta title and description. Be as descriptive as possible about the content a shopper might find on the page while keeping copy succinct. Meta titles are best kept to 60 characters or fewer, while meta descriptions should top out at around 150 characters.
You may also want to consider adding words that signal certain offers or deals to your meta title and description. These terms will likely drive users to click on your website rather than a competitors’. For example:
- X% off
- Free shipping
Search engines value unique content. You’ll want to ensure that the product descriptions, features, and other information for each item is different from the others on your website. Of course, this can be challenging to do when you have multiple products that are relatively similar.
Let’s consider Claudia’s Closet once again. Rather than simply describing the type of shoe (e.g. red high heel), Claudia adds the name of the designer who makes the shoe, information about the type of heel like the shape and height, as well as the material it’s made from.
These additions help to differentiate each product page and improve the user experience by giving customers more information about the product they’re looking at. So it’s a win for search engines and shoppers.
Keywords are another important on-page SEO feature. You can identify a primary search term as well as related keywords for each of your products. While it would be ideal to have completely unique keywords for each page, this isn’t necessarily possible with an ecommerce store that has a variety of similar products.
Here, you’ll need to take care to avoid keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing happens where you repeatedly use the same words or phrases across your website content in a bid to rank for those keywords. This practice makes website copy pretty unpleasant for humans to read, so will likely result in users clicking away from your pages and cultivate a high bounce rate.
Search engines will pick up a high repetition of keywords as well as the increased bounce rate. Your site will be penalized for this and fall in rankings, as it’s a clear sign your content isn’t written with readers in mind.
Fortunately, there is some leniency when it comes to product pages as the nature of these items means there’s likely to be overlap with keywords and descriptions. For ecommerce SEO, it’s often best to use broader keywords on category pages (like ‘shoes’ or ‘high heels’ in the case of Claudia’s Closet) and more specific, long tail keywords on individual product pages.
It’s also a good idea to include schema markup on your product pages. This code helps search engines to identify certain attributes – like price and availability – related to your products. It can also help them to ensure they appear as rich snippets and in other areas (e.g. Google Shopping) on SERPs.
The most important thing to remember when writing your page content is to put the reader first. Above all else, you need to ensure that the users visiting your website are getting all of the information they need in the most efficient way possible.
Images are extremely important for ecommerce websites. They provide visual information to users and most shoppers will use them to identify whether they want to buy your product.
While they are useful, images can seriously slow your site’s speed. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways that you can optimize your product pictures to minimize their effect on load times:
- Format: Small file sizes can come at the expense of quality, but there are image formats (e.g. JPEG and WebP) that offer the best of both worlds.
- Dimensions: Large images will take longer to load, but smaller images may be difficult to see. Try to find image dimensions that work across devices while minimizing file size.
- File names and alt text: Use short, descriptive image names and alt text to ensure that search engines know what you’re showing your shoppers.
5. Consider Content Marketing for Your Online Store
Content marketing is one of the simplest and most effective ways to increase your visibility in search and attract potential buyers to your store.
Blogging, in particular, can help you to rank for informational keywords that position your business as an expert in your industry and build its authority. Offering helpful information to users who are higher up in the sales funnel can drive them to choose your brand over a competitor who doesn’t provide the same value.
Blog posts also present a great opportunity to strengthen your link-building strategy. Adding internal links to blog posts will give search engines a better idea of what your pages are about. Plus, they can help to keep users on your site for longer, both of which enhance your overall ecommerce SEO.
Well-written articles also present backlinking opportunities. Other websites will be more likely to link to yours when your website provides useful information on topics about which your business is positioned as an expert. This helps to build page and domain authority, which will improve your overall ranking in search.
Best Practices for Your Ecommerce SEO Strategy
There’s a lot to keep in mind when devising and implementing an ecommerce SEO strategy for your online store. Here are a few best practices you can follow to ensure that your ecommerce website is top of the pops on SERPs.
Design Your Site With Shoppers In Mind
First and foremost, your ecommerce site exists to sell products to your customers. A poor user experience will likely lead to shoppers clicking away from your site, which will result in reduced sales for your business.
When users arrive on a web page and navigate away before taking any action, this is known as a ‘bounce.’ When a large number of visitors do this, your webpage will have a high bounce rate. This has a negative impact on your engagement metrics and will affect your position in the search results.
Tips for enhancing the user experience:
- Choose an uncluttered design that puts your products front and center.
- Make navigation easy using well-structured URLs, menus, and breadcrumbs.
- Optimize images and apply technical SEO principles to improve page load time.
Create Unique, Useful Content
Whether human or machine, nobody wants to read repetitive, irrelevant content. First, ensure that the target keywords for your product pages speak to your customers’ search intent. Then write informative product descriptions that will help them to make a purchase decision.
How to create great ecommerce content:
- Perform in-depth keyword research
- Add structured data to your pages to help search engines better understand your offering
- Include user reviews to assist shoppers in making a purchase decision
Optimize, Optimize, Optimize
Ecommerce SEO is an ongoing initiative. Search engines regularly make adjustments to their algorithms that affect search ranking and customers’ shopping habits change.
Home in on opportunities for optimization:
- Use analytics tools to continually monitor your website’s overall performance
- Make iterative changes to pages based on your observations
- Monitor keyword trends and target high-impact terms
- Track what your competitors are doing, what’s working for them, and how you can potentially take advantage of those strategies
The Best Way for an Ecommerce Business to Accept Payments
A measured ecommerce SEO strategy will ensure that your brand and products are seen by shoppers around the globe. With Pay.com, you can rest assured that your business will have everything it needs to accept payments from customers all over the world.
Our full-service payment infrastructure lets you offer a variety of payment methods at checkout, including credit and debit cards, digital wallets like PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, as well as ACH transfers and more.
Whether you’re just starting out with selling online or you have an established ecommerce store, you can easily use Pay.com to accept payments. Our no-code solution is perfect for beginners, while developers will be delighted by our API.
Pay.com’s security and authentication features will also give your customers peace of mind that their information remains secure while shielding your business from potential fraud. All credit card details are tokenized in transit in line with our Level 1 PCI DSS compliance, while 3D Secure 2.0 authentication reduces the risk of fraudulent transactions.
The Bottom Line
Ecommerce SEO is an indispensable tool for any retailer operating online. It increases your website’s visibility in search results, which helps to attract new customers. Plus, the enhanced user experience it aids in creating will likely keep your buyers coming back for more.
It’s important to keep in mind that ecommerce SEO is a long game. It’s unlikely that you’ll see immediate results, but sticking with it will bring big rewards. Taking a measured approach to this practice will ensure that you tick all of the most essential ecommerce SEO boxes and stay on track.
Don’t forget about other website optimization opportunities, either. You can significantly improve your user experience by providing your customers with a seamless, secure checkout process where they can use their favorite payment methods.
Pay.com’s flexible, scalable platform is perfect for all types and sizes of ecommerce business. Our full-service payment infrastructure allows you to accept a variety of payment methods in just a few clicks. Your Pay Dashboard gives you valuable customer insights that allow you to optimize your business decisions.