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10 E-Commerce SEO Tips Every Online Retailer Should Know

Insights September 21, 2017

Picture this: You spend months (maybe years) finding your niche, building your brand, and creating your website. You’re convinced the customers will start rolling in as soon as the products are uploaded and the website is launched. But days turn into weeks, then into months. You’ve made a few sales but you’re not getting the volume of customers nor the success you predicted.

E-commerce SEO Tips For Better Visibility

With the increase in competition amongst online retailers, you have to go the extra mile. In order for your site to be profitable, it needs to have exposure. That means optimizing your e-commerce website for search engines like Google and doing it better than your competitors.

1.    Marry Pay-Per-Click (PPC) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Relying solely on PPC advertising has a downside. While paying to get your site noticed might seem like the easiest and fastest route, you could be losing money without even knowing it. Using keywords that are too broad may result in unwanted clicks, causing ad spend without any return on your investment. Paying for advertisements only allows your ad to be up temporarily (as long as you keep paying for it).

Concentrate on search engine optimization and organic ranking as a long-term and sustainable approach that will yield better click-through rate performance over time. This is where careful keyword and competitor research comes into play for maximum paid and organic visibility. A great place to start is determining which paid keywords are driving the greatest conversions.

Pro Tip: Combining PPC and SEO will yield greater search engine real estate, potentially capturing more than one spot on the coveted first page of Google.

2.   Use Alt Text For Your Images

Too many e-commerce websites are guilty of not optimizing their alt text for their images. Google uses robots to “crawl” your site and these robots are unable to visually  “see” your images. Adding descriptive and keyword-rich alt text helps them determine relevance and, ultimately, search engine visibility.

Pro Tip: Adding alt text also improves your chances of ranking higher in Google’s image search, another excellent and underutilized source of visibility and website traffic.

3. Create Unique Product Descriptions

What better way to convince potential buyers to commit to a purchase than with a product’s captivating description? Use unique descriptions to increase organic traffic through keyword-rich content, especially if your competitors dropped the ball here. Having more details and information about an individual product can also increase consumer trust and confidence during purchase decisions.

However, using the same product descriptions over and over, along with copying descriptions from the manufacturer are not recommended. Google recognizes duplicated content across the web and devalues it, which can hurt your rankings and your credibility.

4. Website Architecture With Purpose

Your e-commerce website should be organized like the folders on your computer’s desktop. Let’s use a hypothetical scenario with a primary folder called “Bills.” Inside your Bills folder, you could have all of your bills and receipts, but that could get messy and hard to navigate.

Instead, you’d be better suited to include subfolders inside for things like “Automobile” or “Home” expenses. Going even deeper, maybe you have subfolders within these subfolders for different years, specific payments, and so on.

The same holds true for an e-commerce website’s architecture to properly distribute authority and relevance, as well as deliver an exceptional user experience for customers. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to get to any page or product on your website in three clicks or less and have breadcrumbs to support search engine crawling and user navigation. See the two examples below and choose which is easiest to navigate and understand forward and backward for a user and search engine spiders.

Poor Example: www.example.com/products/2017/collections/winter/heathered-sweater-red

Good Example: www.example.com/women/sweaters/heathered-crewneck-sweater

 

Pro Tip: If you change your permalinks, make sure to 301 redirect the old URL to the new one. This will preserve and transfer existing referral traffic and authority to the new URL.

5. Genuine Customer Reviews With Schema Markup

Did you know that millennials place a significant amount of trust and make purchase decisions based on previous customer reviews? They also love to shop online. Real customer reviews can provide a ton of value for purchase conversions, honest feedback about products/services, and much more.

If you already have reviews set up, have you implemented proper Schema markup? Doing so will allow your ratings (stars and/or numbers) to show up in the Google search results pages, and has been correlated with increased click-through rates.

The more reviews you have the better, it shows popularity and brand engagement, so encourage them. Just make sure the reviews are honest and real (don’t delete any negative ones), and monitor them to correct any customer issues. Failure to do so could result in poor reputation management over time.

6. Use Helpful Videos for Increased Engagement

Engagement metrics like bounce rate and dwell time, pages per session, and average time on page, are important for search engine visibility. Providing video reviews can help improve these metrics while also entertaining, educating, and answering common consumer questions.

The idea of video production shouldn’t be scary to your marketing team any longer. The barriers to creating professional videos have been significantly reduced through freelance sites and even the cost of equipment to do it yourself. Plus, you can use the videos to populate your YouTube Channel or for other marketing needs.

7. Results-Driven Content Marketing

Brands often create a blog because they believe they’re supposed to, not because they have a specific plan with it. What starts out as a good idea typically leads to just another place to talk about their products and talk at the consumer.

Instead, an e-commerce blog should be an opportunity to capture interest at the earlier stages of the modern purchase funnel – which has become increasingly convoluted. I’m talking about the Discover, Explore, Buy and Engage stages. Your e-commerce product pages likely only handle the Buy stage. The rest need help from your employees and some carefully curated content, which a blog or other content resource can effectively accomplish.

People may not even know your brand exists, or that they need your product yet. This is where content can satiate the appetite of customers at various stages. See the example below for an idea on how to leverage e-commerce content marketing. Note that each of your content pieces should be backed by thorough keyword and competitive research.

Example Brand: Stellar Sunglasses

Content Examples:

  1. What are the benefits of polarized sunglasses?
  2. Stellar Sunglasses vs. [insert other competitors here]
  3. Baby eye protection and sunglasses
  4. UVA and UVB protection explained

This type of content educates, is linkable, increases your number of indexed pages in Google, and it has search volume behind it. It also allows the opportunity for more brand discovery for Stellar Sunglasses and email captures for future email marketing campaigns.

8. Track, Track, Track

If you don’t have Google Analytics for e-commerce setup, go do it right now. The more data you have, the easier it is to draw conclusions and make smart business decisions. Google Analytics allows you to track where and how someone entered your site, where they left from, how much money you’re making per channel, their location, device, gender, age and so much more. This information is so valuable!

You will need someone who is proficient in Google Analytics to set up smart goals and assign various dollar values and goal completion milestones in the customer journey.

Let’s talk about a few scenarios:

  • Analytics may show you an increase in traffic from mobile devices in a specific geographic region and conversions are high. This may be an excellent sign to add a PPC campaign and increase traffic from this audience.
  • What if Analytics shows a high proportion of visitors abandoning their carts and leaving your website before completing their purchase? You may want to experiment with free shipping if that’s putting customers off from a purchase.
  • Lastly, Analytics could alert you to your most popular organic traffic landing pages. Explore which keywords are bringing in the traffic, where you currently rank and make sure each keyword matches the intent of your page. You should also re-evaluate and optimize your on-page SEO to support the ones that are high converting and have room to grow in the search results.

9. Make Your Website Fast and Secure

Don’t skimp on hosting and make sure your e-commerce website is secured with an HTTPS certificate. Google has publicly confirmed it’s a small ranking signal too. As an added benefit, visitors and customers will feel safer making a transaction with a website that encrypts their personal information.

One of the quickest ways to lose the attention of a new visitor is a slow loading website.Take a look at Google’s PageSpeed tools, especially for mobile, and see which areas you need to address. One of the most common page speed issues for e-commerce websites is large image file sizes that are not optimized for the web.

10. Off Page Search Engine Optimization

When, and only when, you have at least completed basic on-page SEO and content requirements should you start an off-page SEO campaign. These campaigns can build awareness and backlinks to your product pages when executed properly.

Backlinks from other websites provide direct referral traffic opportunities (discoverable in Google Analytics) and increase authority and trust. Each backlink acts as a vote of confidence within Google’s search algorithm. Focus on quality over quantity, acquiring backlinks from websites that are authoritative and trustworthy.

Pro Tip: Search in Google for your brand’s name, founders, employees, and lists of similar products or groupings of brands to explore backlink opportunities from existing content.

Some of these tips are easier to implement than others, but all are important optimizations for a successful e-commerce store. Competition is fierce, and you have to be willing to put in the extra time to make your store better than everyone else vying for the same keywords and rankings in Google.

Look at your website objectively, as if you were a customer, sometimes this can help identify content gaps and other roadblocks holding you back from increased sales and exposure. Don’t look at just how far you have to go either, but how far you’ve already come, and continue improving, tracking, and monitoring your results.

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