SEO is one of the most powerful digital marketing tools available to brands of all niches and sizes, but it isn’t as popular as you may think. Believe it or not, 70% of businesses still don’t have an SEO strategy.
For a growing eCommerce store, that couldn’t be better news. It means there’s less competition standing in your way on your rise to the top. They just need to know what they’re doing.
Let’s talk about SEO for eCommerce and how to get the most out of your strategy!
The Basics of SEO for eCommerce
If you aren’t entirely sure what SEO is, let’s briefly explain it before we discuss its role in eCommerce marketing. Search engine optimization (SEO) is how brands optimize their website content for search engines like Google.
In a nutshell, Google uses software known as crawlers to crawl through and index trillions of pages across the internet, and they do this all the time. The goal with SEO is to meet the standards of the algorithm they use so that, when it comes time to index your site, you can outrank your competitors on search engine results pages (SERPs).
If that sounds overly technical, it really isn’t. By using the right keywords, having a strong UX design, and a few off-page ranking factors, you can easily rank higher on the SERPs for whatever terms you want. For example, a used car dealership is likely to try ranking for keywords like “user car near me”, “used Toyota Tundra near me”, or other relevant phrases that potential customers may search.
For eCommerce stores, this process is essential. Without SEO, you’re missing out on one of the primary sources of organic traffic across the web, and you’re dooming your business to rely on ads for the long run. That’s why it’s important to get started with SEO right away, so let’s talk about the important factors in SEO.
Strong Web Design & Usability
If your SEO strategy is akin to building a house, then your web development is the foundation. An SEO strategy can only go as far as the quality of its website, so it’s important to invest in this early on. Google’s algorithm uses over 200 ranking factors directly related to the quality of your website.
While that may sound daunting at first, we promise that it’s pretty straightforward. For the most part, you’ll only have to worry about developing:
- Fast page loading times
- Mobile-friendly design
- A clean navigation system
- A proper linking structure
- A legible page structure
- Original content with the right keywords
- Features functioning as designed (no broken links, errors, etc.)
As we said, there are more factors involved, but these will get you pretty far with your SEO strategy. However, an overall UX web design will help carry your strategy to the top. Here are some helpful tips.
Build a Clear Sales Funnel
Landing pages for both your paid and organic traffic need to have a clear funnel leading toward your desired product or other conversion. The more challenging it is for users to navigate through this funnel, the more users you will lose. Okay, but how does this pertain to SEO?
First, building conversions is worth the effort in itself, as it directly impacts your bottom line. However, improving your user engagement will have a direct impact on your SEO strategy, so you may as well try to direct traffic where you want them to go. Make sure that your page structure, navigation system, and links are all legible, clear, and functioning as designed!
Fix Broken Links and Errors
There are tools you can use that will help you find these, but we’ll get into them later on. 404 errors, broken links, redirects, and other broken features can do a lot of harm to your SEO strategy, so it’s important not to leave them for long. Over time, these are inevitable, so it’s always best to have the right website management services for ongoing repairs.
Optimize for Mobile Devices
One of the best SEO practices for eCommerce sites is to optimize for the devices where most of your sales will come from. It should come as no surprise that the majority of web traffic comes from mobile devices. We keep them on us at all times, so why wouldn’t we use them when we need to shop?
Well, that puts the responsibility on business owners to ensure that their websites are optimized for mobile users. If you’re unsure about the mobile-friendliness of your site, use the Google Mobile-Friendly Test and see how it performs. From there, examine your site from a mobile device to see how everything conforms for a better understanding.
Improve Loading Times
Most users will exit a site within just a couple of seconds if it doesn’t load, and Google knows this well. For that reason, page speed is a significant ranking factor that is constantly tested by Google’s crawlers. It’s important to keep your pages loading as quickly as possible, especially for eCommerce stores.
Develop a Killer Content Marketing Strategy
The next pillar of an SEO strategy is your content marketing. If your website is the foundation, then your content marketing strategy is the structure of the house itself.
So, why is a content marketing strategy so important? Aren’t we just trying to sell products?
While that is the end goal, you have to keep in mind that not every user is searching for specific products or stores. More often than not, they search for information first. By offering that information, you can then attempt to convert them into paying customers, which is the whole point of an SEO strategy.
For example, if you’re selling solar generators, you may have blog posts about “off-grid living”, “home backup”, or “portable power”. This way, when people search for “off-grid living power solutions” or “alternatives to gas generators”, they may find your site. From there, you can easily direct them to the products that can solve their problems, which is a win-win for both of you!
However, there are some important factors for a successful SEO content marketing strategy. Here’s what you need to know.
When it comes to web design, content marketing, keyword research, backlinks, and every other aspect of your SEO strategy, competitor research is essential. Without it, you’re running a race, and you’re the only one blindfolded.
Fortunately, all the information you need is readily available to you, as their website is available to the public! Taking the time to plug their URLs into your favorite keyword research tools, backlink checkers, and more can give you all of the insight you need to get ahead.
This can help you generate new topic ideas, improve your usability features, and so much more. Most importantly, it will tell you what you are trying to compete against. This is important information if you want to get ahead!
Find the Right Keywords
Keyword research is essential for any SEO strategy, and it’s a lot easier than you’d think. To start, simply brainstorm some of the obvious keywords that you would want users to search for and find you. These could be specific products, product niches (car parts, outdoor gear, etc.), or additional services you offer through your store.
Once you have these, you can plug them into any keyword research tool online to find related keywords. Ideally, you want to find the keywords with the lowest competition and highest search volume. Assuming they are relevant to your niche, these are the easiest ones to rank ahead of.
However, the most important tip is to aim for diversity. The broader the list, the better.
It will take time to rank for short-tail keywords like “outdoor gear”, as it has too much competition. If that time ever comes, you’ll be all set! However, aiming for long-tail keywords in the short-term is always a good idea, as they are typically highly relevant to your niche and more likely to convert!
“Fluff” is filler content that’s used to inflate the word count of your content. Having a high word count can help your content’s SEO value, but only if it’s relevant content that serves a purpose. A 3,000-word article full of well-written, concise content about a product will rank higher than a 500-word article on the same topics (all things equal).
However, if the 3,000-word piece is full of redundancies and fluff, Google will likely penalize the content, even if it manages to rank higher in the short term. This is known as the Panda Penalty, which was part of Google’s strategy to eliminate web spam and “black hat” SEO tactics.
To eliminate fluff, start by having something to say at all times. There’s no substitute for thorough research and concise, informative content.
Once the content is ready, always review the content thoroughly and eliminate anything that doesn’t belong. If your content is full of transition phrases, repeat sentences, or redundancies, remove them.
Keep in mind that just because it isn’t entirely relevant doesn’t mean it’s fluff. Adding a joke in parentheses or a call-to-action at the end may not be 100% on-topic, but it does serve a purpose for the reader, which is all you need your content to do. If it doesn’t serve a purpose or add value to the user in any way, eliminate it.
For eCommerce stores, it can be difficult to get ahead of your competitors with the same type of content, especially when you share several products. Essentially, getting ahead of a blog with another blog doesn’t always work.
You can always try building different types of content in an attempt to stand out. For example, video content is a great way to review products, demonstrate their use, or learn how to set them up! This could help you offer all of the quality your users need, as well as skip the line on search engine results pages (SERPs).
If you’ve noticed on SERPs before, there are usually 1 to 4 advertisements, followed by a map, directory, or organic content. Then, there’s often a carousel of images or videos. Well, since these appear on the first page, it could be your ticket to the first page on the SERPs if you’re lagging behind on written content.
Let’s say you notice a void in video content on a specific product. If there are only one or two competitors ranking for it, then that’s all you’ll need to beat! As you create more video content, it will get easier and easier to stay ahead of the competition.
After reading this and learning more about developing a strong content marketing strategy, sit down with your team and develop a clear strategy. Generally speaking, an SEO checklist for eCommerce sites should include:
- Content marketing budget
- Type of content you want to build
- Time frame
- Keywords you want to rank for
- How often (and when) to post new content
There may be other factors to consider, but this is a good start. Try to develop a clear strategy with a realistic timeframe and budget before launching your strategy.
Website quality, content marketing, and off-page ranking factors. You’ve laid the foundation and built the house. Now, it’s time to hold it together by building backlinks.
We won’t sugarcoat it, building backlinks is typically the hardest part of an eCommerce SEO strategy. Most websites will want to link directly to the manufacturer or an impartial review site rather than a third-party seller. However, that means that it’s just as hard for your competitors.
For that reason, building backlinks to your product pages, product review pages (or other content), or anywhere in your sales funnel can set you apart from your competition. If your competitors lack backlinks, then building backlinks could be the difference between the first page and the second. Here are some strategies to build backlinks
Build Quality Content
To start out, the best way to build backlinks by far is to build quality content that other sites will want to link to. Google’s algorithm wants you to build organic backlinks, so giving them what they want is the best long-term strategy. There are ways to speed up the process, which we will get into, but this step is essential.
Follow the guidelines above for building quality content and you will eventually get links. Google doesn’t expect newer sites to have backlinks right away, so don’t worry if it takes a little time to build. Just be consistent, focus on quality, and the links will come.
Check Your Competitors’ Backlinks
This is a very helpful strategy that offers you a list of “hot leads” for potential backlinks. If you build quality website content that’s better than your competitors, you could easily pitch this content to their referring domains and ask them to link to your content instead.
If you find broken links to their content, this is even better. Websites need to fix their broken links for SEO anyway, so alerting them to the broken link and pitching your content to them is more likely to result in what you want.
Get on Business Directories
Let’s be clear and say that directory links don’t count the same as backlinks. However, they still play an important role in your off-page ranking factors. It’s very helpful to get your business listed on eCommerce and business directories across the web, as it can directly build traffic and help Google index your pages.
Google My Business is the most important of all of them, so get listed and optimize your listing as soon as possible. This could be the first thing users see when they search for your brand, so make sure you answer every prompt and keep the information as consistent as possible with your website!
Use Google Shopping
Not just for advertising, but also for organic listings. Like video content, this is another great way to “skip the line” and get onto the first page. Always list your products on Google Shopping and optimize each listing, keeping all information as accurate and consistent as possible with the product listing on your website.
This is a great way to build organic traffic as well as some off-page assistance for your SEO strategy. Every product that you want to rank for should have its own Shopping page.
Monitor Your Campaign
Tracking your campaign over time is essential for the best results. Without monitoring your website’s performance, all you can do is cross your fingers and hope for the best. If you’re serious about competing for organic traffic, then here’s what you need to do.
Set Up Google Analytics
Google Analytics is easily one of the best tools online for tracking a website’s overall performance. The best part is that it’s entirely free!
It’s important to use some Google-run products in your campaign strategy, as these will have the most relevant information. There are some excellent SEO tools out there, but you know that insights are serious when they come from a Google product. Some other tools can lead you down rabbit holes that won’t get you very far.
Link Google Search Console
Google Search Console is another free, Google-run tool for those looking to build their organic traffic. The tool can offer you expert insights into your SEO campaign and help you improve it over time.
Also, GSC can alert you to any major problems with your SEO strategy, as well as errors, broken links, and more. We highly recommend setting this up and linking it to your Google Analytics property.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are the most important indicators to your campaign, which are unique to your individual strategy. For most eCommerce stores, these include:
- Conversion rates
- Engagement rates
- Bounce rates
- Click-through rate (CTR)
- Organic traffic
- Load times
- Backlinks and referring domains
- Domain authority
The list goes on, and you may have some specific KPIs you want to track. However, these are a good start.
How to Choose an SEO Agency for eCommerce Stores
Building SEO traffic has lasting results, but it can take some time to grow a strategy from the ground up. If you want to eliminate the “guessing game” that comes with the waiting period, then consider hiring professional SEO services for assistance. We recommend looking for an agency with experience with eCommerce SEO so that you know you’re getting the best results.
Also, stay away from “black hat” SEO services that offer the moon. Any service that offers you a thousand backlinks in a week or to rank at the top by the end of the month is not serious. Unfortunately, there are a lot of scams in the industry.
Once you find the services you’re looking for, read their reviews and ask for references if you have any further questions. Read up on the company to learn more about their experience and expertise to find the right SEO agency for eCommerce.
From there, connect with the team and see if they’re the right fit. If they are, then enjoy your new SEO strategy!
Launch Your Strategy
Now that you know about SEO for eCommerce websites, put these tips to good use, launch your strategy, and start monitoring your campaign today. SEO takes time to develop, but with a clear strategy and the right services, you can see long-lasting results for your bottom line!
Stay up to date with our latest digital marketing tips and feel free to contact us with any questions or for help with your SEO strategy!