Table of Contents
This is going to be the most useful eCommerce SEO guide you’ll find.
Whether you’re an eCommerce store owner, eCommerce manager for a big brand or an agency-side SEO there’s going to be something new you can take away from this.
Everyone just talks about links and content in SEO, but the biggest low-hanging fruit opportunities within eCommerce stores are definitely on-site optimisation.
Here’s how you can do it properly…
eCommerce Site Architecture
Website architecture (how your site’s pages are arranged and organised) is important for ALL websites, but it’s important even more so for eCommerce sites.
Because eCommerce sites tend to have a lot more pages than the average website.
As you can see from the example above, MuscleFood have almost 9,000 pages indexed in Google, so it’s incredibly important that their site’s architecture makes it easy for customers and search engines to find all of the pages on their site.
How it shouldn’t be
Before we look at how to create a great eCommerce site architecture, let’s have a look at how you shouldn’t set up your eCommerce site and how this can damage your SEO.
What’s wrong with the site architecture in this example?
Well first, it’s not simple. It’s all over the place and hard to understand, which will make it more difficult for customers to find things (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you why that’s a bad thing…)
The second reason is that is just isn’t scalable. Imagine trying to add new products and pages with a site structure like that?
Every time you wanted to add something, you’d have to add a new layer.
The third reason is related to link building:
It’s way too deep, meaning that when links are built to the site’s homepage, which is often the case with eCommerce sites, the authority (or “juice”) is diluted more due to how many layers it has to go through before getting to your category and product pages.
Tip: If you’ve made some errors with your site’s architecture, don’t just start moving pages around. You need to consult with an SEO professional to make sure you’re making the right decision and also ensuring the correct redirects are in place.
How it should be
So now you’ve seen how to NOT structure your eCommerce store, here’s how you should do it.
As you can see from the example above, there’s a very clear hierarchy of pages, making it extremely easy to navigation for customers and search engines. It also helps the “link juice” easily flow to the parts of the site you want to rank (category and product pages).
A good real-world example of great eCommerce site architecture is from a company we used as an example earlier – MuscleFood (don’t worry, this isn’t an advertisement for them. I’ve never actually purchased from them, just like what they do with their website).
So you’re looking for some Chicken Breasts and happen upon the MuscleFood website. As you can see, it’s super easy to work out where you need to go.
You’re then taken to the chicken sub-category where you can see the full list of Chicken products that they sell.
With 1 click from the homepage, you’ve been able to find exactly where you need to be to get what you want.
The only thing I’d change with the MuscleFood site would be how the URLs are structured. But we’ll come onto that in the technical SEO section of this guide.
eCommerce On-Page SEO
On-page SEO for eCommerce websites is no different to any other website, but there’s more to it than just stuffing your keywords wherever they’ll fit.
We’re going to cover the 3 main parts of an eCommerce site and what your on-page SEO strategy should look like for them:
- On-page SEO for eCommerce category pages
- On-page SEO for eCommerce product pages
- On-page SEO for eCommerce blog posts
On-page SEO for eCommerce category pages
We’re going to start with category pages because we believe that these are the most important pages for any eCommerce store. You should think of your eCommerce category pages as mini homepages.
Because what’s better than someone landing on your store and seeing all the products you have in the section they were searching for? Having to click through menus and submenus will be a thing of the past for your organic traffic if you follow this guide.
Keyword placement for eCommerce category pages
This applies to not just category pages, but pretty much any page on your website. We’re not going to repeat this for each different type of page on an eCommerce store, so the optimisation info and tips here will apply regardless of whether you’re doing category pages, product pages or blog content.
Here’s where you want to make sure you have the main keyword/s you want to target…
In the title tag, you should generally aim to have your keyword as close to the beginning as possible.
Here’s an example:
This is the #1 ranking page for “coffee subscription” in the UK, which gets an average of 2,400 searches per month.
The URL is another place you should aim to put your target keyword. Using the example above, you can see it in action with Rave Coffee (awesome Coffee by the way – check them out!).
The only thing I would suggest to be changed in this example is that search engines would definitely prefer the URL without /pages/ in it as they prefer shorter URLs that are easier to read.
You should also aim to put your target keywords in the H1 tag of the page.
Category Page Copy
When writing body copy for category pages, most people tend to go straight into talking about the products with no general overview or introduction to the category, which isn’t good for search engines. Not only is this an issue for building relevant around your category pages, but it can also be an issue because if you’re talking about the specific products on your category pages, you’re then going to have those pages competing with your product pages in the SERPs. This will then lead to keyword cannibalisation.
Keyword cannibalisation occurs when you have too many of the same (or similar) keywords on multiple pages of your website. This makes it hard for search engines to decide which page to rank for the keywords.
You want to make sure you don’t stuff the keywords into the copy too many times, ensuring that the copy reads naturally. Aim to write 300 – 500 words and include the exact keyword and synonyms 2 – 3 times.
Here’s an example:
You can see in the example that they have identified other similar keywords that Google will relate to “coffee subscription”:
- Coffee club
- Coffee subscription box
- Coffee club subscription
- Best coffee subscription
Image Alt Text
Search engines can’t read images, so you need to tell them what your images are about.
This is where image alt text comes in and you should always try to put your keywords in an image on the page. Not only is this helping you add the keyword to the page in a different way, but it will also help your rank in image searches.
Here’s an example from Bob’s Watches, an independent watch dealer:
While not a direct ranking factor, meta descriptions are indirectly a ranking factor, as they can be used to improve CTR, which is a ranking factor.
So why put your keywords in there?
You’ll probably have noticed that when you search for something, Google will make the keywords you have searched for bold in the meta descriptions within the SERPs:
eCommerce Title Optimisation Hack
Over the past year, we’ve completely changed how we approach title tags. Of course, we still make sure we manage to get the keywords and the brand in there, but then we had an epiphany…
We should write title tags like we’d write an ad headline.
It makes total sense. Increase your CTR and your rankings will increase. Here’s how you can do it:
1. Use active and descriptive verbs in your title tags.
2. Use cost-based copy, such as:
0% Finance Available
3. Use urgency to your advantage:
While Stocks Last
4. Show authority using these terms:
5. Use informative words:
6. Use special characters:
( Brackets )
“ Quotes “
Let’s have a look at some good eCommerce title tag examples and think about which ones would catch your eye and make you want to click:
On-page SEO for eCommerce product pages
As we said earlier in the guide, we’re not going to cover title tags and other metadata as it’s pretty much the same regardless of what type of page you’re optimising.
The only difference that we’d suggest, is that rather than aiming for 300 – 500 words, we’d suggest aiming for around 1,000 words. This is because that even though Google state that content length isn’t taken into account when deciding content quality, studies have shown that longer content does tend to perform better (2,000 words is recommended).
The only problem with this is that writing 2,000 words for every product would be a huge pain in the ass.
So to get around this, you write 1,000 words and then let product reviews make up the rest of it.
But that’s only a small benefit of product reviews. The main benefit is that they help boost your conversion rate and get you more sales.
A great example of an eCommerce product page is the LARQ Bottle product listing.
Here’s why it’s great.
1. Featured Image/Video
The most important design element of an eCommerce product page is your featured image. This is the first thing people will notice when viewing the product and it has to showcase it.
LARQ have absolutely nailed this by having beautiful imagery and also a funny and to the point featured video showcasing the product.
The images are very detailed and clean, leaving no doubt that it’s a quality product and well worth the high price tag.
2. Multiple Images
Once you’ve wowed your visitors with your featured image and/or video, the next thing they’ll do is look at the rest of your images.
This is why it’s important to have around a dozen images in a gallery showing your products from various different angles.
As well as this, you should have images of your product being used so that visitors will be able to have a sense of what it would be like to own the product.
LARQ do this well, showing multiple images of how to use the product, as well as images of the product being used in different situations (Yoga, at the office, etc) allowing potential customers to imagine owning it.
3. Easy to find pricing
For many of your visitors, price will be a key driver in whether they buy your product or not. If the price isn’t easy to find on your product page, it’s likely they’ll go elsewhere.
LARQ have the price instantly available when you land on the product page, and also make it stick when you scroll down the page, so it’s always visible.
4. A clear CTA (Call-to-Action)
You should always aim to have a prominent call-to-action that you are guiding your visitors towards.
Normally, this will be “Buy Now” or “Add to Basket”.
LARQ do this well by having a “Select Color” button that sticks when you scroll down the page. You can see this in the screenshot above in the pricing section.
Reviews are so important for eCommerce stores. Understandably, people trust other people more than they trust the company trying to sell products to them.
This is why having reviews on your product pages is so important. It has been reported that product reviews are x12 times more trusted than the manufacturer’s description of the product.
As well as this, every time someone leaves a review, you get fresh content on your product page. Google LOVES fresh content and pages that are constantly updated.
Reviews aren’t the only form of social proof you can have. You can also have social media posts and feeds of your products.
LARQ do both of these. They have the star rating that can be seen regardless of where you are on the page next to the price (you can also see the reviews at the bottom of the page) and they also have an Instagram feed.
There will always be people who aren’t comfortable buying online. They could’ve been scammed online in the past, or just aren’t part of a generation that have grown up buying everything on Amazon.
Because of this, you need to make sure you add as many trust elements to your product pages as possible.
These can take on many forms:
- Live chat
- Money-back guarantees
- Easy to find returns policies
- Warranty information
- Knowledge Bases
You need to make sure that the customer knows that if they have any problems, they’ll be solved quickly and without any fuss.
LARQ add trust to their site by having a “free shipping” message at the top of the page and by also having an extensive support/knowledge base section.
eCommerce Technical SEO
SEO isn’t just about putting keywords on a page. To get the most out of your website, you have to make sure it’s technically sound. All of the links and content in the world won’t help your site if there’s glaring technical issues.
Because if there’s technical issues, there’s probably user experience issues, which is what Google really care about.
Their job is to provide searchers with the best possible website for their search after all…
To make sure there aren’t any technical SEO issues with your website, you’re going to have to conduct a technical SEO audit.
Technical SEO audits aren’t the same for all sites and can be incredibly time consuming, so we’re just going to cover the most important things so that it’s easier to follow (and quicker).
Tools needed for an eCommerce technical SEO audit
Before we run through the audit process, I wanted to list some tools that you can use to make this process easier, but they’re not all required:
- Google Analytics (Free)
- Google Search Console (Free)
- Screaming Frog Site Crawler (Free up to 500 urls)
- CopyScape (Some free features)
- Ahrefs ($7 for 7 day trial)
So let’s get started!
Step 1: Crawl your site
Crawling your site is the most important part of any technical SEO audit. Without it, you’d have no information to work with!
Crawling your site is going to reveal lots of things, such as:
- Server errors
- Broken links
- Missing or duplicate metadata (title tags, meta descriptions, etc)
- Duplicate content
And much more…
These are all things that will hinder your site’s performance. So open Screaming Frog, enter your URL and start a crawl. This may take a while depending on the size of your site, so let’s do some other things while it runs in the background.
Step 2: Search your brand on Google
We first need to make sure that you’re showing in Google as the number 1 result for your store’s brand name.
If you’re not a new business, you should be the number 1 result when anyone searches for your brand.
If you’re not showing, you need to do the following:
- Make sure you claim your brand name on social networking sites, fill out the profile information and link to your website.
- Build strong links with your brand name as the anchor text (check out our link building guide here)
- Build some citations on the major business directory sites (here’s a list)
Next you need to see how many pages of your site are indexed in Google. To do this you have to search for site:yourdomain.com
This number will generally be smaller than the amount of URLs found in your site crawl. If there are more showing, this means Google have possibly indexed things that should be indexed (site searches, blog tag pages, etc)
If you find these types of pages are indexed, you should set them to noindex, which tells Google they aren’t important and don’t need to be in their results. This will also help your site’s crawl budget (this is the amount of pages Google crawls and indexes of your site in a period of time).
Step 3: Check domain accessibility
There are many different ways someone can get to your site:
Because you don’t want to confuse Google or compete against yourself if your site gets indexed under multiple versions, you need to make sure that only 1 version of your site is accessible.
This is easy to do and you just need to choose which one you want to use and make sure the other versions are 301 redirected to it.
You should also ensure that you use HTTPS to increase trust in the eyes of Google (and your potential customers).
Step 4: Review your homepage’s SEO
Look at your homepage and ask yourself the following questions:
- Does it have a well-optimised, clickable title following the best practices outlined in this guide?
- Does it have a unique, well-optimised and enticing meta description?
- Does it have an H1 tag with your main keywords in it?
- Does it have subheadings (H2, H3, H4, etc) and are they used correctly?
If the answer is “no” to any of those questions, you need to go and fix it.
Step 5: Analyse your site’s crawl
Once your crawl has finished, it’s time to analyse it. It might look daunting as there’s a lot of information available to you but don’t worry, we’re just going to be looking for the following things:
- Client errors (4xx)
- Duplicate URLs
- Missing and duplicate title tags and meta descriptions
- Pages with multiple H1 tags
- Images with no alt text
Here’s an awesome, in-depth guide to using Screaming Frog if you need more help with this.
Step 6: Check for duplicate content
Duplicate content is a big no-no in the eyes of Google and can hinder your site’s organic traffic performance.
Using CopyScape, you can take all of the URLs from your crawl and check them to see if your content is the same as the content on any other pages across the web.
Once your URLs have been checked, CopyScape will show you a colour-coded list of URLs where content is duplicate.
One-by-one you can then go through them and see what matches have been found. If you find that the content is returning matches from within your own site, you need to change the content.
If you find that other sites are stealing large amounts of your content, you should get in touch with them and ask them to add a canonical tag pointing to your URL.
Step 7: Analyse your site’s organic traffic
We’re now going to make sure your site hasn’t been hit with any penalties.
Go into Google Analytics and set the time frame from when you started the site to now.
If the site has been hit with any sort of penalty, you’ll notice your traffic starting to decline. This is the absolute worst case scenario and there are lots of other reasons as to why your traffic may have dropped (seasonal trends, loss of backlinks, etc).
If there are no issues, you should be seeing a steady incline.
Step 8: Analyse Google Search Console
Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools) is an amazing tool and has lots of useful information to assist us with a technical audit.
First, we’re going to see if there are any errors by going to ‘Coverage’.
If any errors show up, you can select them under the ‘Details’ section and Google will show you what you need to do to fix the error.
Next click ‘Products’. This area of Search Console allows you to see how your product’s schema markup is performing.
Like with the crawl errors before, you are able to click each individual issue and learn how to fix it.
Step 8: Analyse your backlinks
You should periodically check what backlinks are pointing to your site to ensure you aren’t getting any spammy links that could end up getting your site penalised by Google.
To analyse your backlinks, we’re going to use a tool called Ahrefs.
The 3 things you are looking for are:
- What Anchor text is being used
- Broken backlinks
- Spammy backlinks
To check anchor text in Ahrefs, you need to select ‘Anchors’.
What you’re looking to check is that there is a large variety of anchors being used, and not a lot of exact match keywords.
As an example, if we look through the anchor text profile of MuscleFood, we can see that the majority of theirs is branded terms.
Now we’re going to look at broken backlinks, which are links that are going to pages on your website that are returning a 404 error.
To do this, go to Ahrefs and enter your domain. You then need to go to ‘Broken’ under ‘Backlinks’.
We can see that there are 975 broken backlinks for the site we entered – that’s a lot of link juice being lost!
There’s a couple of ways you can deal with these:
- 301 redirect the broken URL to a relevant page on your site
- Contact the site owner and get them to change the URL they are linking to
In an ideal world, you’d do option 2, but if you’re looking at hundreds of broken links it’s going to take A LOT of time to get the contact details of those sites.
When we say spammy backlinks, we’re talking about links on sites that are of questionable quality.
Why are these bad? Well, because if you have too many of them, Google may penalise your site as, unfortunately, they’ll see it as you trying to game their algorithm.
We’re going to cover some different ways that you can find these links.
In Ahrefs, go to ‘Backlinks’ and sort by ‘DR’ (Domain Rating).
Any that have a DR of ‘N/A’ or ‘0’ are going to be rubbish links. You’ll need to go through the list and make a note of the domains.
Another way of finding spammy links quickly is by looking at the links on foreign sites. We often find a lot of low quality links come from Russian sites. Make a note of these domains.
Once you have a list of these links, it’s best to disavow them at a domain-level in Google Search Console.
eCommerce Case Studies
To show you whats possible, we’d like to share some of our eCommerce case studies:
- How we helped a TV bed retailer increase their year-on-year revenue by 894%
- How we helped a fashion brand increase their year-on-year revenue by 92%
If you want to increase your eCommerce store’s revenue, you NEED to learn eCommerce SEO. Follow the steps in this guide and you’ll way ahead of your competition!
We’d love to hear your best eCommerce SEO tips in the comments section.
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