No matter how wonderful your online store might be, it won’t do you much good if people can’t find it, because they won’t buy from stores they don’t even know about. That’s why SEO (search engine optimization) is so important in the ecommerce industry. Get some good rankings for relevant products, and you’ll ensure a steady stream of high-quality traffic — miss the rankings, and you’ll be left to rely entirely on word-of-mouth and paid advertising (not good).
The topic of SEO is so broad that it can be quite challenging for people to figure out how to approach it. They stay away entirely, or they try to do everything at once, ultimately leading to confusion and misplaced priorities. That’s why it’s essential to get some pointers.
In this, piece we’re going to provide those pointers to help you improve your ecommerce SEO in a clear and straightforward way. Let’s get started.
1: Use internal links
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in an online store is messing up your navigation by not including enough internal links. A buyer is unlikely to go directly from the homepage to the product they choose to buy. More typically, they’ll move around the site first, looking at numerous products before reaching a conclusion — and to do that smoothly, they need links.
But internal links aren’t just good for users. They’re also good for SEO. When Google crawls your site, it tries to figure out your site structure and determine how user-friendly it is: seeing a strong selection of internal links will make it clear how your site fits together and show that you’re committed to making life easier for shoppers.
2: Write good titles
Every one of your page titles and product titles needs to be assembled with an understanding of the importance of keywords for search traffic. To figure out what keywords you need to include, think about how you’d search for a store or a product if you didn’t have particular one in mind, and do some research using tools like Google Trends or Ubersuggest to get some information from actual search patterns.
Then, when you write a title (for a page or a product), start with the primary keywords (such as “watch”) and fill the rest of the space with secondary keywords (typically modifiers: e.g. “large gold men’s watch”). If someone searches for a product you stock but your page doesn’t appear in the rankings because you never included their keyword, that’s a huge wasted opportunity.
3: Be mobile-friendly
It’s been important to be mobile-friendly for some years now, but the significance is still going up. Not only has Google already begun shifting to mobile-first indexing (using the mobile view of a page to rank it), but the mobile share of overall searches keeps getting larger, and mobile traffic already has the bulk of ecommerce sales.
That means that having a website that looks poor on a mobile screen is simply unacceptable today. Having a site that works wonderfully on mobile devices won’t win you any ranking places, but it will protect you as Google’s criteria get stricter and your weaker competitors start to drop down the rankings.
4: Include high-quality images
Google may not be any good at interpreting images yet, but it does know the role images play in creating a good user experience — and you can give it some additional information through alt text, which search crawlers can understand (and are important for accessibility).
Images are vital in general, but they’re particularly critical in ecommerce because they’re essential for showing shoppers what they’re actually buying. When you’re ordering a physical product online, you don’t have the luxury of being physically near it, so you require as much representation as can be given. Fail to offer your visitors high-quality images, and Google will take a dim view of the quality of your store.
5: Improve your page speed
Page speed has already become a ranking factor on mobile devices, and it’s entirely plausible that it will soon become a ranking factor on all devices. With every passing month, users because more accustomed to high-speed networks and fast response times, and less willing to put up with websites that don’t meet their new standards.
The slower your website is, the more prospective customers will immediately bounce, and the lower your mobile rankings will be. Consult a developer to speed up your site, or at least find a plugin of some kind to optimize your image sizes and save some time.
If your store runs on a truly ancient CMS, it may not be worth upgrading it. You could consider a full migration, or even start fresh — you can find a range of businesses for sale on Exchange that all run on Shopify (a fully updated modern ecommerce CMS), and it may be faster and cheaper to get one and rework it to suit your needs than to try configuring a store from scratch. Another speed-friendly option is WordPress — but you will want to install some WordPress speed plugins to deal with some of the CMS ‘bloat’.
6: Make your content digestible
Attention spans aren’t great anywhere, and the endless distractions of the internet ensures that the online world is a place of lightning-quick browsing. If the content of your ecommerce store isn’t created to be consumed in small chunks, you’ll find that readers will rapidly start to tune out and leave your site — possibly never to return.
The good thing about this step is that you might not have to add much to your content. In fact, you’ll mainly be taking away and spacing out. Use bullet-point lists, tables, headings, subheadings, and other such elements to make your copy as easy to read as possible. Shoppers will stick around on your site, boosting your on-page metrics and improving your SEO.
7: Provide social proof
Social proof is incredibly powerful for influencing purchasing decisions. We like to feel that our decisions are backed by our peers anyway, and given the knowledge gap I mentioned that gets in the way when we shop for physical items online, we want to be reassured that the items we’re considering are both relevant and high-quality.
Social proof (in the form of reviews and testimonials) doesn’t just accomplish that reassurance, though — it also shows Google that your brand is legitimate. The more reviews you gather, the more it demonstrates that you can probably provide a good experience for a new customer, because you’ve clearly already provided great experiences for all the reviewers.
If your ecommerce CMS has review functionality already, then just make sure to use it as much as possible, encouraging customers to leave reviews. If it doesn’t, then you’ll probably be able to use a plugin for something like Trustpilot, which should be just as easy to use.
Ecommerce SEO is supremely valuable. As your rankings go up, your conversions will too, all for little to no ongoing costs (you may be paying for some plugins, etc.). Use these 7 tips and make sure that your ecommerce store is fully adhering to 2018 standards, and you’ll leave your slower competitors behind.
Patrick Foster is a writer and ecommerce expert from Ecommerce Tips. He hates slow websites, so he can’t wait to see page speed become a desktop ranking factor. Check out the latest posts on Twitter @myecommercetips.