How to Create a Sustainable and Profitable Ecommerce SEO Strategy
Search engine optimization (SEO) and eCommerce strategies are like peanut butter and jelly — great when separate, but even better when combined. Most marketers are familiar with SEO, or the process of boosting the quality and quantity of unpaid website traffic from search engines. However, many marketers are unaware of how vital an organic strategy like SEO is for eCommerce.
Nearly a quarter of all eCommerce purchases are directly linked to organic traffic, and 37.5% of all traffic to an eCommerce site comes from a search. Though shoppable social feeds and programmable display ads are phenomenal channels to grow eCommerce traffic and sales, a solid eCommerce SEO strategy ensures your products remain in relevant SERPs, even when an ad campaign is paused.
Now is the time to leverage eCommerce SEO in your digital marketing strategy. In today’s post, Bullseye Strategy provides a complete eCommerce SEO checklist, covering everything from the initial SEO audit and keyword research to on- and off-page optimization.
Is SEO Important for Ecommerce?
The short answer is, yes, SEO is vital for eCommerce. But, for the long answer, let’s take a look at a hypothetical eCommerce site called Shop X. This company is aware that 44% of consumers start their online shopping with a search engine, but rather than invest in organic traffic via eCommerce SEO services, they opt for other channels like paid ads and social media instead.
With a limited organic presence in search results and multiple paid campaigns, the return-on-investment (ROI) for Shop X will be directly tied to the return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) of their paid ads. However, with many changes affecting digital marketing solutions — namely updates to iOS permissions and cookies-based targeting — getting a positive ROAS is increasingly difficult.
Not to mention, there is a massive difference between the type of users Shop X exposes their business to using paid ads versus organic search results. Ads like popups or social media carousels target a passive audience or users who are not directly looking for a product. In comparison, SEO increases search visibility for users actively looking for a product you sell.
Even more, the first entry on SERPs typically receives 27.7% of clicks, meaning more than a quarter of consumers decide to potentially shop with eCommerce sites that lead to the top of search results. So, while Shop X might boost overall website traffic or sales with paid methods, they’re leaving another channel full of active shoppers completely untapped without SEO.
Ecommerce SEO Checklist: Creating a Strategy
It can be easy to get distracted and spend a lot of time (and money) working on items that may not impact eCommerce SEO. This is why a set strategy is essential, as it helps keep track of the multiple moving pieces involved with SEO — from keyword research to product page optimization. Here’s how to create an eCommerce SEO strategy that benefits organic search.
Step 1: Ecommerce Keyword Research
It’s no secret that an eCommerce SEO strategy should be chock full of relevant keywords, long-tail keywords, and LSI keywords (semantically-related phrases). But how do you know what your eCommerce website actually can and should rank for? The answer starts with a total SEO audit with a robust keyword map and thorough keyword research.
First, create a master spreadsheet to pull all pages from your eCommerce site and assign a dedicated row to each page to begin keyword mapping. In the first column of the row, input the page ID like “Homepage” or “Women’s Shoes.” In the next column, input the page URL.
Next, categorize all the pages using this classification structure or something similar:
- Product page for pages with individual products
- Category pages for pages with multiple products on them
- Informational pages for contact pages, information/FAQ pages, blog, etc.
- Homepage for the main web page of your website
With all of your pages categorized, it’s time to utilize an SEO tool like SEMrush or Moz to conduct keyword research to find terms that match the search intent of each page. Search intent refers to why a user typed in a specific search query. There are four different types of plans, including:
- Informational: Looking for general information or an answer to a particular question
- Navigational: Looking for a specific eCommerce site or webpage
- Commercial: Looking to investigate eCommerce brands or services
- Transactional: Looking to complete a purchase or action
In addition to search intent, consider factors like keyword difficulty and keyword volume. Don’t choose broad terms (that are also ranked as difficult) for your smaller eCommerce site, like “socks” or “shoes.” Instead, niche down into long-tail keywords, like “men’s athletic shoes.” Remain mindful of the volume of these searches to ensure they receive decent traffic per month.
Once you have a list of relevant keywords for your eCommerce SEO strategy, match these terms to the proper pages and set a few target terms for each page. Remember to consider the search intent behind each keyword — is this a keyword people are searching for to look to get information about a product or purchase? For example, build category and product pages around keywords with transactional intent and page FAQ pages for informational purposes.
* Pro Tip: An SEO service like Bullseye Strategy can help create an effective keyword map for your eCommerce SEO.
Step 2: Conduct Competitive Analysis
When you begin to dive into keyword research for eCommerce SEO, it becomes easier to identify keyword gaps — or keywords that drive traffic to your competitors’ eCommerce sites but not to yours. So to recognize the valuable keyword opportunities you could be missing out on, conduct a keyword gap analysis of your competitors.
Use the same SEO tool you used to locate the original keywords for your eCommerce SEO strategy to find phrases or terms you might be lacking. A tool like SEMrush, for instance, offers a keyword gap chart to help identify missed opportunities. If such a tool is not available to you, start by manually conducting searches for keywords that are valuable to your company and concurrent strategy instead.
Look for keywords your competitors use on each page, especially in page headers, meta titles, and URLs. Skim through the content on-page and note which words you often see. Insert these keywords into a blank spreadsheet and cross-reference them against your new keyword map. Choose relevant terms, especially product-specific keywords, and insert them into your eCommerce SEO strategy.
Step 3: Add Keywords and Adjust Site Structure
With an eCommerce SEO strategy in hand and relevant keywords ready to go, now is the time to begin adjusting your website. Your competitive research should have revealed weak points in your keyword strategy and site structure, such as how your product pages or categories are organized. So, add or adjust keywords on existing pages if needed and consider adding additional product categories to your site to improve the overall structure.
The ideal eCommerce site structure should begin with the Homepage and branch into individual category pages. Each category page should have subcategories — for instance, the primary category “Women’s Shoes” can be divided into subcategories like “Women’s Boots” and “Women’s Sneakers.” Individual product pages should always live underneath the appropriate subcategory.
Implementing an eCommerce SEO Strategy: On-Page Optimization
Now that you understand what your competitors are doing, have found the best keywords to rank for, and restructured your eCommerce site, you’re ready to implement your SEO strategy. Like with all industries, effective eCommerce SEO begins with on-page optimization. Here are six factors to include during the process.
1. URL Structure
A general rule for all websites — especially eCommerce — is to utilize short and sweet URL structures for each page. The primary goal is to concretely describe the page’s content as briefly as possible. So, always use the target keyword for the page within the URL. Avoid using capital letters or underscores, as they can overcomplicate a URL (and make it seem spammy).
Likewise, always make sure that the site architecture within your URL makes sense. Your URLs should follow the same site structure for effective eCommerce SEO: home.com/category/sub-category/product.
Using the same Women’s Shoe example from above, a women’s boot could be found via: home.com/womens-shoes/boots/brown-knee-highs.
The metadata for a web page sends a collection of micro-communications between your eCommerce site and search engines that help them understand the content within a page. There are several types of metadata for each page — like the author, date created, date modified, and more — but the two we leverage most for eCommerce SEO are title tag and meta description.
A title tag is what shows in the browser title bar and the SERP listing for each page. Title tags impact SEO directly, as they play an essential role in organic rankings. Additionally, most organizations use their brand name at the end of each page title, such as “Ecommerce SEO: Creating a Strategy | Bullseye Strategy.” Title tags should be between 50 and 60 characters, including spaces.
A meta description is a brief blurb that displays underneath your title tag on SERPs to provide readers with a summary of the content they will find on the page. Meta descriptions do not impact SEO directly, but they can influence the overall click-through rate (CTR) as they help readers understand if your content will meet their search intent. Meta descriptions should be between 150 and 155 characters, with spaces.
When constructing metadata like title tags and meta descriptions, include your target keywords wherever possible. Not only will the placement of crucial search terms help search engines better understand the type of content you offer to improve search visibility, but well-placed keywords help readers quickly find what they’re looking for.
Each page on your eCommerce site should have just one primary heading (H1) less than 70 characters, including spaces. Like your title tag, each header should include the primary keyword for that specific page. As you compose your headers, ensure the copy directly describes the products featured on that page. For instance, you don’t want users who searched for “white shoes” to land on a page that has purple shoes featured.
Once created, the H1 for each web page should be prominently displayed above the fold — or positioned in the upper half of the page, so it’s visible without scrolling. If the page has additional content, such as a FAQ page with shipping information or product details, be sure to include additional keyword-rich headings like H2s and H3s to break up the content.
Remember, the H1 should contain the main idea of each page. An H2 is a step down from an H1, and an H3 is a step down from an H2. Following through with the above FAQ page example, the H1 might be “FAQs About Men’s Shoes,” the H2 might be “How Men’s Shoes Withstand Weather,” and the H3s might be “Men’s Shoes in Rain” or “Men’s Shoes in Snow.”
4. Keyword Density and Product Descriptions
Keyword density is a hot topic in digital marketing — but is there such a thing as too many keywords? The answer is yes. The ideal keyword density on one page is between 1 and 2%. Your target keyword should only appear between 10 and 20 times on a 1,000-word page. So, don’t stuff your keywords randomly all over the place.
Instead, sprinkle your keywords where they matter, like in your headers, introductory paragraphs, and of course, product descriptions. Your product pages should be descriptive and show the unique features of your product. Avoid writing the same blurb for each product, as they’ll likely get flagged as duplicate content.
Likewise, consider adding additional text to category pages. Many large commercial sites, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Amazon, add text below category items to increase word count and density. You can see this in action on Dick’s category page for men’s athletic shoes, and if you search that term, Dick’s is ranking third — only behind eCommerce powerhouses Zappos and Amazon.
5. Schema for Ecommerce SEO
Schema.org —better known as just schema — is a semantic vocabulary of microdata (or tags) added to website HTML to improve the way search engines read and display a web page in SERPs. There are tons of different schema markups, like product ratings, that can provide more information to readers while they browse search results.
These are the different schema markups to incorporate in your eCommerce SEO page.
Homepage: Utilize Organization schema on your Homepage or the Contact page to provide information about your eCommerce brands, such as your name, logo, phone number, social media profiles, and more. Also, consider using the Sitelink Search Box through the Website schema to allow users to search for their desired products directly on SERP.
Product Pages: Product pages can host several types of schema, including Product, Review, and BreadcrumbList schema markups. Product schema provides users with product highlights directly on SERPs, like pricing or current stock levels. Review schema displays a star rating for the product directly on SERPs. BreadcrumbList schema details site architecture to both search engines and users by breaking down where the product lives within the site.
Category Pages: Category pages are best suited for ItemList and BreadcrumbList schema markups. Since Google doesn’t allow Product markups on the category level, ItemList schema showcases a full range of products where summary pages represent category pages. BreadcrumbList schema helps display where category pages live within the total site architecture.
Due to the nature of HTML and coding, schema markups may be the most confusing or time-consuming step of on-page optimizations for an eCommerce SEO strategy. Consider contacting a full-service SEO agency for help.
6. Internal Linking
Last but certainly not least, internal linking is another crucial aspect of an eCommerce SEO strategy. Internal links are hyperlinks that point to another page on the same website, reinforcing keywords for each page and allowing site visitors to navigate to other pages of interest across your eCommerce platform with ease. Internal links, also, help search engines understand the hierarchy of your website (which pages are most important).
You can easily add internal links within blogs, category descriptions, and product descriptions for an eCommerce SEO strategy. Links don’t have to be within the body text and featured in Recently Viewed sections. Remember, the anchor text (words that hyperlink) should match the page’s target keyword you’re linking to.
Off-Page Optimization: Backlinking for Ecommerce SEO
When it comes to an eCommerce SEO strategy, on-page optimizations are only part of the ranking factors that search engines use for SERPs — the other factors rely on off-page optimizations. As the name might suggest, off-page optimizations are the efforts taken outside of your eCommerce site to impact your rankings within search results.
Link-building is a large portion of off-page SEO that involves acquiring hyperlinks from other websites. Most commonly, a link-building strategy leverages backlinks, a term that refers to incoming hyperlinks from one web page to yours. In addition, backlinks generally increase authority, as each one from a high-quality site acts as a vote of confidence for search engines like Google.
The more backlinks you earn from high-quality websites, the more authoritative your site becomes, which can boost your ranking in SERPs. There are several ways to earn and improve backlinks, including:
- Analyze your backlink profile. Utilize an SEO tool like Ahrefs to analyze the anchor text or text linked back to your site, broken links, and links from low-quality websites.
- Update existing broken links. After analyzing your backlink profile, get in touch with the owners of websites with broken links and suggest one of your links to replace it.
- Guest post on reputable websites. Write or provide content to other blogs or websites related to your niche or participate in content round-ups.
- Investigate competitor backlinks. Specific SEO tools allow brands to leverage competitors’ backlink profiles and contact website owners for potential backlink opportunities.
Once you embark on link building and earning backlinks, consider other types of optimization to include in your eCommerce SEO strategy.
Technical Optimization: Tools for Ecommerce SEO
Technical optimization for eCommerce SEO deals less with the actual website content and more with how the content displays to users. They target the user experience, like how easily a potential shopper could navigate your website or follow through to make a purchase. Though these factors seem small, they can significantly impact how search engines rank your content.
There are a few immediate technical optimizations for eCommerce SEO you can get started with right away to improve favorability among both consumers and search engines:
- Mobile Compatibility: Since 72.9% of all retail eCommerce was generated via mobile devices in 2021, ensure your website is mobile compatible.
- 404 Pages and Broken Links: Clean up broken links that lead to 404 error pages, so both users and search engines can easily navigate your site.
- Site Speed: The probability of a bounce increases 32% as page load time goes from 1 second to 3 seconds, so make sure your eCommerce site loads quickly.
- Robots.txt and Sitemaps: Confirm that the robots.txt and sitemaps for your eCommerce site are set up correctly, and sitemaps are submitted in Search Console for proper indexing.
Generally, SEO tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Screaming Frog can run sites through audits that reveal the technical issues hiding under the surface. If you’re unsure of which tools will work best for your eCommerce SEO, check out this blog all about marketing technology tools — we dive deep into five different SEO marketing tools at various price points and expert levels.
Need a Hand Crafting and Implementing Your Ecom SEO Strategy?
A solid eCommerce SEO strategy is grounded in thorough keyword research and a robust keyword map. From competitor analysis to site architecture adjustments, dozens of moving pieces form a cohesive strategy. An eCommerce SEO strategy is complex at the end of the day, especially when you’re already running an entire retail operation.
With over a decade’s worth of eCommerce SEO experience, Bullseye Strategy is home to qualified eCommerce SEO experts who can craft your strategy and implement your eCommerce SEO strategy. That way, you can get back to what you do best running an entire retail operation! Contact us today to start boosting your search traffic.