Any business with a website needs to think about its SEO, but for ecommerce businesses, the issue becomes mission-critical.
If you make sales only online, then your website is essentially your one and only conversion tool. Fail to optimize, and you’ll get drowned out by any and all competitors.
Seize the opportunity, though, and you have the chance to rank among the best of them.
This means that doing ecommerce SEO for your website should be a top priority for you, both when you start up your business and as you go along.
However, as I’ll always bring up in some way when writing an SEO post: you’re trying to outrank probably thousands of competitors in your niche.
They want the same audiences you want.
But consider it like this:
Do you think the ecommerce businesses on the first page have the most perfect products and best sales and offers that the market has ever seen?
It’s possible, but ranking #1 for golf shoes or turntables or auto parts isn’t necessarily about maintaining the largest and most diverse inventory or the most state-of-the-art products in the industry.
It’s about getting people to find and click on your website based on what they find on Google.
Succeeding in ecommerce, then, comes down to this: how well you can implement SEO to become a strong search competitor with other companies, even if you don’t consider yourself an equal business competitor.
In the United States, ecommerce sales in the third quarter of 2021 comprised 13.0% of total sales made. That’s more than $204 billion in online sales.
People will come to your ecommerce site if you have what they want and have allowed them to get to you.
And doing that requires you to master SEO for ecommerce.
You need a strategy to go in with so you can hit the ground running and respond to hiccups along the way.
So let’s get right to the meat: here’s the ultimate ecommerce SEO strategy that you’ll need to drive your rankings and grow your business in 2022.
1.) Building Blocks: Researching Ecommerce SEO Keywords
The first logical step in any ecommerce SEO plan is performing keyword research.
Just as atoms are the building blocks of matter, keywords form the foundation of nearly everything we do in SEO.
Think about the things you couldn’t do with your ecommerce website if you didn’t know what keywords you were targeting.
You couldn’t use any keywords on your product pages.
You couldn’t use any in your content.
And you definitely could not optimize your pages’ technical SEO with relevant keywords in your meta tags.
Getting your products found by the right people starts with having Google associate your website with the keywords people are using to search.
You have a few options for doing ecommerce SEO keyword research.
Here are a few ways to generate a keyword list. We’ll get into filtering through them after that.
Using Amazon’s Keywords
Amazon is the biggest thing to hit the internet since Google. The online retail juggernaut sells close to $400 million in items per day. Yes, per day!
I bring this up because, if you’re an ecommerce website, Amazon can be your best friend.
Think about it this way.
If you’ve ever used the search suggestions on Google or YouTube to conduct keyword research, you should know that you can do the same on Amazon.
With so many shoppers hitting Amazon’s site daily, the company’s algorithm obviously recommends to users the most popular searches internally on the site.
For instance, if you are a health-supplement store and you want to see what types of protein products or categories you should have, start typing “protein” into Amazon and take a look at the suggestions.
Some of what you see can help you determine what to call your categories or which new product lines to carry.
Make a list of the keywords you think will be relevant to your online store. We’ll come back to them later.
Using Wikipedia’s Keywords
Next up, we’re going to use the keywords we can glean from Wikipedia.
Wait a minute, Wikipedia? That’s not a real website, is it?
Set aside your skepticism for a moment. The interesting thing about Wikipedia is that its SEO is actually really smart (take a look at the organization and interlinking of its pages sometime), but that’s a whole other topic.
What I really want you to know is how you can use Wikipedia to get keyword ideas for your ecommerce website.
Let’s say, for example, that you are a new online retailer of men’s formalwear, and you want to know what people are calling that type of clothing.
You go to Wikipedia and search for “black tie,” and this is what you get.
Okay, what now?
Check out the bolded words that follow in the opening paragraph.
It provides you with alternative terms for “black tie” depending on the region.
You can see that British English includes options such as “dinner suit” and “dinner jacket.”
Meanwhile, American English includes the terms “tuxedo” and “tux.”
If “black tie” was all you originally had, then you now have four more terms that might prove better for you to use.
How do you know which will be best for, say, your homepage?
That’s what we’ll discuss now.
Sizing Up Your Keywords in SEO Tools
Once you have a list of keywords you think will make a good starting point for your ecommerce site, it’s time to do the real research and see where each one is at, according to Google.
Using the Wikipedia example from above, I plugged in those five keywords into both Ahrefs and Semrush.
Here are the results from Ahrefs:
And here are those from Semrush:
Since this is a blog post about developing an ecommerce SEO strategy, the time has come to start your actual strategizing.
The results from both sites show you essentially the same information:
- Average monthly search volume (based on 12-month data)
- Keyword difficulty (the closer to 100, the harder a keyword will be to rank for)
- Cost per click (CPC), a paid-media metric that can help SEOs see which keywords are most important to marketers
- Search trends for each keyword (based on data from recent months)
- SERP features for that term (local packs, site links, reviews, People Also Ask questions, etc.)
Then there’s Semrush, which adds the additional feature of intent, as you can see in the left-most column to the right of the keywords above.
“C” means commercial, or someone looking to shop for certain brands.
“I” means informational, or someone looking to learn more about the subject.
“T” means transactional, or someone ready to buy whatever they’re looking for.
Intent is going to be a vital part of all the keyword research you do for your store.
That’s because the right keywords aren’t just the ones with high search volumes. Those are the ones every other ecommerce business wants, too.
The right keywords also aren’t just the long-tail, low-difficulty ones, either.
That’s because those are the keywords with probably not a lot of search volume around them.
What you want are the keywords with high-enough search volume, low-enough difficulty, and that are relevant to the buyer personas you want to target.
Yes, it’s sometimes like walking in a minefield.
It may come down to long-tail queries for you. It might come down to seed terms.
You can help yourself if you do a little SERP mining.
If you want to optimize your men’s formalwear website’s homepage for that exact keyword, “men’s formalwear,” have a look at the current SERPs for the term before doing anything on your site.
If you’ve got 10 organic results all optimized perfectly for “men’s formalwear,” and they match buyer intent, and they have a higher domain authority than you do based on their technical SEO, content, and backlinks, then you might determine targeting that term isn’t in your favor.
In that case, unfortunately, you might need to go back to the drawing board to find a more suitable option for your homepage.
The same would apply for each page you want to optimize: each product page, category page, and blog post.
Luckily, both Semrush and Ahrefs allow you to enter a seed term and get related keyword ideas based on that.
2.) Getting Organized: Ecommerce Website Structure
Before we get into implementing the keywords you’ve found on your site’s main pages, it will be best to organize your website in a logical way that Google and your users can understand.
Have you ever walked into a brick-and-mortar clothing store where nothing is organized and products are all over the place?
It’s frustrating. You become overwhelmed and annoyed and ultimately leave. It’s not a great experience for you.
This is what you want to prevent from happening on your ecommerce website.
If you have users coming to your site to shop, and they can’t navigate the store the proper way to browse, they will bounce.
Hey, why not? There are plenty of other ecommerce sites they can visit.
Setting up your online store from a user-experience perspective should be at the top of your mind.
Keep your architecture clean. Have only the categories that really matter, those that people actually search.
Don’t create too many categories.
Sure, larger sites will have more, but keep it minimal, to the extent that you can.
Create just the right amount of categories and subcategories so that all the products you sell can fall somewhere.
Use the model below to keep your site’s structure precise and clean.
One easy way to remember this idea: every important page on your ecommerce site should be no more than three clicks from the homepage.
So, say someone lands on your homepage.
Using the image above, follow along with this user’s clicks:
- Category page (first click)
- Subcategory page (second click)
- Product page (third and final click to reach destination)
It should be that easy to find every important product on your website, period.
Again, how large your structure becomes depends on the size of your store or what you sell. Beauty and fashion websites are going to have a lot more categories than a site that sells audio speakers.
If the above illustration of a strong ecommerce website structure is easy to follow and makes sense to you, that’s a good thing.
That means the structure will most likely make sense to the search engines, too.
Googlebot landing on your homepage and then only needing to get to a category page or subcategory page to find your products is a win for your website.
If you need some more inspiration for how to structure your ecommerce website the right way, you can turn to Amazon again.
Amazon has a dropdown navigation for categories at the top of its site.
These aren’t randomly generated. Amazon most likely selects these based on how humans use its site. Which categories are the most trafficked? In which categories do most sales occur?
Use these categories for your own good. Click to the main one that fits your niche, and then look at how a site like Amazon breaks down that category further.
Take a page out of Amazon’s book. I repeat, Amazon is your best friend here.
3.) Going High-Tech: On-Page SEO
The best thing that ecommerce sites have going for them is that they have a ton of opportunities to rank.
With your homepage, categories, subcategories, products, and even supporting content, you will control your own fate in Google’s search results.
However, this holds true only if you get your on-page SEO right.
Start with your meta titles and descriptions.
You have to optimize your meta titles with the keywords you researched earlier.
Along with keywords, you’ll want to make sure you are testing with different attention-grabbing phrases in your titles like “free shipping” or “% off” or “best” or “cheapest.”
These modifiers can help you gain the click over competitors.
Follow suit with your descriptions, as well. Use action verbs such as “buy” or “shop” to tell users what they can do on your site.
Again, use attention-grabbing phrases to catch the user’s attention. You have more characters to play with here, so get creative!
Once you tackle the meta tags, move onto the page content that will be visible to users. Google reads this HTML, and it’s an important ranking signal.
Make killer on-page product descriptions that use the keywords you want your product to be found on and other ways users may search for that product.
You can leverage forum sites such as Reddit to see how users talk to one another about the type of products you sell.
A simple search on a forum is all it takes. Typically, users talk naturally in their comments, and you can use that to your benefit.
You can also consider adding snippets of text to your category pages, but it’s not mandatory. It does have some SEO benefits, but I like to recommend that you place text below the products because, oftentimes, text at the top of the page pushes products below the fold on mobile devices.
That’s not a great user experience when you think about why a user would be coming to your ecommerce site in the first place.
Remember: people want to shop on these pages, not read!
Don’t Forget About Technical SEO
When we talk about on-page SEO, we absolutely have to include the technical aspects of that.
We could produce a whole LSEO post about technical SEO on ecommerce sites.
The key here is to ensure everything is tidy. You don’t want to cannibalize your own rankings.
One of the most common technical SEO issues I run into on ecommerce sites has to do with duplication.
Ecommerce stores sell many products. Most of the time, they are niche and can fall under different categories.
Also, a product can come in a variety of shapes, colors, sizes, and other variants. This can cause duplication all over your site.
An example would be if you sold Nike Vintage 77 sneakers that came in white, black, and red. Chances are, if you are a shoe store, you have many sneakers that come in those colors. It may be better to have a category for red sneakers than to have a bunch of products split equity in trying to rank for red sneakers.
What you would do in this scenario is to have the Red Nike Vintage 77 sneakers have a canonical tag in the source code that points back to the main Nike Vintage 77 product page.
Check out the example from Nike below, paying attention to the URL and then the canonical tag. These shoes come in many colors with a variant added to the URL, but they all point back to the main product page for indexing purposes.
Nike Vintage Shoes with Black Swoosh
Nike Vintage Shoes with Red Swoosh
If you know that this could possibly be an issue on your site, visit those products and view the page source. You can do this by right-clicking and selecting the “view page source” option or holding ctrl+shift+u for Windows users or option+command+u for Mac users.
Once you are there, check your canonical tag. Think of this like a 301 redirect, but not quite. Nothing will actually redirect, but it’s a simple guide to tell Google, “I have this variant of a product, but I want you to index only the main one.”
Google will ignore the variant and pass all the equity to the main product page.
One last thing to note on technical SEO is to make sure you are using schema markup. If not, you will likely lose clicks to competitors who are. Product schema is highly beneficial for ecommerce websites.
You can pull in information like the star rating, price, product image, and the availability (in-stock or out of stock) right into the organic search result. If users can gain that bit of information right from the search result, it’s to your benefit. Clicks will rise, and so will your rankings.
With schema and canonical tags, most ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and Woocommerce do a pretty good job of taking care of this for you, but you should still double-check.
This isn’t all you should pay attention to in terms of technical SEO issues, but it’s two of the higher-priority issues.
If you think your ecommerce website has bigger problems with technical SEO, I highly recommend getting a full SEO audit completed by some experts.
4.) Getting Creative: Ecommerce Content Marketing
Your ecommerce store will have a lot of opportunities to rank with its category and product pages, but don’t just settle there.
You should still leverage supporting content under a blog or resources section. This gives you the chance to become a thought leader in your space.
See, it’s a misconception that ecommerce websites don’t need content.
Maybe you think, “I’m here to optimize products and categories and sell things to people. I’m not a writer, and I don’t see the point of writing blog posts.”
The thing is this:
Google loves content.
The search engine does its best to determine the intent behind keyword searches. What’s its response? To deliver the answers users need.
If I were to hear an ecommerce business owner speak the quote above, here’s what I’d say back.
I’d tell the person that content on ecommerce websites serves numerous purposes simultaneously.
- Content drives traffic – I just said that Google loves delivering content-based answers to user questions. If you don’t have content surrounding your online inventory, then you aren’t giving yourself the chance to address any of those questions. You know where users will go instead? Your competitors who do answer questions.
- Content builds brand awareness and trust – Similarly to #1, content marketing will also build awareness of and trust in your brand. Trust goes a long way in ecommerce. If you want to buy coffee grounds online, who would you trust more: Folgers, or Michael Ruth’s Homemade Coffee Grounds, an ecommerce site with no reviews and no content? Remember, customers are entering their credit card information on these sites. Content lets users hear your business’s voice talk about your products. That’s always a good thing.
- Content boosts conversions – Finally, content marketing can raise your chances of making sales. Here’s an impressive figure: 41% of online shoppers go through three to five content pieces before contacting a company with interest in buying. It all comes back to trust. People give money to businesses they believe they can trust. No trust = no sale.
And, by the way, even if you don’t like writing, anyone can learn to write website content.
Performing Topic Research for Ecommerce Content Marketing
Given all that, what in the world are you supposed to write about in all these blog posts?
Well, I myself can’t actually tell you that, because I don’t know what industry you’re in or what your specific market is like.
I can tell you how to research topics relevant to your target audience, though.
First, search on Google for what you think might be some good talking points surrounding your products or industry.
You’re going to analyze the search results now.
Chances are, an overwhelming majority of what you see on the first page will be long-form articles. You will see top-10 lists, comparisons, and pros-and-cons-types of articles.
Here’s an example of this kind of search.
So, say you sell all kinds of athletic shoes.
Off the top of my head, I thought of a blog topic that I thought was relevant.
Keep in mind, I didn’t do any sort of research around search volumes for that topic, but we can see from the SERP that it’s a relevant one to the industry, given the top organic results.
Occupying position zero is a product roundup, classic middle-funnel stuff for those people ready to spend money but not knowing who to give it to yet.
Then, we have the People Also Ask section with additional relevant content topics (also useful for your own research).
The last two organic results in that screenshot seem to discuss what features the best walking shoes should have and how you can decide between brands.
Once you’ve done this a handful of times and gotten what you think are good blog topics, you can check around in Semrush or Ahrefs to see if you can find hard data on search volume for the topics.
You can also take those SERP results and look into the pages’ keyword rankings using Semrush or Ahrefs.
This is a good way to see what types of keywords you might want to target and which are more out of reach for the time being.
In addition to this search-engine-based topic research, you can also browse forums such as Reddit and Quora to see what is spiking interest within your niche or industry and then write an article about it.
I suggested this method in section 3 for writing detailed product descriptions, and it works just as well for blog content.
If you execute this content strategy properly, you’re likely going to gain new rankings.
How can you capitalize on that?
You can leverage some upsell opportunities that come from ecommerce blog material.
Place some of your top products in widgets throughout your articles so you give readers the option to convert.
The conversion rate may not be high on these pages, but one is still better than none.
5.) Reaching Out: Ecommerce Link Building
If every site on the Internet was ecommerce, link building would be easy.
Because products, unlike services, are extremely marketable, wearable, tryable, and shareable on social media and other online outlets.
This is why ecommerce websites should use it to their advantage.
Millions of influencers exist in the online space. They make their living by growing their followings and partnering with brands.
Typically, all influencers look for in exchange is a free product or two or a media fee.
You should obviously do your due diligence here, though, given that money and merchandise are involved.
Conduct some research and strategically find someone with whom you could see your business partnering.
Sometimes, the best part of these partnerships isn’t the link back to your website.
SEOs go nuts for the link, sure; it’s the type of people we are.
But think more about this: influencers also have large social followings.
If an influencer posts a picture with your product, encouraging others to buy it, your traffic just spiked.
The influencer method is one that we now know works quite well with ecommerce websites.
Get your links naturally and honestly. Your efforts over time can help to increase your domain authority and ultimately earn your pages better rankings.
Time to Apply Your Ecommerce SEO Strategy
It’s time for some tough love now: you can succeed in the ecommerce space, but it will not be easy.
Depending on your industry, you could have thousands of search competitors who want the same traffic you want.
That traffic is finite; the people can’t give their money to all of you.
Winning at this game comes down to how robust your ecommerce SEO strategy is.
You might have the exact products your customers are looking for, but can you optimize your website in a way that actually shows that?
Can you produce relevant content that will build trust in your brand and drive conversions?
If you can do all this, you can make it in the ecommerce space.
Struggling with the strategy often comes down to time, though.
Some business owners just don’t have enough hours in the day to develop and execute an SEO strategy for their business, or even learn how to do it.
If that sounds like you, you should know that LSEO can be your digital partner. We are experts in ecommerce SEO and have helped numerous brands drive millions in new revenue.
We’ll take the time to learn about your business and develop a strategy that works just right for your growth.
Get in touch with us if you need a significant boost with your ecommerce efforts.