We all know the value of being page one of Google. And more importantly the value of being on the number spot. That is why Search Engine Optimization, SEO, is especially important for all search engines (Bing, Google & Yahoo).
It is more important for ecommerce sites as their purpose is to sell products online. The only way they can do this successfully is if they are on the number spot getting most of the traffic.
Ironically, SEO has the best Return on Investment but sadly it is one of the hardest things to do. It takes a lot of effort to be done on the upfront, but it pays of eventually and turns out to be much cheaper than paid ads.
It takes a lot of time and effort to do SEO right and that is why many small and medium businesses give up early and go for the direct paid ads, social media or may not even bother at all.
The best part is the harder it is to get in, it means the harder it will be to be removed. So once your foot is on the first page then it will take someone else’s heroic effort to get you out.
This guide will help you rank your ecommerce SEO store and help you start getting more sales.
What is SEO
SEO is the process of optimizing your website around certain keywords helping it rank as high as possible on search engines.
Ecommerce SEO is the process of optimizing your ecommerce store around certain keywords to rank as high as possible on search engines.
When people search your products that you sell, they will be able to easily see your site and buy from you. Ecommerce SEO when done correctly shows your product pages on page one of Google.
Very few people go to the second page of Google while searching for anything. In fact, Google does not like this and would prefer people to get their answers quickly on page one. Hence, they ensure that the websites that are on page one answer all the questions.
Why SEO Matters
SEO Is important as it ensures that your ecommerce business ranks highest on the search engine. The higher you rank the more web traffic you get on to your website. It is said that when you rank first, you get 40% of the traffic.
If for example in a month a certain keyword has 4000 searches, if you are no. 1, you will get 1600 visitors to your site. If your site is professionally designed, it will have 5% conversion rate giving you 80 new clients.
Another benefit for SEO is brand building. When people search for your products and keep seeing your site inadvertently all the time. It gives your business a bit of credibility. Many people will know about your business and would be easier to sell on them.
When you are first on the ranking pages, it tells people that you are an authority. It tells people that Google has vetted your business and you are in a prime position to help them with their search. Through this it will be easier to convert your business.
Keywords are the cornerstone of any SEO campaign. Google is a machine and can only read text. The other day it evolved to try and read images, but It is primarily an algorithm that reads text.
Secondly the only way people search for things on the internet is through text. Some may argue that there is voice search, but voice is translated to text and then searched for. The texts we are talking about are the keywords.
Keywords are an important ranking factor, and they should present in your headline, description, meta description, and image alt.
If the wrong keywords are used, then ranking will become almost impossible and you would end up competing in the wrong industry.
Keyword research is a challenge especially since you are dealing with large competitors. They could have already cornered the market and thus leading you to produce creative ways to get traffic to your site.
For example, the high value search terms are all being used by the major companies and if you would like to get a bit of the traffic you would have to use different words. You will not be able to rank for keywords like “buy shirt” but you can for keywords like “buy water resistant shirt”
It should also be noted that ecommerce keywords are vastly different from normal site keywords. This is because normal sites use keywords that are informational in nature as people are looking for advice. While on the other hand ecommerce keywords fall under buyer intent.
After looking at your USP you can come up with keywords that address them. For example, your USP could be:
- Material used
There are many tools out there to help you do keyword research but the ones I will mention here are free, namely:
- Amazon keyword tool
- Google keyword planner
- Competition research
Amazon keyword tool
Amazon is one of the best places to do keyword research especially for ecommerce website because Amazon is one It itself. When you start typing anything on the Amazon search bar, Amazon starts giving you suggestions on words being used by thousands of people.
From here you can make a list of all the possible keywords for your products. Then the next step would be looking for search volume, keyword difficulty and buyer intent.
Google Keyword Planner
Google keyword planner is the second best according to my opinion. This is because you must use a Google Ads account and you have to have spent money on it. Google keyword planner is great because it gives you the search volume and keyword difficulty.
Keyword difficulty depends on the cost per click of the keyword. The higher the CPC the more difficult it is to rank on the keyword.
When searching for keywords on Google, at the bottom of the page there are some suggestions. From here you can find out what people are also looking for.
Unless you are number one on Google then you do not need to be reading this article but when you search for your keyword, you will find your biggest competitor ranking no. 1. With this you can look at his or her website and find out which keywords s/he is using for the category and product pages.
Although it should be noted not to copy all the keywords because s/he might have made a mistake herself or himself that they are trying to correct.
Keyword volume is the next thing to look at when deciding on which keywords to use. Keyword volume means the number of times people search for a particular keyword over a period.
It shows how many people are interested in the keywords and the higher the volume the more the interest. While the vice-versa is true.
Keyword volume should not be used to influence conversions though. There are words that have a lower volume but have a higher conversion rate.
The most accurate tool to check on the keyword volume is the Google Keyword Planner. It gives rough estimates of searches of the last year, but it is still more accurate than most other tools.
User intent refers to what people are hoping to do when they are searching for things online. User intent is big for Google as they try to match every query with possible websites that serve the searcher better.
As such for you to rank higher on Google search you are meant to match user intent to your ecommerce site. This can be done by searching for keywords and ranking for them that match what a user wants.
There are 4 main types of user’s intent:
- Navigational – how to get from point A to B
- Informational – these include how to sites, reviews, blog posts, etc.
- Commercial – these include buyer intent like a certain product
- Transactional – keywords like buy now.
For keyword research for ecommerce then the focus should be mostly for commercial and transactional keywords. Trying to target people who are further along the buying cycle. These keywords should be used on the category and product pages.
Informational keywords as the name suggests are the ones that are used to provide more information about a product. They include the following keywords
- How to- how do I?
- Reviews – comparison between A and B
As you are meant to target the whole buying cycle, informational keywords could be used in content marketing in the blog posts.
These are the keywords that are used when someone is ready to make a purchase. They already know what they want and they want to buy it at a good cost. Most consumers are looking on where to get the best deals for the upcoming purchase.
Long tail keywords
Keywords could be divided according to word length namely:
- Short tail keywords
- Long tail keywords
As the name suggests short tail keywords are one to three words. Short tail keywords are also called head keywords. They are the ones that have the highest volume and lowest conversion rate
Long tail keywords mostly consist of four to six words. These normally have the lowest volume and higher conversion rate.
Long tail keywords unlike short tail ones have a better match for what the user is looking for. For example, if a person is searching for “showers” there could be a myriad of things being looked for like baby showers, bathroom showers.
On the other side if the person were to search for “cheap baby shower gifts” on Google, your website will be able to properly address what this person is looking for.
Long tail keywords are great for
- Extremely competitive niches
- If you want to increase conversion rates
- If the site is new and you want it to rank faster.
Long tail keywords need a lot more research to find. Some can be found by using the people also search function at the bottom of Google’s page.
Site architecture is the way you organize your web pages for your site. This is how you setup your navigation, category, and product pages. There should be a distinct hierarchy from the home pages to the category pages to the product pages.
A proper site structure helps both users and search engines to navigate the site and find all products easily. This improves user experience and lowers bounce rate.
Site architecture is more important for ecommerce sites because there are new products and categories that are added and removed every now and then. Ecommerce sites tend to have more pages than usual static websites.
A proper structure presents the most relevant content in front of users reducing the number of clicks they would use to find the content.
Internal linking from the home page to category and product pages makes it easier for bots to index the site.
The site structure should always follow these two rules
- simple and easy to scale
- everything should be fewer than three clicks from the homepage
On Page SEO
On page SEO mostly deals with how keywords are placed on the site. Through this Google can know what the page is all about.
Here are a couple of things to consider about on page SEO
The main or primary keyword can put placed in the URL making it readable and friend. This has been proven to increase search rankings. Search engines look for keywords in the URL to see whether to rank the page or not. The keywords in the URL are referred to as metatags.
Keeping up with proper URLs is normally a bit more complicated especially if the site has thousands of products. There could be web developers who might want to cut corners by using dynamic URLs. This sadly harms the SEO effort.
Google prefers shorter URLs as opposed to longer ones for ranking. Ecommerce sites have longer URLs as they may include both category and product in the URL. For example
when most users are looking at this URL they loose confidence and go back and look for something simpler
Here are a few rules to follow for URLs:
- Only use lower case
- Use shorter URLs
- Include your main keywords
- Use hyphens as opposed to underscores and spaces
- Delete special characters like exclamation points and apostrophes
- Remove all encoding
- Do not use stop words like “and”, “or”, and “the” unless they are part of the keywords
Here is how URLs would appear
- yourdomain.com/category-name (category page)
- yourdomain.com/category-name/subcategory-name (subcategory page)
- yourdomain.com/category-name/subcategory-name/subcategory-name (sub-subcategory page)
- yourdomain.com/category-name/subcategory-name/subcategory-name/product (product page)
This is how it should look like
- mukuba.co.ke/ingredients/ (category page)
- mukuba.co.ke/ingredients/hops/ (subcategory page)
- mukuba.co.ke/ingredients/hops/whole/ (sub-subcategory page)
- mukuba.co.ke/ingredients/hops/whole/Citra/ (product page)
Title tags or page titles affect SEO in that they affect the Click Through Rate on the search engines. The more people click on the listing the higher the rankings will be. Title tags appear as blue on the search engines.
Title tags include H1 tag and should have the keywords associated to it as close as possible to the beginning. They should be between 55- 60 characters long, and descriptive.
They by themselves have no significant ranking factor to SEO but by influencing SEO then they are a secondary factor.
To increase the CTR, you are advised to add modifiers before or after the main keywords. For example, cheap shoes, or affordable shoes. Here are some modifiers to use:
- Free shipping
- X% off (“25% Off”)
- Lowest Price
- Free Shipping
- Overnight Shipping
Being an ecommerce site, it is difficult to come up with various title tags for each and every product due to their numerous in number. The solution to this would be to look for the most popular items and give them a proper title tag and then do the rest later.
- To make your title tag more attractive do the following:
- Include your main keyword
- Include your Unique selling position
- Add long tail keywords
- Include the modifying words mentioned above.
These are the descriptions that appear as grey and directly below the title tag in the search page.
Successful meta description should be:
- 150 characters in length
- Include the main keyword in it
- Should be concise
- Have the main USP.
Like the title tag, they have no impact on SEO, but they increase the CTR which has proven to increase ranking.
Images play a key role in aesthetics of a site. To improve SEO, images should have the following:
- Alt tags that are keyword rich
- Image dimensions properly set
- The file name should be similar to the keywords for example instead of 12244.jpg it should be Mukuba.jpg
Page speed is a factor of ranking items on SERP. One of the main reasons websites are slower is because of the image sizes. You should ensure that you are images are not too large that they slow down your site significantly. This can be done by compressing your images to PNGs and WebP formats which do not compromise the quality.
More and more sites are encouraged to use videos. Videos not only help explain how your product will work and look but they also increase SEO rankings. They do this by lowering the bounce rate significantly. This is because more time will be spent on the site.
When it comes to writing content, you need to think of two things: the category pages and product pages.
Many ecommerce stores ignore the category pages to their detriment, and this is where you can get more value by adding a few more keywords. Category pages require three hundred words to describe the category and the products that fall within it. Through this the products benefit more by having the same keywords repeated in the content.
Unlike category pages, product pages require around one thousand words to properly describe the products. More words are needed because you want to help Google understand what the page is all about and also you are giving you consumers additional information to make a decision.
By looking at several pages, it has been seen that the more words a product page has the higher it is able to rank on Google. There was a case where the big ecommerce site eBay lost 33% of It is organic traffic because the content on the site was too thin.
Most ecommerce sites have numerous pages and having adequate unique content for all the pages is a challenge. One solution to this is to write content for the most popular products and then move on to the other pages. There is no avoiding the fact that each page must have unique content.
In your content, it is also advised to make your main keywords appear 2 to 5 times. It should be done in a way that you do not overdo it by keyword stuffing as this would lead Google to penalize the site.
Latent semantic indexing (LSI) should be used throughout the copy. LSI is a fancy word for saying synonyms. For example, instead of clothes you will use apparel or threads. This is a natural way to add more keywords to your copy which doesn’t violate Google policies. Also, it helps to rank on other keywords other than the ones you chose.
Writing one thousand words can be daunting for every product but here is a way you can get away with it:
- Write using your customers in mind and not the search bots
- Include the technical specs, brand, model, colour etc
- If you have reviews, include them on the page
- Include a FAQ section
- Talk about features and benefit is of the products
- Pros and cons should be included
- Try upselling by including other products
On the other hand, you would want to avoid doing the following to avoid being penalized by Google
- Copying the same content from other sites including the manufacturer.
- We have talked about keyword stuffing
- Placing thin content
Technical SEO can be the deciding factor between being in position 1 and 2. It has moved from being more about sitemaps and meta tags, to schemas, internal linking, site speed, and the rest of the things we will discuss over here.
Technical SEO is not only about appearing correctly on Google but also to help users navigate your site.
The ways to evaluate technical SEO is by doing a site audit. A site audit will
- Tell you what has been done and what has not.
- Create a task list of the things that need to do
- Will prepare you to get the results sooner.
When performing a site audit here are a couple of things that you would need to look at:
Duplicate content is one of the most common SEO issues. It is easy to understand why because there are so many products that are similar and vary in small instances. There are large sites with millions of products and the people uploading them may get lazy producing added content and they just copy what the manufacturer lists.
This ends up leading to crawl waste and pages competing for each other in the SERPs.
Here are a couple of reasons why it occurs:
- There are people who have websites that come up with dynamic URLs for products variation for example colour, size etc
- Copying manufacturer’s listings
How to avoid duplicate content
- Using canonical tags to tell Google that which product page is the main one and the ones that aren’t unique
- Indexing of the web pages that generate the most traffic while non-indexing pages that have the least traffic.
- An up-to-date site map.
- Using 301 redirects. 301s transfer 90% of page authority to the new pages.
- Using different product images
- If there is time, unique content with unique keywords should be written.
Deep pages means that the users should use less than 3 clicks from the home page to get to the product s/he is looking for. If there are more clicks required, then this is referred to as deep pages. Deep pages are highly discouraged, and the search engine bots won’t go as far as 4 clicks.
Flat structures (fewer clicks) are preferred because of user experience and improving of site crawlability.
Page Load Speed
In the time that we are living in, we have been made to become impatient. Sitting down to watch a 2-minute video on whatsapp has proven to be a struggle as people want to get to the end.
Waiting for a website to load has been an even bigger problem. We are more impatient now than we were before. If a website takes longer than 2 seconds to load, we are quickly hitting the back button and going to the next site.
Site speed or page load speed is a ranking factor for Google. The faster the page loads the higher a site would rank.
Site speed is defined as the length of time it takes a user to open a web page and all the non-hidden assets have loaded.
Reasons for slower speed:
- Bloated ecommerce platforms – there are some websites that have bloated code making them slow
- Large image file sizes – it is great to have high-res product images but this makes the site to load way slowly
- Hosting and servers – you could be paying for a hosting plan that makes your website to load very slowly.
Fixing slow speed
- The quickest way would be to get better hosting providers who can handle your site and your site traffic.
- CDNs – Content Delivery Networks significantly boost site speed.
- Image file compression – reducing the sizes of images will increase site speed. You can also use different types of image formats e.g., WebP
Missing / Broken Canonical Links
There are times when you would require using Canonical links to tell the search engines which pages that you would want to be indexed or seen.
Product variations would lead to various pages. For example, different pages for size, colour or any other variant would lead you to create a different page for it. This would lead to too many duplicate pages and it would be advisable to use canonical tags.
The tags would help Google know which is the page that you want to index and at the same time the ones that you don’t want to be shown.
Schema markup is used to tell Google what your content is all about. Schema markup are java script and HTML tags that provide additional information about web content. These markups improve SEO as Google doesn’t have to figure out what your web page is all about and once It knows it can show your website on the first pages.
Rich snippets are a faster way of appearing on the first position of the SERP. Rich snippets are from the way schema markup have been used. Rich snippets pickup various section of your web page and presents them to internet users.
There is no guarantee that your rich snippet will be used but it increases the odds of your site appearing as no. 1.
Schema markup or rich snippets can be created manually by going to Structured Data Markup Helper.
There are several types of schema markup namely
- Product Schema markup – this shows the product name, price image, description, URL and name. it helps products to be easily found.
- Review Schema markup – this is a combination of aggregate ratings and individual reviews. With aggregate rating you will need overall rating value; rating count, best and worst rating. For individual review you will require – reviewer, date, value best and worst rating and review body.
- Product availability schema markup – this tells if a product is available or not.
- Video schema markup – this shows audio language, video resolution, age rating of videos
- Price schema – basically shows the price of the products.
One site version
It should be clear which version of your domain is visible to people. And it should be consistent to everyone. For example
only one should be shown or browsable. The other ones should have a 301 redirect.
There is a section that speaks about the value of backlinks. An audit should be done on the backlinks that are linking to your site in order to avoid low quality backlinks. There are times your competition will send low quality backlinks pointing to your site and you will be have to ask Google not to link the backlink to your site.
When you are looking at backlink you will need to look at:
- Anchor text – the text that is linked to your site
- Broken backlinks
- Sleazy links
Another form of a schema markup are sitemaps. Sitemaps are XML (Extensible Markup Language) that list all your URLs to search engines.
You can have site maps for:
- Products only – this will be for products and needs to be updates when the products are added or removed.
- Categories – only for category pages
- Editorial pages – for articles and blogs
- Image sitemaps – this will provide image location, title and image type to help in ranking
- Video sitemaps – for video details
Ecommerce sites must deal with 404 pages. This is because there are plenty of times when products will have to be removed or added. Many users will be disappointed when they go to a page and find the page not there. This is when you will need a proper 404 response.
One of the more popular responses to a 404 would be to have a humorous message apologizing why a certain product page is not available. This is better than not deleting the actual page as soon as you get to restock you will be able to use the same page.
You can redirect your users by using 301 redirects to the homepage or related products.
Content marketing is a wonderful way to rank higher for SEO. With Ecommerce websites you are limited to the number of keywords you can use. Once you have described the product there is no other way of doing it.
Here is where content marketing comes into action in that you can come up with a myriad of other keywords, LSIs, and informational long tail keywords. The long-tail keywords have proven to have a higher conversion rate than other keywords. Having these and linking them to product pages will increase SEO rank.
Content that is created on blogs, can be share on social media accounts to help show that the site is an authority on SEO. The more people see the content, the site is seen as trustworthy. Other websites would want to link to the ecommerce blog providing backlinks.
Through blog posts you can answer many of the objections that potential clients could have about a certain product. You can even educate them on how best to use the piece of product.
Today, video content is highly rated. More and more people are more apt to watching videos than reading an article of whatever length. Google also understands this and gives videos preferences.
You can create content around these themes
- How to pieces
- New product launches
- User-generated content
- Testimonials and reviews
Linking building falls under off page SEO where you use various strategies to get good quality website to link to yours. Link building is one of the more important aspects to ranking as it tells Google that your website is credible and has excellent quality information
There are no hard facts, but the assumption is the higher the number of decent quality backlinks the higher the ranking. Superior quality backlinks are from sites that have been online for a while, they are an authority and Google holds them in high regard.
Bad backlinks are paid links and from websites that are low authority. Think about web directories that just link to any site out there.
There are various websites out there that trying to rank websites by using Domain Authority, Page ranking and many other terms. Google has not officially come out to say which way the rank websites.
Collecting backlinks is a normally a challenge, as this is a continuous process as many sites are not willing to link to others. You will need to work with other bloggers, and site owners to see if they can link back to you.
Here are a few ways you can get back links to your site:
There is an extremely high likelihood that there are websites that rank higher than you or even lower than you because of certain keywords. When you search for a certain keyword, you will see a list of websites that rank on page one.
The next step to do is get a list of the top ten organic results for the keyword and put the list on an excel sheet. Then go through each site to see who is linking to them. Look for sites that have a higher domain authority and approach them to see if they are open to linking to your website as well.
By doing this, you will be stealing competitor backlinks and if you are able to get the other sites to link to you, you will be lowering their position as well.
It should be noted that getting the other sites to link to you can be a challenge and you will have to form a relationship with the site owners to convince them to add your link.
There are various online tools out there to help you see which backlinks each site has.
Guest posting is the oldest and most efficient way to get backlinks to a site. This involves going to another site that is in the same industry but not direct competitors and asking them to for an opportunity to post on their blogs. With this you can get a link back to your site.
If done well and severally, you will get a good number of quality links to your site and help you rank faster on branded keywords.
Guest posting involves:
- Looking for blogs or websites to post on
- Qualifying if they are good enough for you
- Reaching out to the site owners
- Creating content
- Building a relationship with the owners
Unlike traditional influencer marketing where you would like them to promote a certain product or service on their socials, you would you use them to get them to link to you. These influencers could be working in the same industry as you, but they are not your direct competitors.
You would like to get to influencers who have a large following on social media as well as on their website. Their websites should also have a higher domain authority.
You would approach them by asking them to link to your site. It could be through a guest post, a link to site from any of their pages and maybe featuring your products.
Other than paying them for a link to your site here are some ways to convince them to link to you:
- Share and comment their content
- Contact them and ask them questions
- Send them free gifts
- Send them customers.
- Anything to befriend them.
Local SEO refers to optimizing your website for location specific search queries. Local SEO is important especially in Kenya, because when you Google most stuff, you are provided with international but mostly American results.
Hence you do not have a local solution to your problem. The other way around this is to add “Nairobi” or “Kenya” to your search query and then you are given local results. Hence it is particularly important to optimize local SEO.
Local SEO can be broken down further into smaller locations into cities and counties. This works well for ecommerce businesses that have a physical store.
Here is how to improve Local SEO:
Google My Business Profile.
The first thing to do is claim your business on Google My Business (GMB). GMB allows your to put your business’ address to Google’s database. This helps you shop on maps in local search. GMB lets you show the following:
- Web address
- Physical address
- Hours of operation
Local citations are backlinks from local websites. They are backlinks from websites, news outlets, press releases, local directories, and other local media. This tells Google that your business is domiciled in a certain area.
You have read more than 5400 words on how to make SEO work for your Ecommerce website. These tips also work for other types of websites so they can be applied universally.
SEO is daunting and you do not know when to start or how soon you will get to see results but take it from me who has done it severally with different websites it can be done.
There are two times to start doing SEO, 10 years ago when there was no competition or right now so that you will be better off after 6 months to a year.
Good luck with your SEO efforts.