Organic traffic is unlike any other marketing traffic source. Every site visitor is free, and every free session is a potential sale. Unlike paid campaigns in search or social, organic users don’t come with any immediate marketing costs.
However, more often than not, many online retailers get caught in a holding pattern for eCommerce SEO growth. They’re unsure how to build landing pages that draw high-quality traffic and perform well in search. Unlike paid traffic, increasing your visibility organically isn’t as simple as increasing your advertising budget.
If you feel like you’re hitting a wall for the types of effective eCommerce SEO you can create, then we’re here to help. Follow this guide of 20 tips to help you increase your site’s ranking potential. This should give you a baseline to review your site and identify where you should focus your efforts this year and beyond.
Before You Begin
We developed this report based on our strategic opinions of the market, guided by current developments, best practices, and data. What works for the industry as a whole might not work for your site, and we cannot promise that you’ll see positive gains, even if you implement every change.
Any changes you make to your website should be done carefully. This way can see what works for you — and what doesn’t — and be able to adapt your strategy before any changes become permanent.
1. Let Search Engines Read Reviews
One way to attract new customers and increase your visibility is with unique, informative content on your product pages. If you have hundreds of product pages, you might have the bandwidth to constantly create new content. One option for developing a steady stream of new content is with product recommendations and reviews. Your customers submit reviews and serve as salespeople to convince others to convert.
Almost 90% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends or family members, which means a few reviews can go a long way to boost your conversion rate.
Highlighting these reviews on your site is great for users, but also for your eCommerce SEO efforts. Content-rich reviews provide fresh updates to your pages, something Google rewards, and enhance the context needed by crawlers to understand why they should show your product in a search result instead of one of your competitors.
When building out a review platform, choose one that embeds the review content directly into the HTML of your site. This guarantees that both users and search engines can read these endorsements, improving your long-tail keyword listing and increasing your qualified traffic leads.
2. Create Dynamic Meta Descriptions
The meta description appears directly below a page title in the SERPs. Google doesn’t read what you write in the meta description, but your customers do. In addition to the title and the URL, it’s the only information they have on your site before they decide whether or not you get their click.
For eCommerce sites that offering thousands of products that often get replaced seasonally, finding a way to write engaging meta descriptions at scale is a challenge. Some companies invest the time creating a unique description for every page, but that’s not feasible if you’re a small business or major department store retailer.
Smart SEOs use “Concatenation schemas” and establish a set of rules to automate meta description creation while generating unique content. This is a small piece of code that uses a predetermined set of rules to write relevant descriptions automatically.
For example, the following rule could be written for photography retailer B&H Photo:
- Shop for PRODUCT NAME at BRAND. BRAND provides SUBCATEGORY and CATEGORY for all photography and electronics enthusiasts.
In action, the product description looks like this:
- Shop for Canon EOS Rebel at B&H Photo. B&H Photo provides DSLR Cameras and Digital Cameras for all photography and electronics enthusiasts.
Instead of taking days or weeks to update a category, this schema allows you to update your entire site automatically. With a little testing, you should be able to find a description that improves your organic click-through rates.
3. Keep Your Product Descriptions Unique
Along with meta descriptions, you want to make sure your product descriptions are unique as well.
Unique content became a priority after Google released its Panda algorithm, which focuses on promoting high-quality content that is relevant to users. The goal was also to penalize duplicate content that was scrapped from other pages.
One of the first steps to boost your eCommerce SEO efforts is to identify any content on your product pages that contain duplicated copy, particularly pages that have the same description as products offered by competitors or manufacturers.
Once you identify duplicated content, rewrite it from scratch. This makes your content unique compared to your competitors, and well-written descriptions provide Google with additional context around what you’re selling, increasing the likelihood that they’ll show your product for relevant searches.
If you need to prioritize your content and have a seemingly endless list of product descriptions ahead of you, create content for your highest margin and best selling products first. Then develop a strategy to replace duplicated descriptions in phases, or as new products get added to your lineup. Eventually, you will convert your entire site over to the new descriptions.
If you sell your products through other marketplaces, like Amazon or eBay, use the manufacturer’s descriptions so your unique content isn’t shared across the web.
4.Only Index One Version Of Your Domain
Speaking of duplicate content, you want to make sure there is only one copy of any given page on your domain. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for companies, even large ones, to have their entire website duplicated. This is usually happening when a site has an active “www” and “non-www version,” like a page that starts with “http”.
When you have multiple duplicated sites, your pages compete against each other in search, and competitors with only one page for a given product will outrank you.
Duplicate pages often occur when subdomains aren’t blocked by Robots.txt files, gated behind a password-protected log-in wall, or redirected to the main www page. Search engine crawlers find the duplicate pages and split equity between in the rankings. Instead of one page getting 100% of the value, two pages get 50%.
There are multiple steps you can take to identify if you have multiple versions of your domain indexed:
- Crawl on your webpage using a tool like Screaming Frog, DeepCrawl, or SEMRush
- Review Google Analytics data for organic landing pages to see if unwanted subdomains appear.
- Search Google’s index of your site by using advances modifiers, such as “site:mysite.com -inurl:www” to display all indexed pages on your site that are not located in the www subdomain.
Ideally, you will block any duplicate pages before creating them, but if you notice them in your index, be sure to update your robots.txt as quickly as possible.
5. Add Pagination Elements to Category Pages
On category pages with thousands of products, the last thing you want is to force users to load everything at once and then scroll through listings until they find something they want. Most eCommerce websites solve this by breaking up the category into easily digestible pages with just a portion of the listings, typically with 25-50 items per page.
While this is great for customer experience, it can have a negative impact on your eCommerce SEO as Google isn’t sure which category page to display for users in search results. Adding SEO pagination elements with “rel=next” and “rel=prev” tags tells Google and other search engines how pages are related to one another.
Smart web developers will also give users the option to view all of the listings on one page. If you decide to add the option to your eCommerce pages, make sure you follow the canonical rules outlined by Google to prevent confusion and penalties by the search crawlers.
6. Embrace Schematic Markup
Schematic markup is one of the most effective, but underutilized, tools for SEO eCommerce. These little snippets of code improve your results by placing star ratings and price tags directly in Google search results. While schematic data isn’t a direct ranking factor, these visually pleasing additions provide context to potential customers and can increase your click-through rate.
According to a study by Search Engine Land in 2014, structured markup appears in 36% of search results, but less than one percent of all websites have it on their pages.
Implementing structured markup on your website means adding of code to your page templates from Schema.org. We’ve written about the benefits of Schema before, but it bears repeating: this is a powerful tool for any business willing to set it up.
When properly integrated into your code, this Schema data enables Google to render more effective search results and can positively influence click-through rate.
7. Prioritize Speed
Starting in July 2018, speed will be a ranking factor in Google’s mobile search results. Along with impacting your eCommerce SEO, site speed has a significant effect on the user experience. An average increase of your mobile site speed by one second can increase your bounce rate by 8.3%, decrease your conversion rate by 3.5% and decrease your pageviews by 9.4%.
Google’s best practices say that a page should load in under four seconds, and the faster your site becomes, the better. SEO experts need to quickly identify and correct anything that slows your page speed down.
Start by monitoring the bounce rate, load time, and time on site to understand the health of your site speed. You can also use free tools, such as Web Page Test, to identify bottlenecks in page speed.
8. Canonical URLs
Ecommerce sites have some of the messiest and longest URLs you find online. The bigger the store, the worse it gets, as the inclusion of parameters from search and navigation systems can add millions of unique URLs based on click paths.
It’s not uncommon to see large retailers with up to 1,000 URL variations for a single product. Thanks to search functionality, this outcome is often unavoidable, since the last thing you want to do is prevent your customer from finding the products they’re looking for.
Unfortunately, this scenario is troublesome for retailers and brands since it wastes Google’s time as the crawlers track down and index every version of the URL.
If this is the case with your business, make sure you eliminate index bloat by using canonical tags as well as with Google’s parameter exclusion tool.
9. Limit Architecture Depth
Reducing the depth of your website’s architecture can increase the rankings of your core category pages by consolidating site equity. Usually, the best practice within eCommerce SEO is to construct a more horizontal architecture that limits the depth of pages that Google has to absorb in order to find and isolate categories.
In eCommerce, it’s not unusual to see architecture that seems to go on forever, such as:
- Home > Category > Sub-Category > Family > Brand > Product
While this granular architecture might make sense for your products, it buries those smaller category pages, since each time you create a new branch you’re making it less likely that Google will assign any value to that page.
Developing a shallow site architecture, with most pages located only one or two subcategories off the primary domain, increases the value that Google assigns to each page.
10. Deindex Discontinued Products
When your products sell out, you likely set up a 404 error page on the site, meaning the page no longer exists. This means browsers won’t find any information if they attempt to navigate your site or visit the page through an existing link. Unfortunately, these 404 pages are often linked to by internal and external sources and trap Google crawlers that get confused by too many redirects or dead ends.
Instead, reduce 404 pages by establishing a process to gracefully remove the old page from the Google index quickly. You can also automatically redirect users to the category, brand, or family page so users can keep browsing even if that specific product isn’t available.
11. Drive Social Signals
Social media interactions help drive branded search, increase visibility, and help companies develop a community of active fans online. While there is no direct correlation between social media and eCommerce SEO, social media can be a powerful traffic driver that points social crawlers to the health and value of your website.
More importantly, however, social media provides you with another opportunity to reach and interact with your users. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts give you ways to answer questions and showcase the human side of your business. The most successful eCommerce companies on social media are those that genuinely connect with customers and provide real value online.
12. Utilize Dynamic Sitemaps
One of the biggest opportunities in eCommerce SEO is in long-tail keywords. These search queries typically have four or more words and do not have a large search volume. What they lack in volume they make up for in revenue, as these terms typically have a higher conversion rate because customers using them are generally closer to making a purchase.
Properly targeting long tail keywords often requires content creation deep within your site structure. While these pages might have the exact answers your customers are looking for, Google has to find them and crawl them to assign value in the search results.
One way to take advantage of long-tails search terms is with dynamic sitemaps. Dynamic sitemaps are auto-generated XML files that outline all URLs on your website in a format that makes it easy for Google.
Essentially, you are giving search engines hints into how your pages are stored and classified to make their job easier when crawling.
Creating a dynamic sitemap is fairly easy, but maintaining it is not. It’s easy for eCommerce sitemaps to become outdated, have broken URLs, or even missing URLs when they are shared with search crawlers.
Consider investing in a tool that auto-generates dynamic sitemaps. This way you can feel confident that Google’s crawlers get the information they need on a daily basis and the URLs are up-to-date and accurate.
13. Invest in Local SEO
Do you have physical stores as well as an eCommerce presence? Creating local pages can drive substantial eCommerce SEO improvements to both branded local and non-branded local traffic.
Local results appear when a user geographically near your store searches for products or services that you offer. Potential customers can learn your hours of operation, directions to your location, and any offers or events you might have coming up.
If you want to maximize your local SEO benefits, then your local site should appear in the root URL (ex.Mysite.com/stores/Philadelphia). Not only will this make your locations easier to discover for users, it will also allow Google to assign some of the equity your eCommerce store has to your physical location. This means search engines are more likely to show your business location when local customers search for your products.
14. Promote Your Content
Traditional outreach strategies are often overlooked by retailers but serve as powerful traffic drivers and link building tactics that can improve your eCommerce SEO. If a blog, website, or influencer that is trusted by your customers appreciates your content, they share it with their audience, driving traffic to your page, increasing your overall reach, and building a valuable backlink to your pages.
In today’s SEO environment, link quality trumps quantity. A link from a trusted website counts for more than any number of artificial links placed in comment sections, forums, or related low-quality sites.
To build natural, authoritative links, you need to make something worth linking to. Whether this is an infographic, and interactive page, or original research, it has to be something that engages your readers. By making your content educational and not promotional, partner publishers will be more open to presenting your content to their audiences. You have to start with great content before other people will want to link to it.
15. Switch to HTTPS
In the last two years, Google has made a tremendous public effort to encourage the migration of domains to secure HTTPS environments. Starting in July 2018, any website that doesn’t use HTTPS in their URL will be marked “not secure,” in Chrome.
Retailers rely on customer trust to convert them. If your customers don’t think your website is safe, they aren’t going to give you their credit card information or other personal indicators. If you want to continue driving organic traffic and help customers trust your brand, then you need an HTTPS environment.
16. Help Google Understand Your Video
Video content is a great way to drive brand visibility and boost your eCommerce SEO. Almost 65% of customers say they bought a product after watching a branded video on social media. Furthermore, video content has been known to drive a 157% increase in organic traffic when paired with valuable text.
Many brands forget to provide written transcripts when they upload video content. Google will see that you posted a video, but without the transcript, they won’t have any context for what it is about.
If you plan to make videos frequently, consider uploading the video to YouTube and placing it on your website with the transcribed audio below. Make sure to format the text so it is easy to read. Not only does this give Google context for your video, it also appeals to customers who want to learn what the video is about before they press play. Use headings to separate different ideas, and split the text into small, easy to skim paragraphs. Essentially, your video content becomes the blog post for the video.
17. Clean Up Your HTML
HTML is the code and other elements within your web page that tells a customer’s browser how to display your content. Google also uses HTML to understand the context of the content and how it’s displayed to human visitors.
Without HTML, your customers would see either a blank screen or worse, a mass of illegible text. Title tags, meta descriptions, and headers all help people understand what your page is about and how to quickly find the information that is most relevant to them.
Google uses your HTML information to understand the relevance of your content. In fact, effective use of HTML is a ranking factor, as the easier it is for a crawler to determine what your content is about, the easier it likely is for users.
Review your HTML to make sure it isn’t outdated, bulky, or doing more harm than good. A few cuts could improve your eCommerce SEO while increasing your overall site speed.
18. Identify Opportunity Pockets
In all likelihood, the rankings on your site vary widely. Many categories and product terms likely rank well, while some are much deeper in the page listings within Google. Your core items probably drive the bull of your organic traffic, while lesser products have a hard time generating links.
Strategic eCommerce SEO teams will follow a daily process to review these rankings in order to isolate the categories and product detail pages that need improved content efforts. A tool like SEMRush gives you an updated view of your position in organic search, along with an estimate of how that positioning should translate into traffic.
You have a limited number of eCommerce SEO resources. Use this data to find low-hanging fruit that you can easily optimize for greater results and low-performing pages that should be doing better.
19. Optimize for Voice Search
Voice search with the help of personal assistants like Siri, Cortana, and Alexa is on the rise. Some estimate that 50% of all searches will come from voice search by 2020. Roughly 13% of all houses had a speaker in 2017, a number that is expected to increase to 55% by 2022. Now is the time to start targeting voice search queries.
Consider developing an answer section of your site, like a FAQ page, to address questions. You can also use Schema markup to list answers directly on your product pages.
To understand what questions to answer, look at the historical data gathered by your on-site search, or through online queries on Google’s Search Console. Notice the questions that users are already asking, and give them a way to find the information they need.
Be sure to make each question a unique page and answer the question as detailed as possible to appeal to crawlers and voice search users.
20. Work With Trinity to Boost Your eCommerce SEO
It’s impossible for one person to do everything, and eCommerce SEO is more complex because you need to factor in product pages, landing pages, and content pages. Our team will run a comprehensive SEO audit to learn what you’re doing right and where you need to improve. If this list seems overwhelming, contact us today. We can also set up a free consultation to discuss your eCommerce SEO opportunities and concerns.