Jun 16, 2016
17 Insanely Practical eCommerce SEO Tips to Increase Organic Traffic
Did you know that organic search is responsible for a whopping 43% of overall ecommerce sites traffic source?
If you are a complex eCommerce business, you may have thousands of webpages to optimise. Even for a simpler website, not selling online at all, there are many SEO factors to consider.
Fear not. Here are 17 practical SEO tips to improve your search rankings and increase your traffic.
Consider your website architecture in making it simpler for humans to browse and gather information. In turn, consider this same equation for search spiders to crawl and index your website.
eCommerce SEO Tip #1: Group each product according to its category
Known as "siloing" or theming, this process allows you to group similar items within the same category.
For example, if you are selling clothing and apparel, you may want to categorise your products according to type:
You can even break your categories down into sub-categories:
Here you are essentially telling your visitors and search spiders that ‘product1’ and ‘product2’ pages are shirts worn by men.
From a user perspective, you narrow down your audience to your target buyers (men looking for shirts). From a search engine perspective, they associate the pages with “men” and "shirt".
There are different types of siloing that you should apply on your eCommerce site, all of which are covered in this incredible infographic post at Webris.
eCommerce SEO Tip #2: Implement flat site architecture
Organise your pages and categories into a flat architecture to make your silos more obvious to users and search spiders.
On the left is a flat site architecture with a site that goes up to three levels. The homepage links to the categories, which then links to the pages under it.
On the right is the deep site architecture, which goes five levels deep. Under the categories from the homepage are more subcategories until you reach to the pages under each.
Comparing both site architectures, the left looks much flatter compared to the one in the right, thus the name flat site architecture.
You want your content to be easily found by users and search engines, which makes the flat architecture the best option. Unlike deep architecture, flat does not bury your content under multiple subcategories.
At the same time, you need to balance this factor and the ability to label your product pages according to well-defined categories. On one hand, having too flat a site architecture makes your categories broad, which may be less helpful to visitors and search spiders. On the other, a more narrowed set of categories may result in your product pages being buried too deeply into your site architecture.
This is evident with URL structures that go past a hundred characters for product pages under multiple categories.
This is not to say that your site will have problems with search spiders because they have the capacity to read long URL strings. The length of your URL has little effect on your site's SEO performance. The real problem lies with the user experience.
“Shorter URLs are easier to parse, to copy and paste, to share on social media, and to embed, and while these might all add up to only a fractional improvement in sharing or amplification, every tweet, like, share, pin, email, and link matters (either directly or, often, indirectly),” says Rand Fishkin of Moz.
eCommerce SEO Tip #3: Keep the item URLs free of categories
To eliminate the problem brought by having multiple subcategories that cause long URLs for your product pages, you may want to remove categories and subcategories from their URLs. The Iconic, for example, doesn’t have their product URLs under multiple categories.
eCommerce SEO Tip #4: Use breadcrumb
Breadcrumbs refer to the trail of links that appear on top of the page. They display the hierarchy of categories and subcategories where the page sits on the site.
They let users visit other categories related to the product to view similar items with a click of a button. The ability to visit higher-level pages quickly helps reduce bounce rate and increases engagement with your site, which give you a better chance of landing a sale.
SEO isn’t just about title tags, headings, and body content - there are many factors that happen under the hood as well.
eCommerce SEO Tip #5: Integrate schema.org markup
Schema.org is a set of markup data that applies to top search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo!). With well structured data, search engine spiders will have a standardised set of information that they can easily interpret and process.
From an SEO standpoint, Schema.org makes it easier for you to get your pages indexed and ranked for your target keywords.
Setting up the Schema.org markup on all your pages can be done manually by referring to this guide by KISSmetrics.
eCommerce SEO Tip #6: Set up analytics tools to track performance
To see how your website is performing in terms of organic search traffic, you need to set up an analytics tool such as Google Analytics.
Aside from viewing web traffic over time, Google Analytics lets you see other data pertinent to your eCommerce site goals. Setting up conversion goals for your product pages is a great way to see how each is performing regarding converting visitors into buyers.
eCommerce SEO Tip #7: Leverage existing rankings
Find category or product pages that are ranking just outside the top 10 for their keyword(s)
And do the following:
- Optimise the title and meta-description to include those keywords (only where they can fit naturally in the text)
- Link from other pages to that page
eCommerce SEO Tip #8: Find broken links, 404 and duplicate pages
It is not uncommon for your site to chalk-up erroneous links and pages over time. These instances may occur when you are restructuring your site and have changed the URL structure.
To ensure that all your pages are accessible and link to the correct URL, use Screaming Frog Spider SEO tool and run a complete website audit.
The team at SEER Interactive have put together this fantastic guide on doing a technical SEO audit, keyword research, competitive analysis, link building, and much more using nothing but this Screaming Frog tool.
eCommerce SEO Tip #9: Make your website mobile responsive
In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, the mobile device experience has become a pretty important factor in business! Google made mobile-friendliness a ranking factor in April 2015, an algorithm change nicknamed “Mobilegeddon” (such was the fear around its impact on rankings).
Head over to Google Mobile Friendly Test page to see if your website is up to scratch or not. If it is not in great mobile shape, here are a few resources to assist further:
- SitePoint: 10 ways to make your website mobile friendly
- Hootsuite: 9 tips to creating a mobile friendly website
eCommerce SEO Tip #10: Increase site speed
According to KISSmetrics, 40% of consumers abandon websites that take more than 3 seconds to load. 47% say they expect a website to load in two seconds or less.
But it's not just about the 'bounce'. It's about the dollar!
In 2014, Portent ran a study to compare the actual value of a single pageview on a website vs the page load time, and they found:
“You can increase dollars per pageview by 20% reducing page load time from eight to five seconds.
But the real win comes when you get your page loads to one second or less. Go from two to one-second load time and dollars per pageview jump 100%. Value doubles.”
There are many ways you can improve your page load time:
- Optimise your images
- Enable browser caching
- Enable compression
- Optimise your CSS
- Keep your scripts below the fold
- Minimise HTTP requests
If you really want to go nuts on this topic, Portent has a (massive) guide on how to improve your page speed.
How your site appears to users and search spiders plays a significant role in SEO. Users won't click on websites that offer nothing compelling by way of valuable content. The spiders will have a hard time crawling an un-optimised page.
eCommerce SEO Tip #11: Write compelling metadata for each product and category page
Similar to a schema.org markup, metadata allows search spiders to understand easily what your site page is about and helps it rank for the most relevant keyword.
For the human audience, writing a compelling title and meta-description will better your chances of attracting further interest in that story or page, and higher CTRs (click through rate) are a significant ranking factor.
Rand Fishkin tested this theory by running an experiment:
And the results:
We suggest you to watch this awesome video by Brian Dean and learn how a 2-minute tweak helped him rank #5 for the insanely-competitive keyword: “list building”. Hint: it involves tweaking the title and meta-description.
eCommerce SEO Tip #12: More Words, much better
A study conducted by serpIQ in 2012 shows that pages that appear on the first page of Google have at least 2,000 words.
While it may be impractical for eCommerce sites to have that many words on their product pages, the point stands that having more words (and depth) to your content will increase your chances of ranking on the first page for a chosen keyword.
On the flipside, don't just jam 2,000 words of filler text on your page and expect it to rank. Content length goes hand in hand with quality and usefulness of the page. While word count plays a factor in SEO, making your content useful to your audience is much more important.
eCommerce SEO Tip #13: Encourage testimonials from customers
User-generated content (UGC) is an excellent way to drive more traffic to your site from search engine.
Reviews published on your website help generate unique content on your page, which gets indexed by search engines. You can also refer to UGC for long-tail keywords that you can use and optimise for specific pages on your site.
The caveat of UGC is that you may well receive bad reviews from customers. This is normal and in fact, negative reviews are a great way to engage with customers, show a human side to your brand, and potentially convert these people into believers and your best advocates.
eCommerce SEO Tip #14: Optimise for your keyword phrase
Use target keywords on your page, but only if it feels natural and within the flow of content. Long gone are the days when you needed to stuff your keywords into the content as much as possible.
To maximise keyword optimisation on your product pages, use Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) and long-tail keywords in the content. These related terms will tip off to search spiders that you are talking about the same thing, your target keywords.
Off-page optimisation aka Link Building
No matter what you might hear on the grapevine, Google still values backlinks as a ranking factor.
eCommerce SEO Tip #15: Piggyback your competitors’ backlinks
This link building strategy is highly dependent on the backlinks acquired by your competitors.
Using tools like SEMrush, Monitor Backlinks, or Open Site Explorer you can uncover the types of backlinks they have. Do they have a lot of links from bloggers doing reviews of their product, do they have a lot of backlinks from forums, or sponsoring events?
Find out where they’re getting their links from, and see if you can get backlinks from those sources too. If they receive links from guest bloggers, pitch to those bloggers too.
If their links are coming in from forums, try to be more active on forums. You get the drill!
eCommerce SEO Tip #16: Create how-to infographics aka “ instructographics”
How To’s and DIY’s are HUGE on Pinterest. Pinterest users are looking for something visual and practically useful.
Here's an old, but a REALLY useful guide from Colby Almond on how to create an "instructographic" specifically for Pinterest.
eCommerce SEO Tip #17: The moving man method
Shout out to Brian Dean for coming up with this strategy.
In summary, it involves 3 steps:
- Step 1: Find sites or resources that have changed names, shut down, or moved.
- Step 2: Find sites linking to the old page.
- Step 3: Give them a heads up about their outdated link.
In case you’re wondering if this method works or not, one of Brian’s readers implemented this strategy and got a huge number of links from relevant, high-quality industry sites.
Wrapping it all up
When done right, you'll be sure to see an increase in quality traffic, which will eventually drive more conversions.
Fair warning, however. SEO isn't an overnight thing. It's not even a one-off thing. If SEO was a race, it would be a marathon. So don't expect to see immediate results, but work at it and you'll see lasting, long-term benefits for your toil.
Are there other tips that you think we've missed? We'd love to hear from you with other SEO ideas.
Related reading: 19 Powerful (and Actionable) SEO Tips For B2B Companies