18 Point Ecommerce SEO Checklist

So you want start SEOing your Ecommerce Store or you may have already started and you want to know whether or not you are working through the right things?

This can be tricky as there is so much information out there and that is why we created a nice simple checklist to help you get your stores SEO started the right way.

1. Make Sure You Are Running on https

This is a relatively simple but important point when it comes to SEO as search engines like Google give preference to websites that are secure and as an ecommerce website, you should have an SSL certificate on your site and be running on the https protocol.

Most hosted ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and Bigcommerce include a free SSL certificate as part of their subscription but for self-hosted platforms such as WooCommerce and Opencart, it is down to you as the owner to make sure that this is set up properly.

If you haven’t got an SSL installed and you aren’t running on https, then you want to get this sorted ASAP and also make sure that all of your http URLs redirect to the new https ones.

2. Design for Mobile First

Visitors using mobile devices now make up over 50% of all the web traffic and search engines are now using mobile responsiveness as a ranking factor, so it can be best practice to design for mobile first and some of the things you can do include:

  • Using mobile responsive themes
  • Use the mobile display when designing or customizing your store
  • Check the mobile performance using the tools above
  • Check out your site using different mobile devices

Google also offer a mobile friendly test, which is a great tool for testing if your site is mobile responsive or not.

Having a mobile first design philosophy can not only improve your sites SEO but it can also have a big impact on mobile conversion rates due to the customer having a much better user experience.

Mobile Friendly Result Google

3. Check Your Stores Load Speed

Load speed is becoming more important in the world of SEO, so make sure that your site loads fast!

There are lots of tools out there that can check load speed but our two favourites are Google PageSpeed Insights and Uptrends Speed Tool.

The reason why we like (and use) these tools is that they check both mobile and desktop performance along with offering advice on areas where you can improve.

When checking your sites speed, make sure to check multiple pages on your site such as product and blog pages, not just your homepage.

It does depend on the ecommerce platform you are using as to what you can do to improve load times but some options can include:

  1. Upgrading to better hosting
  2. Using an optimization plugin or app
  3. Use a CDN
  4. Use a fast loading theme
  5. Optimize your images
  6. Reduce the number of plugins or apps you are using
  7. Keeping pop-ups to a minimum

When doing any performance optimization, do 1 thing at a time to see if it improves load time and there may be some that have a negative effect.

4. Make Sure Your Site Can Be Crawled and Indexed

This is something that can be easily overlooked but make sure that search engines can actually crawl and index your site.

Once again, this comes down to the ecommerce platform that you have chosen to build your site but there may be an option in the settings somewhere that stops or allows search engines to crawl your site.

This may be as simple as unchecking a box or moving your store out of maintenance mode but make sure that it can be crawled.

While not completely necessary, it is often best practice to manually submit your stores sitemap to search engines such as Google and Bing as way of letting them know that your site is there and you want them to crawl and index it.

5. Create a Site Structure

Site structure plays an important role in SEO but it also helps your sites visitors navigate around your site, so spend a little bit of time planning your sites structure.

There are a few different site structure models but a commonly used one for ecommerce stores is the hierarchy, which can look a little bit like a pyramid like in the image below:

Website Structure Hierarchy

So your homepage is at the top and then your main categories and blog homepage are the secondary level and then linking to individual products or posts in the next level.

You can add multiple layers to your hierarchy but keep in mind the people using your site as they are going to keep clicking through multiple sub-categories to find the product they want, which is why it is best to keep your site structure as simple as possible.

Once you have decided on your site structure, you want to make this accessible on the front end of your site by setting up your sites navigation menu to match this structure.

6. Do Effective Keyword Research

This is very important when it comes to on-page SEO as you want to find the keywords and potential long-tail keywords that you want your pages to rank for.

There are many different ways to do keyword research from using free tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner to paid tools like Ahrefs or Semrush.

When doing keyword research, you want to identify:

  • What people are searching for
  • Estimated volume for that keyword
  • The quality and quantity of the competition

And you want to do this for all pages on your site and also tailor it to specific pages as keyword research for a product page is going to be different from that for a blog post.

If you want to learn more about doing keyword research, then take a look at our Complete Ecommerce SEO Guide, which covers this in much more detail.

7. Add Your Main Keyword To Your Product/Page Title

Once you have done your keyword research, it is time to start adding them to your sites pages and you want to add the main keyword that you want the page to rank for in the page title and preferably near to the start of the title.

This is because the page title is the H1 tag, which is the most important header tag on the page and gives search engines an idea as to what the page is about.

But don’t keyword stuff your page title to try and rank it as this can sometimes have the adverse effect, instead, create a title that reads organically as this then appeals to both search engines and the humans behind the screen who are the ones that click on your links!

8. Write an Original Product Description

Your description plays a big part of your products SEO as it is the largest content area on the page and you want to make the most of it, not only for SEO purposes but also as it can help drive sales as well!

And one of the best ways to make the most of it is to create a completely original, well written product description and at all costs avoid copying and pasting manufacturers descriptions as there could be numerous other sites using that exact same copy.

There are other benefits to create original content, such as:

  • Being able to include additional keywords
  • Formatting
  • Provide more in-depth information

When creating your description it is also worth paying attention to the formatting of the content so that it is easier for your potential customers to consume by using short paragraphs and highlighting important information in bullet point lists.

As you begin to start writing your own content, you will develop your own writing style, which doesn’t make much difference to SEO but it can help your content stand out from others to your readers.

9. Add a Description to Your Category Pages

On many ecommerce websites, some of the most overlooked pages from an SEO perspective are the category or collection pages (depends on which ecommerce platform you are using) and this can be a great opportunity for stores that take the time to optimize them.

The reason why you should do this is because category pages can rank for broader search terms than product pages and can get clicks from people who are browsing for products rather than actively searching for a specific product.

10. Create SEO Friendly URLs

Whether it is a product or a blog page, you want to create SEO friendly URLs. Some ecommerce platforms will do this automatically based of the title of the page but it is always worth checking these out before you hit publish.

This is because you want to include to main keyword in the URL as this aids in page continuity but you also want to pay attention to the structure of the URL as there are a few different options, such as:

  • domainname.com/product-name
  • domainname.com/category/product-name
  • domainname.com/category/sub-category/product-name

These URLs are very similar but the second two let search engines understand your site structure better as they know that the product sits below the category in your sites hierarchy, where as the first one doesn’t.

URL structure doesn’t play a huge role in ecommerce SEO but it is something that you still want to consider, especially if you really want to nail your sites on-page SEO.

11. Add a Custom Meta Description

Now meta descriptions don’t play a big part in SEO anymore as they are no longer a ranking factor but they can still impact on your click through rate and as the whole point of SEO is to get people to click through to your site from organic search results, it is definitely worth doing.

When it comes to creating a good meta description, your aim is to create a sales pitch that makes people want to click through to your site in 160 character or less!

To learn more, check Neil Patel’s Guide on Writing Compelling Meta Descriptions.

12. Optimize Your Images

For this, we are not talking about optimizing your images for performance but instead for SEO as they are an important element on your ecommerce stores pages and you want them to be working for you and there are two main ways you can do this:

  1. Image Title – this starts before you even upload them to your site as you want to give the image a keyword optimized title and for main product and posts images, something similar to the page title is best practice
  2. Alt Tag – this is a tag that you can add to your images once you have uploaded them and it is basically a description of what the image is, which is helpful to search engines (it also helps visually impaired visitors to your site)

You want to do this to all of the images on your site from your product and category images to any images that you use in blog posts or on your site in general, such as your logo.

Not only does this help with page continuity but there is also a chance that these images can appear on Google Image Search, which is one of the worlds more popular search engines.

13. Structured Data

Structured data (schema markup) is information about the page that helps search engines understand what the purpose of the page is and there are a few different types of structured data including:

  • Products
  • Articles
  • Recipes
  • Reviews

And you want to make sure that your sites pages have the correct structured data on them but it may depend on the ecommerce platform that you are using as to how much control you have over this as some do it for you automatically.

However, there may be apps or plugins for your platform that give you more control and allow you to input more information, which may be displayed by search engines in SERPs, such as in the image below:

Product Schema Markup

This structured data includes product related information but also data that can lead to rich snippets in the form of the reviews, which have all come from schema enabled reviews that customers have left on the product.

If you want to learn more about structured data, then I would recommend reading Semrush’s Beginners Guide to Structured Data.

14. Add a Blog To Your Store

If you are reading this, then you are obviously taking SEO seriously for your online store but to really get the most out of SEO you need content and the best way to add lots of high-quality content to your store is by adding a blog.

Don’t believe me? Then look at what adding a blog can do for your store:

  1. Cover a wide selection of niche based content
  2. Attract people at an earlier stage in the buying process
  3. Grow your stores E-A-T (Experience, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness)
  4. Provide an opportunity for Internal Linking
  5. Potentially get Backlinks

So there are lots of potential benefits to adding a blog but you need to make sure that you are creating highly valuable and informative content as this yields the best results, so it is worth spending some time learning how to blog effectively or employ the services of someone who can.

15. Internal Linking

Internal links are great for SEO and when done properly can be very beneficial to to your site for a couple of reasons:

  1. It makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site and understand which content is related to which
  2. It passes ‘link juice’ from one page to another, which is a signal to search engines that this page being linked to is important

It can be tempting when doing internal linking to just use keywords as anchor text but this can actually work against you due to potential over-optimization, instead use natural anchor texts for your links, which fit perfectly into the pages content.

16. Avoid Thin & Duplicate Content

If you have followed the checklist so far, you should already be creating good quality, original content for your store but there is still a chance that you can end up with thin and/or duplicate content just due to amount of pages that you may have on your site.

But what is thin content, well it is basically content that serves little to no use to the user and for ecommerce stores, it can be things like:

  • Blog posts that don’t answer the search query
  • Multiple category pages with very few products
  • Duplicate content, such as the same description being on two or more product pages
  • Scraped content such as manufacturer descriptions

Fortunately, there are fixes for all of these such as:

  • Creating high quality posts
  • Combining categories into 1 and doing 301 redirects or noindexing the category
  • Using canonical tags to tell search engines which page to index
  • Creating original content

In most cases, you will need to perform a site audit in order the be able to find these issues.

Search engines don’t like when things are broken and that is why you want to regularly audit your sites SEO to check for any broken links and/or images.

One of our favourite tools for this is Ahrefs and they offer these audits on their free account and they crawl your site every week and then email you to let you know it has been done and if there are any issues.

You then want to go through and fix these issues as soon as possible, so either removing or replacing the broken link or image, the report will also highlight any other issues such as missing alt tags or meta descriptions to name a few.

But there are some things you can do to help prevent some of these issues from happening such as creating 301 redirects when you change or delete a URL as this will automatically redirect users to the new URL.

18. Get Backlinks

Easier said than done I know but backlinks are a fundamental part of a successful SEO strategy.

Now, there are many different ways to get backlinks but they need to be high quality backlinks from reputable and relevant sites within your niche as these help boost your sites SEO, which results in a higher Domain Rating (Ahrefs) or Domain Authority Score (Moz).

This lets search engines know that your site has good quality information and is trustworthy, which means that they are more likely to rank you in SERPs (most first page results usually have quite a few backlinks).

It can also be useful to get backlinks to multiple different pages on your site, so your homepage, product pages and blogs post as this should give you a nice and varied backlink profile.

BUT be aware, not all backlinks are good, spammy links can harm your sites SEO, so be careful about the methods you use to build links as you could end up getting punished by search engines.

Conclusion

As you can see, there is are quite a few things that go into SEOing an ecommerce site (was there more than you thought?) and it covers many different elements from technical to on-page SEO.

It can be helpful to understand that SEO takes time and is a constant project, it most definitely isn’t one and done, so be prepared to put in the work and know that some things will work, while other things won’t as every website is different.

But by constantly improving your site and your own knowledge around SEO, you can see some really good returns on investment, which is what every ecommerce website owner wants.

Hi, I'm Paul, the Owner and Founder of EcommerceGold.
I ran my own Ecommerce Business for over 7 years and now help others start their own online retail empires!

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