Ecommerce SEO – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

Many ecommerce website owners seem to think that SEO is some kind of dark art or black magic and that it is not worth the effort but that simply isn’t true because when SEO is done right, it can be hugely beneficial to your business and in some cases reap better rewards than other digital marketing methods.

When it comes to learning about SEO, it is all about being willing to put in the time and effort to learn about the different elements of SEO, just like you would when learning any other skill and also finding good resources, such as this one (blowing my own trumpet a bit there!), that break things down into easy to understand sections.

Is SEO Worth It For Ecommerce Websites?

Simple answer…. Yes, it can definitely be worth it because traffic from organic search results can be very profitable, don’t believe me? Then check out some of these Ecommerce SEO related stats:

  • The average conversion rate for B2C Ecommerce stores from organic search results is 4% compared to 1.8% from paid search and 2% from social media (Ruler Analytics)
  • 49% of marketers believe Organic Search to be the most profitable channel (Search Engine Journal)
  • 53% of web traffic comes from Organic Search (Bright Edge)
  • The first organic search results average a Click Through Rate (CTR) of over 30% and second place average a CTR of over 10% (Advanced Web Rankings)
  • 68% of all online experiences start with search engines (Bright Edge)

So as you can see, SEO can be a very important aspect to an ecommerce businesses marketing strategy and when done right, can be very profitable.

Technical SEO for Ecommerce

Everything we have looked at up until this point has been based around keywords but there are also technical aspects to SEO, which can affect your search rankings and below are some of the big ones.

Page Speed

Page speed has a direct correlation to user experience as the longer someone has to wait, the worse their experience is.

And Google have been very focused on user experience in the last couple of years, as evidenced by the introduction of the Core Web Vitals in May 2020, which are a set of performance metrics that help guide website owners to improve the performance of their site.

Google Core Web Vitals

Google provide two tools to help you monitor your Core Web Vitals:

  1. PageSpeed Insights – which offers a snapshot of your sites performance
  2. Search Console – monitors your site performance over time and notifies you which pages require improvement or are failing

In the PageSpeed Insights report, it will also tell you what is causing any issues and the reason why, although these can be quite vague.

When checking your sites page speed, it is worth using a third-party performance tool that will not only give you a load time but also shows you what is loading and when (known as a waterfall).

A great tool for this is Uptrends as it allows you to check both the desktop and mobile performance of your site using different devices and also different locations, which is why it is the tool we use for all of our performance testing

Quick SEO Tip

When testing your sites performance, you want to test multiple different pages on your site including your homepage, product page and blog pages if you have them as you want to see how well your whole site performs.

But What Impact Can Load Time Have On Your Site?

A lot is the simple answer as visitors don’t like waiting for sites to load and I’m sure you have experienced this yourself when browsing online but when it comes to ecommerce, not only is page speed a ranking factor but research by Deloitte found that..

Mobile Speed Improvement Stats

So as you can see, a 0.1 second decrease in load time can have a big impact on your ecommerce site, so just imagine the impact a 1 second decrease would have!

It is also a good time to talk about bounce rates as these have a strong correlation to page speed and while it is not a ranking factor, a study by Google found that an increase in load time from 1-3 seconds increased bounce rates by 32% and this increases to 90% if the load time is 5 seconds.

So speed is definitely important when it comes to not only SEO but also users experience and conversion rates but what are some of the things you can do to improve your site performance?

Well it does depend a lot of the platform that you are chose for your ecommerce site as most hosted platform (such as Shopify and Bigcommerce) are quite limited in terms of what you can do to performance, where as self-hosted platforms (such as WooCommerce) offer a lot more control but there are some general things you can do:

  • Take advantage of any performance options that your ecommerce platform offers (but do some testing to see if they improve things or not)
  • Keep the amount of apps or plugins you use to a minimum
  • Use lightweight themes or templates with credible performance information
  • Optimize your images – use the correct image type, size and save them in web optimized format

It may also be worth checking to see if you ecommerce platform offers any documentation around how to improve performance on their platform as there may be some helpful hints and tips in there.

Mobile

An SEO factor that is becoming more and more important is how well sites work on mobile devices and it is understandable as traffic from mobile devices averaged 55% in 2021 and this is a trend that is likely to grow over the next few years.

Mobile vs Desktop Market Share
Chart: EcommerceGold Source: Statcounter

So you want to make sure that your site not only works on mobile devices but also works well because as we already talked about this is the page speed section, mobile performance can have a big impact on not only your sites ranking but also how visitors engage with your site and your conversion rate.

Now once again, Google has provided us with some tools to help us check how well our sites perform on mobile devices, including their Mobile Friendly Tester and also all the mobile related data that is available in the Google Search Console.

Mobile Friendly Result Google

So what are some things you can do to improve your Mobile Sites SEO?

  • Make sure that you are using a Mobile Responsive theme or template
  • Design your site for mobile first, when customizing your store use both the desktop and mobile viewing options
  • Check the performance of your site using Google’s PageSpeed Insight
  • Check to make sure that everything works properly on your mobile site, using a mobile device

Not focusing on your mobile site is a big mistake I see a lot of ecommerce website owners make and it is quite easy to do most of us build our sites on desktop devices and most customizers use got to the desktop layout by default but as it is such as huge market, having a mobile first design philosophy can have a very beneficial impact on your store.

Site Structure

Site structure is also an important part of technical SEO as it helps search engines not only understand how your site is mapped out but also which pages on your site are the most important.

There are a few different types of structure that a website can use but in most cases, the most favourable for ecommerce stores is the hierarchal structure, like in the image below (it can look like a pyramid).

Website Structure Hierarchy

This type of site structure is very easy to achieve as your homepage links to your main hub pages, which then link to the products or pages within that category.

An example of this would be for a store selling cameras: Homepage → Canon Cameras (category page) → Canon M50 (product page).

This can also be extended to multiple levels, so expanding on the example above: Homepage → Cameras (main category page) → Canon Cameras (subcategory) → Canon M50 (product page).

Site structure should be applied to all areas of your site including all of your product and blog pages.

Site Audits

Many of the premium SEO tools offer a site audit but Ahrefs include on with their free plan and it is very useful in seeing if there are any technical SEO issues on your site, with common ones being:

  • Broken links – it will show you which page it is on and what it is linking too
  • Missing Meta Descriptions – which pages on your site are missing a meta description
  • Missing Alt Tags – which images are missing alt tags
  • Any Broken Pages – if any of your pages are displaying a 404 not found page for example

This information allows you to see any issues on your site and then you can go around fixing them by doing things like 301 redirects on broken pages, fixing broken links and filling in missing information, which will improve your sites SEO.

Ecommerce Keyword Research

Keyword research is one of the fundamentals of ecommerce SEO as you want to know what words or phrases that people are searching for and once you know what these are, you can then begin crafting your content around these words, which will increase the chance of your pages ranking for these.

When it comes to doing keyword research, you need to tailor the process towards the type of content you are creating and we have covered the main two below:

Quick SEO Tip

When doing keyword research, you want to look for long tail keywords as these are usually more specific in the search intent (buying, researching etc), which can make it easier to put your content in front of the right people. Don’t believe me? Well it is estimated that 69% of all searches are four words or more

How To Do Keyword Research On Google

I bet you thought, Great! But how do I find these search terms?

Well you could use tools such as Ahrefs, Semrush or Unbersuggest, which are all fantastic tools but are also quite expensive but fortunately Google offers some tools that we can use and best of all, they are FREE!!!

Google Keyword Planner

Google’s Keyword Planner was designed to be a research tool for businesses wanting to run Google Ads but it can be used as a research tool for SEO, now you will need a Google account to be able to access the Google Ads dashboard and once in there, the keyword planner can be found under the tools heading of the navigation menu.

When you go into the keyword planner, you will be greeted by two options:

  1. Discover new keywords
  2. Get search volume and forecasts
Google Keyword Planner Options

When you are doing your initial keyword research, you only need to use the Discover New Keywords option as this also gives you search volume history over a chosen time period. When you click on Discover New Keywords, it asks you whether you want to start with keywords or a website.

The start with a website option isn’t great and it is best to stick with keywords are you can focus your search more by using this tool.

Google Keyword Planner Search

To get started, simply type in a keyword that you are thinking about using and click search and for this post, we are going to be primarily using Canon Cameras as a keyword and below is the results from the keyword planner:

Google Keyword Planner Canon Example

Now there are more columns that appear to the right but these are focused more towards using these keywords for ads and how much it would cost to target them but as we are using this for SEO purposes, we just want to look at the first 5 columns, which are:

  • Keywords – these are search terms similar to the keywords that you entered
  • Avg Monthly Searches – this is the average number of searches for this keyword and very close variations based on the date range and location selected
  • Three Month Change – compares the current months search volume against the previous two months to see if there are any changes
  • YoY Change – compares the search volume for the current month against the same month the previous year
  • Competition – this refers to competition for getting an ad placed for these keywords, not the competition for organic search results. But if companies are bidding for these keywords, then it does show that there is demand for them

So you can get some decent information from the Keyword Planner but it is quite limited and somewhat vague as the search volumes have pretty big gaps 10k – 100k for example and the competition doesn’t really help for SEO.

Google Autosuggest

The next way to do free Keyword Research is by using Google’s Autosuggest, which I’m sure you have seen when you start typing anything into Google and it presents you with a list of relevant search results?

Well you can use this for research as all of these suggested searches are searches that people have recently made, so you know that people are actively searching for these keywords.

Google Autosuggest Canon Example

As you can see in the image above, it starts presenting different search queries that people have placed in the past but this can give you ideas for keywords that you want to use on your site. Some of these may be for your product listings but others may be for other content you could add to your site such as blog posts.

A modification of this method is called Alphabet Soup, which involves entering your basic keyword which is this case would be Canon Eos and then type the letter A to see what they suggest, you then begin working through the alphabet until you have a good list of keywords.

Another source of potential keywords can be found at the bottom of any search page, under the Related Searches section. All of these are searches that have been done recently and may include some keywords that you may not have thought of.

Google Related Search Canon Example

When you have developed your list of keywords using the free Google methods mentioned above, you want to take one additional step and perform a search for these keywords using an Incognito or Private window on your browser (if you search from a normal tab, your results will be customized based on your search history) as you want to check out the competition for these keywords and ask yourself:

  • What companies are on the first page? Are they big names in your industry or smaller companies?
  • What is the domain rating of the top results (use Ahrefs domain checker to find out)
  • How relevant are the search results to the query?
  • How recent are the search results? (for blog posts)
  • Are the top results forum or site like Reddit or Quora? (for blog posts)

This is how you determine whether these keywords are worth going after as you want to ideally rank in the top 3 positions and be on the 1st page as a minimum but if you are trying to go up against established sites who are also trying to rank for that keyword, you may struggle.

For blog posts specifically, it can be much easier to rank if you are going up against posts with outdated information or forums etc as a new, well research, well written post stands a good chance of ranking.

And this is where some of the paid for tools can be helpful as they can provide much more detailed information, with things such as estimated search volume, keyword difficulty and the competition you will be facing for the top rankings, which can make the research process much easier.

On-Page Ecommerce SEO

On-page SEO is the area of Ecommerce SEO where you have the most control as you choose how these pages are optimized and what keywords you are trying to rank.

But when doing on-page SEO, you want to think about what you want that page to rank for but also how it fits in with your overall strategy as good SEO is site wide and you want all pages working together to get the best results for your store.

Product Page SEO

Correctly SEOing your product pages can make a big difference to how organic traffic you get, which ultimately means it impacts on the amount of sales that you get.

There are also many different elements for product page SEO and we have highlighted some of the more important ones below.

Keyword Research for Product Pages

For product pages, you want to find keywords that are going to get your pages appearing in product searches as these have very high buyer intent, which can often include the following:

  • Brand names
  • Model names or numbers
  • Gender
  • Colors

These do vary depending on the product type but the basic premise remains in that they are very product focused and as with most keyword research, you want to identify a primary keyword and potential secondary keywords as well because ideally you would like the product to rank for multiple search terms.

Product Page SEO Optimization

Once you have done the keyword research, it is time to start optimizing your product pages and as mentioned, there are a few on page elements you can do this too and we’ve highlighted the important once below:

  • Product Title – very important as this is your pages H1 tag and you want this to include the primary keyword that you want the page to rank for
  • Product Description – the largest chunk of content on the product page, a word count of between 300 and 600 words should give you enough depth of content, without it being too long. You want to include primary and secondary keywords here and make sure that is original copy!
  • Product Images – make sure the image title and alt tag are keyword optimized, keeping these similar to the product title is often best practice
  • URL – create a unique page URL that also includes the primary keyword, once again being similar to the product title can be beneficial
  • Meta Description – while not as important as they used to be, still a great way to add keywords to SERPs

When doing product page optimization, don’t just write for search engines as this is often counterproductive and can result in keyword stuffed, hard to read content.

Instead, write for humans as they are the ones visiting and ultimately buying from you, so make readability a priority and here are a couple of tips for that:

  1. Make it Read Organically – think of it as how you would say it to a person face to face (and try saying it out loud), if it sounds natural and organic, then it will probably work, if it sounds robotic and forced, then it probably needs a do-over
  2. Make it Easy to Consume – big blocks of text don’t work as they are hard to read, especially on mobile. Instead use short punchy sentences and paragraphs and add important information (such as specifications) as bullet points. This makes is easier to read and find the important info.

By doing these optimizations to your product page, you should improve the overall SEO, which should improve your search results, if you want to learn more about this, check out our full Product Page SEO Guide, which covers each element in more detail.

Category Page SEO

One of the areas that is commonly overlooked within Ecommerce SEO is category page optimization as many guides and SEOs focus on product and blog pages but they can be a great source of traffic when done right.

Keyword Research for Category Pages

The target keywords for category pages are likely to be more broader terms that those of product pages as they are performed by people who are looking for a selection of products, rather than a single product.

Examples of these broader search terms could include:

  • Canon EF Lenses
  • Girls Mountain Bike
  • Sapphire and Diamond Pendants

As you can see, these are much more general and optimizing your category pages effectively could put them higher in search results.

Category Page SEO Optimization

Category pages generally have less elements to optimize than a product page and it may also depend on the platform you are using as to how much content you can add but some things you can do include:

  • Optimizing the Category Title – include the primary keyword that you want the category to rank for in the title as this is generally the pages H1 tag
  • Add a Category Description – this is ideally added after the products on the page and can be a great place to add both primary and secondary keywords, aim for a minimum of 500 words for decent content depth
  • URL – create a unique page URL that also includes the primary keyword, similar to the category title is good practice
  • Meta Description – as with the product page, meta descriptions aren’t as important as they used to be but they are still a great way to add keywords to SERPs

There may also be an option for image optimization and once again, the title and alt tag should be similar to the category title.

When writing the category description, apply the same writing principles as with the product description to make it read organically.

Ecommerce Blog SEO

If SEO is going to be a serious part of your ecommerce marketing strategy, then you have to have a blog on your ecommerce site!

But why should you add a blog to your site?

  • Educate and Inform Your Audience – blogs are information based, which allows you to show your Expertise in your niche
  • Grow Your Sites Authority – blog posts can attract backlinks, which improves your sites Authority and Trustworthiness
  • Attract A Different Type of Visitor – blogs can attract people who are much earlier in the buying process
  • Potentially Generate Sales – if you can answer a prospective customers questions and also provide the product that they want, your blog can generate sales for your site

You may have noticed that the letter E, A and T are capitalised and in bold, this is because EAT or Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness were part of a Google update in 2021 to help them identify what is good, high quality content and what is rubbish.

This is why blogs are very important to ecommerce SEO as when done right, they can improve your sites EAT, which should lead to higher rankings and hopefully more traffic but unfortunately, there isn’t anywhere where you can check your EAT score.

Keyword Research for Blog Posts

The keyword research for your blog posts is going to be different to the product and category pages as you are going to want them to appear in informational search results.

These are search queries performed by people who are in the research/information gathering stage of the buying process and are more like to be question orientated such as What is the best camera for product photography?

There are many variations to these types of informational search queries, with popular ones being:

  • How to
  • Best
  • Buyers Guide

When doing keyword research for blog posts, you also want to create a list of secondary and related keywords which you can include in your post.

How To Find Ideas For Your Ecommerce Blog

One of the biggest challenges many ecommerce websites face with their blog is coming with ideas for their blog posts and while keyword research can produce some really good ideas, there are some other resources that could be a valuable source of information.

  • Reddit – a place where people often go to ask question, simply find sub-reddits relating to your niche and it should provide some good ideas for content
  • Quora – another online hub for questions and you find spaces related to your niche and look for commonly asked questions
  • AnswerthePublic – a popular tool with bloggers, simply type in a keyword and it will present you with a variety of options based on recent search queries

By using these tools, you will not only find topics for blog posts but also know that people are actively searching for answers to these, which is a win-win for blogs!

Deciding Which Blog Posts To Write

If your site is small, you need to be selective in which posts you write as creating a blog post is a time intensive process and you want to spend your time creating posts that you are more likely to rank for.

So when you have found some topics that you feel you can create a good quality post about and the keywords you would like that post to rank for, you want to research the competition, which can be done by:

  1. Opening a private or incognito window – this was search results are influenced by your previous searches
  2. Do a search for your chosen keyword
  3. Look at which sites appear on page one
    • Is it other blogs that have covered the subject or sites like Reddit or Quora?
    • If they are blogs, have the covered that subject exactly or is it loosely related?
    • What is the domain rating of the blog (use Ahrefs domain checker to see)

If the first page is dominated by high DA sites with blog posts covering that exact subject, then you probably won’t rank for it but if the search results aren’t exact matches and sites like Reddit or Quora appear, then there may be an opportunity for you.

One final thing you can do is get an estimated search volume for this keyword, most paid options like Ahrefs or Semrush will include this but if you aren’t paying for one of these, you get 3 free searches a day using Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest.

By doing this research, you will come up with a list of blog post ideas that you also have a chance of ranking for.

Internal Linking

A great way to boost your on-page SEO is by internally linking pages together but as with everything, there are better ways to do this than others and it is something a lot of ecommerce websites get wrong.

To get the most out of internal linking, you want to make logical links between different pages on your site, not just putting links in any old place, for example:

Lets say you are selling cameras (a common theme on the guide!) and you create an post on How to Start Vlogging, you would want to link this to related posts such as The Best Cameras for Vlogging and the Best Vlogging Accessories along with linking these two posts together.

This starts to create a content hub around the vlogging topic in your blog, you can then start adding links in these Best Blogs to your category pages that contain these products and also to individual product listings.

By doing this, you are letting search engines know that all of these pages are linked together around the subject of vlogging, which increases the chances of these pages being promoted when people are looking into vlogging.

It also makes it easier for human users of your site to navigate around it as well!

Linking is a hugely important part of SEO and some would argue is the most important part of SEO and it generally comes down to 1 thing…. Backlinks!

Backlinks are links that you get from other websites to yours and these can be homepage links, which is just a link to your domain name or you can get links to specific pages on your site, such as product or blog pages.

There are two different types of backlinks:

  1. Dofollow – these are the links you want as do follow links pass ‘link juice’ from another website to yours
  2. Nofollow – these don’t offer much SEO benefit as the nofollow tag tells crawlers not to track that link and as such, you don’t get any ‘link juice’ from these

When you are getting backlinks, you want to get them from high authority sites (preferably with a DA rating of above 50) because this signals to search engines that this established, high authority site thinks that your content is good enough to link to and because of this, your sites EAT starts to increase.

And the more of these link you get, the more your own Domain Authority starts to grow and because your site is seen as being more trustworthy, the more chance there is that search engines will show your content higher in search results.

Not all backlinks are the same, some are good and very beneficial to your site, where as others can be bad and actually damage your site. So when looking to get backlinks, you only want to go for good, high quality backlinks but how do you get these?

One way is to wait for links to come in organically but this can take a long time and isn’t always guaranteed to work, that is why it is better to be proactive when it comes to getting backlinks.

Blog posts are great for generating backlinks, especially if you create an awesome post that is a great resource but what makes content linkable?

  • Original Research – posts with data or research that is original and unique and great for backlinks as other bloggers and journalists love linking to these types of posts
  • A Complete Guide – producing a guide that covers everything but is easy and enjoyable to read, this can get backlinks, especially if it is better than 99% or 100% of posts from the competition
  • Resource List – providing a in-depth list of resources for your niche can generate links as others generally don’t want to put the work in to find these, so will happily link to a site that has

When you create content like this, you don’t just want to publish it and hope that is gets links, instead, you want to share this with influential people and sites in your niche.

This can be done with outreach emails or contacting them via Linkdein or Twitter and striking up a conversation and seeing if your content is something that would consider linking to either in a previous or future post of theirs.

2. Guest Blogging

A great way to get backlinks is to post a guest blog on another website but you might be thinking, why would I create a blog for another website? Well there are a couple of reasons:

  1. Grow Your Sites Authority – most sites allow guest bloggers to include a link or two back to their own site, maybe to your homepage or potentially a blog post if you have one that is relevant
  2. Reach an New Audience – by contributing a blog post, you are putting your name and expertise out there to an audience that is probably bigger than your own, which increase exposure and also builds your authority

So contributing guest posts to another website can be very beneficial to your ecommerce site. You can also forge relationships with other businesses by being a guest blogger and this can provide other opportunities at a later date.

Want to learn more ? Then check out the incredibly detailed Guest Blogging Guide by Adam Connell.

3. Become A Source

Do you ever read articles and wonder where all these journalists and writers find these industry experts and specialists?

Sometimes it is because they genuinely know them but more often it is the case that they use sites like HARO to post a question and then get responses from industry experts or specialists.

They then use these responses in their posts and in many cases (not all the time!) will include a link back to the contributors website.

But while this is great for getting backlinks, most will usually be to your homepage, rather than specific pages on your site like you can get with guest blogging but for the 5-10 minutes spent writing a pitch, it can still be worthwhile.

Want to learn more? Then check out James Taylors HARO Link Building Guide

Many backlinking strategies are focused on either getting links to your homepage or blog posts but there is a way you can generate links to your product pages and that is to get featured on product lists, such as best of lists.

Now this is going to depend on the type of product that you sell but if you offer unique or custom products that are a bit different to what else is in the marketplace, this can be a great backlink opportunity.

This will once again require outreach on your part, find list posts that you would like to get your product featured on and reach out to the author and see if you can strike up a conversation about getting your products featured.

Conclusion

Well that was a long one wasn’t it!

But I really hope that this has been helpful and has given you more of an understanding about all the different elements of Ecommerce SEO and also some ideas of what you can do on your own site to improve its SEO.

Now when it comes to formulating an SEO strategy, you need to think of the bigger picture of how are all these elements going to work together in order to help your site ranking, for example:

  • Creating a series of blog posts to help customers educate themselves on the products you sell
  • Guest blogging to get links back to these post to increase their ‘link juice’
  • Linking these posts product pages
  • Which in turn should help these product pages appear higher in organic search results

So, you have to have a goal in mind when it comes to SEO as to what you want to achieve and then figure out what steps you need to take in order to achieve these.

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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