August 12, 2020
A guide to SEO for ecommerce businesses
- If you want your online shop to rank well in search engine results, you need to have a good understanding of SEO (search engine optimisation). Not entirely sure what SEO means, or why it’s important for your business? Never fear – this introduction to SEO for ecommerce will bring you up to SEO speed in no time.First things first, let’s go back to basics: what does SEO mean, exactly? Put simply, SEO refers to a group of techniques used to improve your website’s visibility in search results. In other words, SEO is a concise way of saying “this is what you need to do to get your website noticed by Google”.SEO is constantly evolving and we could write thousands of words on the topic. But for the purpose of today’s blog post, we’re going to cover the three main pillars of SEO for ecommerce success: keyword research, user experience and content marketing. Let’s get into it!
1) Keyword research
In SEO land, the words you type into Google when you’re searching for something are referred to as ‘keywords’ (or sometimes, ‘key phrases’ or ‘search terms’). When SEO first came onto the scene, a lot of businesses focussed on ‘keyword stuffing’ – in other words, repeating keywords over and over throughout their website and blog posts. Today, the focus has shifted and keyword stuffing is a big no-no. Google is also a stickler for relevance. If you try to target a keyword that is not relevant to your business, your site could be penalized by Google. The best thing to do is pick keywords that genuinely align with your products. If anything, Google has made life easier, as SEO is no longer about trying to ‘work the system’, rather it’s about generating authentic, high-quality content around your brand. That aside, keywords are still an important piece of the SEO puzzle. Below are some tips for selecting keywords for your online store.
- Start with a brainstorm. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and imagine what they might type into Google to find your products, and write down everything that springs to mind. The next step is to decide which keywords are worth targeting
- Avoid highly competitive phrases. Some keywords are incredibly competitive and offer no chance of ranking on the first page (which is all that really matters when it comes to search results). Competitive keywords tend to be short and generic, such as ‘candles’ or ‘face cream’ – these keywords generate billions of results. You’re much better off targeting highly specific, detailed keywords. For example, ‘handmade wax candles Auckland’ or ‘organic face cream NZ’. You can determine how competitive a keyword is, as well as how many searches it generates each month, by using Google’s free Keyword Planner, or the Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool (free with a 30-day trial or with a Moz Pro subscription).
- Conduct competitor research. While we’re on the topic of competition, it’s a good idea to research which keywords your competitors are targeting. The easiest way to do this is by installing Moz’s SEO Toolbar (available for Google Chrome and Firefox). This toolbar allows you to find out key SEO information about any web page you’re browsing, such as keyword difficulty scores and back-link profiles. In a nutshell, it takes the guesswork out of competitor research, and gives you an idea of how challenging it will be to compete for each phrase.
- Write for people. A common SEO mistake that many people make is choosing clunky, awkward keywords that are near impossible to fit into normal sentences. Once you have picked your keywords, you’ll need to include them in your website copy, so it’s important they can be weaved into the text in a natural way.
2) On-page SEO & User experience
The way your site is built can have a huge impact on SEO. It must be easy to navigate, well-structured and offer an excellent user experience – for both ‘real people’ and Google’s ‘spiders’. Both your customers, and Google’s indexing technology, need to be able to understand what your website is about, so it’s important to keep both of these audiences in mind when designing your site and writing your content. Here are some areas of your site to pay particular attention to:
- Category pages and product pages. Ensure that every single category page and product page has a meta description which includes the keywords you’re trying to target. Most people are good at filling out the product pages, but the category pages are often overlooked – it might pay to double check this. Another tip for both of these pages is to make sure the category and product titles are in ‘h1’, and that there’s only one h1 tag on the page.
- Google rich snippets. Add Google rich snippets to your site to make your search results stand out. Rich snippets are features such as product information (price, availability, etc), reviews and videos. In order for your pages to show these snippets in search results, you need to add some structured data to your site and make sure it complies with Google’s rich snippet guidelines. You can find out everything you need to know about adding snippets here.
- SEO-friendly URLs and images. Make sure all of your category and product pages have SEO-friendly URLs. For example, example.com/t-shirts instead of example.com/category?id=1. You also need to use SEO-friendly URLs for your product images, and make sure all of your images have an alt tag (featuring the appropriate keywords). This means your images can be indexed for Google Image Search (another great source of traffic to your product page).
- Use nofollow tags on some URLs. If you don’t want search engines to crawl a specific page on your site, use rel=”nofollow”. This should be applied to pages such as ‘add to cart’ and ‘add to wishlist’.
3) Content marketing
The third pillar of SEO success is content marketing – publishing regular and relevant blog posts, videos and other interesting content on your website. Publishing regular content shows Google that your website is frequently updated, and provides you with more opportunities to use your chosen keywords. Content marketing is a must for any ecommerce business wanting to improve their Google ranking. There’s too much to cover in this blog post alone – watch this space for a more detailed guide to content marketing for ecommerce in the near future. In the meantime, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Quality over quantity. Google rewards high-quality, original, informative content that is relevant to your business and adds value. It’s better to publish one quality blog post a week than three subpar posts a week. Aim for quality over quantity every time.
- No keyword stuffing. In the past, some websites experienced success by repeating the same keyword multiple times throughout the same blog post. As mentioned in the keywords section, this is no longer a good strategy – and Google may even penalize your website if it suspects you of keyword stuffing. It’s sufficient to include your keyword once or twice throughout the article, and of course in the places outlined above in the user experience section.
- Be clear and concise. Google’s algorithms are extremely smart, but one thing they cannot do is ‘read between the lines’. While creative, abstract headlines may work wonders in magazines and newspapers, when writing for online your headlines need to be clear and concise. Remember, you’re not just writing for people, you’re also writing for Google. Try to strike a balance.
Further reading SEO is no small topic – this blog post is but a scratch on the surface of what SEO entails. However, we hope it has helped you gain a better understanding of what it is, and why it’s important. If you’d like to further your reading, the following websites are excellent sources of regular, up-to-date SEO information.