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Ecommerce SEO: How to Raise Your Brand's Search Visibility in the Age of Pay to Play

May 7, 2019 / by Tina Eaton

Back in the “good ol’ days” of ecommerce, brands could rely on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms for a steady supply of traffic. When they were running a sale or promoting a new product, they could post a link on their social platforms and know that a large number of people would see the post and click on it.

Yeah. Those days are gone.

With Facebook’s algorithm now focusing heavily on connections between friends and family, business pages are seeing the lowest organic reach ever. If you’re lucky, three percent of your fans might see what you post.

If you want to get exposure on Facebook and other digital channels, you now have to pay to play. And with more and more brands resorting to paid advertising, the cost of clicks is rising

So what’s the solution? Is there a way for ecommerce businesses to still get traffic without paying?

Thankfully, there is.

Ecommerce SEO.

Ecommerce SEO: The Stats

If they’re strategic, ecommerce brands can still get a significant amount of traffic through organic search. The statistics back this up.

nChannel reports that 44 percent of people start their online shopping journey with a Google search. SEMRush notes that 37.5 percent of all traffic to ecommerce sites comes from Google. 

nChannel reports that 44 percent of people start their online shopping journey with a Google search

Clearly, shoppers are using Google as one of the primary ways that they find products online. Using ecommerce SEO, you can capture a portion of that search traffic. 

But how do you do that? What strategies should you focus on? Here are six ecommerce SEO steps to take your organic search to the next level.

Step #1: Do Your Keyword Research

Keyword research is the foundation of any solid ecommerce SEO campaign. After all, if you don’t know what people are searching for, you can’t optimize any of your product pages.

When it comes to keyword research, you primarily want to focus on keywords that have buying intent behind them. In other words, keywords that signal that a person is actively looking to purchase something.

For example, the phrase “How to shave with a straight razor” is more focused on learning information than actually buying a straight razor. However, the phrase “straight razor” suggests that a person is actively looking to purchase one.

Your goal is to find buyer intent keywords with at least a moderately high search volume.

There are numerous tools, both paid and free, that you can use to find keywords. Ubersuggest is a free tool that works well.

You simply type in a keyword or phrase and it will give you the monthly search volume, the difficulty of ranking for that keyword, and numerous other related keywords that you can also incorporate into your product pages. 

ubersuggest

 Another incredibly useful free tool is...wait for it...Amazon. Yep, even though you’re probably competing against Amazon, you can use their search function to help you identify various keywords that you should use on your product pages. 

amazon search

Both the keywords suggested by Ubersuggest and Amazon should be considered possible inclusion on your product pages.

When considering which keywords to focus on, you want to consider (in order):

  • The overall search volume
  • Product fit (does it actually match what you’re selling?)
  • Buyer intent
  • Competition

Obviously, the best keywords will be those with a high search volume, good product fit, buyer intent, and low competition. 

Step #2: Organize Your Site Properly

Before you optimize product pages with the keywords you identified, it’s important that you have the proper site structure. 

Site structure is particularly important for ecommerce sites since they tend to have significantly more pages than most websites. When organizing your site, you ideally want to:

  • Have every page be no more than three clicks from the home page
  • Create a structure that’s scalable

This means that your page structure should look something like this: 

ecommerce seo page structure

Why is this so important? First, it makes it much easier for users to navigate your site. Second, it’s easily scalable. As you grow, you simply add either category pages or product pages. Third, and most relevant to ecommerce SEO, it allows you to pass more of the “authority” of the home page to your product pages.

In Google’s eyes, your homepage is going to have the most authority. As you link to other pages within your site, you pass some of that authority to those pages, which makes it more likely that they’ll rank in searches.

If your site structure goes too “deep” into multiple sub-categories, you don’t pass much authority from your home page. You could say that the authority of the homepage gets diluted.

PetSmart.com is a great example of a simple, yet effective site structure: 

PetSmart.com is a great example of a simple, yet effective site structure

From the homepage, you can get to all the products in any category within three clicks.

Step #3: Optimize Your Product Pages

Once you’ve optimized your structure, you can start to optimize your product pages with keywords identified in Step #1. 

The Title Tag

First and foremost, your keyword should be used in your title tag. When optimizing your title tag, consider using words that will compel people to click, such as:

  • X% off
  • Best
  • Lowest Price
  • Free shipping
  • Deals

It’s likely that Google uses Click-Through-Rate (CTR) as one of the signals to determine where a page should be ranked. Using compelling words in the title tag can raise your CTR and ultimately raise your ranking.

Meta Description

Your meta description also plays a key role in influencing the CTR. The more compelling the description, the higher the CTR and the higher the ranking. Again, along with your keyword, use words that will attract people to your page and motivate them to click.

On-Page Content

This is where things get particularly challenging. When it comes to optimizing the content of the pages, there are two major things to consider.

  • Length: Generally speaking, longer pages tend to rank significantly higher in Google search (including ecommerce pages). Ideally, each of your product pages should contain at least 1,000 words. If you have hundreds or even thousands of products, it might be impossible to write 1,000 words for every page. If this is the case, at least do it for your top 10-50 products.
  • Keyword Usage: Your primary keyword should be used approximately three to five times throughout your product page, with your secondary keywords sprinkled in as well. Your primary keyword should be used at least once in the first 100 words of your page.

URLs

It’s not uncommon for ecommerce stores to have URLs that look something like this: www.store.com/894321/Xfaa1?

These kinds of URLs don’t rank nearly as well in Google as short, keyword-rich URLs.

For example:

www.store.com/straight-razor/straight-razor-blades

The primary keywords are in both the category and the subcategory. This helps Google understand exactly what the page is about and how it relates to the other pages on your site.

Here’s a good example from Finish Line:

Here’s a good example from Finish Line: 

It’s very clear that this category page is about Nike Air Max shoes, which in turn helps it rank on the first page for the highly competitive keyword “Nike Air Max”. 

Step #4: Link From High-Authority Pages To Your Product Pages

If you set up your site structure correctly, you’re already going to have a significant number of internal links to product pages (from the home page, category page, etc.). However, take advantage of any opportunities to add additional links to product pages.

For example, let’s say you sell Instapots and you’ve written a blog post about Instapot recipes. Link from that blog post to your various Instapot product pages.

This works especially well if you have a page that has a significant number of backlinks to it. Let’s say your blog post on Instapot recipes goes viral and generates dozens of links back to it. This will give the page a high authority, which you can then pass on to your product pages through internal links.

Step #5: Prioritize Speed

With more and more searches being done on mobile phones over cell networks, Google is increasingly prioritizing pages that load fast.

And speed also can do wonders for your overall conversion rate. Decreasing your mobile site speed by one second can decrease your bounce rate by 8.3 percent, increase your conversion rate by 3.5 percent, and increase your page views by 9.4 percent.

Decreasing your mobile site speed by one second can decrease your bounce rate by 8.3 percent, increase your conversion rate by 3.5 percent, and increase your page views by 9.4 percent.

As your site speed decreases, so does the overall performance. Google themselves recently noted:

“[We] found that as page load time goes from one second to seven seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor bouncing increases 113%. Similarly, as the number of elements—text, titles, images—on a page goes from 400 to 6,000, the probability of conversion drops 95%.”

Bottom line? Your ecommerce site should be as fast as possible. One of the simplest ways to improve the speed of your product pages is to optimize all images. There are several simple ways you can optimize your images to load quickly. 

  • Upload smaller photos sizes
  • Utilize a Wordpress optimizing plugin such as ShortPixel (if you’re using Wordpress or WooCommerce)
  • Use JPEG files over PNG or GIF files
  • Make your thumbnail sizes as small as possible while still maintaining quality
  • Beware of images that only decorate a page and aren’t product related
  • Use a content delivery network (CDN)

Step #6: Delete, Deindex, or Combine Old Pages

The more pages you have on your site, the more difficult it is to organize them properly, which in turn makes it difficult for Google to understand how they relate to the rest of your website.

Additionally, more pages often means duplicate content, which makes it harder for Google to know which page to rank. In other words, when Google sees two pages with the same content, it’s not sure which one is more important and so it doesn’t rank either of them.

The solution? Identify the pages that have not generated any revenue for you in the past year and either delete them, deindex them, or combine them into one page (within the proper category, etc.). 

This makes your site structure much cleaner and easier for Google to understand, which in turns makes it easier for your product pages to rank.

Ecommerce SEO: Optimize To Rise

In our pay-to-play age, ecommerce SEO is a powerful way to continue to drive organic search traffic to your website. Yes, it requires significant time and effort to do it right, but it’s worth it. 

By diligently doing your keyword research, setting up your site architecture properly, optimizing your pages, liberally internally linking, optimizing for speed, and getting rid of old pages; you can attract searchers who are ready to buy from you. 

Don’t wait any longer to implement these items on your website. Optimize to rise in the rankings.

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Tina Eaton

Written by Tina Eaton