Digital Marketing expert Martino d’Apuzzo from the Danish SEO company Inbound CPH has shared some practical advice with us on how to make sure your webshop is as SEO friendly as possible, earning you good rankings in Google’s search results. Below you can read some highlights on how to optimize your webshop.
When establishing and running a webshop, you should take into consideration these four main areas of Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
1) Choose a SEO friendly e-commerce system
The very first step on your way to making your webshop SEO friendly is to make sure that the platform on which you build your webshop is already optimized for search.
Unfortunately, many webshop owners invest huge amounts of money in e-commerce systems that turn out to actually inhibit the site’s online performance.
Simply put, it should be easy for Google to crawl a site, understand its content and categorize the content properly. Aspects such as server setup, load time, domain, site structure and URL design all influence how Google determines a site’s search rank.
A tip for choosing the right platform is to find out which platforms are being used by the biggest online shops in the market and then analyse how SEO friendly those sites are.
To run such an analysis, you could for instance use the tool provided by Searchmetrics. In their annual report from 2014, Searchmetrics underlines the most important factors influencing your search engine optimization:
“Fundamental to a good ranking is the technical performance of a page. These factors include robust site architecture with good internal links, short loading times and the presence of all relevant Meta tags, such as Title and Description”.
One of the most important aspects when it comes to the technical part of SEO is the page’s load speed. The sites that come up in the top five search results in Google load significantly faster than lower ranking sites.
We’re talking milliseconds, but in a fiercely competitive market, margins matter a great deal.
2) Create useful content for your webshop
On top of the technical aspect, the text on your webshop has huge impact on your site’s ranking. Texts include everything from articles, blog posts, and product descriptions to headlines and meta tags.
The primary purpose of the texts on your site is to make it clear to your customers - and to Google - what you offer: which products you sell, which brands and categories you specialises in etc.
The key is to strike the right balance between creating informative, engaging content for your readers and including a range of keywords ensuring that your site is shown in all relevant search results.
For instance, if you sell sneakers, you have to keep in mind that some people might use the word sports shoes instead of sneakers in their search. The longer the content, the more room for detailed and varied descriptions.
If you are in a very competitive business, you might want to write articles of 1000 words or more to show Google that you are as relevant or more so than you competitors.
If you operate internationally and your site is in English, competition will be even more intense, and you might have to write articles of up to 3000 words.
3) Get links pointing to your site
It’s not likely that neither your customers nor Google randomly find your site. You need to catch their attention and direct them to your shop by putting up signposts, i.e. links. Both internal and external links indicate where people can find relevant content or products worth taking a look at.
If a user reads about a certain type of sneakers, it would be extremely convenient if that description included a link to the sneakers’ section in your webshop.
In Google’s eyes, links pointing to your site are like recommendations. Imagine you’re in a library with the shelves full of thousands of books and you’re not really sure what you’re looking for.
Thankfully, the librarian has been so thoughtful as to display a handful of books, based on their popularity among readers. Now you can save heaps of time and go home with a book or two that you are (almost) certain are worth a read! Google does the same thing - it chooses which titles to display (i.e. the top search results) based on people’s recommendations, i.e. links.
Obviously, not every recommendation carries the same weight. Links coming from dodgy, unprofessional sites won’t benefit your rank. And a link from a top professional site in a business completely unrelated to yours is not nearly as beneficial as links from a site on a related theme.
However, the link doesn’t have to come from a page treating the exact same topic. If you sell wine, for instance, links from sites writing about gourmet travelling, cooking, or even catering could be valuable, as these are all more or less related themes.
4) Create positive user signals
When people use your site, Google registers their behavior. First, it registers how many people actually click through to the site - conveniently named the Click Through Rate or CTR. You are more likely to get a high CTR if your site ranks far up in search results, but even if you are further down on the first page, you can still attract customers to your site with a really good description of what they can expect to find behind the link.
This is called the meta description, which is displayed in the so-called snippet accompanying the link on the search result page. The better your description - the more accurate, relevant and interesting it is - the more likely people are to click through to your site, even if it’s not placed at the very top of the search results.
Once people have entered your site, you want to keep them there. If they discover - or just suspect - that they won’t get what they expected, they’ll leave straight away. They’ll ‘bounce off’ your site, thereby contributing to a high Bounce Rate and compromising your value in Google’s eyes.
If you manage to deliver on the promise you gave in the meta description, people will stay put. Your goal should be to not only have them stay on the page they landed on, but to dive deeper into your site.
Use internal links to lead people from the landing page to other pieces of relevant content on your site. Make sure it’s plainly obvious to your users where to find products or content they might be interested in.
Should big and small webshops focus on the same aspects of SEO?
In theory, yes. However, big webshops have some advantages that smaller shops need to compensate for. Well-established brick and mortar shops or department stores with a significant customer base and a good reputation can more easily create the traction they need to get a webshop up and running.
If you don’t already have a customer base and an established reputation, you need to think a bit differently about how to attract people to your webshop and make your way to the top of the search results.
Most importantly, you should pay attention to the competition in the market you operate in. In heavily competitive markets such as the travel or fashion industries, it’s hard to get people's attention if you offer the same products and services as everybody else.
You need to think carefully about your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), that is, how you stand out from your competitors. One strategy is to pick a small niche and aim to dominate that niche. This could be specialising in delivering holiday packages for one specific geographical region or having the widest selection of rain boots.
If all the content on your site revolves around a specific topic, it’s easier to rank well for that topic.
Another strategy is to work on earning the trust and goodwill of your users. The goal is to create psychological and emotional bonds that you can then measure in concrete numbers. If you increase the Time on Site while lowering your Bounce Rate, you send significant positive signals to Google.
To obtain the users’ goodwill, you have to consistently deliver high-quality content - both in the form of products, images, blog posts and meta descriptions. Once you’ve earned a loyal customer base in one area - related to one group of keywords - you can expand to more competitive markets.
I hope this advice will help you get started on optimizing your webshop, so you can improve your ranking, attract more customers and create amazing shopping experiences that earn you the goodwill and loyalty of your customers!
If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to reach out to us!