They provide instant gratification and sales, after all.
Here is why: SEO is sustainable, helps you build a brand, and can be a massive driver of sales.
93% of people start their online shopping journey using search engines. And your business needs to be there to capitalize.
Here is an ecommerce SEO checklist to help you do just that.
Make Your Mobile (and Desktop) Site Fast
While site speed isn’t a direct ranking factor, it’s a huge pain point for SEO.
A potential customer searches on Google for companies that sell men’s t-shirts:
The potential options here are basically unlimited. Naturally, they click on one of the first few links that have a compelling title tag and meta description.
Luckily, they clicked on you!
But they’re met with a site that is taking 10+ seconds to load the page.
So instead of waiting, they click back to Google (sending negative dwell time signals) and click on your competitor, who’s site loads in just three seconds.
And this cycle continues until they surpass you in rankings.
Sadly, this happens every single day. According to Google benchmark studies, sites are far slower than the best practice of three seconds:
As a result, Google is finding that bounce rates are skyrocketing on these slow sites:
If your website is taking 10 seconds to load, you are potentially losing customers, money, and a profitable business.
That’s why I’ve placed this first in the checklist.
You can produce amazing content. You can optimize for keywords. You can build links. But if your website is painfully slow, it’s all for nothing.
Your first step should be improving website speed because:
- It sets up future SEO success
- It helps you capitalize on existing traffic that could already be bouncing due to slow speed
It’s a surefire way to see almost instant results.
How can you do it? Start by running a speed test on Google’s tool:
If you have a website developer, send them the results and put them to work.
If you don’t, Google offers direct suggestions on the specific factors you need to fix and how to do it.
If you don’t have a developer and are struggling, there are plenty of freelance networks like Fiverr or UpWork where you can hire a developer to make changes.
Site speed is the foundation of good user experiences and capitalizing on organic rankings. Dwell time factors can tank your SEO.
Make site speed your first step.
Target More Than Basic Keywords
One of the biggest mistakes I see for ecommerce businesses starting out is targeting too basic of keywords.
For instance, if they sell backpacks, they simply target keywords like:
- Men’s backpacks
- Women’s backpacks
- Travel backpack
Those keywords are okay to shoot for, but they are extremely popular because they are searched so often.
And your chances of ranking for them without a high domain authority are slim to none.
Instead, you want to start targeting research-based keywords in your niche to build brand awareness, authority, and traffic.
Taking the example above, a great target post would be:
- XX essential items to carry in your backpack when traveling
Using a tool like SpyFu, start researching your competitor keywords to see what the rank for. Look for long-tail phrases that you can turn into content:
Target Those Keywords With Stellar Content Marketing
To target more long-tail phrases, you can’t just optimize product pages.
Optimizing a product page of backpacks isn’t going to net traffic for searches like “backpack travel items.”
The intent is far too mismatched.
People searching for tips and tricks are likely not looking to instantly buy a product out of nowhere.
They need time to research and get familiar with your brand. This is where content marketing comes into play.
Now, content marketing is becoming more difficult. Four million blog posts get published daily.
Standing out requires better content. This was recently proven in a big study on content writing services where Codeless bought and tested content, surveying top content influencers. All the influencers said they would not post the content:
People are reading less and less online, so your content has to grip them. Buffer found that most only read for 15 seconds. Your time to make a good first impression is slim to none. So if you think you can write a boring blog post and sell millions, you’re wrong.
Start by auditing your current content. Use tools like heatmaps and examine what portions of your content people are skipping over:
If specific sections are hot, keep them. If they aren’t, improve them.
A great example of good content that serves to build brand awareness and directly ties to a product being sold is from Freshdesk.
Check out this customer service resume post. Having a target market of support, they offer a good, long-form post. But, they take it a step further, offering a free resume template to build trust and loyalty:
If you aren’t big into writing long-form content, and it doesn’t fit your niche, don’t worry.
There are countless forms of content that succeed in today’s world: podcasts, video, infographics, social media content, interviews, interactive content.
For instance, podcast listeners actually have very high household incomes, and use podcasts as a direct way to learn about new products and services:
No matter the format of content you choose to create, put effort into it.
Research what your competitors are creating and make it better:
Write longer, more detailed content on more related topics and keywords:
If your content is sub-par, your results will be too. Better content will help you generate more backlinks, too, which are critical for brand authority and ranking.
Master Your On-Page Search Engine Optimization
Once you have developed content for your online store or blog, you will need to optimize it.
Here are a few items to check-off the list each time you publish a new post. If you already have content, be sure you are revamping it with these tips as well!
Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Title tags and meta descriptions are key ways to boost on-page SEO and increase your organic click-through rate.
In your title for a given blog post, include the keyword that you are targeting at the beginning if possible.
Focus your title on being short, sweet, and compelling enough to click.
In your meta description, don’t keyword stuff, but be sure to include your keyword once. Here you should focus on writing compelling enough copy to drive clicks even if you aren’t ranking first.
Try a tool like Grammarly where you can customize copy with different tones and styles to see which drives a bigger CTR:
Image Alt Tags
Alt tags, an HTML attribute for your images, are used to help search engines and disabled persons understand your content.
Since search engines can’t read your image like text, alt tags help to describe your image and what it contains.
When editing in the back-end, you can find the alt tag right within the string of code for the image: <img src=”imagename.png” alt=”describe_image_here” />
If you are using a CMS like WordPress, you can find your alt tag by simply selecting and editing the image.
In your alt tag, don’t just add keywords. The alt tag is meant to describe the image itself, not to spam keywords.
When writing your content, it’s critical to optimize the usability and flow by using H1,H2,H3, etc tags.
These headers help to organize your content for both users and search engines, improving usability and information architecture.
Include your main target keyword naturally in these tags if possible. If not, use closely related search terms and related keywords that you are targeting in a given post, too.
Internal and External Links
On any given piece of content you produce for your online store blog, you should always be including internal links and external links.
Internal links point to other pages on your site and help to provide users with more relevant content from you.
External links point to other websites and improve your relevance and authority.
While linking externally can seem like a negative, since you could be driving traffic off your website and to others, it has been shown that sites who fail to externally link don’t rank as well.
This is due to the authority and relevance that Google draws from your external links.
Sprinkle 2-4 relevant internal and external links into each piece of content you produce!
Fix Link Errors and Duplicate Content
Lastly, you can’t ignore technical site factors for SEO that could impact traffic, organic rankings, and crawl data.
Some of the biggest technical SEO offenders for ecommerce stores are broken link errors and duplicate content.
This is because products go out of stock and get rotated often based on seasonality, causing lots of broken links.
For instance, if you got backlinks on a review blog about your latest backpack style, that is great. But what if that backpack is discontinued? Now you have a broken backlink that is sending traffic to a 404 error page:
This is a lost opportunity that needs to be addressed. If referral link traffic lands here, they will likely immediately close your page.
Instead, you should be redirecting these broken links to related content or category pages.
You can use a tool like Screaming Frog to identify potential broken links:
Similarly, duplicate content can arise in ecommerce optimization with similar product and category pages, especially if you are using templates.
Duplicate content, like titles and meta descriptions, can negatively impact SEO and are often seen as spammy.
Using Screaming Frog, again locate any duplicate issues with titles or meta descriptions and craft unique ones for each page on your site, targeting different keywords:
When it comes to ecommerce, it’s tempting to skip the long-game of SEO or put more effort into Amazon and PPC.
After all, PPC is instantly gratifying and Amazon dominates online selling.
But SEO is sustainable, doesn’t take a portion of your sales, and is less risky than dumping money into PPC.
It helps you build awareness and authority that brands need to thrive in today’s competitive environment.
Ensure you complete a full site audit, learn exactly how to do this in Matthew Woodward’s ecommerce SEO guide.