If you’ve been following the advice of many “gurus” out there, the chances are that you’re confused and facing some sort of analysis paralysis.
I’ll tell you one thing – those who say paid ads are everything for e-commerce are wrong! Paid ads bring sales, sure, but are you really okay with not giving your website a strong foundation?
Not to mention the money you’re leaving on the table by not having an optimized site that appears on the first page of Google.
It’s not easy for me to admit, but I made the mistake of not giving any thought to SEO and suffered dearly.
But that was many years ago when I was just starting out.
After running multiple e-commerce businesses that made me six figures in revenue each month, I’m here today to tell you why SEO is critical for your success.
So, give this guide a read!
What is SEO?
For those who have no idea about Search Engine Optimization, it can be simply described as a series of steps taken to rank websites/pages higher on search engines.
When you type a word or phrase into Google search, you expect to see relevant results on the page (SERPS). And Google uses a complex and sophisticated algorithm to show you a list of web pages that it deems the most appropriate for you.
All the webpages are listed according to their ranks, and there are 10 of them on the first page. According to Search Engine Journal, more than 60% of all traffic goes to the first three websites position on the SERP.
It’s not hard to understand that brands compete against each other in their quest for higher rankings to get more visibility, increased traffic and thus, more sales.
Let’s say you search for the term “dog collars for puppies,” you’ll see the most relevant webpages in the SERPS. But I can bet the first three sites ranking for that term are getting more visitors and sales than the rest.
The websites in the first three positions didn’t get there by luck. Oh no, there’s a lot that goes into ranking them. And to be frank, it’s not easy.
But is it worth it? Absolutely! SEO is a long-term game and those who persist, out-work, and out-strategize their competitors, win!
SEO for eCommerce isn’t a whole lot different than SEO for blogs. You pretty much have to follow the same principles to succeed in all of them.
Since this is a newbie-friendly guide, I’m going to break down the essentials without going too deep into the topic.
My goal here is to get you thinking and start taking action for quick wins.
To break down, there are 7 aspects you should focus on:
- Keyword research
- Content creation
- On page optimization
- Off-page optimization
- Conversion rate optimization (CRO)
- Friendly website
- Social Media
Let’s begin with the first.
1. Keyword research
For me, SEO starts with finding keywords that are easy to rank. Those are usually long tail keywords with low search volume.
These are the kind of search phrases that bring highly targeted traffic, increasing the chances of getting sales. They’re easy to rank since fewer people are searching for them.
For example, let’s take 4 keyword variations:
- Best Dog collars
- Best Dog collars for puppies
- Best Dog collars for Dalmatian puppies
- Best Dog collars for Dalmatian puppies under 2 months
As you can see, with every example we narrowed down the search phrase to reflect something very specific – Dog collars for Dalmatian puppies under 2 months.
Now, it is quite easy to guess that more people would be looking for the term “best dog collars” than “best dog collars for Dalmatian puppies under 2 months” because fewer people are likely to have a Dalmatian as a pet, let alone a puppy that’s under two months of age.
So, quite naturally the term “best dog collars” would be much tougher to rank for than keywords for ‘Dalmatian puppies.’
Sure, the company ranking for “Best dog collars” on top are probably making bank since people regardless of their dog breed would be landing on their web page, but we are focusing on the small wins here.
So, it would be a wise idea for you to try and rank for search terms that are as specific as possible. I consider anything above 200 monthly searches a good enough keyword to target, provided it has commercial intent.
How to implement keyword research for your e-commerce store
If you own an e-commerce store already, then the chances are that there are certain products you wish would sell more.
Since starting over fresh is not an option, the best-case scenario in this situation would be to analyze the monthly search volume of those products and their keyword difficulty. Then pick the ones with the lowest difficulty.
I know, I’m not giving you any advice on how to make millions overnight. That’s not even possible! But this advice is what you must adapt to gain long-term success.
Once you’ve found the best keywords, it’s time to get working on the content.
2. Content creation
If you’ve been around the block for a while now, you definitely may have heard the saying “content is king.” Well, I disagree.
Content is undoubtedly one of the pillars of a secure website foundation, but not the pillar itself. So, good content won’t actually do any “good” if you’re not sure what to write about and how to properly optimize it for users and search engines.
And in this section, I’ll teach you exactly that. Here are some tips:
a) Write fresh descriptions
One of the worst mistakes anyone can do is copy and paste product descriptions from manufacturer websites. Since you’re selling products that others are selling as well, it’s crucial to make the descriptions stand out.
Product descriptions are just not enough! You gotta emphasize the benefits to truly convince the visitors to buy. Descriptions tell, benefits sell – didn’t you hear that already?
So, write descriptions that are informative, intelligible, straightforward, and keyword-rich. If you think you cannot do this on your own, especially if there are a lot of products to cover, I suggest outsourcing it on places like Upwork.
b) Write helpful guides
You don’t have to stop at product descriptions. Writing helpful guides that direct your audience towards a particular product is an even better way to get sales.
More importantly, long-form guides packed with keywords generally rank better on Google and can help you bring much traffic organically. – link to source
Trust me; this is the kind of traffic you’d want to bring to the site to get a boost in authority and sales.
If your product is a dog collar for Dalmatians, you could write a thorough, 2300+ words guide on Dalmatian training and casually link back to the dog collar page in an appropriate section.
That way you’re helping and selling at the same time!
Things to remember:
- Do update your content every few months to keep things fresh and relevant.
- Do not start writing without doing proper keyword research.
- Include images and videos wherever possible to make the page more appealing; it also helps with SEO.
3. On-page SEO optimization
Now that the content is done and posted, it’s time to go through a checklist of tasks to make it more visible to search engine crawlers. We call it “on-page optimization.”
Even though Google says they look at over 200 factors for ranking, there are a few which are obviously more important than others. Those are:
- Site structure
- Page URL
- Title tag
- Meta descriptions
- Image alt-texts
- Internal links
All these factors determine how relevant the content is to your store and a user searching for a specific term. Let’s take a quick look at the importance of these factors:
This part, we’ve already discussed for in length why keywords are important. All I’m going to add here is that you include the most viable, easier to rank phrases as much as possible.
But, don’t go around spamming those phrases within the content. This isn’t 2012 anymore! Write naturally because Google is now smart enough to understand user intent.
b) Site structure
Site structure and the way pages link to each other affect SEO far more than most people realize. Search engines crawl websites based on its structure in order to index and rank pages.
Most importantly, a clear structure is critical for providing a good user experience since our aim is to let the visitors easily find the information and products they are looking for.
c) Page URL
Page URL is one of the basics of on-page SEO. Since URLs are displayed on both the web browser and SERPs, it is vital to include the main keyword your page is targeting, preferably in the first 3 words of the url slug.
That way both search engines and users will get to understand what the page is about. If you’re selling dog collars for Dalmatian puppies, the best URL would be – YourSiteName.com/best-dalmatian-puppy-dog-collars or YourSiteName.com/best-dog-collars-dalmatian-puppies.
d) Title tag
It goes without saying that Title tag should be both unique and descriptive enough to warrant attention. Keep it short, say about 50 to 60 characters max, but be sure to include the keyword(s) and your brand name.
Well, the brand name is optional, but it does work as a mark of authority. The title tag is not only important to users, but also for SEO as it appears in the SERPS (search result pages).
A meta description is a short paragraph that pops up under the title tag on the SERPS. It should ideally provide a quick summary as to what your content is about and entice the readers to check it out.
A meta-description’s optimal length is about 150 to 160 characters (not words).
A catchy and unique description can increase your click-through rate, which is one of the 200 Google ranking factors.
f) Image Alt-texts
Okay, there is no need to put much thought into this. Just remember to fill up the Alt-text section of your images to allow search engine crawlers to find better what it is about.
Did you know images rank on search engines too? Yeah, so don’t miss this opportunity.
g) Internal links
So, this kind of ventures into the advanced territory of on-page SEO and I suggest you do this systematically and with caution. The key is not to overdo it.
Internal linking is the practice of well…linking a page to another relevant one so that users can easily find what they’re looking for. It’ll also help to increase your blog’s page views.
SEO wise, internal linking also helps establish topical relevancy and allows the flow of “link juice” for better rankings.
If you think you have pages that can be linked to one another, go ahead and do it naturally.
4. Off-page optimization
Ah, so this is where things start to get tricky. And expensive! That is if you’re not sure what to do. Off-page optimization is what we call the act of building links in a specific post or page to rank it better in the SERPs.
Gone are the days when you could blast thousands of comment, directory, and forum links and see a rise in rankings. Now, pulling off stuff like that would probably get you penalized.
What you want these days are relevant, whitehat links from sites that have a clean spam history, decent traffic, and high domain authority.
I would advise you to stay away from PBNs (private blog networks) if you’re just getting into the link building game as it is considered to be black hat.
Things to remember:
- Putting more focus on building relationships with other webmasters will yield better results in the long run than merely paying for guest posts.
- Avoid getting links from sites that exist solely for the purpose of selling guest posts. I think of them as glorified PBN’s. Nothing more.
- Try to get links from sites that are closely relevant to your niche. That will help your credibility in the eyes of both users and search engines.
- Be willing to spend because it’s 2019 now, and everyone and their mother knows there is money to be made off hosting guest posts.
5. Conversion rate optimization (CRO)
If your SEO game is on point and the site is already getting traffic and sales, it’s a good idea to analyze further what’s working to what extent and what’s not.
The whole idea behind conversion rate optimization is to find underperforming pages – be it in terms of click-through rate, traffic, dwell time, or sales, and fixing it.
It is a systematic process through which you can increase the percentage of website visitors to take any action you want. Be it buying a product, subscribing to your email list, or simply filling out a form.
While the process of performing CRO is beyond the scope of this guide, let me tell you about some of its benefits for SEOs:
a) Get better customer insight: understand your core audience and bring the right customers to your business by speaking their language, understanding their habits.
b) Better ROI: higher conversion rate means more profits – it is as simple as that. You’re essentially making more of the resources you’ve got instead of trying to bring in more potential customers.
c) Better scalability: since CRO lets you grow without running out of prospective customers and resources, you’ll have more money to spend on other areas of your business to scale on demand.
6. Build a friendly website/store
I’m writing about this section way down below at #6 because I started working on this guide with the assumption that you already have a store or website ready.
Actually, it doesn’t matter if you do or don’t, what I’m about to say we’ll help you anyway.
Having a user-friendly site begins with information architecture. It determines the organizational structure that will allow users to find the pages and products they need without going through a confusing series of links.
If you offer a broader range of items on an e-commerce site, it’s imperative to organize them into categories and subcategories. Also, don’t forget to add a search bar and that will allow a user quickly to find out a particular product.
Focus on having a clean website, without too many colors, irrelevant text, and other distractions. Minimalist designs have never disappointed me!
7. Social media
Last but not least, don’t ignore the power of social media.
I know many people say that social media and SEO are like South and North Pole, but that isn’t true. Did you know that Google looks at the number of social shares (also known as social signals) to determine the popularity of a page/post?
Not to mention, more visitors from social media also improves your chance of ranking better if they stick around and improve the dwell time.
So, don’t be afraid to share your posts or run ad campaigns because every little thing counts!
Ready to begin yet?
Okay, I think I’m about done for today. If you’ve read this guide in full, then I’m sure you’re having some great ideas popping into your mind and are excited to get started.
Like I always say – it’s better to focus on one thing at a time and take small yet consistent steps rather than trying to do everything together. And fail!
Go ahead and try these techniques out for your eCom store and let me know how things go in the comments section below.
I’ll be back with another guide very soon!
Jeremy has been running several online businesses behind his laptop for the past 5 years and he has worked as a freelance web developer previously. A trained marketer by profession, he also has Ruby on Rails and web development knowledge. His forte lies in eCommerce, SEO and content marketing. He’s been featured on Vice, Thrive Global, YFS Magazine, Forbes and several other publications. He prefers to connect with people on LinkedIn.