SEO for e-commerce websites: How to do it
If you own an e-commerce website or do SEO for one, you will have a lot of headaches. Doing SEO for e-commerce websites requires a lot of time and effort due to the size of these websites. E-commerce SEO puts a lot of emphasis on technical and on-page SEO. If your website has hundreds or thousands of pages, you must first remember that each page provides an opportunity for SEO optimization.
If you are reading this article, you are either planning to create an e-commerce website or you are in the process of optimizing your current website. However, this does not mean that you know where to start. In this article I will try to simplify the process of SEO for e-commerce websites.
An e-commerce website can be unstructured. I have seen many companies that simply keep uploading new products until they realize that their website is so unorganized that it is almost impossible to untangle it. If you are just planning to create a new website, you are lucky. If you want to create order in the existing site, you can do so, but it will cost you a lot of time.
The website structure for e-commerce websites uses the same principle for other websites. Your most important pages should be accessible with only 1 or 2 clicks. It should be reflected in the main navigation bar of your website.
In this case, in addition to your landing pages, your product categories should also be accessible from your home page with only one click, and your subcategories and product pages should be easily accessible afterwards. This helps search engine crawlers understand the hierarchy of your website’s pages and makes it easier for users to navigate your website.
Here is a good illustration of what your e-commerce website should look like:
Maintaining such a website structure also ensures that the link juice is distributed throughout your website. Most backlinks from e-commerce websites point to the homepage. So you need to make sure that the homepage is linked to the important pages and so on.
Keep in mind that the authority of the links is diluted as the depth of your site for pages towards the end of your site structure increases. Pages that are more than 3 clicks away from your homepage get less authority from pages that are 1 or 2 clicks away.
Create your keyword list
A good keyword strategy for e-commerce SEO is to divide it into User Intent: information keywords, transaction keywords and commercial keywords.
Informational keywords are the keywords that users use to search for news, facts, tips and other information. Commercial keywords are queries where users browse their purchase options but have no purchase intent, while transactional keywords are used by users with immediate purchase intent. You can read more about these keywords in this other post.
How can you tell which category a keyword belongs to?
You could use the search results to get clues about how Google understands the intent of a keyword.
Usually, informative keywords are long-tail search terms that ask questions like “how” or “what”, and you’ll get articles or blog entries.
Commercial keywords are those that contain terms like “affordable” or “best”. This means that users are looking for a list to do some research with first. Only then do they consider a purchase.
Finally, transactional search terms include general product categories and product names. Users are already ready to buy, and Google will display product pages or product category pages in search results.
The reason why you should diversify your keyword list is because each type of keyword offers different possibilities. An e-commerce site means thousands of pages that need to be optimized for keywords and no opportunity should be missed. We will learn more about this in the next sections.
Optimizing Product Meta Tags
For e-commerce SEO, there are limited places where you can insert keywords into your product pages. The most important way to do this is the page title. Your page title should contain the keyword you are targeting for a specific product or category.
This gives the site more opportunities to appear in search results.
It is also important that you optimize the meta-descriptions for click-through rates.
If you don’t set your own meta-description, Google will randomly put text on your product pages and it won’t look good in search results.
Writing convincing content
Even though the main focus of an e-commerce website is on selling products, content is still essential. You need this to improve your rankings.
Writing blog posts that target informational or commercial keywords will bring traffic to your sites. You can then use a call to action to get people to make a purchase on your site.
You could also use internal links to direct users of blog posts to product pages. That way, you keep them on your site to increase the chance they’ll make a purchase.
If you are not yet convinced that you need a blog, I recommend the post 9 reasons why your online shop needs a blog.
Important pages in the XML Sitemap
It goes without saying that your XML Sitemap file should contain all important pages of your website. An XML Sitemap helps Google identify the pages that should be given priority when crawling.
A common mistake I notice is that people do not include their individual product pages in their Sitemap. You should always have your main product category pages and individual product pages in your XML Sitemap. Always remember that with e-commerce sites, each page offers more possibilities, so you should definitely have Google crawl them more often and with priority.
You could create a separate Sitemap for products and content so that you can better organize your links. You could then submit both sitemaps to the Google search console to ensure that both pages are crawled.
Use rel=canonical for duplicate content
If you have many product categories or subcategories, this can lead to duplicate content for your products, which can harm SEO.
If a product is tagged in two or more subcategories, some Content Management Systems create one page for each subcategory it is in and generate multiple URLs with the same content in them. You must select one page as the main/original content and use rel=canonical on the other pages. You can find more about this in my article on canonical links.
Make your shop mobile-friendly
Owners of e-commerce websites want their business to be virtually appealing to attract more people, but virtually appealing does not necessarily mean efficient.
When creating an e-commerce website, you should not compromise on design for speed, especially speed for mobile devices. A large proportion of e-commerce sales are made on mobile phones and having a website that does not adapt well to mobile phones is one – no thousands – of missed opportunities.
Apply schema markup
If you have an appropriate schema markup for all your product pages, Google can display your product and the details in rich snippets. By using product schema markup, your products can be displayed visually in search results and Google images to attract more visitors to your site.
If you accept ratings on your site, you can also apply the Aggregate Rating Scheme within your product scheme so that Google can display star ratings in search results.
To get the correct scheme markup that Google accepts, you can view a guide to using the Product Scheme. You can also use plug-ins to automate your schema application. After application, you can view your valid product pages or errors in your schema markup in the “Product Report” in the Google Serch Console.
E-commerce websites contain a large number of images, sometimes even several images per product. Unoptimized images can seriously affect the loading speed of your website.
When uploading images, always try to compress your images to reduce the file size without compromising quality. You could also use tools to automate this process for images that have already been uploaded using tools or plug-ins, so you don’t have to upload each image again. There are a lot of plugins, but I use Smush Image Optimizer on a regular basis.
Another thing you should optimize are alt descriptions for images or alt text. This is a good opportunity for image optimization. You could place keywords on your product images to make them appear in Google images.
Submit your products to the Google Merchant Center
The Google Merchant Center is a platform created by Google that allows store owners to upload their product details and can be viewed by users on other Google platforms such as Google Search, Shopping Ads and Shopping Promotions.
It’s really easy to upload your products and it’s an easy way to sell your products worldwide. You should definitely check out the Google Merchant Center.