SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, covers actions you take to improve the ranking of your web pages in search results. You can have different goals when you tackle SEO. For example, a website that earns revenue from showing ads typically wants to increase the volume of site traffic.
However, for e-commerce, a more common goal is to increase sales. A large number of visitors that do not make a purchase is less useful than a smaller number of visitors to do make purchases. Similarly, think about which products you want to drive traffic to. Do you want to drive traffic to fast-selling products in the hope of getting returned visits or to products with a higher profit margin? There is no single best answer for all sites.
Such considerations come from your business strategy. It is, however, important to think through your goals for your own site so that you measure and optimize your support for your business goals. In this article, I share eight SEO tips for e-commerce sites, but there are many more great resources on Google Search Central. Check out the article description for additional links. Let’s dive in.
- The first tip is to nail the technical basics. Maybe you’ve developed a great content strategy, but you’re not getting the traffic you expected. The first step is to make sure you have the technical basics in place. For example, if Google cannot crawl your website, it does not matter how great your content is. One great tool to find technical issues on your website is Google Search Console. There are a number of reports available reporting on a range of potential issues on your site. To address issues on your site, follow the advice given by Google Search Console.
If there were issues with individual URLs that you have since fixed, use the URL Inspection tool to check to see if issues have been fully resolved. Also, if you control the URL structure of your site, make sure your URLs and internal linking are friendly to crawlers. Check out Designing a URL structure for E-Commerce Websites on Google Search Central for advice on how to design URLs for your website. If your platform does not give you control over the structure of URLs on your site, don’t worry. Many common platforms take care of these issues for you. Next, it is worth checking details such as page titles. Consider including the details in the title, such as the brand name and the color of products, so that the title provides useful information to shoppers and clearly distinguishes between different products on your site. The page titles are used as a basis for the title links shown in search. You may also consider adding structured data to your web pages to ensure Google correctly understands the purpose of each page.
For example, there is structured data for describing products on product pages that can help Google understand your product attributes with greater accuracy. Again, check out Google Search Central for advice on adding structured data to your web pages. Final, review the remaining e-commerce guidelines on Google Search Central for additional techniques. There are many considerations, such as whether to keep out-of-stock products listed on your site and, if so, how to inform Google that they’re currently not available for purchase. Product pages are an obvious choice to optimize. You want shoppers who are ready to purchase to find the product on your site. But what else?
- Tip number two is to have content relevant to users at different stages of their shopping journey. For example, your home page may be a great landing page for a shopper who wants to buy a photography gift but does not know what to buy yet. Your home page often describes many products you have in stock, along with special offers. Category pages allow you to get more targeted, describing areas you have a range of products in. For example, bags to hold photography equipment. Rather than products, shoppers early in their shopping journey may be looking for advice on how to pick the right product. Product reviews may be more important to such shoppers. Providing useful resources for shoppers may also help increase the recognition and reputation of your website. To check the breadth and quality of your site, think about likely searches by shoppers at different stages in their shopping journey. Once you have a set of queries, try them out. Does your site come up well positioned? What about your competitors? Also check the Search Console Performance Report for queries where your site is being shown. This may help you understand where you are doing well and where you are not. Once you’ve determined a set of queries that you want to rank well for, analyze sites that rank higher than your own to see what inspiration you can draw from them. What gaps exist in your own site? How can you fill out your own unique story so you stand out from the crowd? If you find product pages are struggling against competitors selling the same products, consider writing your own product descriptions in a way that is unique to your site. This can help you capture different search traffic than your competitors. In summary, develop your own content strategy, try it out, measure its effectiveness, then continue to refine and adjust to help create your own distinctive voice for your site.
- The third tip is to make sure you mark up your product variant pages correctly. Product variants are when you have multiple colors or sizes of the same product. Informing Google of the relationship between product pages can help Google better understand your site content. To look for issues, Google Search Console can be used to explore the relationship between pages and the levels of traffic. The URL Inspection tool can also be used to check the status of individual pages. On your side, it is recommended to give each product variant a unique URL. For example, add query parameters to hold the product color or size, then select one of the variants to be the canonical variant. All variants should include the URL of the canonical page to help Google understand the relationship between the pages. Finally, check that the canonical page includes text describing all of the variants available, such as all colors and sizes. This could be using text in the product description, such as “this product is available in green and blue.” But it can also be as simple as having a color sread on a page to let the user change the color with alt text describing each color choice in text. This is so the canonical product variant page will match searches for all of the variant colors and sizes a user may try. There are also a number of sales events that occur on a recurring basis, such as Mother’s Day.
- Tip number four is to make sure you reuse the same URL across all event occurrences rather than introducing a new URL for each event. This can help Google correctly understand and trust the purpose of such pages. To identify problems, check the URL for promotional event pages on your site. Sorry, there are no automated tools for this. For example, avoid URLs that include the current year in the path. Once you’ve picked a URL for a promotional event, remember to reuse the same URL each time. After the event, consider leaving the page up with a summary of previous offers or describing products that are likely to be on sale next time. For example, for Mother’s Day, you may include a number of traditional Mother’s Day gifts that you sell. Update the page before each event with the current offers, but keep the page alive and in Google indexes all year round rather than waiting for Google to find and index a new page each time.
- Tip number six is, wait for it, to be patient. SEO, unfortunately, is a long game. Some ranking signals may take many months to change. Worse, there is no guarantee of success. The HTTP Archive reports that approximately 20% of the website it archives support e-commerce. That means there is a lot of online competition out there. Google Search Console, as previously described, is the best tool to check that your content on your site is being indexed correctly without errors. It can also be used to explore traffic to your site. If traffic is trending upwards, that may be a positive sign you’re on the right track. It can take months to reap the benefits of a content creation strategy, but that does not mean there is nothing you can do until then. Think about how to diversify your site traffic sources. Do you have a marketing campaign? Are you active on social media? Do you have an email newsletter? Have you approached independent reviewers to review products on your site? If you also have a physical store, do you have signs or pamphlets that link to your online presence with URLs or QR codes? As well as the additional direct traffic, authentic external links to your site can improve your ranking. If you’ve done your best to improve your site but are still not getting the results you want,
- Tip number seven is to seek professional help for your website. There are many agencies available to provide expert SEO advice. Beware, however, of schemes that claim to improve your ranking by paying them to create more links to your site. Artificially linking to pages on your site goes against Google quality guidelines and may have negative repercussions on your page rankings. Still here? Great. Let me finish with my ultimate tip for SEO. Remember, it’s all about the user. The ultimate goal for Google Search is to put the best possible content in front of users performing a search. Algorithms change over time, but the ultimate goal does not. This does not mean you should not measure your site’s performance.
It is still recommended to make use of tools such as Google Search Console and Google Analytics to collect data on your site, but think about changes to help your customers rather than focusing on Google Search results specifically. For example, check the bounce rate of pages on your site. If users land on a page but do not stay on your site, it may be worth reviewing your content strategy. Maybe you’re attracting the wrong sorts of users with your current content. The best strategy is to create content and experiences that best serves your customers. Rather than think about Google specific ranking algorithms that seem to work at the moment, build your content strategy around serving your customers and let Google worry about the search algorithms to find the best content. This may involve checking what typical customers are searching for or staying on top of current search trends. Google makes search trend data available for public access at trends.google.com. As well as textual content, also make sure you include high-quality images and articles on your site. Visual media is increasingly important on e-commerce sites and the web in general. I hope you found this article on SEO tips for e-commerce websites useful to get you started on your SEO journey. To be informed of new content as it becomes available, make sure to share