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Ecommerce SEO: The Guide For SEOs From SEOs

A man sitting at a desk with several laptops, working on an SEO guide for ecommerce.

Navigating the intricate world of SEO can sometimes feel like you need help in a dense, confusing labyrinth, especially when you add various sub-disciplines to the mix.

But don't fret—we're here to serve as your compass in this complex terrain! Get ready to dive deep into the crucial topic of ecommerce SEO.

Welcome to this comprehensive guide, presented in partnership with SEOTesting.com, where we'll explore the significance of eCommerce SEO for your online shop. We'll also reveal key strategies to help your website secure a leading position in Google's organic search results.

So buckle up because this is more than just an article—it's your roadmap and Shopify SEO guide to mastering ecommerce SEO!

What is Ecommerce SEO?

Ecommerce SEO is simply optimizing an online store to get it ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). That is the definition in Layman’s terms.

To explain further, ecommerce SEO uses tactics such as content marketing and link building (we will get to those later) to rank higher on other search engines such as Google and Bing.

Let’s take a look at an example SERP from Google for an ecommerce-based search term:

We are given this when we first complete searching for this particular search term.

Important Note: This is the SERP when searching “google.com” in Nottingham, United Kingdom. What is shown in your SERP could be different based on the location and TLD you are searching from.

As the screenshot above shows, we can see only Google advertisements. Sponsored results appear as search listings and as more traditional ads on the right-hand side of the SERP.

This would be classed as search engine marketing (SEM) or paid advertising and not SEO, so we will not focus on this section for this article.

What we are interested in is the following:

Here we can see organic results, including:

  • Two organic results leading to product listing pages (PLPs).
  • One organic result leading to a comparison article.
  • A “People Also Ask” search feature.

Here’s the exact search completed on Bing:

Again, the first two things we see are image-based ads running across the top and listed ads running down the page. As these are ads, we will not focus on them for this article.

Here’s what we are interested in:

We can see organic listings and a “People Also Ask” search feature like Google. This is what we are focussed on as SEO professionals.

We are focused on getting our website/s to show up in these organic search results, whether they are organic listings, within the People Also Ask search features or both.

Why Ecommerce SEO Matters

To answer this question, ecommerce SEO matters because the higher a website ranks within the organic sections of SERPs and the more search features it appears in, the more clicks the website obtains and, therefore, the more revenue it makes.

Research shows the following:

  • Websites showing in “Search Position 1” receive 39.8% of clicks.
  • Websites showing in “Search Position 5” receive 5.1% of clicks.
  • Websites showing in “Search Position 10” receive 2.2% of clicks.
  • Websites showing in Featured Snippets receive 42.9% of clicks.
  • Websites showing in image results receive 1.4% to 4.9% of clicks.
  • Websites showing in People Also Ask boxes receive 3% of clicks.
  • Websites showing in Knowledge Panels receive 1.4% of clicks.

The above is just a guideline. The percentages will vary depending on the exact search you have made, where you are searching from, and the TLD you are using. 

As we can see from the above, if you rank in the top organic listing, Search Position 1, you will receive the lion’s share of clicks to your website. The only exception is where you are listed in the Featured Snippet. In this case, you are going to receive 42.9% of clicks.

The reason ecommerce SEO is so important? The reason why it matters? Because the higher you rank, the more clicks you get, the more money you make. Easy.

So, now we’ve covered what ecommerce SEO is and why it matters for your website; let’s talk about the different disciplines within ecommerce SEO—starting with website architecture.

The Ideal Website Architecture for Ecommerce Websites

When we think of the ideal website architecture setup for an ecommerce website, we need to think of the two “golden rules” that need to be followed:

  • The website must be simple for the user to understand, no matter how designed and built.
  • The website needs to be scalable to add new products and categories.

This is what is going to give it the best chance of being ranked well in the SERPs. Suppose you have a simple and scalable website. In that case, you will have an easier time ranking current product and category pages and new product and category pages that might be added as your business expands.

Let’s take a look at two examples of ecommerce website architecture, both from backlinko.com:

The above could be a better example of a website. It’s hard for users to understand, which means it will be hard for them to navigate and make them more likely to bounce, which isn’t great from a search engine perspective.

It’s also not scalable. To add categories or products, you’d need to create a new layer to the website and reorganize existing products and categories to make it all fit together. Not great.

Also, notice how some pages are (way) more than three clicks away from the homepage. Given the homepage of a website carries the most authority (sometimes referred to as link equity), you want to ensure all pages are no more than three clicks away from the homepage to keep some of this authority for that page. Given you want to rank product and category pages to make the most revenue, you need these page types holding as much authority as possible, as it’s hard to build links to these pages directly.

The above is an excellent structure for ecommerce websites to follow.

You can see, simply from the image above, that the website is easy for users to understand and navigate, and no page is more than three clicks away from the homepage, so that they will keep as much page authority as possible for future ranking opportunities.

This structure and architecture are also great because they will translate to different ecommerce sites. Are you selling books? Cars? Shoes? This architecture works.

Here’s a real-life example from Land of Rugs, a UK-based ecommerce website:

Here is the homepage. We have a simple header featuring different options:

  • All Rugs
  • Style
  • Branded Rugs
  • Homeware
  • Colours
  • Room / Rug Size

All easy to get to right away.

Let’s say I want a Moroccan rug. This can be found in the “Style” dropdown:

Next, I want a black Moroccan rug. As you can see, it’s easy for me to get to the left-hand side of the page:

I’m now into all of the product pages, ultra-filtered for what I want, and it took me two clicks. One-click from the homepage to the Moroccan rugs page and one click from the Moroccan rugs page to the black Moroccan rugs page.

This is great. The product and category pages will hold onto a lot of page authority, meaning they have a great chance of ranking, and the website is easy to understand as a whole. Well, they did, Land of Rugs.

Technical SEO for Ecommerce Websites

Your ecommerce website is sound from a technical perspective and is crucial. Over my many years in SEO, I have encountered similar technical SEO problems facing ecommerce websites. These problems include:

  • Slow Website Speed
  • Duplicate Content
  • Poor URL Structure
  • Lack of Structured Data
  • No Mobile Optimization
  • Poor Site Architecture
  • Lack of HTTPS

In this section, I will take you through each problem.

Problem 1: Slow Website Speed

We know that Google focuses (to what extent is still in discussion) on a website’s on-site metrics, such as time on page and bounce rate for ranking. Slow websites often lead these metrics to be worse than they should be.

  • Slow websites mean a higher bounce rate.
  • Slow websites mean a user spends less time on a page.
  • Users are more likely to choose faster websites when purchasing products.

All these will lead to your website not performing as well as it can in the SERPs.

To ensure your website is as fast as possible, optimize your code where possible, compressing images, leveraging browser caching where it makes sense, and employing content delivery networks (CDNs) to improve speed.

When using the above, your website will be as quick as possible.

You can use Google PageSpeed Insights to measure your website’s speed and issues. It will let you know the problems and give you some idea of how to fix them. Here’s an example:

As you can see, Google PageSpeed Insights has found some problems with this website; each dropdown will give developers an idea of how to fix them. Or, at least, where the problem lies so they can fix it independently.

Problem 2: Duplicate Content

Given that, especially for large ecommerce websites, many category and product pages may say similar things, it’s common to see duplicate content issues on ecommerce websites.

Whether you are finding duplicate content issues thanks to pagination or having categories with the same products within them, it is essential to solving these.

Please ensure each page has the correct canonical tag, whether that means the URL is being canonicalized to itself or another page, and ensure this is done for all URLs. Yes, this process takes time, but it is ultimately worth it. You will not see duplicate content issues the next time Google crawls your ecommerce website.

Problem 3: Poor URL Structure

We will discuss this in more detail in the article, but I will cover this very briefly now.

It is common to see ecommerce websites with a poor URL structure. This makes an ecommerce website, or any website for that matter, challenging for both Google and users to navigate. If Google has issues crawling your website efficiently, your rankings will suffer. If users need help navigating your website, your on-site metrics will improve.

The article will discuss the exact URL structure you should follow with your ecommerce websites.

Problem 4: Lack of Structured Data

Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content. Even in 2023, I see so many ecommerce websites ignoring structured data and the benefits it can have for CTR especially.

Whether you’re trying to convince users to click into your SERP listing over competitors by using reviews Schema, including FAQ Schema within your product description (within an FAQ section, obviously) to explain more about your product, the benefits your site can see the following correct Schema implementation can be huge.

Problem 5: No Mobile Optimisation

In February 2023, 60.67% of all web traffic came through mobile phones. If that does not tell you that having a website optimized for mobile is essential, then I do not know what else will.

It’s also worth mentioning that having a website adequately optimized and configured for use on a mobile device is a confirmed Google ranking factor. Not to say that if you do not have a mobile-friendly website, your on-site metrics, such as bounce rate and time on page, will suffer. While on-site metrics are not direct Google ranking factors, we know they are used in some capacity to make ranking decisions.

Problem 6: Poor Site Architecture

We’ve covered this in the above section, but it is common for ecommerce websites to have a poor website architecture. Whenever I am auditing sites, there’s a strong possibility I find orphan pages that are not accessible from anywhere (except the Sitemap) or pages that are more than three clicks away from the homepage.

My advice for you if you are working on an ecommerce website. You can just run through the website without a crawler as if you were a website customer. Is everything you’d expect to be featured on the website? Is everything easy to navigate? Is the website easy to understand? Of course, feel free to use a crawler such as ScreamingFrog or Sitebulb when this has been done, but I’d always do this as a first port of call.

Problem 7: Lack of HTTPS

I’ve left this last because it is a sharp point to make. If you do not have HTTPS on your ecommerce website, you will not get anywhere with your SEO. HTTPS is a ranking factor, not to mention it is also a crucial trust factor for customers to purchase from you.

It is as simple as that.

On-Page SEO for Ecommerce Websites

When we think of “on-page SEO” for an ecommerce website, we think of the following:

  • URLs
  • Title Tags
  • Meta Descriptions
  • Category Page Text
  • Product Descriptions
  • Internal Links
  • Schema

And that’s it. You don’t need anything more than that to rank an ecommerce website.

URLs

When it comes to your website URLs, keep them short, sweet, and in line with your website architecture. For example, if you are working on an ecommerce website that sells shoes, here is the URL structure you should work with:

https://www.shoesalesite.com/

https://www.shoesalesite.com/category/

https://www.shoesalesite.com/category/sub-category/

https://www.shoesalesite.com/category/sub-category/product-page/

I just wanted to let you know that you should not need anything besides the above. This fits the website structure you should be working with anyway, and it is easy for the user to understand. All products are at most three clicks away from the homepage, too.

Title Tags

The first thing you must do with your title tag is target the main keyword. For example, if you write a page about men’s road running shoes, this is the main keyword you should target. This is, in my opinion, a given.

You would also do well to include different modifiers like:

  • Buy
  • Cheap
  • Deals

To get more traffic to your website when compared with competitor websites. It will also help you rank for more long-tail keywords like “buy men’s road running shoes” and “cheap men’s road running shoes.”

You can also use ‘magnet words’ like “10% off” and “lowest price available” to improve your CTR.

Meta Descriptions

It would be best if you were doing your meta descriptions similar to your title tags.

  • Including the main page keywords.
  • Including different modifiers to improve the number of keywords you rank for.
  • Including different magnet words to improve your CTR.

But don’t forget you have more room to work with when working with a meta description compared to a title. So you can make the text more descriptive. Include your primary keyword as early as possible and add magnet words and modifiers later in the text.

Here’s an example:

Buy men’s road running shoes today at the best available price. Click here to see all of our exclusive deals.

It’s simple, easy to read, and will improve your CTR compared to a “normal” meta description.

Category Page Text

When optimizing your category page text, please ensure it is descriptive, easy to read, and understandable. It includes both your main targeted keyword and related keywords (sometimes referred to as LSI keywords, but that is for another blog post entirely).

Please remember the primary goal of a category page is to describe what you are selling and to direct people to click through to your product pages. You'll need to write compelling text that explains your product line well and guides users through clicking through your product pages. You can use CTAs to do this as well.

Product Descriptions

Product descriptions are crucial for ecommerce websites. 

Firstly because they form part of what Google uses to analyze and rank your page against competitor pages, you need to ensure it is well-written, demonstrates EEAT (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) as well, and includes both the main keyword you are trying to rank for and some semantically related keywords.

Secondly, they are essential because this is often the last deciding factor between a potential customer buying your product/s or heading to a competitor’s website. In other words, ensuring your product description is well-written and persuasive is the difference between you making some additional revenue for your website and not.

To write a good product description, you need to do the following:

  • Know who your target audience is.
  • Focus on the product benefits.
  • Tell the full story of the product.
  • Use natural language and tone. Please don’t use AI to write them!
  • Use ‘power words that sell. Phrases like save money, bargain, and proven work well.
  • Make it easy to scan.
  • Optimise for search engines. Again, including keywords.
  • Use good images.

I’d also recommend, wherever possible, writing product descriptions that are over 1,000 words so you can include everything you need. There is no harm in using headings to split this up further. If you cannot do this for all of your products, ensure you are doing this for your “money” products.

Internal Links

As we know, internal links link one page on your website to another. It’s crucial if you run an ecommerce website to get your internal linking strategy right. To do this, you should do the following.

Please ensure you link to your most important product and category pages from the sitewide menu on the homepage. We discussed earlier the fact that the homepage of your website carries the most authority, so linking to your most important “money pages” from the homepage will pass on a lot of authority to these pages,

Please always make sure you implement breadcrumbs onto your product and category pages. This is to make it easier for both Google and customers to navigate your website quickly and easily. They give Google a clear indication of the relationship between your category, sub-category, and product pages.

If your website has categories and sub-categories, please make sure you are linking between related pages. For example, if you have a website selling shoes, you should always connect your running shoes page with sub-category pages like men’s running shoes, women’s running shoes, road running shoes, and trail running shoes.

Please, please always make sure your links are crawlable. Ensure they are written in HTML (as an <a href>) and not in JavaScript or AJAX.

You can use your blog to link between blog posts and product pages. If you mention a product you sell in your blog post, you can connect to the product. It will help Google understand the contextual relevance as to why this product is essential and may help customers through the funnel. 

Schema

Schema is a form of code that helps Google to understand parts of your website better. There are certain Schema elements that you should include in your ecommerce website.

LocalBusiness Schema will tell Google more about your business, including location and opening hours. This will be especially important if you have yet to register directly with Google My Business. But, in reality, you should have done this first.

You can use Product Schema to tell Google more about your products. Including sections like Product Review Pages, Pros and Cons, Product Pages with Offers, Product Pages with Offers and Shipping Details, etc., will help Google give more information on the SERPs featuring your product pages, improving your CTR.

Adding Review Schema is a great way to ensure your listings within the SERPs generate as high of a CTR as possible, persuade more customers to purchase your products, and add more revenue to your bottom line. You can add Simple Reviews to get star ratings appearing on your listings in the SERPs, Nested Review Schema to nest reviews within your products themselves, Aggregate Ratings, and Nested Aggregates will also help improve your CTR.

Adding Breadcrumblist Schema to your website will help users browsing the SERPs understand more about where your products sit within their categories. Giving them better information to choose whether your product is the right fit for them.

Keyword Research for Ecommerce Websites

As with the other points in this list, I will only be detailed in this section as this could be another article. However, I will go over the basics you need to know about keyword research for ecommerce websites.

It would be best to pick the primary and secondary keywords you will target fully. Using our previous example of an ecommerce website selling shoes, your main keywords could look something like this:

  • Men’s Shoes
  • Women’s Shoes
  • Running Shoes
  • Dress Shoes
  • Smart Shoes

And your secondary keywords could look something like this:

  • Men’s Red Training Shoes
  • Women’s Road Running Shoes
  • Men’s Blue and White Football Boots

And so on. The key here is to remember that your main keywords will be the hardest to rank for but the most rewarding in terms of conversion rate and revenue. Your secondary keywords will be easier to rank for, and while they may bring in less income (due to lower search demand), they will still add good numbers to your bottom line.

Please add ultra-niche keywords to your product and category descriptions if you want to go further. Again, using the shoe store example, you could use examples like:

  • Men’s Road Running Shoes in Blue and Green
  • Women’s Dress Shoes with 6 Inch Heel

These keywords have a low search volume but are easy to rank for and are ultra-specific, so there is buying intent there.

You can use different tools to research keywords. My personal favorites are Ahrefs and SEMrush, but you can also use other tools like Keywords Everywhere, Keywords People Use, or People Also Ask. Once you have your list of keywords, I’d advise running it through Keyword Insights, as this tool will automatically cluster relevant keywords together so you can create content that targets multiple keywords in one.

A Content Marketing Process for Ecommerce Websites

Content marketing for ecommerce websites is difficult but necessary. There are specific tools you have at your disposal to do this properly:

  • Your Blog
  • Your Category Pages
  • Your Product Pages

When we think of “traditional” content marketing, we think of writing blog posts, directing customers to products, and having them purchase from there. But I like to think of a more modern approach, using your category and product pages to your advantage. 

For starters, write your product descriptions like blog posts. Give the customer as much information as possible, where you can and have the budget, and make it an exciting read. This is going to help them convert. You can use headings to split up the content to make it easier to read and discuss different advantages. You can also embed videos within your product descriptions so customers can choose to watch this if they want to.

When you think of your category pages, you probably think of a page showing a list of your products with a small block of text with some internal links included. You can improve this massively with just a little bit of work. Instead of simply pointing internal links to some valuable sub-categories or products (of course, continue to do this), you could also think about telling links to blog posts that may help customers and potential customers convert. You want to be thinking on the same lines as a product page. Don’t be scared of writing too much; focus on adding value to your customers.

Of course, you then have your blog. This is where you can continue to do what you have been doing. Top of the funnel content, middle of the funnel content, and don’t neglect the bottom of the funnel as this is where the money is made.

Link Building for Ecommerce Websites

Link building, although less talked about, is still significant when you are doing SEO for an ecommerce website.

When building links for an ecommerce website, it is essential to try to build links to your product pages as you want these ranking, but more important than that is to make links to your category pages. This will get you the most revenue, as this is where most customers start their searches.

One thing that doesn’t speak much about is that it is tough to build links to category pages, mainly because they do not tend to add much value to a reader when placed in a blog post, for example.

One way to work around this is to write blog posts related to category pages you want to rank higher and build links to these blog posts. Once connections have been made, you can add internal links from your blog posts to the relevant category pages (and vice versa) to pass this authority back to your category pages.

You will find it much easier to build links to informative blog posts than to build links to product and category pages.

And there you have it—all the information you need on building and marketing an ecommerce website.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is ecommerce SEO?

Ecommerce SEO involves optimizing your online store so that it ranks higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs). This is achieved using various tactics such as content marketing and link building.

Why does ecommerce SEO matter?

Ecommerce SEO matters because the higher a website ranks within the organic sections of SERPs, the more clicks it receives, leading to more potential sales and revenue.

What are the key elements of ecommerce SEO?

The key elements include technical SEO, on-page SEO, content marketing, and link building. These elements work together to improve the visibility of your website on SERPs.

How can I improve my website speed for better SEO?

Optimize your website's speed by compressing images, leveraging browser caching, optimizing code, and employing content delivery networks (CDNs).

What is the role of structured data in ecommerce SEO?

Structured data is a format for classifying and providing information about a page. It can improve click-through rates by providing search engines with more information about the page, which can be displayed in the SERPs.

Why is mobile optimization important for ecommerce SEO?

Mobile optimization is vital as it aligns with user behavior trends, where a majority of web traffic comes from mobile devices. It is also a confirmed Google ranking factor, meaning it can significantly affect your website's SEO performance.

How do I prevent duplicate content issues on my ecommerce site?

Prevent duplicate content issues by using the correct canonical tags for each page, ensuring that each URL is properly canonicalized either to itself or another page.

What makes a good URL structure for ecommerce websites?

A good URL structure for ecommerce websites is simple, clear, and descriptive. It should be easy for both users and search engines to understand.

How can link building improve my ecommerce SEO?

Link building can improve your ecommerce SEO by boosting your website's authority. The more high-quality backlinks you have, the more credible and valuable your website appears to search engines.

How important is HTTPS for my ecommerce website?

HTTPS is essential for ecommerce websites because it provides a secure connection. This is not only crucial for protecting user data but also serves as a Google ranking factor.

What role does content marketing play in ecommerce SEO?

Content marketing plays a crucial role in ecommerce SEO by providing valuable information to your users. This can help attract and retain a clearly defined audience, ultimately driving profitable customer action.

What are the benefits of appearing in the “People Also Ask” section?

Appearing in the “People Also Ask” section can increase your website's visibility, enhance your reputation as an authority in your field, and drive more traffic to your website.

How can I ensure that my ecommerce website is user-friendly?

Ensure your website is user-friendly by making it easy to navigate, optimizing it for mobile use, and using clear and simple language that customers can understand.

How does the architecture of my ecommerce website impact SEO?

A well-structured ecommerce website helps search engines crawl and index your website more efficiently. It also improves user experience, which can lead to better on-site metrics such as lower bounce rates.

How can I measure the success of my ecommerce SEO strategies?

You can measure the success of your ecommerce SEO strategies by tracking key metrics such as organic traffic, conversion rate, and rankings on SERPs. Using SEO tools like Google Analytics can provide you with valuable insights into your website's performance.

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