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What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO), And Why Is It Important For Your Ecommerce Store?


Entrepreneurship can be daunting, especially for those new to it or who have had to pivot their business to ecommerce.

One of the most important things to consider when starting an ecommerce business is how your customers will find you. You can design the best website in the world and offer the most unique products, but if nobody can see you, you’ll be a lost cause.

While advertising and marketing efforts are one way to attract customers, they can be expensive and time-consuming. Another great way to bring customers in is through organic web traffic. If you can be on the top page of a search engine’s search results, then you’re doing something right. And the best way to accomplish this is through search engine optimization.

Organic traffic is the visitors that land on your website as a result of unpaid (“organic”) search results.” Omniconvert

So, let’s look at this and how you can start leveraging it for your ecommerce business.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is more commonly known as SEO. Moz defines it as “the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.” Let’s break this definition down a little further.

The quality of your traffic refers to attracting customers who are interested in what you are selling. The quantity of your traffic is exactly what you may have guessed – the number of people who click on your website after finding it on the search engine results page (SERP). Lastly, as we’ve discussed before, organic search engine results are the hits that come up on a SERP that are not paid advertisements.

Women's running shoes Google search results page

Take this search engine result page for women’s running shoes, for example. As you can see, the first four results are paid advertisements from various athletic companies. While these appear before organic results, customers prefer organic results because they seem more authentic. 80% of Google users claim to completely ignore the paid search engine results when looking for their desired content. This is not to say paid results are not an effective strategy—but when you’re just starting, SEO can deliver a high ROI.

Why is SEO for ecommerce brands important?

Now that we know what SEO is, it’s time to discuss why you should care. As we’ve already mentioned, customers prefer organic search engine results because they appear more authentic. Nobody likes to be sold to, even if a customer wants to purchase. Advertisements can become extremely annoying and can deter customers from your brand altogether. After all, nobody likes that brand that pops up on their Instagram feed 10 times daily.

Why So Many of Your Customers Use Adblockers (But You Shouldn’t Sweat it!)

It’s hard to go anywhere online without seeing an ad. Whether it’s a promoted post as you’re scrolling through social media or a search engine banner ad, ads are everywhere. For many businesses, these ads, in all their forms, are the go-to method of reaching out to potential customers. Still, there’s a significant aspect often overlooked, as emphasized by Ash Aryal, CEO and Co-founder of Digital Spotlight: “Today’s businesses, even start-ups, are fixated on the newest marketing fads, like influencer marketing and Meta (Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram) ads, aiming to go viral or gain national traction. But they’re missing out on a highly significant opportunity: the local market.” This insight sheds light on the importance of aiming for a broad audience and recognizing the untapped potential within the local market.
In light of Aryal’s observation, it’s essential for e-commerce businesses, especially new and pivoting ones, to consider local SEO strategies alongside their broader SEO efforts. This dual focus could be the key to unlocking an overlooked customer base and achieving a more robust online presence.

The Smile.io BlogTim Peckover


SEO is the key to bringing customers to your website more naturally. As a small brand, you already may feel like you’re facing an uphill battle. You must convince customers to trust you over the giant, established brands. However, having an effective SEO strategy for a niche product can help customers discover you. When you are on that first page of Google, customers will be more inclined to click on your website over a more significant competitor on the third or fourth page.

Now that we know what SEO is and why it matters let’s get to the good stuff—how to put it into action.

1. Keyword research

How do I get on the first search engine results page (SERP)? The key is keywords! Think of keywords as the terms customers use when searching for something on a search engine. You can improve your position on SERPs by ranking higher for specific relevant keywords.

There are broad and long-tail keywords, and it’s essential to consider both.

Broad keywords are 1-2 words long, are very general, and produce thousands of results. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are typically longer (4-8) words and can be easier to rank well for.

It can be very hard to rank for broad keywords depending on your industry or product offering. Alternatively, long-tail keywords often can be phrased in the form of a specific customer question or need. It is important to consider both types of keywords for your ecommerce site, but when you are starting out, long-tail keywords can help increase your domain authority and discoverability.

If we look at this example above, it’s clear which option excels. When searching for the best small business ecommerce solutions, we tried both a broad and long-term keyword.

Using the broad keyword “ecommerce platform” did not produce many specific help articles geared toward smaller ecommerce brands. It is more focused on definitions and blog articles, comparing various platforms in general. However, using the long-tail keyword “small business ecommerce platform” produced several organic search results with small business right in the page title. This is beneficial because customers can find articles geared towards them and their specific needs as a small business, increasing the quality of leads for those sites.

Now that we know what keywords to use, it’s time to figure out what specific keywords are best for your brand. There are several online tools that you can use to do keyword research and gain valuable insights. These tools can provide you with a variety of data ranging from which keywords are most popular every month to hundreds of long-tail keywords from a specific base word. One of our favorite tools is Ahrefs, but here’s a list of 10 other free keyword research sites you can check out.

Strategically embed keywords into your e-commerce site. When selecting a keyword, you must consider a healthy balance between a high search volume and competitiveness. For example, say you are an ecommerce brand that sells coffee beans online. Attempting to rank for the keyword “coffee” may not be the wisest choice. Although it receives a high volume of monthly searches, it is tough to rank for. It may be better to try to rank for a long-tail keyword like “where to buy coffee beans online”. As we see above on Moz’s page, this has a much lower monthly search volume. Still, it is easier to rank for and produces a higher organic click-through rate because customers are specifically looking for an online coffee shop when searching for this – increasing the quality of your organic web traffic.

Keyword research is not an exact science, but using the tools above is a great place to embed keywords into your e-commerce site strategically.

2. Optimize on-page SEO through product descriptions

So, now that you’re an expert on keyword research, it’s time to figure out how to add these to your site. One of the most important places to consider keywords is on your product description pages. This is because you want to enhance the online customer experience and increase your chances of customer conversions. If a customer is in the market for a specific product you sell, you want them to discover that exact product page when they search online – not just your homepage.

Jimmy Joy product page SEO examples

Some SEO best practices for product pages, as illustrated by UK health food brand Jimmy Joy, are as follows:

  • Ensure your product names include keywords. You want clear, logical product names to help customers find you online. This doesn’t mean you have to name your products “red women’s athletic shoes,” but including a few of those terms in your product names might help you rank higher in search. For example, Jimmy Joy’s Plenny Bar v2.0 includes the word bar, and the sub-title consists of the long-tail keyword plant-based meal bar.
  • Write unique product descriptions. You want to stand out from your competitors while giving your customers a great idea of your product’s benefits.
  • Include product images with alt text—alt text is the descriptive words that appear when you hover over a photo. These help with accessibility standards and allow your images to rank on search engine image pages, providing another gateway to your ecommerce site.
  • Include customer reviews, images, and videos on your product page. This enhances the customer experience by providing social proof and is an excellent ecommerce search engine optimization tactic.
  • Include one long-tail keyword in your meta description – a meta description is the blurb of text appearing on your page’s SERPs. This describes what the customer will find on that page and can either entice them to click through or scroll past your page. Jimmy Joy uses the long-tail keyword “nutritionally complete meal bar”, which matches the term used in their product description.

Although those are the best strategies for optimizing your product pages, remember to include these tactics on your homepage, too. Your homepage is probably the highest-ranking page on your site! A few quick and easy reminders are to ensure your homepage title includes your brand name and that you have your logo at the top of every page with appropriate alt text.

As an ecommerce brand, your product pages are some of your most crucial web pages since that’s where the customer conversion magic happens. Follow these steps to ensure your customers can find you and you can repeatedly satisfy their needs.

3. Excellent website layout

Although SEO best practices are essential, they should never come at the expense of a seamless customer experience. One of the most important things to consider for any ecommerce brand looking to acquire new customers is your website design. Customers should never click through dozens of pages to get their desired content.

65% of shoppers value customer experience over price. HelpScout

A great way to help customers navigate your website is through (you guessed it) navigation bars. These are the pinned titles at the top of your website with links to the different pages on your website. Ensuring you have your most essential pages here will allow your customers to quickly find what they are looking for and easily flow from page to page.

Your page titles should also be optimized for SEO. This means you should include a keyword at the beginning of the title and, if possible, your brand name. However, it is essential to avoid making your titles too lengthy. Strike that optimal balance between descriptive and word jumbles. It’s also important to consider that SERPs typically only display about 50-60 characters.

Boathouse footwear Google search results page

Boathouse offers the perfect example with its footwear page. It includes its relevant keyword (footwear) followed by its brand name to help customers and search engines understand what they will find when they click the page. It also leverages H2 headings by showing its product categories right on the SERP, but more on that next.

Subtitles and headings are a great way to help search engines understand what type of content they will find on that page. A few essential tips and tricks are to ensure you are correctly utilizing H1, H2, and H3 headings. Every page should only have one H1 heading – your page title. Then, your H2 headings should be subheadings, and any H3 headings must follow an H2 heading to avoid confusing your customers and search engines. For example, a company’s About Us page might have a heading layout similar to this:

H1: About Us

H2: Company History

H3: Our Inspo Story

H3: Meet the Founder

There’s nothing worse than searching through a website that doesn’t work. Whether it’s that 404 error page or incorrectly sized images, these can frustrate a customer and hurt your SEO. With a rise in mobile commerce, ensuring your website looks as beautiful on a phone as on a computer is crucial. Luckily, there are several marketing apps that you can download on your Shopify store to help with this, including SEO Doctor. Although we know you’re becoming an SEO expert ;), why not have someone else do the heavy lifting for you?

4. Adding value-add content to your site

Although we’ve discussed how to optimize your primary ecommerce site for search engine optimization, there is no denying that the more content you have, the better your chances are of ranking. A great, free strategy for any ecommerce site is to include value-added content. This can range from an ecommerce blog to video tutorials to help articles on your website.

This cost-effective tool will help boost your website’s domain authority or position for specific keywords. For example, if you are a brand with a social cause, it’s a good idea to have a blog where you discuss your values, the cause you support, and how customers can help.

Ivory Ella's Blog - Elephant and Bees post

Let’s take a look at Ivory Ella as an example. This clothing brand is fueled by its mission to help save elephants and wildlife, so a portion of their sales goes towards their partner, Save The Elephants. This is a great cause, but it only matters if customers know about it. They’ve added a blog with posts about various topics, including the one above about saving the bees, which drives customers to their site. Suppose a customer searches “elephant sustainability clothing brand”. In that case, Ivory Ella is bound to show up on that first page because they’ve included those keywords on their web pages and in their blog articles.

No matter what your brand stands for, you know it best. So why not share your expert knowledge to help your customers and yourself with that improved SEO ranking?

Why Content Marketing Is Important for Your Small Business Success

Determining a marketing strategy for your business comes with so many questions. What will appeal most to my customers? Should I hire a digital marketing agency to market for? Should I invest in advertisements, and if so, what kind? Or should I spend time creating content? There are so many things …

The Smile.io BlogGabrielle Policella


Our final SEO ecommerce best practice is becoming increasingly popular as more brands and individuals develop strong web presences. Simply put, link-building is getting other websites to link to your website in their content. This is beneficial for web traffic referrals and creates authority for your brand in the minds of your customers and search engines.

The more quality, organic back-links you have to your website, the more credible search engines will view your page. This will help improve your ranking in search engine algorithms. The key to getting quality backlinks as a small business starts with who you know.

Here are a few good sources to get you started:

  • Content creation with partner brands – if you have brands you can develop informal or formal partnerships with, then you can produce content (i.e., blogs, video tutorials, guidebooks, etc…) for one another and link back to your relevant content. Reach out to those people and ensure your link-building outreach management goes smoothly.
  • Influencers—Social media influencers are a growing platform for small businesses to leverage. With large followers who already trust them, influencer reviews (either paid or unpaid) can drive traffic to your site.
  • Friends and network members – when you are an entrepreneur, chances are you know other entrepreneurs. If you can work with people in a similar niche or industry to link back to each other’s content, that’s a cost-effective way to start link-building.

Now that you know how to get other people to link to your content, it’s time to consider asking someone who’s guaranteed to say yes – yourself! That’s right; you can even backlink to your content (hint: we’ve done it quite a few times in this article). This is important because it increases your domain authority over a specific topic. If you have several blog posts about a particular area, you can create a pillar post in which every related piece links back to that. This will increase the chances of that pillar post ranking high on SERPs and driving customers to your website.

The Internet is a tangled, interconnected web; you need to link yourself to relevant sources figuratively and literally.

No matter your experience level with SEO, one thing is true—you can continually optimize. Whether you just launched your ecommerce store yesterday or you’ve been selling online for years, you can update keywords or find new sources of backlinks.

As with anything, make sure you have a clear understanding of your current situation. You can do an internal SEO audit and then set goals accordingly for your specific business. From there, try a few or all of these strategies and see how your organic web traffic grows.


This originally appeared on Smile.io and is available here to cast a wider net of discovery.
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