Tuesday 26th July 2016
A Comprehensive Beginner’s SEO Checklist for eCommerce
Getting to grips with search engine optimisation for your eCommerce site can be a daunting prospect, especially if you’re new to the whole concept. But SEO is an essential part of setting up any new eCommerce store. Search engine optimisation is a great way of driving more traffic to your site organically, without having to pay directly for clicks. That means that if you invest the time in SEO now, you’ll find life a lot easier as you try to build up visitors to your site.
We know there’s a lot to consider when setting up an eCommerce site, so we’ve put together this handy checklist to make your SEO as hassle free as possible.
But What is SEO?
A good place to start is explaining exactly what SEO is and what it means. Search engine optimisation is the process of ensuring that your site is as favourable as possible in the eyes of search engines (particularly Google) and, as a result, your eCommerce store will rank higher on search engines. You can do this by adhering to their best practice guidelines and by optimising your site so that search engines consider it relevant to particular search terms.
These search terms are known as keywords. You’ll want to think about what your prospective customers are most likely to be searching for when looking for your product. For example, a specialist mountain bike shop may want to ensure that they rank highly with searches for the term “pro mountain bikes”. You’ll then want to keep your keywords in mind when putting together your site, making sure to include them in relevant places like page titles and copy.
That’s essentially it. The more effectively you follow best practice, the higher you should rank in search results.
So here’s a comprehensive checklist of factors that may affect your ranking - so you can make sure you are prioritising the right areas of your online store when optimising your eCommerce site for search engines:
The structure of your site can determine how effectively search engines are able to index it, along with how easy they determine navigating your site to be. You’ll want to take account the following points:
Your page titles will appear on search results pages and need to contain your keywords for search engines to deem them relevant to search terms. The same applies to your subheadings and product titles. Think about which search terms people are likely to search for and add them consistently across your titles.
Although you want to make sure that you include keywords in all of your titles, it is also important to make sure that all of your page titles are different. You don’t want to duplicate content across your site in any way, and that includes your site titles. Duplicating your titles and headings can lead search engines to think content is not good quality, or that it may be untrustworthy and even spam.
Making sure that you have varied titles should help to keep titles relevant to the content of your page, while making them unique and descriptive for visitors.
Simple Site Structure
Search engines have to be able to “crawl” through the pages on your site to index it. Crawling is the process that search engines use to map websites and add them to their search directories. This involves a small, automatic program navigating through the pages of your site and collecting page information.
Having a simple site structure is important as search engines need to be able to quickly crawl through all of the pages on your eCommerce site, including all of your product pages, to make them all visible on search engines. Having links that are broken or don’t lead anywhere can stop search engines from effectively indexing your site and you wouldn’t want some of your most important products to not be visible on Google.
A simple structure should mean that your whole site can be added to search engines and will make it easier for visitors to navigate. Think about the logical place within your site structure for pages to be located. For example, you would logically expect to find sunglasses in the accessories section of a fashion store, rather than the trousers section. Plan out a structure before building your site and ensure that it doesn’t become bloated over time.
Your page URLs should be simple and should contain the same keywords found in the page title. For example, the URL for your ‘designer sunglasses’ section could be something like /mens/accessories/designer-sunglasses. This URL makes sense both to visitors and to search engines, whereas titles that contain randomly generated codes are not at all friendly to search engines. Keeping your URLs simple and relevant like this can also help visitors know whereabouts in your site they are.
Your page layout should be simple and coherent. Ensure that pages contain text, even when they are image heavy. Don’t make text a part of the images themselves as search engines wont be able to read it.
As well as enabling search engines to crawl through your site structure, they need to be able to read the content on the pages themselves. Making your page layout simple and uncomplicated is very important for this reason.
Your product pages will likely make up the bulk of your eCommerce site, so getting them right is essential for search engine optimisation. There are various things you can do to give the products on your eCommerce store the best possible chance of showing up in search results.
Your descriptions will form the majority of the content on your product pages. Make sure that you don’t just use the manufacturer’s stock description and instead write your own. Make sure that they are engaging, unique and try not to duplicate content across product pages. Also, don’t forget to include keywords in your product descriptions.
One of the most challenging parts of SEO for eCommerce sites is making product pages unique and different enough so that search engines don’t see them as duplicated content, especially for products that have multiple variations. Make sure that the descriptions on each of your pages are different, even for similar products.
Workshop Coffee sells espresso beans on it’s site but differentiates the descriptions for each variety in any way possible, changing the structure of the description slightly to create differences between their product pages.
You’ll need plenty of large, high quality images to sell your products, so make sure that they are all optimised and compressed to load as quickly as possible. Not only could this affect your search ranking, but if your page doesn’t load quickly enough, visitors may just navigate away.
As we’ll see later on, search engines are increasing the significance of load speeds in their ranking, so making sure to optimise your images is good for both SEO, and for customer experience.
Product reviews are important for improving the authority of your pages and can even be made to show up in the search results themselves. Search engines are looking at the credibility of your site when ranking, so including product reviews could provide that extra boost.
Not only that, but including reviews on your product pages creates some fresh, constantly changing and unique content that can help to differentiate your product pages from each other.
Your potential customers are likely to be searching for your keywords with the word review added. Having product reviews on your pages could also help you improve your ranking for these search terms.
An integral part of SEO is producing original, engaging and changing content. You’ll want to ensure that the copy on your site is not static - it should be changing and updating regularly, especially when you only have a small number of products that don’t change too often. Using content production is a great way to ensure that your site is always different.
A great way to produce a steady flow of new content is through a blog. Be sure to produce original content on a regular basis and don’t forget to use your blog posts to drive readers to your product pages. Using customer stories or case studies is a simple way of putting together some meaningful content that should engage your customers.
Again, Workshop Coffee is a great example here. They only have a small product selection available on their website and the products that are available only change seasonally, or when they have run through a batch of a particular product. Because of this, they use a blog to create original content for the site through periods where the product offering doesn’t change very much.
Having an About Us page is important for explaining the ethos and values of your business to visitors, but it should also include plenty of keywords related to your site and should be used to tell the story of your brand. It can be tempting to leave this page at just a short paragraph or a few lines, but adding some meaningful content here can help convince search engines of your legitimacy.
An About Us page is a great example of a static page that would be relevant to just about any eCommerce site. But, depending on the nature of your store, there are plenty of other opportunities for static pages that can help add content to your site. For example, it may be necessary to have a page that explains the value of your product or to have a designer profile page like the example below from made.com.
Made.com have thought about what information their need to communicate to customers and used it to create some simple yet valuable content that can improve their SEO.
Ensuring that everything on your site is properly optimised shows search engines your professionalism and should help create a better experience for visitors.
You should ensure that pages on your site load as quickly as possible. Search engines want their results to be not just as relevant as possible, but also to provide the best experience for users. Optimise your images (as mentioned before) and make sure that everything behind the scenes is as lean and fast as possible. Visitors are going to spend a significant amount of time searching through product and category pages, so make this as easy as possible.
More and more web traffic comes from mobile devices, so how friendly your site is to smartphones is becoming a more and more significant factor in search ranking. Site speed is again important here because mobile networks are usually slower than wifi networks and visitors wont want to use all of their data allowance loading large files on your website. On average, 74% of mobile web users will spend no more than 5 seconds waiting for a page to load, search engines understand this and will rank faster mobile pages higher as a result.
You should also make sure that your pages are responsive and show up correctly on mobile devices. Google’s mobile friendliness tool is a good place to start with making sure that your site is optimised well for mobile devices.
One of the most important ways search engines determine the authority of your eCommerce site, is through analysing which external sites link to yours. Search engines will look at the external websites that link to your site and use the standing of that site to help determine yours. For example, if a reputable website like The Wall Street Journal writes a review of your new product and includes a link to your store, this will improve your site’s reputation. The more authoritative and reputable the external site, the bigger influence on your ranking.
There are various different methods you can use to build links such as:
Having your products featured by bloggers and influencers is a great way to build links with trustworthy sites. Offer to send them a free sample in exchange for a feature and get them to link to your site. These links should have the added benefit of driving meaningful traffic to your site. It’s good to try and create positive relationships with bloggers, you can then return to them in future and continue to use them for link building.
Good blogger outreach programs can also be mutually beneficial. Remember that they need original content and also need to carry out link building of their own. Remember to include links to positive blogger reviews on your product pages.
Contacting press, both national and local is another great way to build links. You could offer them a feature on your company, new product or service.
Contacting local press is a great link building tool especially if your business also has a physical location. Now that Google customises results based on the user’s location, having links to your site that show you are local could boost your ranking in these results. For example, having your shop featured on the local newspaper’s website is a great way to generate local interest and build meaningful local links.
Whilst getting coverage in national press is likely to be much more difficult and time consuming, national press will give your eCommerce business links from some of the most reputable and authoritative sites there are.
Having a strong social media presence with links back to your product pages also helps build organic links to your site. Make sure you post about all of your blog posts, offers, new products and anything else that would be relevant.
Don’t forget that social profiles also rank in search results themselves, so making sure that you are active on major social networks like Facebook and Twitter can help to increase your chances of appearing in search results.
Social networks are also search engines by themselves. An increasing number of users search for products or specific businesses through Facebook and Twitter. Having strong social media profiles can help you capture some of this traffic.
There may be a lot to consider when optimising your site for search engines, but keep this checklist handy and you should be occupying that number one spot in no time. It’s important to remember that everything should be as relevant and organic as possible. You’re not trying to fool search engines, just convince them of the fact that your site is relevant, engaging and useful.
Above all else, remember that Google’s search algorithm is designed to produce the most relevant and engaging results possible, so always prioritise your user experience and, in most cases, SEO will follow.
If you want to get in touch with about how we can help you improve your eCommerce store and review your search engine presence, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by giving us a call on 01924 334187 or sending us a message.