One of the main goals that you must set when owning an online shop is to show up in the first few positions in Google. Your online shop needs to be one of the first to appear when someone looks for one of your products.
If you do not apply SEO to your shop, you will depend upon paid traffic sources such as Adwords, Facebook Ads or sponsored products.
All of this costs money and money is not plentiful when starting an online shop. However, if you manage to position your shop at the top, you will receive free and constant traffic.
What is the problem?
There are too many shops and huge competition .
In order to appear before them you have to do better than them. But, what can you do to be better? To start with, you can follow this SEO for online shops guide and start noticing how your website ranks in the first few positions of Google.
Basic concepts of on-page SEO for e-commerce
From a general point of view, there are two possible SEO optimizations:
- On-page: This deals with those factors that depend 100% on us that are controlled from our website.
- Off-page: These are external factors that we can’t manipulate 100%.
But let’s start from the beginning, shall we? The essential part is to control everything that happens at home and then we will take a look at what happens outside.
Let’s take a look at some ideas and key concepts for your shop’s SEO.
1. Information architecture
Open your eyes because this is one of the keys for Google to position your shop.
The first step to make Google love you is making sure it understands you. Just like with any given couple, there is no love without understanding. ;)
In order to do this, you need to organize all your website information in a clear way. The structure that we recommend is called a “silo structure”.
A clear example is a clothes shop.
Have a look at the picture; from the Home page, you could find categories in the next level like “pants”, “shirts”, or “shoes”.
The URL for the pants category would be:
Within each of the categories there are products hanging from it, or perhaps subcategories.
Imagine that the mentioned shop had a subcategory for pants:
The final URL, with the category, subcategory, and the product, would be something like:
If, for example, the final product were a pair of Levi’s 404 jeans, the URL would be:
What we achieve with this is that the information is organized and makes it much easier for Google’s robot scrape.
2. Each URL hits a main keyword
A very common mistake is not knowing where to place the most important keywords.
In case you are just starting out, keywords are those terms that we want to be searched for and be shown in the first places of Google results.
In our imaginary shop these could be:
- Pants: It is almost impossible to position (short tail, the keyword is too short).
- Short pants: For a new domain, it is also almost impossible—you would need a lot of authority. Although medium tails are more interesting in other sectors, they are normally categories or subcategories.
- Levi’s 404 Jeans: long tail, the more precise the search is, the more possible it is to be positioned.
Keep this idea in mind:
The SEO essence of a good architecture for an e-commerce is that each URL hits only one keyword.
Let’s explain this a bit.
The pants categories, if it includes text, should include content that’s semantically related to pants. It should also be linked below it (remember the picture) to the “jeans” subcategory.
Each subcategory, if you choose to use them, will also have content about the concept—jeans in this case.
Under those subcategories we will have the products that we really want to position and we will also have to write a unique product card with related words.
What these URL levels are telling searchers is that each level up is more important in the e-commerce information hierarchy.
If you think about it, as we go down the different silos, the keywords become less and less difficult to rank.
Related post: How to write your e-commerce categories.
3. Optimize the position of your shop by avoiding keyword cannibalization
If your e-commerce structure is not well defined and Google doesn’t know which keywords correspond to each URL it has to position, you run the risk of keyword cannibalization.
This means that several URLs are positioned for the same search, diminishing the strength of each of them.
The most frequent strategy is trying to position the categories since their content is always the same. The products, on the other hand, are always changing; they can either be sold out or no longer in fashion.
In order to do so, it is also common not to index the product cards, focusing all your strength on the categories’ ranking instead.
An exception would be the case of those products with very precise searches. If a large amount of people search for “Levi’s 404 jeans”, then we should index the URL and try to position it.
Do you follow?
Now let’s talk about some of the other most common doubts.
5. Categories vs. tags—index or don’t index?
The answer is easy, though the explanation is not. But once you understand the concept of cannibalization, it becomes easier.
Well, for SEO dummies, let’s review the difference between categories and tags.
In our imaginary shop we previously defined some categories like shoes, shirts, and trousers. Tags would be the different characteristics that the several products may share, such as the color.
The tag “red” groups all the red products together and creates a URL such as yourdomain.com/red.
What normally happens is that this page only shows the products and their descriptions. This may have too negative consequences:
- Thin content: or poor quality content. Mr. Google doesn’t like wasting his time looking for websites that add little or nothing.
- Duplicate content: because of the repeated descriptions.
If you don’t know how to use them properly, the best tip for your SEO is not to use or index them.
Categories, as we have already said, are the ones we have to focus all of our e-commerce SEO effort on.
How to use the blog to reinforce your e-commerce SEO
We have already mentioned plenty of reasons why your shop should have a blog, but today we are only going to focus on the SEO.
It will require patience and effort, but the reward will come.
The prize is called organic traffic and it is made up of people that searched something related to your sector and ended up at your e-commerce shop.
You will also save money on ad campaigns since you will be able to follow a remarketing strategy with those visitors whose first contact came as a result of SEO.
The silo structure that we mentioned can also be applied to content. If your blog talks about different topics, group them into categories and use them to classify your blog.
As always, remember that each URL, that is to say, each post, should only hit one keyword.
Once you have a well-defined structure—avoiding cannibalization and strengthening your categories—it’s time to start creating content.
Determining which words you should hit first is the first of the following 5 tips to work on your e-commerce positioning.
5 SEO tips to boost your e-commerce rankings
Now that the main ideas are understood, let’s see some tips you should know:
1. How to carry out a keywords study for e-commerce and analyse all the possible keywords for positioning
Before thinking about positioning your online shop you need to know what exactly it is you have to position .
Once you have a good list of keywords, you have to classify them. We will do that depending on which page we are going to attack them with.
- Home: If you choose to add content to your homepage, it should aim for the most difficult keywords in your sector. The root is the most powerful place to have positioned and that is why we should use it for the most fought over words.
- Categories: The apple of our SEO eyes—taxonomies will be our star pages and they should have quality content. When making a list of the keywords, highlight the ones that you will use here with a different color.
- Products: These are keywords with models or specific products (if you decide to index them).
- Blog: If you find out that there are searches related to your topic, group them together in your list with a different color.
At the beginning, it is advisable to try to get long tail keywords . These keywords are easier to position and they normally lead to more conversions since they offer better results from searches.
When someone is looking for a red dress for a wedding and you offer an exact result, there is a bigger possibility of positioning your products and selling them than those that offer just a red dress.
TIP: How to use Keyword Planner in order to see the keywords
Providing that your online shop is 100% finished and all the products are listed, Keyword Planner itself will tell you most of the keywords that you should position.
To find them out you just need to enter your website name in “Your landing page” and click the “Get ideas” button without entering any keyword.
2. Analyse your competition
If one of your competitors is doing something really well, why not do the same thing while improving the technique or content?
Using SEMrush you could see all the keywords that other online shops are using, the content they are using and why they have done it.
You can also use the same trick that we mentioned before by entering the URL in the Keyword Planner from AdWords.
This will help you know what the best keywords are and, depending on your online shop’s authority, which ones you can “steal” to draw quality traffic to your website.
In order to see which pages from your domain are considered more important by Google, type it in the search engine after the word “site:”. The order in which they are shown will be the hierarchy imposed by Google.
3. Create quality categories and product cards
Just have a look at any online shop and analyse their categories and product cards. Probably, 8 out of 10 do not even have a category description and 5 or 6 of them have poor product cards descriptions.
This is a key advantage to anyone who knows how to make the most of it y we are going to take advantage of it.
Create detailed category descriptions using the keywords that you found out in the previous steps.
Go even further, add those keywords to your product cards , avoiding the typical descriptions that other shops use.
Avoid duplicate content in the product cards
Descriptions are a very important part and they deserve your full effort. Learn about copy for e-commerce and write persuasive texts.
But whatever you do, never use the ones provided by default or copy the ones used by other shops.
This is a typical mistake in dropshipping stores, which sell the same things than other many stores and just do some copy-paste work for their product descriptions.
This step is a crucial part of any online shop’s On Page SEO. The Panda update to the algorithm is the one in charge of checking duplicated content; shops that do not follow it are very rarely well positioned.
4. Use the power of videos
Google loves videos, and guess what? So do its users. In fact, according to a study by DigitalSherpa, 90% of users claim that a video has helped them with a buying decision.
Using these videos will get your products more viewing time, you will have more conversions, and furthermore you will be able to use them for other advertising or on social networks.
Not only will you be improving your store’s positioning, but you will also be increasing the number of sales.
Read these posts:
- How to use video marketing in your online shop to duplicate your sales and foster client loyalty.
- How to create and edit videos for your e-commerce quickly and easily even if you have never used a camera.
- YouTube: why you should use it if you have an e-commerce and how you can use it to gain more clients and increase sales.
5. Check for broken links
In many online shops it is quite common to remove discontinued or old products on a regular basis.
But, what happens if you only remove the product and its page?
You create a 404 error and upset Google because it looks for a page that no longer exists.
In fact, you may even have positioned this page well and be receiving traffic to a broken page. To solve this problem, create 301 redirects to other products or categories.
For example, if somebody is looking for 2017 model of a product in your store and you have already removed it, redirect that link to the 2018 model. You will maintain the positioning of that page, you will avoid upsetting Google and you won’t make the user waste any time clicking on a broken link in their search results.
6. User experience
The positioning factor that is becoming more and more important for Google is user experience.
It is assessed using some of these metrics:
- Time spent on the page
- Pages visited
- Bounce rate
- Pogo Sticking
It’s useless to be shown in the first position of the SERP if users don’t like what they see and just leave when they open up your website.
Google will measure that and you will be thrown out of the first positions after a few days.
Just think that what Google desires is to offer the best result for each query. If metrics tell it that users are not happy, it will show that result less and will favor the competitors instead.
The most important update for the algorithm, the one that controls the user experience, is called RankBrain and it will become more and more important regarding web positioning.
The Doofinder search engine is a decisive tool because it improves metrics related to user experience.
By making it easier for users to search and navigate, we increase the time users spend on our website.
Off-page SEO for online shops
Up to now, everything we have explained has been related to improvements that we can do on our website, which is known as on-page SEO.
Aside from what depends on us, there are other external factors for positioning, which is why we call them “off page”.
Google, at some point, did something different from what its competitors, Yahoo and AltaVista, used to do—it used a links-based algorithm. Although links are not supposed to be that important anymore, the truth is that they still are.
A good link building strategy is important, but it’s important to start from the beginning and to focus your efforts on the on-page SEO on page.
Push your e-commerce SEO to the maximum and devour your competitors
Following these 5 basic steps you will be able to see how your online shop improves its ranking on Google.
Despite the huge amount of competition, few know how to position their online store well and now you are amongst the few.