E-commerce is a very competitive industry with new online shops being opened every single day. So, how we market our e-commerce site can make or break the business.
SEO has been proven as the marketing channel with the highest ROI for e-commerce but is still relatively underutilized compared to more conservative channels like social media or advertising.
Here, we will learn six important steps to implement SEO for e-commerce, starting with the first one.
1. Find The Right Target Keywords
It’s no secret that SEO is about optimizing our content for the target keywords. So, finding the right keyword(s) to target is the first thing you should do, and also the most important. However, it is also often the biggest challenge.
To find your target keywords, there are two main principles to follow:
- The keyword must be valuable for both your business and your ideal audience. The keyword must be searched a lot by your audience (high search volume) and must be relevant to your brand. For example, if you are a restaurant with the ideal market being young professionals, the keyword “Netflix” might have very high search volume, but won’t bring any value for your business.
- The keyword must be manageable, competitive-wise. This will depend on your budget. If you are willing to spend a lot, you can probably target very competitive, popular keywords.
So, finding the target keywords can be broken down into several steps:
- List potential keywords that might be relevant for your business/product/service. In most cases, you will need to do this manually (i.e. brainstorm with your team), but tools like Google Keyword Planner
- Use keyword research tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush alternatives to figure out two key metrics: search volume and keyword difficulty. Use the above principles to figure out whether a keyword is viable.
- List out possible topics from the viable target keywords. Tools like BuzzSumo can help in this aspect. Some keywords might be viable, but can be difficult to expand into a topic and/or content.
2. Optimize Your Content
Content optimization for SEO is actually a pretty broad and deep subject, and there are various aspects that must be optimized to achieve the best SEO results. However, here are some key areas to focus on:
- First and foremost, the quality of your content. No amount of optimizations will help low-quality content. Make sure it’s well-developed, relevant, and engaging.
- Keyword optimization is the next step. It’s important to understand that SEO today is not the same as what it was in the early 2000s. Back then, it’s about keyword density. However, today, Google can penalize your site for over-optimizations. Use your keywords sparingly and make sure they occur naturally for human readers. Include semantically-related keywords instead of repeating the same words over and over again to achieve density.
- User Experience (UX) metrics like bounce rate and dwell time are now ranking signals. Structure your content to engage your audience as long as possible. Add images and videos mid-content to re-engage them, and of course, maintain quality throughout the content.
3. Competitive Research
SEO is competitive in nature: how you can rank higher than your competitors. So, it’s only natural that you’ll need to analyze your competitors’ approaches to SEO to know exactly how to outsmart and outperform them.
Various keyword research and content curation tools can help you analyze your competitors’ content. For example, BuzzSumo can analyze top-performing content in various social media, and Ahrefs can perform an in-depth backlinks analysis.
Here are several areas to focus on in this aspect:
- Do a quick Google search for your keywords and analyze the top-ranking content. Your aim is to either develop better content than these top-ranking ones or take a different angle and develop unique content.
- Backlinks analysis is important. Look at sites giving backlinks to your competitors. These will be your main source of getting backlinks.
- Compare the overall performance of your sites (loading speed, ranking across various keywords, etc.)
- Learn from your competitors. If there are some aspects you can imitate, do so. If there are aspects you can improve upon, do so. Learn from their mistakes.
4. Site Audit: Identifying Current Issues
Search Engine Optimization—as the name suggests— is about a series of optimizations to your site. To do that effectively, we must perform a site audit to assess the current site of our site, so we can perform the right optimizations.
Tools like Ahrefs, Moz Pro, or SEMRush provide a site audit feature, but knowing how to read and use the data is just as important. Here are some areas to focus on when performing a site audit:
- Mobile responsiveness and load speed, very important ranking factors nowadays
- If you have various URL alternatives, make sure to set up canonical tags so Google will only index the URL that matters.
- Find crawl errors and other indexing issues
- Check for broken links, plan a link reclamation effort if necessary
- Measure various UX signals (dwell time, CTR, bounce rate, etc.)
- Check your XML sitemap
- Check for duplicate content and duplicate meta tags
- Check your link profile, both internal linking structure and backlinks profile
- Check for structured data markup, structured data implementation will be important if you want to be eligible for Google’s featured snippets
5. Technical On-Page Optimizations
If you’ve done your site audit homework, then your on-site optimization efforts should be based on your site audit results: optimize what’s already working, and fix any existing problems.
There are two different aspects to on-page optimizations: content optimization (which we have discussed above), and technical optimization. Here, our focus is on the technical aspect.
Technical SEO optimizations, however, is a pretty deep subject, and you might want to check out this guide here for a complete technical SEO checklist.
Yet, here are the most important areas to optimize:
- Make sure your site is not only mobile-friendly but mobile-responsive. If your site is on WordPress, simply update to a mobile-responsive theme.
- Optimize your page’s loading speed.
- Make sure your site is indexed properly by Google
- Make sure your robots.txt is working properly
- Avoid using redirects unless they are absolutely necessary, and cater to SEO best practices for redirects.
- Use canonical link elements to tag duplicate content, which is common in an e-commerce site where product pages are often found under various different URLs.
6. Off-Page SEO: Link Building
Backlinks, or inbound links, are still one of the most important ranking factors for SEO. Backlinks are how Google determines the credibility and authority of your site: if more sites link to yours, you are more credible, and even more so if the links are coming from high-quality sources.
It’s important, however, to understand that nowadays the quality of your backlinks is more important than quality. In fact, if you get too many links at one time, Google might suspect you of using black-hat tactics, resulting in a penalty.
So, in general, aim to get just 2-3 high-quality backlinks every month.
Getting linked by relevant, big sites, however, obviously can be difficult, and here are some tips to achieve it:
- The most important thing is to actually develop relevant, high-quality content. If your content is really good, sooner or later you’ll get linked. On the other hand, it’s going to be hard to build backlinks to low-quality content, no matter the amount of effort invested.
- Build relationships with relevant sites in your niche. Don’t solely aim to get backlinks, but build genuine, lasting relationships.
- Providing original, unique information or data (i.e. case study, independent research, relevant infographic, etc.) is almost a surefire way to get more backlinks.
- Give them a backlink first, and then reach out. If your content is good and relevant for them, they might want to help you in return.
End Words: Evaluation and Maintaining Consistency
It’s important to understand that SEO is a long-term strategy, and you will need to invest at least 6 to 12 months before you see the desired results. So, evaluating your progress, keeping up with the changes in Google’s algorithm, and make the necessary optimizations are important.
Also, maintain consistency in your content, both in quantity (how often you publish) and quality.